Around eleven years ago I got to visit Carcassone, France, a town and UNESCO World Heritage site that is famous for its medieval fortifications and castle. My family and I drove there from my grandparent’s house in Spain, and my parents let me run around the castle walls. I ran around pretending to be a knight defending the castle with fake swords and bows and arrows. I had such a fantastic time as a kid that I decided I would visit again as an adult.
So, I suggested to my roommate that we go and visit Carcassone, and have a day and a half there where I would get the chance to explore the town again as an adult, and also introduce someone else to its beauty.
Our journey to Carcassonne began early in the morning as my roommate and I boarded a train from Barcelona, the city we studied in. The train journey was just a few hours, and we had an exchange in Perpignan. I was mesmerized by the lovely French countryside that passed by. When I finally arrived at the station in Carcassonne, I could see the castle and fortifications in the distance, which only added to my excitement.
As we walked into the town, I was transported back in time. The winding streets, ancient buildings, and the overall atmosphere of the place made me feel like I was in a medieval movie set. The castle and fortifications are the main attraction of Carcassonne, and they did not disappoint. The walls that surround the town are over two miles long, and they have around 52 towers. The castle, which was built in the 12th century, is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. I couldn’t believe that I was standing in front of such an incredible piece of history.
We decided to start our tour of the town with a walk around the walls. The views of the surrounding countryside were breathtaking, and I could see why Carcassonne was such an important strategic location during medieval times. The wall walk was not for the faint-hearted, though, as some of the staircases were quite steep and narrow. It was so much easier to run around as a little kid when you never even truly realized how big everything was. But, the effort was worth it, as we were rewarded with stunning views of the town and the French countryside. You could also see where Andorra would be in the mountains off in the distance as well because it was such a nice day.
I made sure to take many pictures for one of my classes back in Barcelona where we were learning about old churches. And within these old walls was a beautiful church that would help me get some extra credit if I managed to snap some nice photographs of it.
After the wall walk, we decided to explore the castle. The castle’s interior was just as impressive as its exterior. We wandered through the medieval rooms, extremely impressed at the intricate stonework and the ornate decorations. The castle also had a museum that showcased medieval artifacts and explained the history of the castle and the town. The museum was informative and I learned a lot about the history of the region.
When we were finished exploring the castle, we decided to wander through the town’s narrow streets. The town was bustling with tourists, and there were plenty of cafes and restaurants where I could grab a bite to eat. The local specialty was cassoulet, a hearty stew made with white beans, sausage, and duck. I ordered a bowl of cassoulet, and my roommate got a bowl of French onion soup, both of which were delicious.
The next day was spent visiting the part of town outside of the walls which had the Christmas market since it was the beginning of December. After we had visited enough, we headed back to the train station with a sense of satisfaction and wonder. Carcassonne was just as fun as it was back when I visited as a child, as it was today. Its history, architecture, and culture were all incredibly rich and fascinating, and I got to understand and appreciate it more today. I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to explore such a remarkable place, and I knew that it was a trip that I would always cherish.
Written by: Sophie, Fall 2022 student from Virginia Commonwealth University