We don’t leave our home for long periods of time. Instead, we choose several short trips a year. We rent a car, and travel across Europe, but not aimlessly, of course. I would say, we create our precious necklace choosing from particular pearls. Today, our pearl is La Cité de Carcassonne in Languedoc-Roussillon, France.
It’s hard to write about such places. The history of Carcassonne is closely tied to the hunt for the Holy Grail, and the tragic destiny of the powerful Order of the Temple. I’d like to be the new Dan Brown to tell you this story as it ought to be told.
France is a country steeped in legends, but the most unusual of its provinces is Languedoc, and the medieval fortress of Сarcassonne with its castle is the heart of Languedoc.
7:00 a.m. Barcelona. We are in the SIXT rent-a-car. A much-desired BMW. It’s just the first series, but what a pleasure to drive! Our rally in Catalonia and France has begun. The plan for the day: drive to France, storm the Cathar Castle of Peyrepertuse, and check in at the Hôtel du Château in ancient Carcassonne.
Catalan roads are splendid, we fly/drive 130-150-170-190 km/h and enjoy it. Traffic signs are excellent, so we easily reached the Pyrenees and started to crawl through the mountains. The first Cathar Castle, Queribus, appeared on the horizon, but we should move on.
“Hey, pilot, slow down! Your navigating officer seems to be hanging over the precipice.”
The Peyrepertuse castle is amazing! We wrote about it. I am envious of anyone who walks for the first time through that secluded path to the very top of the rock, to the former donjon, or castle keep.
This part of France is famous for the great number of ancient Cathar castles including the legendary Château de Montségur. The history of these castles is really exciting. When you arrive here, you feel like you touch those ancient tragic events in Europe. The Crusaders against the Holy Grail. Yes, I mean against the Holy Grail. This is how many modern historians characterize the Albigensian Crusade. Twenty years of war, one million of dead.
Do you remember how one of the Pope’s legates answered the question “Holy Father, how can we discern Catholics and heretics?”
“Caedite eos! Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.”—“Kill everyone! God will sort it out!”
When the last Cathar was burned at the stake, Europe was on its knees before the Holy Inquisition.
If one day you decide to make such a trip, provide yourself with a good portion of historical knowledge. Unfortunately, we did not do it. As a result, we found out only when we came home, that the famous village, Rennes-le-Château, is located in the immediate vicinity of La Cité de Carcassonne. Therefore we prepared a new, this time a big tour of Languedoc.
Hôtel du Château
Well, we are at the hotel Du Chateau Charme Design.
Opening the door of our standard room, I could not believe my eyes. If this private mini-hotel has only three stars?! But we never had such a room, neither in the Marriott, nor in the Sheraton. The room looks like a precious casket. (Update: Recently, we found out the hotel received a well-deserved 4 stars. Connoisseurs of web design can estimate their excellent website.)
I can say nothing about other rooms, but our №1 was admirable! Style and taste in every aspect. One more note: here, the level of service was considerably higher than in Barcelona.
La Cité de Carcassonne
We were so eager to come here, but there were some concerns: some feedback about the too-intensive remake and reconstruction of the city. We wandered along its streets and fortifications like enchanted wanderers. Now that I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I want to say that beautiful France has many destroyed or nearly destroyed castles and fortresses, but Carcassonne is definitely worthy of being carefully retained for future generations. There are clever guys in UNESCO.
Yes, the reconstruction is visible. You will be able to learn the Carcassonne castle history starting from the Roman period until the later Middle Ages by the non-homogeneous bricks and different roofs of its towers. Furthermore, I can’t call the castle a “remake”—the last reconstruction occurred in the middle of the XIX century, 150 years ago, by the way.
Sunrise. As always, early awakening, delicious breakfast with a French cheese plate, warm croissants, locally pressed apple juice, hot chocolate, and all this with the view of the old city of Carcassonne.
There are several equally small hotels located nearby, but only Hotel Du Chateau has an open terrace right behind the castle walls and a couple of guards—good-natured landlady’s dogs.
One more curtsey to the hotel—they kindly allowed us to use the fridge of the hotel kitchen when we brought a ton of French cheeses (with stupefying smells) purchased for our relatives and friends.
Well, it’s time to go to La Cité de Carcassone. It is sleeping yet. This time is perfect for further acquaintance.
A few hours later, we entered the castle itself and walked around its walls. It’s so easy to imagine the spurs jingling along the castle passages, it seems I even caught sight of a tabard. A window opened a tiny crack—she also noticed him. It’s all fantasy.
There is no other fortress with such a strong three-kilometer wall and 52 towers in France. This city/castle can cause everyone to tremble in front of it. Its power can be compared to Krak des Chevaliers, a castle located in Syria seized with the fire of war now. We missed the opportunity to visit it. Carcassonne is the last relic of the European giants sunk into oblivion. It is a stony book opened for learning history.
We really enjoyed the Carcassonne, both highlighted at night,or sunlit in the middle of the day, and even the drizzling rain did not spoil the impression from its grey walls. It was such a pity to leave Languedoc. There are so many interesting things here! For example, the famous Rennes-Le-Chateau village with its well-kept secrets of the Templars and the Order of Sion. Well, we’ll explore it one day.
A tip for explorers who prefer not to move shoulder-to-shoulder with other explorers: try to avoid the vacation and school holiday periods; the old city will be absolutely occupied.
Well, what to say? Charmant. Looks like Languedoc is a paradise for the foodies. Fragrant onion soup, foie gras, a wide assortment of salads with delicious roasted goat cheese…. Yummy. Here, for the first time we tried a cider!
La gloire de la France!