Thursday 26 July 2007

Carcassonne Cite, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

A huge, largely homogeneous, 12th and 13th Century citadel rising above the Languedoc countryside and the town of Carcassonne, the Cite must be one of the largest intact medieval structures surviving into the modern era. Up close, it feels like a film set. There are no cars or modern architecture within the walls, but look too closely in the wrong places and the sometimes crude restoration work is all too obvious. Still, the original stone battlements, narrow streets and 50-odd towers are extensive enough and well-preserved enough to successfully evoke the era of chivalry and bloody hand-to-hand fighting. Try to stay overnight in the Cite or nearby, so you can stroll round the inner and outer walls in the early morning or at dusk and avoid the hordes of day trippers spilling out of the inevitable souvenir shops and themed restaurants. Or sidestep the constant jostle in the streets by stopping for a drink in one of the pavement cafes in the small, but atmospheric, central square, Place Marcou. 8/10