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Canada_V Apr 10th, 2007 11:12 AM

Carcassonne a must see?
In the preliminary research stages...
The things I've read about Carcassonne seem to be along the lines of "It's great... but too touristy". So my question is this - how 'touristy' would it be in late June? How long a day trip drive would you think it was worth? (i.e. 1 hr each way? Would you drive an hour and a half each way?). Could something else 'substitute'? i.e. would Aigues-Mortes give a 'medieval walled city' type experience that if not just as good, would still be better then any medieval walled city we can see in Ontario :-) What do you think?

AnselmAdorne Apr 10th, 2007 11:37 AM

I thought Ottawa was a medieval walled city? (Sorry, Nova Scotians have funny ideas about Upper Canada).

Carcassonne is indeed touristy, and historians will happily point out all of the flaws in its reconstruction, but it is an impressive and memorable site. We were staying in a village about an hour away and I am glad we took the time to go see it.

Interestingly, though, I have no desire to go back, whereas there are many other places in that area where I would return. For example, if I had to choose between Carcassonne and one of the so-called Cathar castles slightly farther south, I'd chose the castles.


PalenQ Apr 10th, 2007 11:44 AM

Carcassonne is an exceptionally exceptional example of the fortified medieval walled city of your dreams and in June the peak tourist crush has yet to hit.

Aigues-Mortes is genuinely medieval looking (Carcassonne was pieced back together from rubble i believe under the aegis of Violet-le-Duc in the 1800s) could be wrong about Violet but the reason Carcassonne's Cite Medieval is so impressive that it is, for such a town, in mint condition.

Aigues-Mortes reeks of history - St Louis set off on the Crusades here and it is an exceptionally nice walled town on the sea. But it's no Carcassonne - much smaller and also very touristy and here the tourists have much smaller turf to inundate.

Do both if you can.

hausfrau Apr 10th, 2007 11:53 AM

Carcassonne is definitely worth a visit (certainly 60-90 min each way) if you really enjoy medieval towns and castles. It has been reconstructed in a "fairytale"-influenced style but there is no mistaking its medieval origins and it is quite a sight to behold; try to view it from the river down below the town, if possible. (Little-known fact: Carcassonne stood in for Nottingham in the 1990s Kevin Costner "Robinhood" movie.) Yes there is a lot of tourist-y stuff around but if you take the time to stroll around the walls and take the tour, you will be impressed. Sadly, I studied in Montpellier and never went to Aigues-Mortes. I hear it is also fabulous, as PalenQ says.

kevin_widrow Apr 10th, 2007 11:54 AM

I'm with Anselm - I'd take the Cathar Castles over Carcassone any day. What's my definition of too touristy - when you see Provencal fabrics and lavendar for sale in Carcassone !


Graziella5b Apr 10th, 2007 12:13 PM

I did visited Carcassonne many years ago. It was touristy but reasonably ok. However I understand that most of it has been reconstructed. By Violet le DUc, ?
that I am not sure.
I also visited Aigues Mortes and was touched by all the history between its walls.

gracejoan3 Apr 10th, 2007 12:15 PM

Carcassonne is lovely after dark when all the tourist shops are closed!! Otherwise best seen from the autoroute. About as touristy a place as you can find!!

kerouac Apr 10th, 2007 12:23 PM

Carcassonne is touristy AND should be seen anyway. Paris is also very touristy but seems to be much visited anyway.

cigalechanta Apr 10th, 2007 12:25 PM

Hi Grace, Welcome back.
Yes It is very touristy but for it's history we went and like MSM I think I enjoyed it much more from a distance to the approach.
Aigues-Mortes. We spent three wonderful days there.

AnselmAdorne Apr 10th, 2007 12:27 PM

PalenQ and Graziella, it was Violet-le-Duc who oversaw the reconstruction of Carcassonne. He also fiddled with the Basilique St-Denis, Notre-Dame, the cathedral in Clermost-Ferrand, and many others. He was a busy man.


kerouac Apr 10th, 2007 12:33 PM

Among the fake bits of Carcassonne are the pointy towers. The original towers were flat. Big deal.

TuckH Apr 10th, 2007 12:36 PM

Anselm and Kevin: Please, which of the Cathar Castles ('so-called' or otherwise) would you suggest? Preferably one closest to Provence for a day trip...

cigalechanta Apr 10th, 2007 12:46 PM

Tuck, not for a day trip from Provence!

TuckH Apr 10th, 2007 12:51 PM

According to viamichelin, it's 2 hours Arles->Carcassonne and I'm considering breaking my one-hour rule-of-thumb.

Graziella5b Apr 10th, 2007 12:59 PM

Thank ANselm Adorne, yes I agree he was a busy guy.
Did he not intervined in Fontevraud L'Abbye? among many other places? Those fascinating kitchens in the abbey if I am not wrong he built a great part of what is seen today. I know many purists do not like him on the other hand .....only dooers are to be criticize.

cigalechanta Apr 10th, 2007 01:01 PM

Be careful driving at night. We got lost and nded up at one of the castle ruins where a fw parked cars were from some who also lost their way and were going to spend the night. Get a book on Languedoc&Roussillon and it will give you routes to visit Montségar on a high peak, Quiberbus, Peyrepertuse and other remnants of feudal cchateaus.

PalenQ Apr 10th, 2007 01:03 PM

Michelin green guide says about Carcassonne "Violet-le-Duc saved it from ruins in the 19th century"

explaining the walled fortresses fell out of importance and were abandoned after improvements in weapons of mass destruction made them irrelevant - VLD i believe took the rubble and rebuilt it. The Rockefeller Foundation i believe had continued funding early this century for the renovations, which were i believe once a pile of rubble.

ira Apr 10th, 2007 01:13 PM

Hi CV,

From my trip report (2005)

Carcassone and the Hotel Montmorency

on the N113 - a scenic, well-marked road that brought us to the door of the hotel.

The Montmorency has its own parking - a major plus and is about a blk from the entrance to the Old City. They put us up in the Annex, across the street, in a little, bitty, teeny, weeny room on the 1st flooor (one flight up) that was just heavenly. We had no complaints because it was 32 C in Carcassone and the room had AC.

We waited until the sun went down before we went up to the Old City. Carcassone has been a tourist destination for a long, long time. This is not necessarily bad. The Pl Marcou is a large outdoor dining room. The trees are strategically lighted, each restaurant has its own tables, everything goes smoothly despite the crowds.

We wandered about and went for dinner.

After dinner we toured the town before returning to the hotel. Much nicer after all of the shops have closed. Some streets could be quite dark and very medieval. Overall, it was a pleasant visit

I have pix at
Carcassone is the 3 in the middle of the first row of thumbnails.

It is not a place that we will return to, but we don't regret having gone.


cigalechanta Apr 10th, 2007 01:14 PM


andasamo Apr 10th, 2007 01:35 PM

ira, I love your photos! Are they mostly in the Languedoc region? I know Paris is not, but am not sure of the other places mentioned - I'm off to look up them on google earth...

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