With the long weekend for Pentecost, the boys headed to Andorra for an overnight stay, while I accompanied Susie to Carcassonne for her flight back to London. The trip to Carcassonne airport by car from here is pretty well signposted – though the plane symbols are sometimes hard to see – and pretty straightforward actually, taking just on an hour from Quillan door to door.
Once Susie and Sam were installed with all their luggage in the departure area, I investigated transport options into the city. Not so straight forward. There’s a good shuttle bus service to the station but, being a small airport, they only go according to the time of arrival of flights. Being a Sunday, flights are few and far between and, having not long missed the 11.30am departure, there was not another shuttle until about 2.30pm. Taxi was therefore the only option – as the guy at the information desk said helpfully: There are local buses, but I have no idea where you’d get one from, and no idea how often they go, especially on a Sunday. At 18 euros for the taxi fare, that probably wasn’t that bad actually for a 15 minute taxi ride, but it felt a bit irritating when you know you could have got there for much less.
The station is located right on the Canal du Midi, where you can take boat rides to the Cite and further up the Canal. There’s a main square fringed by restaurants. For a station area, it”s not as seedy a locale as most.
It’s a ten-minute easy walk from there to the Place Carnot, the heart of the Bastide area, the main old town where most of the locals live, if not in the newer suburbs. It’s a lovely leafy square, with a fountain, fringed with old apartment buildings, windows decorated with flower boxes. As everywhere in Europe in the public squares, cafe tables are strewn haphazardly across the pavement, and cheery conversation flows as patrons enjoy a drink, a meal or a coffee.
From there it’s a further 20-minute walk to la Cite and without a map, the route is not that evident. In some directions you can see la Cite for miles – not from the Place Carnot! I walked five minutes in the wrong direction before I came across some other tourists, who kindly lent me their spare map… The walk is lovely – through to the river, across the Pont Vieux and up through the old town to the walls of la Cite. Spectacular.
Other people I know find places like Carcassonne a bit cheesy. You could argue that once you’ve seen one narrow, cobbled tourist-lined street, you’ve seen them all, but I love it, all of it, and I could wander for hours. If you ignore the tourist tack (and admittedly it is quite hard to do that), you can find hidden corners and pathways. If you look up, above the shop fronts, there are endless views of interest: quirky old shop signs, wrought iron work, windows, shutters, rooftops, turrets…
The Choeur Doros was still singing, with some of the same members, as it was in the cathedral when we were last here in late 2012. I don’t care if they sing here forever. I feel no less privileged to hear them. They are outstanding. The level of musicality is quite stunning, helped by the incredible acoustics of the cathedral. The stained glass windows are also, in my opinion, every bit as magnificent as Chartres. Beautiful. Quite beautiful.
Farewell Carcassonne – I’ll be back for more exploring. At two euros return for the bus or train, it would be rude not to.