Posted: 1/28/2011


        Outside my window at Hotel du Pont-Vieux is an amazing sight. I am 200 metres from the ramparts of  la Cite de Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a short walk away.  I have moved from my old hotel, Hotel La Bastide near Canal du Midi in the more modern city, well 16th Century instead of 13th C,.

        Carcassonne has a Bon Week-end en Ville, with a choice of hotels offering two for one night stays on Friday, Saturday and Sundays. Also, at the tourist office they give you a Carcassonne Pass which has discounts for entrance fees and a free giant poster of La Cite.
 This is Languedec and I am eating my way through local specialities.

       Yesterday I enjoyed a massive feast;starting with a salad buffet of shrimps, deviled eggs, little mushrooms, seafood, tuna, oysters, mussles, and more. Then the choice of a main course. I chose the local CASSOULET. Its a huge bowl of white haricote beans in a stew that included a leg of duck and some local sausage. it took some getting through but then a pause before the dessert buffet with gateuxes, fruits, tarts including various fruit ones and custard ones, plus plenty of local cheeses.

     The name of the dish comes from the village of CASTELNAUDERY. In the 14th Century, Edward, The Black Prince from Britain (because of his dress and armour) had taken much of Northern France and marched his troups 650 km in 65 days. He beseiged the place but the inhabitants, in a last stand, managed to conjure up a dish of meat and beans and ran off the Brits who only had a diet of syrupy  baked beans and were in no mood for a final battle. 

      Today I go for the PAELLA, the local version of the popular Spanish dish. A steaming plate of rice, peas, beans, shrimps, moules, crayfish, fish and chicken is placed in front of me and a glass of red wine and sangria. Back in the early evening on my balcony at the hotel La Cite is illuminated. each 14th July a gigantic festival is held here with the biggest fireworks display in France, plus jousting, re-enactments and medieval games.

       The Canal du Midi is quiet at this time. Two centuries ago it was built to link The Atlantic with the Mediterranean, and was an immediate success for traders. The building of railways reduced its importantce, but in the summer the canal boats and other water craft bring great tourist business.