Carcassonne had always been in my bucket list, mainly because I’ve always been keen to explore the UNESCO World Heritage walled city, Cite de Carcassonne. I’ve come to know it years ago, when we were planning our first trip to France. At the time, we were only able to go to Paris, thanks to the limited number of vacation leaves per year. On our second visit to France, we had another limited amount of time visiting Strasbourg. Luckily, during this year’s trip to Europe, Carcassonne was just a few hours’ away by train from Barcelona, so a couple of nights’ stay there was definitely one of the main highlights of our itinerary.
Coming from our overnight stay at Narbonne, France, D and I hopped on a train onto Carcassonne. As we exiter the Gare de Carcassonne we were delighted to see the Canal du Midi, and watched tourists line up to get on boats. The green grass on its banks looked tempting to lie on – so I made a mental note to spend some time there before we embark the train for our next destination.
We arrived past noon and were starving. Unfortunately the restaurants surrounding Place Carnot which I marked in my maps were already past serving lunch. D and I couldn’t find a restaurant or cafe still serving lunch so we decided to walk on to our hotel to drop off our luggage and try to find a restaurant at the Cite instead.
Our hotel was located at the foot of the Cite, which was a good twenty minutes’ walk from Place Carnot. We passed through the Musee de Beaux-Arts de Carcassonne, and then through Pont Viex – a lovely stone bridge connecting to the old town at the foot of the Cite. We stopped to gaze at the waters of the Aude running beneath this bridge. On the calmer side of the river were ducks, and we watched dog walkers stroll through the park next to Aude.
A few hundred meters after was our hotel – A l’ombre des remparts. Though we got there early, our host kindly let us check in. Our room was called Canal du Midi. It was the hotel’s newest room and I liked how spacious and homey it was. The host provided pastries and Malongo coffee (one of my favorites), and the room had a good view of the streetlife below. They also rented out bicycles, which was immediately D’s first order of business for Day 2.
Day 1 was intended for the Cite, hence off we went to our light uphill climb. There were signs leading up to the Cite, but we followed a couple of ladies take a turn on to a hilly dirt path. D asked them if that was the way to the Cite to which they said yes. I was a bit reluctant at first because the path was more rugged, but it turned out to be a good path as led to another part of the wall which was less touristy. Before that though, we were able to enjoy a fantastic view of Carcassonne below.
Inside the walled city was a vibrant atmosphere of shops, restaurants and cafes which retained a medieval vibe. Thankfully we found a restaurant that served late lunch and though I think it was a touristy place I was quite pleased with my mussels, fries, and glass of wine. There was a light drizzle while we had our late lunch so we decided to reschedule our exploration of the Cite. As soon as the drizzle passed we headed back down to relax in our hotel. On our way back we chanced upon Cimitiere de la Cite de Cracassonne opposite the Cite’s main entrance. With an overcast sky and the gothic styled tombstones, one would think it the place to be somber. I thought it was a place of quiet and reflection as we observed the generations-owned spaces.
On Day 2 D and I had more time to explore Carcassonne. In the morning we headed to Carcassonne Cathedral to attend Sunday mass. Though my French is minimal, I liked how solemn the mass was. The interior of the cathedral was lit by the stained glass which added to the beauty of the place.
Afterwards we got to visit the Musee de Beaux-Arts de Carcassonne. Entrance was free and the lady at the reception welcomed us warmly. Time flew by as we enjoyed the different galleries of the museum, and before we knew it, it was lunchtime.
After lunch I walked around for some windowshopping while D headed off cycling. I guess my shopping days are now almost non-existent as I immediately headed back to the hotel to relax and watch a Netflix movie (yes, even while on travel). A little while later D returned and showed me a photo of the Cite which he shot from a vineyard.
In the early evening D and I walked back to the Cite, and this time we took a different route. We went to the Basilique des Saints Nazaire et Celse, a Gothic-styled church which such beautiful interiors. As usual, it was the stained glass and the colors they emitted that caught my eye the most. Finally, we capped our second day with a dinner at a French restaurant inside the Cite.
Our third day was the most relaxed day as we had a bit if time to spare because our train back to Barcelona was scheduled in the late afternoon. D and I started the day with breakfast at the hotel and then we strolled through the park next to the Aude River. Afterwards we climbed back up to the Cite for lunch. Finally, before boarding our train, D and I spent time sitting on the grass along the banks of Canal du Midi.
That, my friends, wraps up our good three-day visit to the lovely city of Carcassonne. These days one of my favorite pastimes is looking back to our photos and videos. If given a chance, we’d do this again in a heartbeat.