The Mediaeval Town Of Carcassonne
Carcassonne: 2500 Years Of History.
Did you ever dream about being a Princess in an enchanted castle when you were a little girl? Or maybe as a boy you imagined yourself fighting dragons in dungeons? Whatever your dream, we all have grown up listening to fairytales, and finally seeing the places of your childhood imagination is absolutely breathtaking.
I still believe in fairytales and I have passed this onto my daughter. As a family we enjoy discovering castles and mediaeval places. The children enjoy running around the ramparts and hiding behind walls. We have been lucky enough to visit two of the most impressive fortified medieval cities in Europe, Lucca in Italy and Carcassonne in France.
Carcassonne A Fortified French Town In The Aude Department
Carcassonne is located in the South West of France, in the Aude department in the former Languedoc province. The town is located 90 km (56 miles) south-east of Toulouse and it stands in the gap between the Pyrenees and the French Massif Central.
Carcassonne is divided into the Cité mediaeval and the bigger lower city or Ville Basse. When we visited we only had the time to see the walled town of Carcassonne, best known as a mediaeval fortified town. Maybe I should say, that it was not a matter of time but, we did not want to get out of the fortified town. We were so enchanted with it that we never bothered visiting the Ville Basse. We stayed in a little hotel just outside the Cité, from its tiny unassuming terrace (no more than 3m°) we had the most romantic view that you can imagine under a starry night as the Cité multiplies its charm when seen at night under the strategically placed illuminations.
Carcassonne is the most impressive mediaeval town we have ever seen. No matter which direction you are coming from, you can't miss the imposing silhouette of the City of Carcassonne which is encircled by a huge double row of fortified walls that run almost 3 km. (2 miles long), accentuated by 56 watchtowers. The site was first occupied in the 6th century BC. by a Gaulish settlement, followed by an urban centre during the Roman era. Built over ruins of a former Roman fortress, "La Cité" of Carcassone was the theatre of the crusades against the heretics in the 13th Century.
There is a long history attached to The Cité, but for us, history took second place and we concentrated in enjoying the feeling of walking along the walls -and not losing the children- while looking for hidden princesses in the towers.
Carcassone has featured on UNESCO's World heritage list since 1997. And it deserves to be. It has 52 towers and two rings of town walls. It has been restored several times but it still has its original touch. The Roman and mediaeval fortifications were respected during the restoration works. If it were not for the restaurants and hotels within the walls, you might think that you had gone back in time. The narrow streets, difficult access and the authenticity of the buildings are amazing. And it is still home today to approximately 120 people plus it boasts a large number of craftsmen.
Nowadays Carcassone is a tourist centre with a very rich cultural life. The city also takes advantage of its vineyards which produce very good wine appreciated worldwide.
At the crossroads of cooking influences from the Mediterranean (fish and shellfish) and the Massif Central (cured meats, venison, trout), the region offers an incredible variety of dishes:
- goose or duck liver pâtés,
- artichoke salad au foie sec,
- bouillabaisses (fish soup),
- fougasses with fritons or with a slight aniseed flavour,
- flan de Saint-Jean du Minervois (a pudding with muscat de Saint-Jean, Corbières honey, and eggs).
- cassoulet (a stew consisting of beans, pork meat and rind, goose or liver sausage and preserves). We tried this one in a restaurant in the Cité and it was delicious. It is a great winter dish. Accompanied by crusty hot baguette. It is a one dish meal and as it is very rich; better taken at lunch time so you can walk it off in the afternoon!
Walls of Carcassonne, France
Fortified City Wall, Carcassone
Wines in the area : CORBIÈRES
There are several wines in the area. My favourite one is the Corbieres. You can find a red, white or a rosé. The red one is intense, full bodied with hints of pepper and spice. The tannic structure is rich and blended, giving the Corbières wines genuine aging potential.
The Corbieres mountains stretches over 23000 hectares, 19000 of which have received AOC classification. This is the largest appellation in Languedoc.
Other medieval towns in Europe
- Mediaeval towns: Lucca
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- Castles in Central France
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