France and Portugal Vacation: 8 May 2023 - Side Trip to Carcassonne

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Monday, May 8 - Side Trip to Carcassonne

Monday was our planned day trip out to a fantastic UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne!

Our tentative itinerary got changed up a bit, but we think things worked out for the best. Origianlly, we had planned to take a bus tour setting out early in the morning, but there were no bus tours on the days we'd be there. Thanks to Fabien's help with research at the hotel the night before, we figured out it was cost-effective to get a train to Carcassonne in the afternoon and come back in the evening, which ended up fitting our schedule just great.

Photos from Monday morning's walk (22 images)

Our train wasn't until the afternoon, so after a fantastic breakfast, we had plenty of time in Toulouse to walk along the river to see what was there. While there wasn't much going on, it was a lovely walk with interesting architecture to admire.

Back at the hotel, from our balcony we'd seen people lining up outside a building labeled Le Capitole. Since there was no line then and we had time, we decided to check it out. It really is a Capitol building complete with entry only after passing through metal detectors, filled with the gigantic paintings and ornate ceiling ornamentation art you'd expect to find in a French government building. There was a room with a clear "they sign treaties here" vibe, complete with a full on full room oval table set up with microphones at each spot.

Photos from the Capitole (23 images)

We then grabbed some snack type lunch and dinner items (wraps and salad and taboulé from Carrefour City) to take with us to Carcassonne. Boarding our train at Gare Matabiau, the route to Carcassonne was an easy one hour journey. The train station is in the modern city, so a moderately strenuous 25-minute walk is required to get to the Old City of Carcassonne. Uphill, of course. And great views, of course!

Photos from the trip to Carcassonne (17 images)

We couldn't believe it's actually free to enter the great city! As our guide book suggested, instead of going straight into the section with the touristy stores with plastic swords and princess dresses, we crossed the main brigde and went left to walk the ramparts, entering the city a few hundred yards down near the Basilique Saint-Nazaire. The guidebook's recommended walk wove us through some back streets and paths, giving us a chance to explore the Wastern city walls before we ended on a main square where we promptly got some gelato and coffee.

We finished the walk that was mapped in our guide book, but noted there seemed to be much more to be seen to the North, so we wandered our way over, through, and under a series of ramparts and walls that offered spectacular views of other parts of the towers and old city, and also of the modern city below. Since it was early evening, there weren't many people wandering, so we'd clearly avoided the morning crowds.

Photos from the old city of Carcassonne (148 images)

When we were done touring the old city, we headed back toward the train station, but being in no hurry, we were able to explore some of the modern city. We grabbed a café table on one of the city squares (the café was closed so no issue) and had our light dinner by a nicely appointed city fountain.

It worked out perfectly that we did not get the stay-for-the-full-day bus we'd planned to take, because three hours in the old city plus some time to explore the modern city and have dinner was plenty of time. Our 8:30 pm train got us back to Toulouse around 9:30, and our walk had us back at the hotel before 10:00. What a day!

Photos from Monday evening (40 images)

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