To set the stage, Carcassonne draws about 3 million visitors annually. People primarily come to see the Cité de Carcassonne, a medieval fortress that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s basically a large, fortified castle. I’ll let interested parties go here for a historical review.
We arrived in time for a fashionably late lunch after making our way from the train station to the hotel. By the way, this hotel is clean, reasonably priced, and a great location from which to explore on foot if you find yourself there.
After hoofing it up to La Cité and finding a great spot for an outdoor lunch with a direct view of the castle (the unseasonably warm, sunny weather made our hearts sing), we headed off to explore. This place causes one to pause, to look up in awe, to imagine. Spectacular that we were in off-season and hardly anyone was around.
We walked the entire outside fortress of the castle, then went inside, strolled the cobblestone streets (it’s like a small town), checked out the ramparts, and the Basilica of Saint Nazaire cathedral. Lots of shops, eateries and a museum vie your attention. A good five hours later, we were pictured out with achy feet.
The next foggy morning we went on a glorious hike in the hills just outside of the city. It took us through vineyards and forested areas, both directly accessible from the hotel. This was our first official hike since being in France.
Carcassonne is in the Languedoc-Rousillion wine region, housing two ACO-level appellations: Minervois and Corbieres. There are 26 total sub-appellations in this area. The city sits primarily in the Languedoc between two mountain ranges and is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea (65 kms away) and the Atlantic on the west coast of France. The area has dry, hot summers with cooling winds and some rain. And it makes fantastic red (mainly Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre, Cinsault, Carignan, Merlot, Cabernet) and white wines (Chardonnay, Roussanne Marsanne, Viognier, Muscat, Grenache Blanc, Mauzac, Picpoul, Maccabeu). A few other red and white grape varieties exist in insignificant amounts.
In the meantime,