A chance to meet up with some friends in Carcassonne was an occasion I could not resist.
Three days was not enough.
Tourists go to Carcassonne is for its historic canal, medieval fortified city, but equally exciting is visiting the Cathar castles in the area and checking out the new town of Carcassonne.
At one time the Canal du Midi stretched more than 240 kms; it took over 14 years to complete this engineering system of canals, locks and aqueducts. The canal was built to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea passing by way of the Pyrenees.
The Canal Du Midi used to have the royal title of the Canal Royale de Languedoc (named after the region) but after the revolution, of course the name had to be changed -- the royal connection was no longer appropriate.
Today, the canal is used purely for recreation. This is a good way to relax and take in the beautiful landscape while someone else navigates.
Visiting the medieval cité is like stepping back in time and you do need time to visit this popular tourist attraction – there’s much to see in the cité of Carcassonne.
The French word, Cité does not translate as city; it means a walled town.
The cité which overlooks the modern Carcassonne has a double row of fortified walls almost two miles long, 52 towers, numerous shops and restaurants with a population of 120 people.
We spent a day driving in the Corbières, south of Carcassonne. Our aim was to trace some of the Cathar castles and to discover the relatively wild mountainous region while checking out the vineyards.
Some thirty Cathar castles are open for visiting today. Most of them have been destroyed, some restored such as the castle of Carcassonne.
Catharism was a religion started up in the twelfth century in Europe but it was in this region of France where the religion flourished. The Cathars saw themselves as Christians but rejected the idea of priesthood and did not worship in churches.
Many of these castles are perched on spectacular hill tops, not always easy to drive to.
Chateau D’ Arques in my photo is an exception – it was built on flat land.