To celebrate my birthday yesterday, Jeff and I went on a bit of a treasure hunt along La Cité (the medieval walled city) and in the Bastide Saint-Louis (also known as La Bastide, or the lower town. Bastide translates to fortified, or “walled” town; our Bastide is across the river from La Cité, and it was built in the 1300s.)* Here’s a little bit of a photo walking tour for you.

We started with breakfast at La Petite Cuillère (The Little Spoon) on Rue Trivalle (which is a three-minute walk from home, and lined with restaurants and shops.)

Thierry and Martine own La Petite Cuillère, they are wonderful hosts, and have been so kind to me ever since we moved here (nearly a year ago!)

Our walk across Pont Vieux (the Old Bridge) to La Bastide. The bridge was built in 1371.

The gardens below Pont Vieux

The River Aude from Pont Vieux. Throughout the winter and spring, we can see the snow-covered Pyrenees in the distance from here – they’re only an hour away. We also can see them from our home. But in summer it’s often too hazy to see them.

Square Gambetta

With one of the many sweet statues on Square Gambetta

One of the beautiful buildings just off Square Gambetta. And, these red signs are situated throughout the city, with background (in three languages) about our many historic buildings and landmarks.

A cute Du Chevaux. Jeff’s comment about it when we walked by it: “French technology.” 🙂

One of about three or four remaining parts of the wall that used to surround La Bastide.

I had sprained my ankle earlier, and Dr. Jeff didn’t want me to do any more walking. So, he suggested we take the tourist train! A brilliant idea – especially since I know under normal circumstances the train wasn’t something that he was too interested in doing. So sweet of him to think outside the box. And 10 minutes after we made the decision, the next train arrived!

Here’s the train in the parking lot in front of La Cité.

We can see our house from La Cité’s parking lot! It’s the big green square in the middle of the photo, and those are the Black Mountains in the background.

The cemetery in front of La Cité

The Narbonne Gate – the main entrance into La Cité – built in 1280 and restored (along with the rest of La Cité) in the mid-to-late-1800s. Restoration of La Cité took 58 years.

La Cité and vineyards

Back near La Bastide – one of Carcassonne’s interesting houses

Porte de la Jacobins (The Jacobin Gate) – built in 1778 on the site of the ancient gate (which was built in the 1300s). It’s the only remaining gate into La Bastide (in medieval ages there used to be four gates into La Bastide) – when you walk through the gate, you’re on our pedestrian street, which stretches from the Porte to our train station.

Walking home from where the train dropped us off:

Back across Pont Vieux to the other side of the river, where La Cité and our house are located – The Manufacture Royale – built in the 1300s and beautifully restored in 2013. The textile business was huge in Carcassonne and in the region for centuries, and because of it (and the sale of wine) Carcassonne was very wealthy until relatively recently.

Back to Rue Trivalle, which used to be the Roman road to Acquitaine (a region to our west) (think about it, that’s 2000 years ago. It really amazes me) and is a part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela that connects Rome to Santiago in Spain. The Trivalle district is very much like its own village, (with shops, restaurants, churches) and it links La Cité with La Bastide.

We had dinner reservations in La Cité, but with a sprained ankle, not a good idea to walk up there (even though it’s only a 10-minute walk from our house). So Jeff grilled some fabulous beef that I purchase regularly from the butcher Philippe in our Les Halles covered market. For generations, he and his family have raised and provided beef and pork and other dishes. And Jeff and I will have a make-up dinner in La Cité when my ankle heals.

It was a wonderful day!

*Here’s a little history of La Bastide. The first Bastide was built in the 1200s. In 1355, during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, all of La Bastide except its two lovely churches (which were built in the 1200s and are still standing and in use) was burned to the ground by England’s black prince (Edward the Prince of Wales.) It was immediately rebuilt as The Second Bastide (albeit smaller than the first.)



  • Barbara says:

    Hello Vibeke,
    My husband Maarten & I read with great interest your journey from the U.S. to Carcassonne in the Wall Street Journal.. We’ve been looking into 1-3 mo. stays in the south of France for some years now, as francophiles—and (budding) francophones. Barbara attended the Sorbonne during her 3rd year of university many moons ago:)
    In the article, you said said you and Jeff made more friends living in France in 6 months than 9 years in Sausalito—and that got our attention for sure! We were wondering are your new friend French, expats, a mixture? Though we love living in next door to L.A. in Santa Monica (after 30 years in the Washington,DC area), we haven’t moved enough beyond casual acquaintances here, so anything you’re comfortable sharing would be very much appreciated.

    Barbara (Feuer) & Maarten (Rietveld)

    • Vibeke Arentz says:

      Bonjour, Barbara and Maarten, and thank you very much for your comment.
      Our friends are a mixture of French and expats, and we’ve met people in a variety of ways. I would say we’ve met the majority of our friends and acquaintances through AVF (Accueil des Villes Frances – Welcome to French Cities). There are more than 300 chapters across France, so you’re likely to find a chapter in many of the cities you visit. Here, French volunteers teach language and other classes, and organize all kinds of activities and excursions. I attend 2 to 3 French classes a week and go on lots of excursions, so it’s been a wonderful way to meet French and expats alike. (There are no excursions or classes from mid-July to mid-September due to vacations, and I’ll miss them very much!) And also, right away when we moved here I went into shops and restaurants close to our home and introduced myself. Our expat friends are very social – I think it’s a combination of, because many of us don’t have 8-5 jobs and don’t have young children, we have time to get together, and also, because we’ve all moved from somewhere else we’re very open to meeting people and introducing new friends to existing friends and helping each other out. I absolutely love living here, and our busy social life and friendships are among the main reasons! Most kind regards, Vibeke

  • Angelika says:

    Happy belated birthday, Vibeke!!! What a wonderful way to spend the day!

  • Lyman Black says:

    A wonderful description of Carcassonne and very interesting! I look forward to your next one.