One challenge of Road Trip Europe 2014 was getting from my favorite Dutchman’s childhood camping spot on the western tip of France to my top pick, the Cinque Terre region in Italy. We woke up on the the farm before sunrise, tried to quietly pack the car (as quiet as tent zippers can be), and set out for our 9+ hour drive from Morlaix to Carcassonne.
Everywhere we went, our little Puegot got glances and laughs. Maybe it was the surprise of two tents, two sleeping bags, two chairs, two tables, an electric fridge, bins of supplies, bags of clothes, and that pillow barely fitting into the last nook of space. It was a puzzle where the pieces only fit if packed in the exact same order each time.
And The Best-View-from-Terrace Goes To…
Driving into Carcassonne was tricky. The roads in the old town were narrow and we weren’t quite sure of the traffic patterns. It took several circles and lots of debate before we decided on a parking spot a couple blocks from our home for the next couple nights, Les Florentines.
When I found this place online, I didn’t believe the views from the terrace were possible. But when Bridgette promptly responded to my inquiry to say the room with the view was available at only 110€ breakfast included per night and all we had to do was confirm our reservation by email, we jumped at the chance. Bridgette was there to greet us and walked us up the three flights of stairs to the top floor. It got warmer with each step, but she assured us that with the doors open on both terraces the crosswind would cool it right down. When Bridgette pulled the curtains aside on the southern terrace, I forgot all about the warmth. The view was something out of a childhood fairy tale, but it was real.
We were starving, so we tore ourselves away from the view long enough to go for a short walk and stumbled upon Le Jardin d’Ete on Rue de la Barbacane. Enjoying a lazy meal and lots of wine in their large garden was just what we needed to unwind from the drive. At first I was annoyed by the children running back and forth, back and forth, by our table but after the first bottle of wine clearly nothing could have annoyed me anymore.
Exploring Cité de Carcassonne
After a bit of a late night sipping wine, we still managed to get up at a decent hour and head out to explore the medieval citadel surrounded by almost 2 miles of double walls with 52 towers.
The City of Carcassonne, an exceptional example of a fortified medieval city, played a role of primary importance in the history of the Languedoc region and the south of France. In the 19th century, the restoration work on the city, directed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, restored it to its unique appearance. It was listed as a World Heritage site by Unesco in 1997. —France.fr
I kept thinking about how lucky we were to be able to see these magnificent landmarks. We spent the day walking in and out of walls, courtyards, small rooms and learning about the history of these impressive fortifications. Do pay the €8.50 to enter the château and remparts.
Not to be missed is the Saint-Nazaire Basilica. According to the Unesco site, “all that remains of the Romanesque cathedral are the nave and its side aisles; the Romanesque choir was replaced by a Gothic transept in 1270.” I was fascinated by the light coming in through one of the Rose windows as we sat and listened to a choir from Poland fill the room.
There is no shortage of cafes, restaurants, and umbrella-covered terraces throughout the old city, so we stopped off for lunch at Le Bathazar on Rue Plo for a simple lunch and cold beers.
Saying Goodbye to Carcassonne
Later that day we had a forgettable dinner at nearby restaurant, grabbed some chilled Rosé from a local wine shop, and enjoyed the magnificent view from our terrace. We agreed the long drive from Morlaix was worth it; this was the perfect stop on our way from Western France to Italy.
In the morning, we were awoken by the sounds of a bustling street. I peeked out over the terrace and discovered a lively market with locals selling used goods along the sidewalks. Fortunately all the debate on our drive in paid off—we were parked just far enough away to drive out without too much hassle.
We had a bright, sunny, warm forecast for (what should have been) our 4-hour drive from Carcassonne to our next stop in Hyères, France.
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