My Spontaneous Trip to Carcassonne with Strangers
After seeing some photos of the medieval citadel at Carcassonne, known as ‘La Cité’, I was on a mission to get there. Being one who loves meeting new people I decided to go all spontaneous and post to a Facebook group called Girl Crew. My post stated that I was booking a 3 night trip to Carcassonne. Flying into Toulouse airport on a set date. So, if anyone wanted to join me to comment underneath my post. Within a week we were a group of six strangers all booked on to the same trip. A bit random but didn’t someone once say that “life begins at the edge of our comfort zone”?
I gave the group the name of the lady in the travel company who I had arranged dates and accommodation with. I told them to call her and say they wanted to book on my trip. She organized everything from, transfers, walking notes and guidebooks and gave us all each other’s phone numbers so we could make plans for meeting in the airport. Which worked out really convenient.
I met up with my new travel friends at Dublin airport and off we went on a 4-day walking holiday in the south of France.
In Awe of the Cité
On arrival, we were seriously stuck by the size and stature of the citadel or Cité as it’s known locally. It is a massive medieval castle perched on top of a hill looking like something from a fairytale. So, when you enter inside the formidable fortress the pleasant surprise is that it’s still alive and bustling with shops. The central plaza or socialising square has coffee shops and restaurants. It’s basically as if you were invited to the court to dine and of course, drink wine. Medieval costumes are in every souvenir shop on the cobblestone streets and the whole atmosphere really takes you back in time.
Carcassonne didn’t disappoint either when we ventured out into nature hiking on the mapped out trails. We walked through lush green wooded areas, wide open meadows of lavender, sprawling vineyards and golden rapeseed plantations that meet the horizon. There are a number of mapped out walking trails. Each has their own colour. I can recommend the yellow trail which is 14kms long and full to the brim with views of the castle. There are endless photo opportunities of stunning scenery that’s a feast for the eyes. This was the best way to clear the head in the morning after more than one glass of the local produce, at just €2 per glass.
On Saturdays, there is a market in the new city between 9 am to midday. Here you can buy fresh baked bread and croissants, colourful fresh fruit and vegetables, an array of nuts, all sorts of flavoured olives and loose spices straight from the sack. We stocked up on a picnic. French cheese, garlic artesian sausage and crunchy freshly baked bread before we went off walking. Sitting along the walking trail eating picnic with my new found friends applying sun cream to each other and offering around water, I thought to myself that there is, good in the world. I felt lucky to have landed such a nice bunch of people in my little group of randomness.
Our hotel was just outside the walls of the castle of Carcassonne so in the evenings when lounging in the front garden chatting and sipping wine we were also soaking up front row views of the magical Cité. Set in south-west France Carcassonne is perfect for a getaway. It’s ideal for either a walking holiday as it has some of the most beautiful walks I’ve seen to date. Or it would make a lovely romantic couples weekend.
A ride on the Carrousel La Belle Époque which is located just south of downtown is a must. Don’t go to Carcassone if you are hoping for a wild party as you won’t find it. If you fancy having a few drinks after 10 pm you’ll need to go to the Irish bar. It’s in the new city and aptly called The Celt.
The new city is also good for some shopping and people watching. This is my favourite thing to do while enjoying a coffee outside a restaurant. The houses in the city have pretty pastel painted shutters on their windows. These absolutely let you know you are now in France. I recommend learning a few basic phrases of the lingo before you go. Because English is not so widely spoken and you’ll get a lot further with a French person on their soil if you at least try to make an effort with their native tongue.
We flew to Toulouse with Aer Lingus and paid €320 return which wasn’t exactly cheap. Ryanair now flies directly to Carcassonne which will cut out the one hour transfer we needed to take.
Our hotel was a charming 3* that cost €220 per person sharing. Breakfast was not included so we went each morning to the Cité and had breakfast at a small café which cost just €5 for a continental. We booked everything bar flights through OneFootAbroad.com
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