Monday, February 24, 2014

A Fairy Tale Castle: Cite de Carcassonne

On Thursday, January 24th, we went to vist Le Cite De Carcassonne.  John dropped us off at 12:00 after a roundabout route through lots of villages due to road works. 
As we approacehed the Cite I was very excited to get my first glimpse of its fairy tale towers.  My daughter. Beth. had visited years ago and always said it was one of her favourite places.
I got out at the car park, and the others carried on into town to run some errands  before walking back to visit the walled Cite. 
I walked across to the main gate and it was very impressive, so big and such a beautifully deisgned fortress. 
If you look left bfore going in the gates you get a view of the length of the walls, with thier many towers.
I walked down the side of the castle to get a pic of the typical castle walls, with their crenelated tops.
Looking up was even more beautiful.

Finally I went through the gates and was met by another gate.

John had suggested I try the casoulette for my lunch but the restaurant he recommended was closed as it was off season.  I asked at the information booth for their suggestions for a good casoulette.
I walked down the ancient streets following his directions.
As I approached the restaurant I was greeted by a young woman in a long frocked coat. On a table outside, they had actual demonstation dishes of the food set up. I saw the portions and asked if it was possible to get a small one, as I really can't eat that much lol.  She said yes there was a small one for 15 euros.  She showed me inside and it was very nice, with a cieling of draped fabric.  
On our way to my table she showed me the kitchen and how their bread was made on site.
It was quiet when I first arrived, but filled up as I was eating my lunch.
Casoulette is a bean dish with duck and sausage.  It is traditional to this part of France. Mine was absolutely delicious. I also had a hot chocolate. :-)  
Even though I had the small serving, I was very full when I had finished. 
As I left the restaurant I had a wander around the beautiful streets.  This walled city was apparently the inspiration for the castle in Walt Disney's Cinderella movie.  I can see how it would inspire anyone involved in the world of fairy tales.
The buildings all had such a beauty.  It was easy to imagine the gentry and their families walking down these streets, as they were known to do.  Of couse in those times there were many poorer dwellings crowding the streets.

I walked around the inner walls just soaking up the history.
And enjoying the views. 

Eventurally I approached the entry to the battlements and the home of the ruling Lord and his family. It was their home after all.
It was ten euros to go in, but this was a special place, and I really wanted to see inside and get some information on the story of the Cathars, and what they experienced.
Inside the first entransce was a big square, where the ticket booths were.  
Once you had your ticket then you crossed the bridge into the main heart of the castle.

This was the view of the walls from the bridge.
Once inside the main walls there was a square or courtyard with some plane trees.  The sun was shining through the clouds and it was a beautiful day.

The walls of the buildings surrounding the courtyard towered above me.

There was a definite variation in the architectural styles seen in the walls.  This one has the wood as seen in some of the buildings out in the streets. It was the only place I saw it.
There was a wonderful video on a giant screen that gave a visual history of Carcassonne.  It was founded in the 3rd century AD in the Gallo Roman period and survived the Romans, Visigoths, Saracens, and Crusades.  During the 1200's there were the Albigenesian Crusades against the Cathars of this region of Languedoc Rousillon.  Raymond-Roger Trencavel of Carcassonne, who supported the Cathars in their religious choices, was defeated in this crusade, which decimated the Cathar people and their chateaux in the district. 
Before heading out onto the ramparts there was a display about the legend of how Carcassonne got its name.

The legend says that Charlemagne had  laid seige to the city which was home to the Saracens at the time.  The seige lasted five years. 
Due to the death of her husband,  Princess Carcas was the head of the Knights of the City. 
Early in the sixth year when food and water were scarce, Lady Carcas decided to do an inventory to see what was left.  When she was brought a pig and a sack of wheat, she decided to feed the wheat to the pig, which she then threw over the walls from the highest tower.
When Charlemagne and his army saw this, they assumed that the city must have a lot of food if it could afford to waste it in this way.
This meant that the siege might go on indefinately, and so they raised the seige. As the attacking army departed, Princess Carcas decided to ring all the bells, to celebrate their victory. People in the town all bagan to shout, "Carcas sonne!' meaning "Carcas rings!"  And thus the name Cacassonne was born.

I was excited to hear this story, and disappointed when researching it later to see it was a legend.  I had planned to write a childrens story about it, and I suppose I still can.. Many legends are still told and enjoyed today. :-)
So here is Princess Carcas, and there is a reproduction of the origianl atatue of her out at the main gates, to greet all who enter.

There were other old artifacts on display here, some gargoyles and ancient stones.
I had already climbed several flights of stairs to get to the entry to the ramparts, so it was a stunning view that met me when I eventually stepped out.
I looked down into the courtyard of the Chateau comtal. 
And out over the walls towards the mountains.

There was so much to take in, the architectural features, and the fact there were windows and fireplaces halfway up walls, evidence of previous uses.

Here I was once again, just like at Mont St Michel, very high up with incredible vistas.
In the towers there were stone spiral staircases.
Carcassonne has three kilometres of double walls surounding it and 52 towers. They come in all shapes and sizes.

I love the different windows and what you can see through them. 
I found myself looking down into the courtyard I had been standing in not long before.
The ramparts were amazing.
The walkways just kept going on and on. :-)
Being so high up I got a great appreciation for the cloud formations.
Another cool view through a window.
Looking down within the castle grounds.
And the narrow windows placed at appropriate vantage points.
The rooftops of the main city were so picturesque.
Some windows were set so deep into the thick walls.
As I moved into the section that was actually the living space for the Trencavel family, the finishes were more sophisticated. Some windows were set so deeply into the thick stone walls.
And there were many arches to pass through, as well as arched ceilings.
In a grand hall there was a display of sculptures belonging to the community here. This very old Madonna is particularly treasured.
The work is so fine.
Alabaster carvings were on display as well.
Some of the columns from the Roman era.

I loved the expression on this Madonna, so filled with love.
There was so much to take in, and to process, as these relics were from thousands of years ago.

An an angel. 
This chamber was the only one I saw with frescoes that survived.

A real picture window, what a view.
Doorways, leading to more doors.
There was a smaller courtyard I passed through as I was leaving.
And one more shot of the slit windows.  So fascinating.

As I crossed the bridge on my way out of the main building, the comtal, I noticed down below me there were gardens.

I got another pic of a beautiful tower.
Then I was out the final gate and into a little square.
Walking towards the exit of this walled city I spotted this lovely display on an upstairs balcony.
Finally the gate came into view as it 
started to rain.
As I walked to the parking lot to meet John, I turned to take one last picture of this forified city.  It was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and I can understand why. 
We all piled into the SUV and went to do our grocery shopping before returning home to La Muse for our dinner.
Here is the terrace at the back of the house. 
My next trip out would be a return to the main town of Carcasonne to catch up on the sights I had missed the first time.  But that of course, is another story.


Luke Southwell said...

Beautiful images from a beautiful journey! I loved all of these! So inspiring!

hyasint said...

Hello Pam!
ow i have ge a googel conto so i can write ob you gestbok:)

a Lovely and big castel,so wounderful area,with intressting things!

hyasint said...

Hello Pam!
ow i have ge a googel conto so i can write ob you gestbok:)

a Lovely and big castel,so wounderful area,with intressting things!

Pam Carr said...

So happy you got to see this place via my blog Luke. Thanks

Pam Carr said...

Thanks and I'm glad you enjoyed the pics and story. So glad

Pam Carr said...

Glad you figured out how to comment lol. I love your feedback hyasint

Susan Sandoe said...

Dear Pam,

This is Susan again, the now-at-La-Muse retreatant. I am loving reading your postings. You have a way with your words and photos that makes me appreciate many small, often unnoticed elements!

Thank you, Susan