Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bordeaux to Carcassonne

Today was the day that every traveller has to have now and again.  We ran out of money, we had language problems, we had direction problems, we were sleepy, and to top it all off after travelling for about 4 hours from our previous location, I realized I left my favourite pedals on the bike I had hired.  Sheesh! Nothing could go right and no matter where we went we couldn’t get Wi-Fi access, very frustrating.

So it was with some relief that we found ourselves at our destination, the fortified French town of Carcassonne that dates back to the Neolithic and the Roman Empire.  The walled city was restored by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853 and added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.

So what went well today?  Well lots of things actually.  We managed to collect our rental car, the GPS worked, albeit it after a slight diversion because Mike answered incorrectly to the tolls question, at which point the GPS decided to send us on a 5 hour country drive, not quite what we had planned.  We did in the end make it fairly directly to Carcassonne Guesthouse even though it didn’t look very impressive from the outside, so we found a park and hiked our way up into the old city. 

To call it impressive and inspiring is a bit of an understatement.  This place is astonishing and the cathedral alone within the walled city rivals those great buildings we saw in Paris.  The whole place was crawling with tourists from nearly every country and some of the day’s frustrations gradually wore off as we soaked up the atmosphere of this ancient city. 

When the tourists got too much for us, we found the nearest MacDonald’s for Wi-Fi and got our bearings and then headed back to our guesthouse. Upon entering we held our breath to find a beautifully restored original French terrace with unimpeded views to the old city.  Being a “Bank holiday” Patrick our host advised us not much would be open in the new city, but gave us a few recommendations in the old city.  Still ruminating from the days challenges I chose a quick walk into the new city and an early bed, but Patrick was right, there was literally nothing open.  Sarah suggested we head up to the old city again.  OK I’m keen and the tapas bar “L ‘escargot” sounded great, so we picked up our rain jackets and head for the hill.

We arrived a little late, but Mike put on his best smile explaining we had come all the way from Sydney and the waiter gave us the last table of the night, and what a night it turned out to be.  The Tapas was just amazing with the first round of snails and roasted bread with tomato and basil, followed by a second round of duck skewers and potato.  We had a lovely bottle of Voignier wine to go with it and dessert was chocolat cake and profiteroles.  We were the last to leave and we built up a great rapport with our waiter who had worked hard the whole long weekend.  He has Belgium and French heritage, with a Tahitian influence and his best mate was Brazilian.   They are planning a trip to Perth next year so we gave them a few tips and in return he treated us to a digestive each of St Michel. Yum!
The rain got heavier as we headed home on foot and the castle glistened in the damp night air.

It was a very special evening to say the least.  Tomorrow we have another road trip planned heading from Carcassonne into the Luberon valley.  For any car fans reading, we ended up in a Citroen DS4, quite a sporty little hatch and it has every conceivable gadget known to man.  Mike was constantly playing with all the buttons whilst driving today to learn how it all worked, much to Sarah’s dismay!

Keep Riding


View from the old city outer wall

Staineded glass in the Cathedral

View from our terrace


The digestif and Thomas' thumb

Raining heavily on our walk home from dinner

Most amazing lollie shop

The weary travellers still smiling

Heading back into the old city for dinner

Snail, Tahitian Tuna and roasted bread with tomato and basil

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