WE HAD SO MUCH FUN IN CARCASSONNE.
Years and years ago while bored during a summer on my university campus, I plotted out this epic Mediterranean trip. I love planning and maps; I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. I spent hours researching places and sights and routes along the sea. This particular trip I remember starting off with a fascination with Carcassonne.
Carcassonne is one of those impressive sights or pictures you never forget. It looks too perfect, too epic, too much a fairytale to forget. It’s a lot like Neuschwanstein in Germany; where Neuschwantstein provided Walt Disney the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle, Carcassonne was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s. I’m sure it’s what most people think of when they think of of ancient fortified walled cities. In fact, the Cité du Carcassonne (the walled part of the city), in many senses is a replica. The Cité did exist, but fell into disrepair after Napoleon’s defeat. It was almost demolished, but a campaign to save it was started in the mid 1800s, and eventually architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc began renovations. Viollet-le-Duc’s renovation plans were not completely authentic (the use of the blue slate roof tiles, for instance, is something that would be found in the north of France) and his work was actually criticized during his lifetime; however, the work that he did to rebuild this amazing historic site is pretty awesome.
We made our over to Carcassonne, stopping in the Cité before dropping our bags off at the villa our friends Deb and Robin and their families were renting for the week. It was such a beautiful, fun stay in a village just outside of Carcassonne. The villa was gorgeous—exactly where you want to stay in the southwest French countryside. From a design perspective (my other true love), it hit all the marks: a shuttered, stone building sitting among gardens, full of a mix of antique and modern wood furniture and marble fireplaces. We enjoyed cooking a few meals there, dining on the patio, swimming in the pool, walking the grounds, and spending time with our friends. I’ve included a lot of photos below.
Back in the Cité, I made sure to try cassoulet, a local dish made of slow cooked beans, sausage, and duck. It was a rich dish, but so delicious and full of flavor, not dissimilar to feijoada. It’s cooked in what is known as a cassole, which is a deep earthenware pot with slanted sides. We also had some crème brûlée and plenty of rosé. One of the joys of France is the act of sitting outside for hours with friends and family and spending time over a small glass or two of wine. It’s really the gathering that is important—belonging to and having your people… the wine just makes it sweeter.
A few places in Carcassonne I recommend:
- Restaurant Le Plô — this is where I had the cassoulet, in the Cité
- Le Bar à Vins de la Cité — great patio bar with decent wine selection and wonderful atmosphere, in the Cité
- Boulangerie Blanche de castille — we picked up some good pâtisserie items here
- Domaine Le Colomobier, if you have a larger party and a car.