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Exploding Pigs (in Carcassonne)

by Abby

overcast 12 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Carcassonne: Dame Carcas

Carcassonne: Dame Carcas

Today the three of us went to check out the old town of Carcassonne. It was a very cold and windy day, all of us were bundled in our coats and sweaters, and even Hannah debated on buying a hat. On the walk to the actual cite that we were interested in seeing we passed a very busy market, and stopped for a short look around. Most of the people we saw at first were selling food, but later we came across another market that sold mostly clothing and blankets. We had a short look around, but then decided that we should start our way to the castle. At the entrance gates we saw a very strange bust of a women, which in my opinion, wasn't a flattering representation of her..no matter how ugly she might have been. We later read the legend about her and the name for Carcassone.

The legend behind the name was the town had been under siege for 5 years, and the King was killed, leaving his wife, Dame Carcas, alone. The army's plan was to surround the city and let the people starve, which would make attacking the city much easier. Their plan was working well and famine was claiming the lives of the last defenders. Alone, Dame Carcas kept watch and fired arrows from a crossbow at the army, hoping to trick them into believing that many defenders still remained. The only thing that did remain in the city was a small pig, and a very small portion of wheat. Dame Carcas stuffed the pig with the remaining wheat and threw it from the ramparts. The pig's belly burst open when it hit the ground and the soldiers saw that it was stuffed with wheat. They decided to give up their siege realizing that it was useless to continue trying to starve them when they had enough to feed precious wheat to their pigs. But before the army disappeared, Dame Carcas summoned back Charlemagne (who led the army) to make peace. She then had the trumpets sounded ("Carcas sonne" translates into Carcas is sounding), and the Emperor doubled back and received her allegiance.



We got some information at the tourist office, but unfortunately it wasn't that helpful. But one thing we did find out was that everywhere in the castle was free to roam, other than the museum and inner wall, which you had to pay to see. Before heading to the outer wall, my dad treated us to some crepes, made right before our eyes. Hannah and I each got a Nutella one, while my dad tried out a Grand Marnier crepe... which he said was a good choice because it made him all warm inside. The outer wall was my favourite part of the day, despite the windy weather. We were able to see the city as well as the pretty stonework that made up the wall. We also got to see a lot of pigeons. I didn't even mind having to scale the wall to get around a pillar, or having to jump down from the wall when we found a dead end. It was interesting to see the place that had been the inspiration for one of our favourite board games, Carcassonne.



After the outer wall we walked around the inside a little more, stopping occasionally to check out a shop located in the walled city. In the end we decided it was worth €8.50 (Hannah and I were free) to see the inner wall and small museum. We enjoyed the short movie which we watched and read (it was in French..but there was English subtitles), as well as the walk around the inner wall, which was unfortunately colder than our previous walk. But braving the wind we had a great viewpoint of the city..and even got to walk the whole thing back again when our path was blocked at the end of the circuit.

We left at around three, having spent about four and a half hours in the medieval city. We then found our way to the nearest grocery store, the Intermarche. We bought food to last us up until my birthday, which was nice because we don't have to worry about shopping for a few days now. I was able to pick out my birthday cake (a very classy chocolate coffee cake) as well as the other meals for my special day.

When we got home my dad made a fabulous dinner of potatoes, steak and Caesar salad, which we all enjoyed very much. Then we ate the remains of one of Mom's Christmas present, a (mostly empty) box of Lindor chocolates.

We plan to go to bed early tonight, as we have to get up much sooner than we usually do. Tomorrow we have a three hour drive ahead of us, and we have to be at our destination by eleven..which means we have to leave at around seven to allow time for wrong turns. But at least we get to have lunch at a house instead of on the road..which also means we have a little more choice than cheese and crackers. I'm quite looking forward to the pizza.

Posted by KZFamily 11:49 Archived in France Tagged france crêpes carcassonne Comments (7)

Back to France

by Ben

sunny 14 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

We said goodbye to Spain today and returned to France. In honor of our imminent return I decided to make French toast for breakfast-well that was my official line. In reality I had to get rid of five eggs, left over milk, stale bread and icing sugar left over from making shortbread before we left. The kids seems to appreciate the sentiment anyway.

I discovered the GPS in our car was no longer working, or at least the input interface doesn't work but fortunately I had packed along our own portable GPS so we were back in business after some delay caused by trying to troubleshoot the problem. I am constantly being stretched to take such problems in stride and I think I am making progess but you might want to check with the kids. All of this travel is developing a lot of character.

I wasn't really wanting to part with too much more cash for tolls so I investigated what alternate routes we could take instead of shelling out 40 euros to drive some wide featureless roadway. Instead of heading along the coast we could cross the Pyrenees. It was unclear if such a trip would be very snowy but we loved our encounter with this range of mountains when we were in the Lourdes area so we decided to give it a go.



Our new route was a couple of hours longer than the original but was well worth the time (for me at least, the kids slept through most of it). We climbed from sea level to 2000 meters over a long and windy climb through mostly uninhabitated countryside. When we reached the summit we saw a ski resort in the distance but no skiers due to the lack of snow; another sign of climate change. We descended into a beautiful inhabited mountain valley (mountain valley is an oxymoron Hannah points out) only to have to climb out again. Unbenownst to us we had crossed over into France possibly when we crossed the summit. The whole trip was in sunshine on a road that often didn't qualify as a two lane road. Our journey over the next ridge of mountains was even more beautiful as we followed a river our entire way through the range which involved a good number of narrow gorges that have been chiselled out just enough to let some traffic through. I have a grainy video clip that illustrates a bit of what we encountered.

I have added an additional clip since people liked the first: More Pyrenees Driving

We have now settled down in a very small village 20 minutes from Carcassonne which we will visit tomorrow. It is a beautifully wood heated cozy refuge that was established by a British couple six years ago. We will sleep in comfort tonight.

Just in case you have not been using the zoom feature on the map on the top of our blog here is a close up of our tour of the Iberian Peninsula. You will need to change the zoom or move the map to see our more northern travels. We have travelled about 5500 kilometers by car so far.

Posted by KZFamily 13:21 Archived in France Tagged pyrenees carcassonne Comments (5)

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