Carcassone A Medieval City
It’s Summer 2022 and we’re leaving the coast of Biarritz behind, after a longer tour of inland Spain. Now we’re heading towards Carcassone, a Medieval city renowned for its iconic towers and prime location in the heart of the Aude.
Carcassone has to be one of the most recognised sights in all of France.
Although we know what to expect, actually catching sight of those huge walls with pointed roofs covering each tower, is simply magical.
Where to stay – Carcassone A Medieval City
First of all, it’s a 4-hour drive for us from Biarritz to Carcassone. This motorway route reminds us just how vast France is, barely touching the surface of this beautiful country.
Arriving at Carcassone on the last day of August brings a strong Summer heat, yet without the intensity experienced across inland Spain. Simply put, it’s a pleasant kind of temperature, perfect for exploring without instantly dripping.
Carcassone is a destination we first visited back in 2006. Back then we stayed overnight on a big, dusty Aire just outside the walls. If I remember rightly, we shared the space with coaches during the day.
The Aire is still there, but looking at various Apps indicates it comes at a price, at around 20 Euro a night. By the way, there’s no service area there either.
Suddenly, we find ourselves passing a different Aire. This is located next to Camping La Cité and although it looks great and also has a service area, we’re not sure if it’s going to be cheaper to actually stay on the campsite itself.
Before making any decision, we take a left turn into the car park of the campsite. I dash into the reception to ask the price and check availability. It turns out it’s 23 Euro for the night, just 5 Euro more than the adjoining Aire. Not forgetting, the Aire has no facilities, so for us, the campsite is the more favourable option.
It turns out the campsite is actually a Municipal site, complete with swimming pool, bar and plenty of space.
Today, we’re going to take advantage of the good laundry facilities and do shed loads of washing!
Ok, so we’re not coming to Carcassone just to do the laundry, but it makes an ideal place to sort of kill two birds with one stone.
Unfortunately, I’ve got to say, the campsite facilities aren’t that clean. I sort of feel like everything needs a good scrub.
Now, as you’d expect, being a Municipal campsite right by France’s top tourist destination, this site has lots of British visitors across its many pitches. In fact, we haven’t seen this many Brits in one place all Summer and it feels a bit strange.
As evening falls and after we’ve taking advantage of the site swimming pool, our next stop has to be Carcassone itself.
Now this is where Camping La Cité comes into its own. Because, not only is there a footpath right next door, but it leads directly to the walled, hilltop city.
Passing a stream, the path takes us through a wooded area before bringing us out in the small village at the foot of the walls. Here, a side street leads to an entrance within the medieval old town. Taking the gentle steps up we’re eager to see what lies within, as darkness falls upon the UNESCO citadel.
Where is everyone
Now, casting our minds back to our daytime visit back in 2006, we’re now bracing ourselves for the crowds of tourists.
Only…the streets are pretty much empty. Goodness me, is this the same place? Last time we could barely move for the people, as we stood shoulder to shoulder, shuffling along the narrow streets.
Tonight, we’re almost alone. Apart from the odd straggler, looking as lost as we’re feeling amongst the disorientation in a maize of narrow streets.
Surprisingly, even most of the shops are closed and restaurants serving their last customers of the day.
I’m not sure if it’s good or bad? Do we feel privileged to have the fairy-tale like historic city to ourselves? To be honest, it feels like we’re missing out, almost as if we’ve missed the party and all the guests have already gone home to bed.
A Defenence Past
Not to be deterred, we keep walking the streets of Carcassone, thinking maybe the action is all going on round the next corner.
Unfortunately, it isn’t! Although, seeing the once Roman settlement in a less hectic mode, does bring advantages.
For example, we can swiftly see everything without being held up by hoards of day-trippers and we don’t get to spend a penny, because there’s not much to spend it on!
Instead, we enjoy the moon-lit streets and floodlit tones which bring a magical feel to this stone architecture. There’s the Gothic cathedral and La Château – a castle within the walls with 5 towers of its own.
It may feel like stepping back in time, a glimpse of a past life, where arched gated entrances greet visitors. It’s also a fascinating insight into the defences of the time, with its ramparts built in the 13th century by King Louis VIII, Louis IX and a guy named Philip the Bold.
A more atmospheric find
It’s not long before we feel like we’re done. So as much as we want to find a bustling little section, there just isn’t one to be found.
So, we head for the old city entrance, a dramatic carved stone opening between mighty ramparts. From here, we find ourselves wondering along a different path back to the lower village. Luckily, it proves a good choice, because we then find a more atmospheric street, below the imposing citadel.
Now, this is more like it. Not only are there people, but there’s laughter and excitement, as well as a few bars and restaurants. There’s only one thing left to do, sit and join in, finding a pavement table and ordering a Vin Blanc under the stars.
A brief summary of Carcassone
Well, our visit may have been a little underwhelming, but Carcassone is truly a beautiful, magical destination.
It’s presumably a medieval city of two faces. There’s daytime when coach loads of day-trippers and other visitors descend and then evening, when a sleepy version brings a sharp contrast to the madness of the day.
Either way, Carcassone is definitely a must see location and for us, it’s been good to see it again, even if it was quiet. And, with a campsite and Aires in such good proximity, it really makes an ideal place to visit by motorhome.