I rented a small car, and without consulting me, I was given a stick-shift vehicle. Thankfully that was not a problem for me. I did request a GPS, and that was a life-saver. The roads were well marked, but I would probably not have been as successful navigating aroundp the countryside on my own unless I had the GPS. If I had a companion to help me navigate, it may have been possible to get by without it.
According to maps, Carcassonne was about 60 miles (90 km) and so that seemed about an hour from Toulouse. If you go by car, follow the signs from City Center of the Lower City to 'Le Cite'. That seems to be the designation they give to the castle area. I took the "scenic route" on the way there (the one without toll roads), and it was not worth the need to stop and go. I'd definitely opt to drive the toll road both ways next time. The scenery was actually better from the toll road. The took about an hour on the toll road.
I went despite what I'd read on Rick Steve's website. The reviews were not great, and in the end, they were right. Though it was impressive and majestic to see, it was not at all authentic. Really, it was pretty much a tourist trap...but, nonetheless, I'm glad I saw it. If you go, don't plan to spend a long time. A walk through is fine. The church has pretty stained glass inside, should you want to take a look. The wind can be VERY strong, as it gets channeled through gaps in the walls. Plan on wearing an extra layer if it's at all cold. All in all, it's a beautiful to look at, but lacks soul. Not a place to hang out. The wind was so intense, I decided to draw it another time.
Cassoulet is the specialty of every dining establishment. I might eat elsewhere or even bring a picnic, since you can get into Le Cite' for free.
If this city were to be attacked, you'd definitely need to plan on starving them out, because there would be no way too break through these walls and moats.
Though my trip was not as I'd expected it to be, I was happy I went. Ironically, the hardest part of the trip was figuring out how to get out of the parking garage! It's funny how stupid you can feel when you can't process the words in front of you.
On the way back, I stopped at Le Grand Round in Toulouse and enjoyed a park, Boulingrin. Beautiful on a weekend afternoon...with Toulouse natives enjoying the sunshine and the gardens there. I happily painted a little sketch there where I had some sunshine and very little breeze. All in all a great day.
Here's some photos from the park, and a little sketch from my afternoon spent there...
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