To our horror we found out that August 15th is the busiest day of the year at Carcassonne. (Neither of us being a big a fan of huge crowds.)
We took taxi up to the Cité and arrived at around 10. The first thing we did was buy tickets so we could walk around ramparts to the castle. It was a good thing we got there fairly early – by the time we got aound to the castle the ramparts were getting quite crowded. At about 12:30 we split ways for the afternoon – Vera wanted to explore the castle a bit more and I wanted to sit and drink liquids.
I found an out-of-the-way restaurant with a shaded terrace and enjoyed yet another salad with goat cheese toasts – can’t get enough of it! After lunch I engaged in some more retail therapy and checked out some more shops and treated myself to a double scoop of gourmet ice cream. By mid-afternoon it was too hot and too crowded so I took the shuttle bus back to the center of town and found Vera already relaxing at the hotel.
We rested for a couple of hours and then at about 6:30 headed back to the taxi stand to catch a ride up the the Cité. We found out that there are only 3 taxis in the entire town of Carcassonne - which explains why we couldn’t find one Sunday evening!
We thought we found an interesting restaurant and took seats and then after a few minutes noticed that the waitress was completely overwhelmed. We decided that the chances of having a pleasant experience were slim and left in search of better pickings.
Tucked out of the way was a pleasant place that looked promising. In the menu they made a big deal about their local, fresh, fine cuisine. Well, it was definitely better than just ok but not fantastic. My first course involved a slice of a very tasty terrine of chicken breast and asparagus. It would have been even better had the asparagus not been overcooked (it was probably canned, as August is not exactly asparagus season). It was accompanied by a couple of lackluster un-dressed leaves of lettuce topped with canned corn and a tomato wedge. Edible but not inspired.
My main course was a lamb brochette that was flavorful but sadly a bit overcooked. The side dish was a mound of haricot verts which were very good. For dessert I chose the Tarte Tatin made of figs which sounded appetizing but since was served cold from the refrigerator and not warm or at least room temperature I was disappointed. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. The atmosphere was nice and Vera enjoyed her salads so I rate it as positive rather than negative.
Since we by now had the number of the taxi service, we called and arranged for a ride back to the hotel. We were in bed with lights out by 11:30 (Vera’s goodnight wish was always “Sleep well in the Bettgestell” and amusing Ger-glish mix).
What can I say about Carcassonne? In some ways I wish Violet le Duc (the 19th century French architect) had left it a ruin and not restored it and that it hadn’t become such a mecca for tourists. (Not forgetting that I myself am indeed a tourist.) Or perhaps it should be like Vera suggested and just have a museum-like admission and no shops where the vendors all rake in money. In the end, my opinion of Carcassonne? Beautiful to look at, glad I visited, don’t need to go back.