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Carcassonne — A Medieval Fortress in the heart of Southern France

Experiences from our road trip to Portugal (part 5)

By Gabriela Trofin-TatárPublished 2 months ago 5 min read
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Carcassonne — Panoramic photo by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

Welcome to the tale of our beautiful road trip to Portugal. You can check all the previous stories in my profile. This story is about one of the most amazing medieval cities in Europe.

The Medieval City of Carcassonne

From Saint-Avre through Provence, we crossed plenty of hilly areas and arrived at around 6 p.m. in Carcassonne.

From Saint-Avre to Carcassonne — Printscreen from Google Maps

Our host was a French lady who was renting out the first floor of a beautiful villa. Her name was Pâquerette, which means daisy in English. She was eager to tell stories and curious about our family.

We felt majestic and pampered with so many rooms for ourselves. The kids chose their bedroom, and we unpacked and had a quick snack. Shortly we left on foot to visit the fortress, which could be seen in the distance, not far from our place.

Walking to the fortress from our Airbnb — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

On the way to the citadel, we picked from a shop some local cheeses, wine, eggs, and fruits for our dinner and breakfast the following day. The weather was perfect for a stroll, around 19 degrees. Our youngest was traveling in style on her bike.

As we approached the fortress, the scent of linden trees engulfed us once again, a persistent sensorial memory during our road trip to Portugal.

Huge linden tree in bloom, by the castle of Carcassonne — Photo by Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

(We would arrive in Portugal in 2 days' time. We still had to cross a large part of Spain after crossing the Pyrenees Mountains).

A bit of history

Situated in the heart of southwestern France like a stone giant, the Carcassonne Fortress has seen a lot since its beginnings.

“It all started way back when togas were considered trendy, as the Romans plopped themselves on this prime hillside real estate and said, “We’ll take the view, please.”

Fast-forward to the Middle Ages and Carcassonne became the ultimate medieval Sims game. Walls got taller, towers sprouted like fashionable hats, and the whole place turned into a ‘stay out or face our moat’ kind of deal. Even during the Albigensian Crusade, when everyone was fighting over who had the right version of medieval WiFi, Carcassonne held its ground like a boss.” (funny paragraph created by chatGPT on demand)

Funny jokes aside, Carcassonne is a huge fortress. When you step inside, over the bridge, you feel small, as if you have gone back in time. The cobblestone alleys, old shop signs, the medieval rocky style, and the sense of timelessness are taking over.

The Carcassonne Fortress underwent a complex restoration effort in the 19th century, led by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. This initiative aimed to revive the medieval grandeur of the citadel.

Viollet-le-Duc’s attention to historical accuracy was evident in the addition of decorative turrets and the careful reconstruction of deteriorated walls. This restoration transformed Carcassonne into a vivid historical experience.

Floor plan of the Medieval City of Carcassonne

Including the restorations at different times, see the colors legend.

Free download Source here.

Visiting the Carcassonne in the evening

I literally couldn’t stop beaming at my husband after entering the old city, I just couldn’t believe my eyes at how enormous the structure was.

Entering the Citadel— Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

We arrived at around 8 p.m. inside the fortress. It was mid-June, so the sun was setting around 10 p.m.

The museums were closed of course, but we had a long walk ahead of us, exploring the alleys, and the ramparts, climbing stairs, and taking photos. We probably would have visited the Museum of the Middle Ages if we had spent an extra day in Carcassonne.

For a full list of museums in Carcassonne see the link.

Carcassone fortress — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár
Carcassone fortress — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár
Carcassone fortress — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

I couldn’t shake that feeling of ancient stones under my feet. How many people have stepped on them?

The stones we were stepping on were so shiny and worn out by feet, throughout the centuries.

Walking around inside the medieval Carcassonne— Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár
Walking around inside the medieval Carcassonne— Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár
Walking around inside the medieval Carcassonne— Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

The kids loved dressing up in a local costume shop with traditional attire and souvenirs.

They were wishing for a full costume, but they already had gotten a set of swords and shields during an earlier trip to Taródi Castle in Hungary.

Kids trying on medieval costumes — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár
Kids trying on medieval costumes — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár
Kids trying on medieval costumes — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

We spent 2 hours exploring and a bit after sunset we noticed that the lights were turned on and music started playing from a nightclub inside the ramparts. That seemed unusual to us.

As soon as evening arrived, cars with party people started to drive into the fortress. Surprisingly, cars are allowed inside! There were some policemen checking that nobody parked illegally. They were also making sure everyone was decent.

Sunset and lights on at Carcassonne — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár
Sunset and lights on at Carcassonne — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár
Sunset and lights on at Carcassonne — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

The following morning we woke up to this view and had breakfast on the terrace. I felt I could spend more time in this area. We talked about coming back and visiting more castles and fortresses in France, as part of a historical tour for the kids. #worldschooling

Breakfast at our Airbnb villa in Carcassonne — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

After the delicious and relaxed breakfast, we packed our bags and drove to a neighboring hill with a panoramic view. There was the whole fortress in all its might.

Panoramic view of Carcassonne fortress — Photos by the Author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

The next stop on our trip

We left Carcassonne and continued our trip to Burgos, crossing the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain.

But first, we made an impromptu stop in Biarritz. You’ll get to experience with us the Atlantic Ocean feel, in the stylish beach town on France’s southwestern coast.

Stay tuned for the next story in this series.

  • Have you been to Carcassonne?
  • Have you tried French cheese or wine in Southern France?

Let me know in the comments if you experienced French Southern cuisine or culture. We loved the local cheeses and wine.

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Stay human, be loved,

Gabby

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***I originally published this article on Medium.***

Thank you for reading! Your support means a lot and fuels our passion for travel and my motivation to write about our experiences. It takes me a few hours to craft an article about various travels, and we do travel quite a lot! So expect more in the future :)

I write about our travels with kids and our parenting journey. We hope to raise money for our next trip this coming summer. We plan another road trip across Europe to reach the Atlantic again.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for all the stories in this Portugal Trip series and other travels with our kids, too.

If you feel generous, send me a tip, Buy me a coffee, or a tea, and let’s chat in the comments.

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About the Creator

Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

Full Stack Developer in the making and mother of 3 littles. Curious, bookaholic and travel addict. I also write on Medium and Substack: https://medium.com/@chicachiflada & https://chicachiflada.substack.com/

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Comments (3)

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  • Ameer Bibi2 months ago

    I really admire your style the way you describes the whole scene and journey

  • Nature Lover2 months ago

    I love your photos, they make me want to visit these places!

  • Nature Lover2 months ago

    Oh my, the linden flowers are bringing back childhood memories of my time in Italy..

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