Carcassone, France

Using Toulouse as my base of operations, I rented a car and drove to a couple of different places.  Carcassonne, is an impressively intact fortified medieval city. It is beautiful to look at and I thought it might be fun to see in person.  I was thinking about setting up from a distance, and trying to paint or draw the exterior fortifications.

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.

 This is the double wall around the city.  This space between the two walls used to have a moat in between the walls!

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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Rebecca Zdybel
Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor
Art Lessons in all media
Myrtle Beach, SC

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Author Rebecca Zdybel

Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor - Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art! Rebecca Zdybel is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC. Follow her and see her work at

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Keith says:

    I can really relate to this post. I've seen several "touristy" castles, ruins, buildings and empty lots in Europe & Mexico and I always travel back to the past and imagine what _USED_ to be there. Regardless of what's there now, there was something amazing there in 1793 :) One magical moment I remember well was when I was in Rome in '73. I was climbing all over the ruins of the Forum (before fences were put up to keep us crazy Americans out). I sat down on some steps at the Forum entrance, leaned up against a 40' column, and went back in time… watching people from 179 B.C. pass by me in the street below.

  • rzdybel says:

    Dreaming and being transported by a place which is thousands of years old is just not that easy here in the states…but frequently possible in ancient sites of Europe and elsewhere. I am looking forward to visiting Rome in Sept. 2014 prior to my Artfully Tasteful Tour of Tuscany. We now have about 13 people joining me for a tour combining art and cooking. I wish you were part of that little junket.

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