Carcassonne - La Cite
We arrived on Sunday morning, a dull grey affair that was disappointingly little warmer than the wet one we’d left behind in Scotland just a couple of hours earlier. The landing approach brought us in a low circle of the huge walls and towers of La Cite, the ancient medieval heart of Carcassonne deep in the south of France and gave us a spectacular start to our stay despite the weather. Like Edinburgh, Carcassonne sits proud on its rock above the sprawling town below but there the similarity ends. Edinburgh is beautiful and I love her, but beside Carcassonne, with her fairytale princess looks, tanned and tall in the sun, she‘s an ugly sister in a dowdy frock.
Rennes Le Chateau
We pick up our bags quickly in the quiet-now-the-summer-is-over airport and collect a hire car just as efficiently and within a short time are on our way to the rented villa where we’re staying. An acquaintance of G has done us a great deal on her holiday home and we find it’s a short ten minute drive from the airport in a sleepy village surrounded by vineyards. A combination of a strange bed the night before, getting up in the wee small hours and getting to the airport by 5am for the flight has left us exhausted and now, knowing we are within easy reach of at least one favourite holiday haunt here - La Bar a Vin in La Cite - we decide to have a nap for an hour before we head into Carcassonne.
A Great wee bar
The Lovely G and I have been here several times before. I’ve been fascinated by this area and its history for longer than I can remember and had always wanted to see it for myself but somehow holidaying here had never seemed a viable option. I never felt I could afford it and then, after meeting G with her Swiss roots, for many years I lost my heart - and all my available holiday resources - to Switzerland. It was hard not to when introduced to her wonderful relatives and such a stunningly beautiful country. But ultimately chocolate box beauty gave way to an insistent longing to see what I’d been reading about all these years: Languedoc, or more specifically, the Haute Valee area of Aude, the edge of the so called ‘Pays du Cathars‘.
That first visit was six years ago now and since then I’ve been back every year. I found I was instantly and completely at home. Things seemed so familiar, so expected. I wanted to love it and I do, more than I could ever have imagined and more than I can probably explain. I soon laid tentative plans for a holiday home and retirement to the sun but these haven’t happened - yet. For now I have to be content to visit and renew my acquaintance with this unique place, this sanctuary of mine. In the last few years we’ve ranged across the area, from the walls of Carcassonne to La Montaignes Noir, west to the border forests of the Ariege and the snow capped Pyrenees, from Mt Cardou to distant Beziers and Narbonne on the Mediterranean coast. We’ve climbed to mountain castles destroyed in the Albigensian crusades, to Cathar villages, trailed through vineyards dripping with ruby grapes and enjoyed the wines that comes from them as well as the tasty goats cheeses, fabulous breads and honeys that go so well with all. Most of all we’ve followed the quiet river valley of the Aude‘s high valley, from Limoux of the sparkling wines, to Alet les Bains and Couiza and mysterious Rennes le Chateau high on its peak, past the Donjon of Arques, to the spa village of Rennes le Bains deep in its river gorge. All of them have told tales, left indelible marks and made me more fascinated, tempted and haunted by L’Aude than ever.
La Canal Du Midi - Carcassonne
Now we’re here, its time to get started again.
I’ll let you know how we get on……..
See you later.