Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Rain in Carcassonne, wind in Narbonne

We left Albi in the rain on Sunday for our drive to the Medieval city of Carcassonne. It was heavy rain all the way over the Montagne Noire and into Carcassone. I've heard about this place for years and was really excited to see a 700 year old intact Medieval city. This photo shows the walls and towers of la Cité from a terrace in our hotel. For some reason they have painted the front of the castle with patches of neon yellow. We're told it's to celebrate 20 years of being a Unesco heritage site. I think its strange that they would celebrate this by defacing the monument--but then again, they didn't ask for my opinion.

Once settled in our hotel, we braved the rain to walk up to the  Medieval City--but all we saw was crowds of tourists carrying umbrellas. The whole place was crowded with French families and it turns out that this is a national holiday. The French celebrate May Day in a big way and this year it falls on a Tuesday so everyone takes the Monday off as well to make a four-day weekend. After braving the crowds for a bit we walked back down the hill and found a nice cozy restaurant for dinner. I enjoyed a comforting cassoulet--just the thing for a rainy evening.

The following day after checking out of our hotel we headed into la Cité one more time. We wandered the narrow streets filled with stores selling candies, wooden swords, postcards and other tourist trinkets, crowded with excited kids and parents. It was hard to see much or get a sense of what this place might have been 700 years ago. It felt more like Disneyland, actually.

We admired a lovely rose window in the huge Gothic church and a niche in one of the outer walls, then had a drink and headed back to our car for the drive to Narbonne. We're thinking we may return during the week sometime when it's less crowded, although it may be that these famous places are just too full of visitors to be experienced the way I prefer. I am always wanting to wander around and get lost in the sense of the past. That's kind of impossible with crowds of tourists. I guess I'm about 50 years too late.

It's only about an hour's drive into Narbonne but the feeling here is quite different. For one thing it's near the Mediterranean. Originally it was a Roman harbour but the area silted up in the 1300's so it's now about 15 km from the beach. However it's still very watery because of the saltwater lagoons nearby and the canals that thread through the city. Our apartment is on the Canal Robine, an offshoot of the famous Canal du Midi, a marvel of engineering and beauty that runs from Toulouse to the port at Sète, featuring 99 locks. Begun in 1667 to accommodate barges of up to 100 feet, the canal was a huge success--until the railway opened in the late 1800s. The canal has been revived recently as route for canal boats and barges.

Our apartment is right on the Canal Robine, which has both live-aboard and rental canal boats.  Here's what it looked like yesterday as we crossed it on a footbridge.

The apartment is very darling with a large kitchen, living room overlooking the canal and two nice bedrooms. It's within walking distance to the historic centre of town and the covered market and has free parking for our little car.

It's a perfect place to spend the next 12 days.  Except for the wind.

Adeline warned us about the wind here and today it's been really strong. So strong that we turned back after about a 20 minute walk even though we were bundled up in our warmest clothes.  The prediction is for wind for the next couple of days with better weather to follow.  We're hoping that will be the case.

Meanwhile we have a lovely place to hang around in and a sweet little car to take drives in, so we're not really complaining.

By the way, that's our little Fiat 500, christened with the name Pearlie, right in the middle of this photo taken from the balcony of our sweet Narbonne apartment.


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