One of our stops during our Micronations tour of Europe was a city called Carcassonne. It’s a medieval city in the south of France that still has the walls surrounding it. It’s about 50 miles from Toulouse, around 3 hours from Andorra.
On our way there jet lag was catching up with me, and my eyes were getting quite heavy. When we travel in Europe we always rent cars with manual transmissions. The main reason is the cost difference is considerable. We save a ton of money every time. Sometimes they upgrade us for free, but this time we were driving a Fiat with a stick. Stuck in traffic with the sun beating on me always makes me wish for a nap, so I asked Bella to take over so I could catch a few minutes of shut eye. About a quarter mile later, three stalled engine restarts, I was wide awake and back behind the wheel. Stop and go traffic is not really the place to turn over a car to somebody who isn’t 100% confident with a manual transmission.
I hadn’t really researched Carcassonne so I didn’t appreciate it whilst we were there. I found it picturesque and a joy to walk around, but I thought of it as a “look and leave” stop. My mistake.
The settlement can be traced back to 3500 BC, but the hilltop was fortified by the Romans (of course) around 100 BC. In the 400s the Romans turned it over to the Visgoths who added to the fortifications, some of which still stand.
Saracens from Barcelona took the city in 725 but Pepin the Short drove them away in 759. Do you think he inspired a certain Hobbit?
Carcassonne officially became part of France in 1247 and Napoleon demilitarized it. That led to disrepair and a threat of demolition in 1849. Naturally, there was resistance. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who also has ties to the Statue of Liberty, was commissioned to renovate the place. He was already working on restoring the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire within the walls of the fortified city.
Without that kind of background walking in I was surprised to see the shops and restaurants within the walls.
The Best Western was a shock.
It was a beautiful morning and the outdoor dining was just starting. We partook of a great meal in picturesque surroundings, imagining what life was like when the walls held the enemies at bay.
I have a new appreciation for Carcassonne!