After a 100 minute flight from the North of England to CARCASSONNE in south-west France I am in a different world. I cant complain about the price- 3 Euros each way including tax, on Ryan Air, and I land in Landuedoc and Cathar Country.
The Cathars were a religious sect formed after the Crusades in the 13th Century, and they led a strict life against the excesses of the Catholic church of the time and its bishops, until wiped out by the Inquisition, led by The Dominican Order. The Cathars mixed Christianity with Middle Eastern philosophies. They believed in the struggle between the good spirit world and the evil material world and practiced Asceticism, self denial and abstinence, as a path to salvation.
The beautiful walled city of Carcassonne where many lived, is my home for a few days and the preserved, walled old city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
The only other visit here was a few hours during FIFA World Cup 1998. I remember crossing the Canal du Midi, the biggest World Heritage site, from La Gare to the new town, La Ville Base, and having a great lunch. I found the same restaurant, Brasserie LA ROTUNDE on Boulevard Omar Sarraut and ordered the Plateau Brasserie. It came on a platter with a superb seafood salad with lettuce, tomatoes, corn and muslels and other fruit of the sea. There was a small steak with frites then a cream brullet and some Roquefort cheese and bread rolls. Delicious and filling.
Up the hill to the Cite Medieval, the compact walled citadel perched on a hill on the east bank of the River Aude. In the summer it is packed with tourists but in late January there are very few people, and many shops and restaurants are closed. The thick walls and pennant-capped towers is the most striking image in the South of France, a medieval fantasy, redone in the 19th Century by restorer Viollet-le-Duc.