Carcassone or Castelnaudary ?

Jan 10th, 2004, 11:41 AM
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Carcassone or Castelnaudary ?

we are planning one night in this region and are searching for the best place to have CASSOULET ? Any advice on restaurants, which of the two towns is preferred and where to stay would be of great assistance. Thank you for your help.
SydneySteve is offline  
Jan 10th, 2004, 01:09 PM
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I'd think Castelnaudary. While there were some nice restaurants in Carcassonne, all we found were extremely touristy -- at least within the walled city. The best Cassoulet we had was in Sarlat -- perfect every place we had it!
Patrick is offline  
Jan 10th, 2004, 04:01 PM
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Carcassone has a fortress as its symbol on the highway road signs that the government tourist bureau erects. Castelnaudary has a pot of steaming beans (I kid you not) Enough said.
jmv is offline  
Jan 10th, 2004, 04:04 PM
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I actually registered to be able to warn you off Carcassone. Years ago a British friend of ours warned us about the extremely touristy nature of Carcassone; we had already made our reservations, but didn't stay long. He was so correct, and Patrick seemed to have a similar impression. We have passed through since, last time was 2 years ago. The main streets are filled with vendors selling plastic swords and helmets. The city itself has been highly over-restored so that now it is unfortunately reminiscent of Disneyland.

However, Carcassone does look lovely from a distance. I would highly recommend driving by and taking a photo from a nearby hillside. SW France, in general, is a beautiful area, fascinating historically, and relatively scarcely visited by tourists. I hope "Timeline" doesn't draw too many of them to the area in future. Or perhaps I should amend my remarks to if they do come, I hope that they do their homework, learn a little French, learn about French customs, read travel sites, such as this one. Cassoulet abounds, as does foie gras and duck liver. I have found almost any restaurant mentioned in the Michelin guides to be very good in the French provinces.
Era is offline  
Jan 10th, 2004, 04:11 PM
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Castelnaudary is the "birthplace of cassoulet." It's also a center of furniture making and not all that fascinating a place. The Hôtel de France and the Grand Hôtel Fourcade are considered two of the best places to sample cassoulet, but of course every local has his favorite place and they are all competing with each other.

Carcassonne is a massive walled city without a lot of restaurants of disctinction, though I'd bet cassoulet features on the menus of most of them. It's not at all like Castelnaudary, so I think you might want to base your decision on something other than a particular dish.

The best cassoulet I ever had was in Cahors, at the Hotel Terminus. I've had fabulous cassoulet in the Dordogne as well, and in Toulouse.
StCirq is online now  
Jan 10th, 2004, 04:17 PM
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Carcassonne is no different from le Mont-St-Michel or Rocamadour or any major religious site in France. It was teeming with vendors selling cheap trinkets back in the Middle Ages and it still is today. You do need to get past that in order to appreciate the place.

I'm not saying Carcassonne is for everyone. It is worth understanding it in its context, however.
StCirq is online now  
Jan 10th, 2004, 04:36 PM
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She's right but let me add that cassoulet differs in places and people argue which is better.
Castelnaudary's cassoulet is mainly pork meat.
Toulouse( some prefer) is lamb and sausages
Carcassone was partridge not sure if it still is as there's a shortage but this dish is mainly a winter dish so don't order much else, the beans are fulling as are the the other ingrediants. Maybe a salad. But I understand your desire. This September my husband wanted to taste the best Bouillebaisse.(Sp?) I had it before but he had not.
cigalechanta is offline  
Jan 10th, 2004, 07:07 PM
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St Cirq, I'm curious how you can "get past" the cheap trinkets and vendors within a walled city that is filled with them from wall to wall? And unlike my experience at Mont St. Michel, it didn't lose its touristy tackiness at night.

Oddly enough, today I spent a lot of time playing on the computer creating "a view of Carcassonne as seen from a window in a slightly Flemish style" to be blown up and used on the set of a play I'm doing. I kept being reminded just what Era said. Carcassonne is best viewed from a distance.
Patrick is offline  
Jan 10th, 2004, 07:14 PM
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Don't know if they are still in business. They are no longer associated with Logis de France, but the best cassoulet we've had is at the Auberge le Cathare, 11410 Belflou, FRANCE
Phone: 011-33-4-68-60-32-49
Fax: 011-33-4-68-60-37-90

It's out in the boonies but a beautiful drive. It's close to both Carcassonne and Castelnaudary. You could easily visit Carcassonne and then have dinner at Le Cathare. Get good directions if you go and certainly call ahead to see if they are still in business.

It's a real adventure!
SalB is offline  
Jan 10th, 2004, 07:21 PM
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Hi, I'm new but I vote for Toulouse as having the best Cassoulet after trying all three places. Sal, yours was good but not as good as Toulouse.
Jan 10th, 2004, 08:35 PM
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Reggie, Give me the name and address of the place in Toulouse, please. If it's better than Le Cathare, it's got to be great.

SalB is offline  
Jan 11th, 2004, 03:41 AM
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That great travel writer, Henry James, wrote a superb piece on Carcassonne back in 18?? If you can't enjoy the town maybe you can stand outside the walls and read Henry. I don't think he mentions cassoulet though.
harzer is offline  
Jan 11th, 2004, 05:41 AM
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Can't comment on the Cassoulet or where it is best.

But Carcassonne is best seen at night or early morning. We arrived late, most tourists where going or gone, so we were able to walk in outer ramparts on our own (no fee). Then we had dinner at a lovely restaurant and enjoyed the city with no tourist - it's beautifully lit and a fantasy. We overnighted here, then the following morning had town to ourselves till tourists start arriving about 10am. Took the first tour of the Inner Ramparts, believe 11am, for a small fee. Had lunch and then were out of there.
Jan 11th, 2004, 11:55 AM
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I guess we were trying to find the logical area to travel to after Barcelona to Val de Nuria.

It sounds like Castelnaudary is a place to turn up on a train for three hours to have a cassoulet lunch then hop on to another train and travel to Carcasonne for two hours - walk around and then depart for Nimes or maybe an itinerary rethink ! I guess we will consult the train timetable and maybe go up one of those picturesque lines marked in green to somewhere different !
SydneySteve is offline  
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