France 107 - Carcassonne - an expensive bag of sweets/knights in shining armour/damsels in distress

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September 11th 2016
Published: September 12th 2016
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We left the Carmague heading for the motorway but before that we travelled the smaller roads that took us pass the smallholdings called mas which dot the landscape. The crops changed and we were starting to see cacti and prickly pear growing at the side of the road. We continued to drive on over the marshy fingers of land that made up the estuary of the mighty River Rhone. We were heading for the cite of Carcassonne which according to the Bible according to Camperstop Europe 2016 had an aire in a prime position within walking distance of what we wanted to see. Now as always the reality can sometimes differ from what we are expecting and today was no exception.

We were heading for car park number 2 in which we expected to park for the night. As we arrived we could see the fairytale outline of the cite and castle. A castle prettified for the visitors when towers were added, pepper pot roofs and a pretty skyline added. We had been before so we knew what to expect. The car park was there but we were barred by a height barrier but this was not going to stop us . Next door was the bus park. Again though no motorhomes allowed so we had to rethink to Plan C which meant trying to find a car park or aire somewhere in or around le cite. Sally Sat Nag kept shouting Turn around where possible as she tried vainly to take us back where we started. We had to ignore her pleas to turn right , turn right and turn right again as we knew she was trying her best to take us back where we had started from. We even spotted the motorhomes parked up but could not find any way of getting to them. In the end we found the aire 12 euros a night hard standing, no electricity and no showers but within walking distance of le cite. The only problem it needed a credit card to gain entry and I am never found of using the card in these machines. Next door though was Camping le cite so the decision was made . We would pay 23 euros a night and go there . At least I could swim, could have a decent shower and we had what we thought would be a decent plot. Reality though was that the plot we got was small. I wonder if they see us coming and offer us the worse plot on the site . Still it was a plot and we would get to see the city again.

As the evening wore on we headed off along the river with the castle always in our sightline. It looks all the world like a medieval castle should look like. All that is missing are knights in shining armour and damsels in distress. In a way the castle looks too perfect , too neat and tidy , everything plays to the crowd trying to drag out every last euro from the unwary tourist. . It does not feel honest and I feel rather sad saying that. It is beautiful in its own way.

As we walk up into the old cite we look up at the high walls and imagine an army camped beneath them planning to scale them without any idea that what they see are the first set of walls. Behind them is open ground where they would become arrow fodder for the archers perched high above them on the second set of walls. As we walked we heard music. A mournful flute sound coming from the castle . This turned out to be a busker earning a crust by entertaining folks as they walked past him . A tinkling melody that sounded somewhat twee. Once at the top we came across the one and only gate into the city. The last white petite train was leaving and there were none of the horses and carts that ply their trade taking passengers around the castle walls.

We entered the narrow maze of streets which radiate to the top of the cite. These are nothing like the grid system of Aigues Mortes. They are full of tat shops selling ye old medieval sweets that cost 6 euros 80 a bag and could be bought for less than £2 off an old pick and mix stall at Woolworths. There were shops were the young boys could be kitted out in armour and buy a sword to defend himself. The young girls could buy costumes and pretend to be damsels in distress.

We headed for a small square which was fairly busy and under cover of trees which shaded us from the strong evening sun. I drank my Normandy dry cider a mellow slightly sweet cider that tasted nothing like the dry ciders I am used to at home.

Finally we decided on eating. Because we don’t have the luxury of the fridge we have found ourselves eating out more than usual. All the restuarants were setting up for dinner so we tried them. We were turned away at a few until finally we found one serving dinner. We ordered the menu of the day and started with a nondescript salad for Glenn. I chose Onion soup which was tasty although I was not keen on the bread/cheese concoction on the top. The second course was a Wild Boar stew , rich, warming and aromatic with an ice cream of mashed potato on top floating like an island in a brown sea. Complimented with Magners Irish Cider it did go down a treat a bit rougher than its Normandy cousin. Our final course was a rum baba made up of a brioche cut in half, soaked in the tiniest bit of rum. Not the best I have ever tasted. We walked home podged and feeling fat.

We did sleep well though after the Irish turned up on their motorbikes and the person with the generator switched it off . Silence was golden . Our next destination will be sunny Spain where the temperatures are reportedly hotter than here in France.

A sanskrit proverb says " For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is a only a vision. But today, wll lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope". We feel like we are living life to the full.


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