Coffee and Castles in Carcassonne
It took until now for us to do what we have proclaimed as a goal for years. We took a budget weekend away to a destination chosen by Ryanair.
That’s not how we’ve worded it before, but it is how it worked out. We wanted to take more quick, affordable getaways on weekends. So we took some leave and extended our weekend, and found an extremely well-priced flight to an unfamiliar destination: Carcassonne.
There were two completely superficial reasons why we were unsure at first. The name was not inviting. Romantic thoughts do not come to mind when you hear of a place that starts with the word “carcass”. But that was extremely shallow and irrelevant, so it was easy to move on. The second reason not to go was an excellent reason to actually go: it’s in France.
We haven’t seen a lot of France. We’ve been to Paris many times and, as the French themselves will tell you, you shouldn’t judge France by Paris. We didn’t particularly enjoy Paris until our 3rd or 4th visit. In the meantime we’ve been to Strasbourg, which was charming and elegant, but it didn’t feel overly French. That tends to happen to places that keep moving borders! We did keep telling ourselves that we need to see more of France to appreciate it. So when we saw return flights for around £15-£20, we googled some pictures, saw there was a medieval castle and that was really all we needed to know!
The purpose of this trip wasn’t just to have a random weekend away. We also wanted to do a trip that wasn’t about cramming sights. Usually, we pick a region, fly over, then catch trains to as many nearby cities as we can. We love trains and enjoy the excitement of city-hopping. But with work being so busy, we wanted to find somewhere to go that was new, with nice walks and good cafés. Carcassonne definitely did the trick!
Our accommodation was 20 minutes’ walk from the castle, and our daily walk took us down suburban streets and everyday retailers. Little, regular things amused us, like the way the locals parked their cars over the sidewalk, the hotel’s resident dog, or the colourful pastries for sale in what appeared to be a converted petrol station. I love casually looking at the local houses and imagining who lives there, what they do, and what they think about tourists wandering down such un-touristy roads. We even got a local takeaway kebab one night!
We spent one evening walking around the modern part of town, relaxing and people-watching. The rest of the time was spent within the castle walls. Or on the castle walls. The views were stunning! The city’s history at the edge of Spain gave it a familiar and inviting feel for us. Small houses, faded by the sun. Although the reddish tones of the roofs did also have a hint of Dubrovnik, there were plenty of Spanish elements to be seen.
Although the views were part of the reason to be there, we do always make sure that we know the best food to try!! The most famous dish of the region was a stew with white beans. I did want to try it, but I never felt in the mood. We did have the world’s most incredible omelette, though! But it was the sweets that really blew us away. Not only were they delicious, but they were gorgeous! Some were also confusing. Who knew that peas, carrots and every kind of fruit could be so cute and sugary?
The trip was so relaxing – and affordable – that we already decided that we would love to come back! Any time there is another cheap flight at the weekend, we know where we can go!