From Avignon, we headed to Carcassonne. The AirBnB we stayed at didn’t have any laundry detergent for us, and we were able to copy what the people in Marseille did – we made our own soap flakes using a potato peeler, mixed it in water and poured it in the laundry machine. It worked! We slept in and woke up at the time we were supposed to check out. We got ready quickly and headed out to see the medieval fortified city of Carcassonne.
The fortified city was almost demolished in the 19th century but after much protest by the locals, it was restored and now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We happened to visit Carcassonne at the same time as the Carcassonne Game Festival – a Carcassonne board game themed festival. I had played the board game before, but I had no idea that it was connected to the actual medival city itself. People got to play the board game Carcassone inside the walled city of Carcassonne. How cool! There were other events like axe-throwing, archery, and bowling (using the little meeples as the pins)! If I was a kid, I would have definitely enjoyed it a lot.
There are paths to walk along the defensive walls of the city. Luckily by today the weather had cooled down compared to the previous days and it was actually comfortable walking outside.
As usual, the castle is built on top of a hill – it’s the best defensible position. But because of that, visitors have access to views down into the town.
The castle itself isn’t just a fortification, there’s also a city inside of it too. Mostly it’s souvenir stores and restaurants. From a local store owner, I learned that the animals in French don’t sound the same as in English – it makes a “quah quah” noise – the guy made what I thought to be a super strange noise at first as I walked by his store presumably to attract customers, and after giving him a super confused look, he explained what it was.
The storeowner was actually selling earthenware for cooking cassoulet, a local dish. The dish is said to have originated in the town of Castelnaudary, and is particularly popular in the neighbouring towns of Toulouse and Carcassonne. We got to try it at a place called Méli et Zéli. It’s a slow cooked stew with beans, sausages, and goose/duck confit. It’s super rich and heavy. The duck flavour is very apparent. I want to learn how to make this.
Next, we headed to the Châteaux de Lastours. They are the ruins of four castles sitting on top of a hill. We reached the base of the mountain, but we weren’t prepared to hike the whole thing, so instead we looked for a car road up to some sort of view point.
The road I could see go to the top was a single lane road and it wasn’t apparent whether or not it was a one-way, but after seeing another car go up, I decided to follow. I just hoped that there weren’t any cars coming the other way because it was either drive off a cliff or into the trees.
We found a wider part of the road and pulled over to get a good look. If we had more time, we would have hiked up there – it looked fun. I ended up going back town the same way, again hoping I didn’t encounter another car. Eventually I did, but luckily the speeds were slow, the road was bit wider at that point, and I was able to swerve enough just in time.
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