Part 3: France and England

Our next stop was Toulouse. It was a new city for me in France. We went there because it was closer to Carcassonne than Bordeaux. But it was a charming medieval city. It had towers all over the place, which is always a good sign. Toulouse is also the land of violets like Provence is the land of lavender. I tried some violet tea, which was quite unusual and delicious. However, we’ve learned that the center is not a place for driving. It took us 1+ hours to find our hotel with all the one way streets with the help of the hotel and a bellhop who had to find us. But it’s a lovely town nonetheless.

Toulouse Tower!

Toulouse Tower!

The following day we immediately drove to Carcassonne. This was a place that I really only knew from the board game. But my parents told me about going there and I was really rather keen to see the place. Also, it was the stronghold of the Cathar hearsay!

Carcassonne was well worth the trip! It’s practically a castle within a castle. It’s is located on top of a giant hill overlooking the new town. It’s another perched village…except that it has large castle walls surrounding it. The castle town was really quite charming, despite the pouring rain. We did have some local color. We watched the standoff between a dog and cat, both intently eyeing each other. A shopkeeper had to shoo the dog away before things got out of hand.

Dog and Cat

Dog and Cat

The big site to see was the main castle building within the walls. It’s a beautiful building with incredible views of the city. The best part was walking the battlements in horizontal rain. No really. I don’t think you could have asked for a better way to set the mood. The ground floor has interesting exhibits: a mix of toy castles and other modern castle references and old stonework contemporaneous with the rest of the castle. The first part had several toy models of castles, including Play Mobil and Lego. There were some installations like a castle that had fire and ghosts projected on to it. There was also a little TV set up that showed small clips from French silent films about castles. Silly and wonderful. I think the exhibition was trying to make the claim that our conception of a castle comes from Carcassonne. And then there were all sorts of stone carvings like pillars, tombstones, fountains, etc.

View of Carcassonne from the battlements

View of Carcassonne from the battlements

We then wandered over to the main Cathedral. It’s a wonderful medieval church with some lovely stained glass windows. We were very fortunate because we got an impromptu performance from a Russian Orthodox quartet. I think they were there for a couple days and giving performances in the church every 15 minutes. It was really fantastic to hear their haunting and dulcet tones fill this cathedral.

Then the driving rain forced us to return to Toulouse. We wandered around Toulouse for a few hours. We went into their main Cathedral, which was Romanesque, I believe. It had some beautiful faded murals and a crypt with various relics. We also found ourselves in the local antiquities museum that had a nice collection of Roman statuary. There were even some frescoes there on view from Pompeii. It’s very tiny though. We think that the building is situated on top of Roman ruins; the basement shows some stone architecture. Quite neat.

So thus ends our trip to Toulouse! We will have to return and spend a little bit more time there. In a bit, I’ll return with our adventures to England.

That’s all for now!

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