Day 1,564 of Traveling the World | Carcassonne, France | May 15, 2022

You enter the city of Carcassonne. When you finally catch your first glimpse of the gigantic structure on the hill, it is almost more than you can take in in one view, as it is mammoth, a behemoth bearing down on you. Yes! It is that large, that commanding. We have read that this medieval walled city, high on a hilltop, looks like the perfect setting for knights and dragons. The oldest buildings here date to the 13th century. It is a curious experience visiting Carcassonne, as when you enter what you think is the castle, you are entering a walled city with stores and restaurants…and even a church!

In 2014, we first visited Carcassonne, having read a travel article about the city and citadel. However, we can’t find many of the photos, and we did want to experience this amazing place once again. Like San Marino and Seville, Spain, there are many weapons shops. You can buy swords and daggers and even full suits of armor! The fantasy of being a knight is alive and well here (and Game of Thrones probably doesn’t hurt!).

Eating continues to be a bit of a challenge. After driving several hours and settling into our hotel, we went in search of a bite to eat, since we hadn’t eaten since early morning. But most French restaurants are open for about two hours for lunch, then close and reopen around 7-8 pm. We searched for places that were open all day, what they call “all the way through,” only to show up and have them say, “Yes, we are open all the way through for drinks; the kitchen is closed until 8 pm!” Another place listed its opening time as 5 pm, so we arrived at 5:05, but it was dark inside and locked. The sign with its hours was listed on the door – every night, it opens at 5 pm! We waited until 5:15 (still no sign of anyone inside) and left. We finally found a small sandwich shop that was open, but it wasn’t very good. French cuisine is great, yes! – but not if you are hungry between 2 pm and 7 pm. You. Are. Out. Of. Luck!

So, today (Sunday), we decided we would play ball with them. We had coffee and a croissant for breakfast, then walked through the Old City and took photos, stopping for a three-course lunch around 2:15. By the way, Mike asked a waitress at this restaurant as we were a walking by around noon if the kitchen closed and then reopened in the evening. She said it didn’t close and was open all day. As we were eating lunch, about 2:45, we overheard a couple of British women asking if they could get anything off the lunch menu, only to be told that only the limited menu was available of soup, sandwiches, drinks, and desserts. In other words, the kitchen stays just a little open all day. Europe makes it hard for people who only eat two meals/day – an early breakfast and an early dinner.

There were a lot of people visiting, but we were told that in summer it is almost impossible to move, the crowds are so heavy. In 2014 we visited in September, and now in May, so we have only been here in the shoulder seasons, which suits us fine. We took a drive around the city to see what else is here, but it is unremarkable and fairly bland. The biggest (and only) draw is the Cite, and it truly is magnificent.

The view of the Cite de Carcassonne, the medieval fortress city, shining on the hill, as you approach it on foot. The entire city that surrounds this fortress pales in comparison!
The entrance is pretty overwhelming – compare its height to the tiny people walking in front! And notice the slits, the “loopholes,” for shooting arrows at invaders.
This is what the defensive “loopholes” look like from the inside.
The moat is now grass…but what an impressive view, huh?
Ramparts and guard towers just down from the main entrance.
…and more on the other side, along with those gorgeous crenellations.
A suit of armor for sale….just 1300 euros!
Most of the toys for sale are bows and arrows, knives, swords, and shields. Girls and boys can pretend to be defenders of the Cite!
A pretty dining spot along the wall and tower.
One of the streets leading to the Basilique Saint-Nazaire (St. Nazaire Basilica).
The streets are filled with charming gateways and scenes like this.
We wondered if this could possibly be….
…Yes! It is a snail, mascot for the L’Escargot Restaurant. As you can see, most restaurants offer a “menu,” a three-course meal for 16 to 25 euros or so. The escargots here come served in parsley! Yum!
This is where we had our three-course meal, under the trees (and cloudy sky). We tried the regional specialty, Cassoulet, but were not impressed. It is a casserole of 80 percent navy beans, 10 percent sausage, and 10 percent duck. It was just okay. The salad, onion soup, and dessert were delicious, however!
We don’t know what this building is, but liked the little medieval awning over the door.
There were lots of places like this as we circumnavigated the fortress…cobblestone paths with arches. We talked about the people who built a fortress of this magnitude all those centuries ago – many probably spent their entire lives working on a section of the complex.
Down to the left were views of the “new city” of Carcassonne.
Everywhere we walked, there were always towers and more towers.
…and more towers!
The “three arches” intersecting with each other.
A cute, somewhat befuddled dragon.