The French portion of the trip "est fini"
We have reached the endpoint of our French trip. After leaving the "River Chanson", we spent three nights in Toulouse. During our stay, we made a side trip to the medieval city of Carcassonne. This is a place that has long been on my list of must-see sites. It is the most well preserved walled city we have seen in Europe. We walked through the city and visited the Chateau, before a nice lunch at one of the local restaurants. Kathy and I had to try the "cassoulet" which is a regional favorite. It is a wine-based, slow-cooked casserole with several types of meat included. It was good but not as good as we were lead to expect (maybe it was over-hyped by the locals).
The image above is Lady Carcas. She is at the heart of the legend of Carcassonne. In the 8th century, the city was held by the Saracens and ruled by Lady Carcas after the death of her husband. The French Emporer Charlemagne laid siege to the city going on six years. The city was near starvation when Lady Carcas made a brilliant move. She had the last pig in town fatten-up with the last sack of wheat and had the poor guy thrown over the wall in front of the French. Charlemagne reasoned that the city must have plenty of food if they are able to waste it by tossing it over the wall, so he cut off the siege and left. As the French rode away, Carcas ordered the city bells rung in celebration. One of the Frenchmen commented that "Carcas sonne" meaning Carcas sounds and "voila-voila" a city is born. I'm sure this is a historical fact because it has been confirmed by Fox News.
|Entrance to the walled city of Carcassonne.|
|Part of the Chateau.|
|An overview of the restaurant where we had lunch.|
Toulouse is a lovely old city with many interesting areas to visit. We did the group city walking tour, then spent a day on our own. We had reached a fatigue point with churches and castles, so we decided to do a leisurely day of walking and sitting in a cafe.
I've always been fascinated by canals in France from the time I was young and Dad was stationed in Nancy, France. He was "career army" and we spent many years in foreign countries, including four years in France. One village we lived in had a canal just a half block from our home. It was unique in that it had a bridge on which the canal passed over the local river. I spent many an afternoon watching the barges cross over the river on this bridge. Kathy and I visited the place several years ago and the bridge is gone and the canal closed (it is just a grass-covered ditch now).
Toulouse is embraced by a ring of canals including the Canal du Midi. We found the canal and walked along the bank for a while. Unfortunately, there was some construction and it was not as nice as I had hoped for. We found a local sidewalk cafe and stopped for some refreshments and to watch the people go by. The highlight was watching the local police inspect a car that was, we think, illegally parked. Three policemen were there at least thirty minutes and were still there when we left. Were they looking for a terrorist, an illegal parker, or waiting for donuts (or croissants, it is France after all)? We never did learn what was happening, but it sure was fun to speculate.
|Toulouse, "La Ville Rose", known for its pale red brick buildings.|
|A tour boat on the canal.|
|A sidewalk cafe.|
We ended our stay in Toulouse and the French portion of the trip, with a farewell dinner with our group. We made some good friends on this trip; possibly the best group of people we have traveled with on a Grand Circle trip. We have now completed 14 trips with GCT and this group definitely ranks in the top 13!
Some of the group continued on with us to Andorra and Barcelona. That will be my next and final blog in this series, look for it in the next several weeks.
Here is a link to more photos from Toulouse and Carcassonne: Toulouse and Carcassonne Photos.