The Amazing Castle City
Sat 19 Mar 2011 - Sun 20 Mar 2011
Upon arriving in Carcassone from Bordeaux we noticed immediately that our Bed and Breakfast host, Ben, had come to pick us up at the train station. This was a bit of a relief because we hadn’t arranged for a ride to the actual location. The B&B we stopped at was called the Jardin de la Cite and they have truly though of everything. Many times we come to a B&B or hotel and find that something is missing that could’ve been simply remedied by adding it to the room. This place, we found had no faults like this as they had a very well produced accommodation. Jardin de la Cite is run by Ben and his mother and if you don’t have something you need they are extremely accommodating, approachable, and will did their best to help us anytime we had questions or needs. The place was really quiet and seemed to be soundproofed from the next door room as we never heard the other couple. Over all we were very happy with this B&B and each morning found ourselves enjoying a variety of breads, fresh fruit cups of mixed seasonal fruit, coffee, yogurt, and granola to mention some choices. Another great quality of this B&B is that it is a mere 200 meters from the city’s main attraction, the Middle Ages city of Carcassone.
Situated at the center of the larger city is a fully renovated and restored Middle Ages city also called Carcassone. This site, a protected site on the UNESCO list, is truly magnificent complete with a castle, an old church and an entire city of old medieval buildings turned into shops, cafes, and restaurants. For us this has been one of our most exciting experiences to date in France. One of the biggest disappointments actually was the shops. The small city within the great wall has kind of turned into a really cheesy tourist attraction were you will be hard up to find anything worth taking back home with you except possibly some pictures or postcards. Kids are running all around waving plastic armor, shields, swords, and wooden bows and arrows that ma and pa picked up at the little Chinese junk shops that line the inside. I thought that for a moment I was at the mythical fun park in the US called “Medieval Times” and that I was going to have to get on a knight or jester outfit to fit in. Perhaps there is an idea here. Maybe the kids could have their parents buy them all this crap and Carcassone could put up a small arena inside somewhere where the adults can place bets on which child will take the dual, the joist, or other silly event where kids engage in mortal combat with silly plastic toys! Monica and I found perhaps a few places worth visiting, a cooperative artesian art shop, a couple linens shops, and a high quality tapestry shop but that’s about it. I felt for a moment I wasn’t in France at all but in a small tourist trap staring at the countless useless junk that people may buy and later pack away up in some box in the garage never to be seen again. With so much history, stonework, and medieval art that could be represented here it was a real disappointment not to find much worth taking home as memorabilia. All the junk aside, the castle, the church, and many of the restaurants are definitely worth taking a look at.
Exciting and Satisfying: Two Different Things
Up until now we have seen attractive landscapes, impressive buildings, and tasted exquisite foods. As many already know Monica and I live in the Middle East where we have discovered finding and keeping community and friends to be a bit of a challenge. Since so many people come and go so often and because many people and family members don’t find the deserts of the Middle East a cute place to call home, it is common to find it pretty lonely where we live and work. This amplifies our desire to meet people and make friends. The first night in Carcassone we stopped at a little restaurant and met a British couple older than us named David and Barbara with whom we chatted for a while over dinner and it was really wonderful not only to meet English speaking people but people who where warm and welcomed a nice evening chat over dinner. We left the restaurant at about 9:30 pm grateful and unaware of what was to come. The next morning we sat down for our first breakfast at the B&B. Upon arriving we had the pleasure of meeting another couple who was already dining. We hit it off immediately with Ed and Elizabeth, another British couple close to our own age, and had a fun time kicking back some laughs over breakfast. Monica and I are always leery of imposing but as it turned out we both were heading to the market downtown and so we walked together and continued the company. After splitting up for the afternoon we met up for dinner at a restaurant in the city and sat and laughed, ate, and drank a bit until roughly 11:30 pm. Wow! Despite the splendor of the architecture, the beauty of the vineyards, the majesty of the castles, and the taste of the food Monica and I still find the most magnificent human experience to be friendship and community. To sit and dine with someone in many cultures, ancient and modern, continues to be one the most intimate and satisfying experiences a person can have, and this was no exception. We had an outstanding time with Ed and Elizabeth and believe we’ve made some lifelong friends on this trip.