(extrait de la page Facebook de Tourisme Carcassonne)
L’Office de Tourisme de Carcassonne a rencontré la journaliste anglaise Mary Novakovich à Londres le 3 mars 2015 lors du Mediatour « France meets the media » , organisé par Atout France . Quelques jours plus tard la curiosité l’a amenée jusqu’à Carcassonne pour découvrir notre ville en direct. Mary Nokavovich transmet sa passion pour notre ville aux expatriés anglais à travers son article paru dans The National Newspaper d’Abu Dhabi. :
The historical La Cité in Carcassonne is filled with narrow cobbled lanes from which traffic is mostly banished. Photo by Adam Batterbee
A French fairy tale in Carcassonne
Carcassonne looks as if it belongs in a fairy tale – and in some ways it does. The fortified medieval town had been practically in ruins in 1844 when it was enthusiastically restored by the French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Some say he was a bit too enthusiastic with his reconstruction, and made it too perfect. This doesn’t prevent several million tourists from coming to this corner of south-west France’s Languedoc region every year to soak up its undeniably charming atmosphere.
Ringed by a double row of ramparts topped with conical turrets, the Unesco-listed citadel – La Cité – is filled with narrow cobbled lanes from which traffic is mostly banished. Jostling for attention among the many restaurants and shops are a couple of truly fine historical sights, notably the Romanesque-Gothic St-Nazaire basilica and the vast 12th-century Château Comtal. A visit to the château, at a cost of €8.50 [Dh35), includes a walk around La Cité’s ramparts, showing sides to the town you normally wouldn’t be able to see.
Across the River Aude, via an old stone footbridge, is Bastide St-Louis, a pleasant lower town (ville basse) created in typically 13th-century, grid-like style. Less fairy tale and more workaday, this is where normal life carries on without the tourist crowds, medieval jousting tournaments or horse-drawn-carriage rides.
A comfortable bed
The five-star Hotel de la Cité (www.hoteldelacite.fr; 0033 4 6871 9871) is the best in town, hiding sumptuous luxury behind a vine-covered facade beside St-Nazaire basilica in La Cité. Try to get a room with a terrace overlooking the gardens, ramparts and pool. It’s also home to the classy, Michelin-starred La Barbacane restaurant. Double rooms cost from €245 (Dh1,004), room only.
In a prime spot a few steps from La Cité is the four-star Hotel du Chateau (www.hotelduchateau.net; 0033 4 6811 3838). The stylish rooms have soft leather furnishings and cocooning fabrics, and the Carita spa and outdoor pool add to the soothing atmosphere. Doubles cost from €146 (Dh598), room only.
It’s hard to get more central than Hotel le Donjon (www.hotel-donjon.fr; 0033 4 6811 2300), spread across three medieval buildings in La Cité. Some of the rooms open directly on to a cute little courtyard. Doubles cost from €109 (Dh447), room only.
Find your feet
You can enter La Cité by either of its two main gates: Porte d’Aude and Porte Narbonnaise. While meandering along the lanes, you come across a few squares ringed by cafes, particularly the bijou Place Marcou and the more open Place St-Jean. There’s a small tourist office in Porte Narbonnaise, but the main one is on Rue de Verdun in Bastide St-Louis (www.tourisme-carcassonne.fr or www.destinationssuddefrance.com).
In Bastide St-Louis, head to the streets surrounding the central Place Carnot, notably the shop-filled Rue Courtejaire. Walk north to reach the train station and another of Carcassonne’s big draws, the Canal du Midi. Boat rides and bicycle hire are easy to arrange from kiosks along the canal.
Meet the locals
Walk under the stone arch of Le Bar à Vins (www.lebaravins.fr), near St-Nazaire basilica in La Cité, and it’s like entering a secret garden. An ancient chestnut tree shades the sprawling walled garden, where there’s a good selection of tapas and salads. It gets very lively on weekends, when DJs take over.
In Bastide St-Louis, Café Saillan (0033 4 6871 3996), opposite Les Halles covered market, is a convivial spot, particularly on Saturdays when the market is busiest.
Book a table
Carcassonne’s signature dish, the incredibly rich cassoulet bean stew, is done exceptionally well at Brasserie Donjon (www.brasserie-donjon.fr), as part of a three-course menu for €30.50 (Dh125).
The pick of the bunch on Place Carnot is L’Artichaut (0033 9 5215 6514), a relaxed bistro that has an assured touch with French classics. Cheese lovers will fall for the baked Camembert (€10 [Dh41]) or the three-cheese “BBC salad” with bleu d’Auvergne, bethmale and Cantal (€12 [Dh49]).
Superior tapas is on offer at L’Escargot (www.restaurant-lescargot-carcassonne.fr; 0033 6 8976 0795) in La Cité, an unpretentious place with a cosy basement and front terrace. Try the pumpkin soup or duck hearts (€6 [Dh25] each).
The best of south-western French food is on tantalising display at Le Ferme (www.laferme-carcassonne.fr; 0033 4 6825 0215) in Bastide St-Louis. It also sells cookware to go with delicious cheeses and charcuterie.
Place Carnot swells with food stalls when the market arrives on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, while Les Halles offers local produce every day except Sunday.
What to avoid
La Cité’s narrow lanes can get horribly congested with slow-moving tourist crowds. If you’re claustrophobic, you might want to take in the sights later in the day, or around midsummer.
If you happen to be in Carcassonne on Bastille Day (July 14), you’ll witness one of the most incredible spectacles in France. The second-largest fireworks display (after Paris) is staged in the ramparts, and it’s utterly captivating. Christmas also sees the city decked out in traditional style, with a variety of events and a Christmas market.
A return flight with Turkish Airlines (www.turkishairlines.com) from Dubai to Toulouse via Istanbul takes about nine hours and costs from Dh2,300, including taxes. Trains from Toulouse to Carcassonne take about 45 minutes, and cost from Dh59 each way.
Follow us @TravelNational
Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.