My family was always a big fan of games. Board games, video games, pick your poison, we love it! I grew up used to having aunts and uncles, and my parent’s friends at our house on Saturdays for endless game nights, guitar playing and lots of fun.
When we were little we were not allowed to play, of course. Only to watch. But as we grew up we started playing with them, and then having our own friends over to play as well.
I remember having Mario Kart and Tetris “championships” at home with my parents and playing cards, trivia, Pictionary, Clue… we had a lot of fun. We still do, actually, as we still play a lot of games. However, we have incorporated some new games to our collection. And one of my favourite games is one called Carcassonne.
It is a tile-based board game where you need to build roads, walled cities, monasteries, etc in order to score points. I had played this game a lot of times until one day I grabbed the box and read the following information:
It is named after the medieval fortified town of Carcassonne in southern France, famed for its city walls
And I decided I had to visit that city because this is what it takes to make me want to travel somewhere.
So, one of the reasons why I went to Toulouse was because it was close enough I could take a train, spend the day in carcassonne and come back after dinner. And that was basically what I did.
Woke up early so I could leave Toulouse and be there in time for my first chat shift. Bought the ticket from the Rail Europe site, which costs around €8 and the trip takes about 1 hour.
Working on the go
Best thing about working remotely is the ability to work from anywhere in the globe. All I need is my computer and an internet connection 🤩
Getting there, the first thing I had to find was a place where I could work from, so food and good internet were mandatory 😂. And I didn’t have to walk much to find a lovely place called Freaks Cafe & Cantine (Needless to say I LOVED THE NAME OF THIS PLACE).
The place was soooooooooooooo charming, cozy, the owner was super nice and the coffee and food (keto-friendly menu BTW) were delicious. Their Wi-Fi was also stable enough for me to work.
So, after I was done with work I started exploring the city which I basically divided into the fortified city and everything else.
A bit of the history
The region where Carcassonne is situated is inhabited since the Neolithic period. You know, when we started to grow crops and domesticate animals and mostly stopped being nomads. The region is located between the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean sea and that alone was enough to attract the attention of the Romans, but on top of that, it’s also located at the top of a hill which gives it an even bigger strategic advantage.
The region was then taken by the Visigoths in the fifth century and they were the ones who actually founded the city. After that, each following ruler worked to expand the main fortification until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, which ended the Franco-Spanish war. The cité de Carcassonne was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. The city relies heavily on tourism but also counts with manufacturing and wine-making as some of its other key economic sectors.
Ok, enough with the mini-history class. Let’s go back to 2019, shall we?
So, the outside part of the town looks a lot like many countryside towns in France. Tiny, SUPER-CUTE-OMG streets, people drinking their coffees and enjoying the weather in the patios, and all that stuff
How can one not love strolling through a street like this ⬆️ ?
Well, the day was lovely, so I took my time while heading to the fortified part of the town. Google maps is my sheppard and would not let me to get lost, but from the train station up to the hilltop is mostly a straight line. And the view when you start to approach the walls is amazing.
I guarantee you the pictures do not show half of it. It is a very dramatic sight and you can be easily transported back in time as you kind of leave the more modern part of the city behind you and enter on a scene from a medieval movie.
The walled city
So, after passing through the river Aude while crossing the bridge showing on the picture above you get to the fortified part of the city and I gotta tell you, it’s a bit overwhelming. The feeling I had when approaching the walls was something similar to what I felt while visiting cathedrals in Europe. They were made to make you feel small, and they do.
Looking up from the foot of the hill mesmerized me the same way it made me feel insignificant. It’s a feeling hard to explain. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m thinking about how vast the universe is. Being there gave me goosebumps.
I had in my mind that there would be some sort of active city within the walls, but when I entered it, after almost dying climbing that hill (I’m telling you, the pictures do not give you the right perspective on the vastness of this place) I had the impression that it was it. Just very well conserved “ruins”. What was left of the walls (which was everything because they are restored and well maintained).
At some point while walking through the cobblestone streets, you turn into a corner and there it is. It’s alive!
It was shy at first. One restaurant here, two or three people over there
And the more you enter the more you find. Stores, pubs, restaurants, lots of people, music in the streets
More super cute tiny streets filled with amazing stores selling candies, wine, souvenirs
After walking for a while absolutely hypnotized by the charm of this city I decide to stop for lunch (yeah, lunch. I start working really early, remember?) and I got to this adorable place where I could try their famous cassoulet, a hearty slow-cooked stew of sausage, and either chicken, duck or pork, and white beans, is one of the great hallmarks of French country cuisine and it was delicious.
The food was delicious and so was the wine
Everything about this city screams beauty and once you are in, the feeling is completely different from the one I described while standing outside of the walls. The place slowly becomes welcoming and cozy and inviting. It begs you to stay and explore. And it only added up to all the amazing experience and all the fascinating memories I have built every time I went to France.
I left Carcassone later that day with the feeling that I should (and I will) come back, maybe with a nice group of friends, maybe to spend more time there. I left with a feeling that any little corner in the world can house unimaginable beauty and that planning a trip based on a tiny sentence on the box of a board game was one of the best things I ever did.
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