My wife and I prefer small town/ village well off the main tourist path travel.
Planning our July/August trip to France I decided to include the tourist mecca Carcassonne.
I had wanted to get there during my backpacking days in the 80s and never made it.
Our other plans would have us heading in this direction and also our dates would match up with the Carcassonne finish of stage 15 of the TDF.
My research kept uncovering terrible negatives.
Apparently the plan should be to get in and out in the shortest possible time.
Visit the Cite then get the heck out of Dodge.
Our timeline was going to mean at least 3 nights. Was this going to be a terrible start to our French trip?
We arrived by train and found our cosy first night hotel near the station. After freshening up and getting the inside oil from our hosts off we went.
Well. We found ourselves exploring a beautiful small town. Great architecture,abundance of historic charm. Lively and busy but not particularly touristy.
After an hour exploring we crossed the bridge and headed toward those mighty walls on the hill. Even the walk from the bridge up to the Cite was attractive.
Our timing was good as the crowds were pouring out the gate. We spent another hour or so up there before slowly wandering back down into town. We found a nice pub for a drink and sat at one of the many restaurants around the town square for a meal.
Next morning up at dawn and up the hill to check out the Cite. What a place it is. At 6.30 am you have it pretty much to yourself and it is amazing. Wandering around the nearby vinyards I was able to get some amazing photos. The jog back as the town was awakening was very pleasant.
After a nice brekkie and chat to the other guests it was time to move. The square was now abuzz with the farmers market. What a delight this was. We gathered up a fine collection of edibles for a picnic lunch.
Wespent some time exploring more of the little laneways, nooks and crannies before working our way back toward the Cite.
A picnic lunch overlooking the town then braved the crowds. We did the Comtal/ramparts tour. That led us back into the heaving tourist hordes. We survived the crush and squeezed past the tacky souvenir shops.
Back out the gate we could relax and enjoy the incrdible medieval wonder.
Back to town and collect our luggage to move into our new lodgings. A b&b near tomorrow's TDF finish.
The accomodation was nice and it introduced us to another interesting neighbourhood of historic charm.
By the evening there was no trace of the market and the square was full of hungry diners. A quick pint of cider at the pub then pull up a chair at a restaurant.
A post meal meander through town. Checked out the illuminated walls of the Cite. Then through narrow laneways to the b&b.
Next morning the town is heaving. I am up at dawn but plenty is happening already. Media everywhere. The TDF is coming to town.
We had a pleasant morning including a visit to a wonderful museum/gallery. After lunch we found our spot. 100 metres from the finish line with the big screen in full view. The crowd built steadily. Sponsors kept us entertained. This is a carnival as much as a bike race. We waited hours watching the race on the big screen. Banging on the sidings to get lollies, t shirts, hats etc from sponsors. Then whoosh the leader flew by. I was sprayed by his sweat.
Once most of the riders were in the crowd broke up. We followed a musical conga line toward our b&b but got caught up among the riders and fans mingling together.
We eventually made it "home" still buzzing from all the excitement.
One last visit to the Irish pub. Another meal in the square.
The next morning we were off. We wandered along the canal and up to the station.
While waiting for the train I could only wonder what was wrong with Carcassonne? Whatever it was we must have missed it