Last September, I visited Carcassonne for the first time, on just a day trip from Narbonne with Kristian. We headed to the upper fortified city like all good tourists. We ate lunch up there, walked around the ramparts, went into the church – in short, we toured the town. Fascinating but overwhelmingly touristy. We walked back to the station, taking time to see the Bastide St. Louis, duck into the art museum, and look at the locks. The Bastide seemed a pleasant zone, and we liked Place Carnot, ringed with restaurants. Looking at ads posted in the windows of real estate agents, I found that properties in the Bastide could be quite reasonable. So, while I once thought I’d eliminated this city as a future home, thinking it too inland, likely too cold in winter, I decided I should think again. Thus, back in January, to see what winter really is like here.
Before coming, I had a pleasant contact on Couchsurfing with a local resident, and she was ready to meet up when I got to town. We lunched and walked and talked. She was surprised to see the state of the umbrellas over the market stalls and outside the restaurants on Place Carnot. They were new this past year, she said, but now saw them heavily covered in birdshit. Unappetizing, to say the least. I wondered what the restaurants would do about the state of the umbrellas and the plaza once tourist season started. It was pretty awful just walking through the square, seeing what one’s shoes would be picking up.
On the brighter side, I was invited to see her home just a short distance outside the Bastide, which made me aware of other neighborhoods so I could see how pleasant the area may be.
And the weather? The wind was sometimes strong, and it was cold. I’d seen weather warnings for Narbonne and Carcassonne of strong and possibly damaging wind, and there were hours I wanted to be or stay inside. But while the wind was sometimes hard to walk against, and bitingly cold, at least while I was in the region, it was not constant. Cold but bearable was my conclusion.
I went into the church near my hotel: Église Saint-Vincent de Carcassonne. Lucky timing, as a small service was being conducted in one of the chapels, so that I heard a bit of chanting as I entered.
As I often do, I spent a day exploring by bus. I picked a couple of routes that went outside town to villages, exploring both to the west and the northeast, and found the latter area interesting. I only rode, I didn’t stop and walk anywhere because it would have been a long wait to return, and I only wanted to get an overview. It was enough to show me that the area is attractive enough, but doesn’t especially draw me.