Guillaume has had the medieval walled city of Carcassonne on his travel wish list since we moved to Geneva, but the logistics of getting there from our perch on the opposite side of France are a bit complicated. Luckily, I stumbled across bargain plane tickets to the nearby city of Toulouse one day during my regular sweep of travel sites and snatched up two for the first weekend in March. At the time, I didn’t know that March falls comfortably within Carcassonne’s off-season, but that turned out to be a real blessing: The normally tourist-ridden city (according to our guidebook) had only a trickle of visitors during the day — and after dusk we had the place gloriously to ourselves. We also got lucky with the weather, as it was originally forecasted to be dark and rainy all day, but turned into a beautiful, mild, sunny afternoon. You can see the change in the photos 🙂
We flew into Toulouse early Saturday and strangely had to go through passport control after landing at the airport, but the line wasn’t too bad. Then we caught the bus downtown to the train station and took the roughly hour-long ride to Carcassonne. By the time we arrived, the two viennese pastries I gobbled down at the PAUL bakery in the station had clearly worn off, but we couldn’t find a quick bite — often a problem for us in France — so I dug into my emergency supply of Lara bars before heading into the castle. The visit begins with a short video in French with subtitles and then allows you to explore the passageways at your own pace. My favorite part was walking the castle walls, soaking up the lovely day and the views as far as the Pyrenees in Spain.
After wandering through the castle and the nearby church, we found a delicious little sandwich stop (finally!) and then explored the town and relaxed with some local wine (me) and beer (Gui) in a cafe. As the sun began to set, we went for a quiet stroll between the city and castle walls — the only other person we came across was a lady walking her dog — and had a delicious dinner at a restaurant in the old city (please note the literally on-fire crème brûlée in the final photo). Our waitress was the one who explained that it was typically quiet until April or May, after we inquired about the blissful solitude. Enjoy the photos!