It’s been over a year since I waved goodbye to everyone I knew and plunged into the unknown. I had no idea what would happen, who I’d meet, and what I’d do along the way. All I had was a backpack, my first hostel reservation, and the knowledge that I’d be in France somewhere around August. I was 21 and in for the ride of a lifetime.
So I can’t describe how excited I was when my sister booked a flight to come and visit me, and just in time for my 23rd birthday! It’s not that I’ve been lonely, I’ve become friends with some pretty rad people along the way, but there is definitely something to be said for seeing friends and family after such a long time apart.
And in the first weekend in May, she arrived!
We had a lot of plans, some huge and others pretty tiny, but I’ll get to those later. Right now I want to talk (write) about the medieval city of Carcassonne.
Carcassonne is huge! I was expecting a castle with a wall, this place is an entire city. We were staying with the family of one of my students (they stay in Carcassonne most weekends) and when they dropped us off at the entrance to the old city we were completely blown away.
Entering past the ramparts is like stepping back in time. The narrow, winding streets curve around the central castle, crowded with restaurants and souvenir stores and little shops full of marzipan shaped like fruit. It doesn’t take much to imagine how these ancient streets must have been a thousand years ago. And there are people still living here. We passed small homes within the walls that are lived in just like it’s any other town.
After a little aimless wandering we bought our tickets to enter the castle its self. The old rooms were really impressive and as we walked along the parapets we couldn’t help but concoct stories about the men and women who had once lived here. There was a lot of information to read about the architecture and even allusions to death pits and other traps that were used during sieges.
Near the end of our visit we found the information centre which had a deep hole in the centre of the stone floor. I managed to ask the man at the desk (in French) if the pit was for imprisoning/killing people. He just laughed and said that it was a well for animals… not quite so exciting.
But that little disappointment aside, we had a great time. And as it wasn’t the holidays or the middle of summer, we weren’t battling the other tourists for a bit of the action.
After our morning of exploring we went back to our hosts’ home for a very French lunch. I always forget to pace myself here in France when it comes to meals. Somehow I’m always caught off guard as course after course is brought out from the kitchen. Oops! But yum.
We took a blabla car back to Toulouse that evening, our minds never far from knights and sieges and instruments of torture. Being only an hour away, Carcassonne is definitely a place to see. A++ would visit again!