Well, not exactly today. But if things in the world were normal today, a Rick Steves tour would have been staying here in Carcassonne tonight!
Below, you’ll get to read what a Rick Steves tour guide says about what her group would have done today on their day and overnight in Carcassonne.
As many of you know, I’m a huge Rick Steves fan. Each time Jeff and I traveled to Europe during the last 10 years, we didn’t leave home without him.
And we purchased and brought 24 of his books with us here to Carcassonne.
I’m also a fan of one of Rick’s French friends and fellow tour guides, Virginie More. Rick often includes her in his travel talks and radio programs.
During confinement, Virginie has been posting daily on Facebook about what her small tour groups would have experienced on that particular day of her/their tour.
Right now, she would have been leading a 13-day Rick Steves tour, starting in Chartres, and then “From the Loire to the South of France.” Yesterday and today they would have been on a Rick Steves tour in Carcassonne! How fun it would have been to cross their paths.
Virginie gave me permission to share her post. It’s especially nice knowing what they would have done today, given that our beautiful medieval walled city has been off limits to the world since March 17.
I’m so very lucky to see her favorite view of Carcassonne, from the old bridge, almost every day!
(Facebook isn’t letting me include a link to her actual Carcassonne Facebook post and photos, but you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/virginiemoretravel/
Day 8 :
We leave Sarlat behind today. The town is very quiet early in the morning. While you were having breakfast, I went to the “boulangerie” and got us lots of baguettes to accompany our picnic lunch of today. That’s right, yesterday I gave you an assignment to enjoy even more le marché you had to find your own lunch. But I warned you not to buy bread; we cannot eat day old bread in this country, it would be a shame! Our picnic spot is along the Canal du Midi. The oldest functioning canal in Europe built in the late 1600s, 150-mile long, enabling to link access to the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, it was used for commerce until the train change its traffic. Now its beauty is for the pleasure boaters. The banks are lined up with old plane trees (of the sycamore family) that provide shade to walkers, bikers and picnickers!
Our final destination is the oldest best-preserved walled-town of Europe: Carcassonne. According to the legend, hum hum…, its name comes from a siege of the town by Charlemagne’s army. The Saracens living inside had managed to survive the siege for the last five years, but were getting short of food. The lady of the local lord, Dame Carcasse, decided to deceive the besiegers by putting fake archers on the town’s walls, and feeding their last pig with the last corn ration and throwing it on the other side of the wall… The French soldiers could not take it anymore; they would never take this town. As they were leaving, the lady had the church bells ringing to call for a truce. A soldier would have turned around and said: “Carcasse sonne”…. Ok, that’s the legend, now let’s really learn about medieval life with a great local guide and historian.
–>La Rencontre: Jean-François will guide us through Carcassonne, walking along the ramparts –parts dating from the Roman time, learning about sieges (by the way the word “siège” in French means “seat” like the one you are sitting on in our virtual bus. You get the meaning of a medieval siege now…) and we will besiege the town with him, avoiding the tourists (they are many…), having fun while learning and finishing our pleasant discovery walk in Jean-François’ home learning about chivalry and what it means to be a knight in the 13th century.
Jean-François and his lady, Valérie, love their town; they are among the few people still living in it. They bring real experiences to visitors, not just a stroll through a tourist site full of cheesy shops and restaurants. If you come back to this area, you could spend time taking their French classes and learning more about medieval history.
To finish our day, we have to bring comfort to our belly from all the actions of today with the local specialty: “Le Cassoulet”!
There are several recipes and three towns claiming the real one…The name comes from the terra cotta dish in which it is cooked: “la cassole”, its shape enables the best heat spreading. The main ingredients are:
It needs to cook for a long time and be served with a full-bodied local red wine like Corbières or Minervois, part of the Languedoc wine AOC. Santé!
After our hearty meal, it’s time to digest with a walk to the old bridge by the river with beautiful views as the sun sets on the town and a good climb back to our hotel. This is my favorite view of Carcassonne. I hope you enjoy it too, especially toasting to our trip together with the local bubbles: Blanquette de Limoux.
- July 24, 2019
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