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To follow up on yesterday’s post, we had a lovely time in Carcassonne. We arrived at the train station around 8:15 am, and after spending a few minutes checking out the Canal du Midi, we sat down for a relaxing breakfast before making the roughly half-hour walk to the walled city. Along the way we passed an open-air market, and Kathryn spent some time taking photos of an unusually friendly stray cat.

We arrived in the walled city around 10, just as the entrance to the chateau and ramparts was opening. The first stop on the chateau tour was an eleven-minute video that let us know how little is known about the old city. It did, however, answer my most burning question, which was, “Why here?” Well, the answer is, the line between France and Spain changed over the centuries. At one point, Carcassonne was an important outpost along the frontier of France. As more Spanish territories became French, Carcassonne became further and further from the frontier, diminished in importance, and was eventually abandoned as a royal outpost.

The rest of the tour focused primarily on the architecture, which come from different periods. The earliest parts of the city date to the late Roman Empire, while much expansion was done during the Middle Ages, probably after the lands came into the possession of the French royal family after an “internal crusade” thwarted a heresy that was taking root in the region.

The tour ended with a half-hour walk along the ramparts of the walled city — worth the price of admission by itself for its views of the chateau, the old city, and modern-day Carcassonne below.

After the tour it was time for an early lunch. We picked a place just off the main square inside the walled city, trying to identify a restaurant suggested by a friend — he gave us a good description, but we forgot the name. We ordered cassoulet, a regional specialty made with beans, sausage, and in our case a duck thigh. It was tasty, but it was far too much food for lunch, especially as one of three courses.

After lunch, we had a long, leisurely walk back to the train station, spending a little more time at the canal before beginning the ride back to Montpellier.