Penne 4 Your Thoughts

Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more

The golden hour in Carcassonne, France

Sunset in Carcassonne, by Penne Cole

Sunset in Carcassonne, by Penne Cole

It is the golden hour and the sun is just beginning to set as we cross the old bridge back into the lower city. Glancing back across our shoulders, we see the fortress, glowing in the last rays of the sun.

Carcassonne is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed medieval city with a history dating back more than two and a half millennia. The enchanting site is said to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle in Sleeping Beauty and has also been used as a backdrop for the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves movie.

While the medieval city within the walls is free to stroll around, visitors must pay to enter the main fortified castle. We arrive in Carcassonne in the late afternoon and by the time we find our way up to the castle (the route is horribly sign-posted), there is only 45 minutes left of visiting time. The entrance fee is steep – almost ten Euros per person – but we manage to get in for free on the back of our student IDs. The visit starts with a video of the fortress’ history; it is captivating but we have to cut the viewing short to see the rest of the castle.

Rushing through the castle, I absorb little of the information in the signs (in French, English, and German) that talk mainly about the fortifications of the city. What grabs my attention, however, is the beautiful castle itself, and the amazing views from its ramparts; the city sprawls at our feet, with small vineyards dotting the landscape.

Later, we take a more relaxed stroll through the narrow alleyways of the medieval town. It is packed with the usual tourist kitsch shops and restaurants touting the regional speciality, cassoulet, or white bean stew, but I can still glimpse what life must have been like all those centuries ago.

Carcassonne by night, by Penne Cole

Carcassonne by night, by Penne Cole

At night, we return to the base of the walled city. From the old bridge, we get a beautiful view of the castle, looking more fairytale-like than ever with its miles of romantically-lit walls. We linger for a while, enjoying the view as we sip wine and eat cups of mousse au chocolat in the balmy night air.

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: The Golden Hour.

Practical Information

We drove to Carcassonne, but the city is easily accessible by train. According to Wikitravel, high speed trains from Lille, Brussels, Dijon, Lyon, Marseille, and Toulouse stop here. The station is also on the regional and slow train networks. The medieval city is about half an hours’ walk from the train station.

Alternatively, you can also fly into the Carcassonne airport via Ryanair.

11 comments on “The golden hour in Carcassonne, France

  1. xpat92
    July 17, 2013

    Hi Penne,
    Awesome golden Sunset on the fortified city! I have never been so far down South so Carcasonne is a must see for me one day…

    • Penne Cole
      July 17, 2013

      Thanks Barb! I just completed an epic road trip to cap off my time in France. I started in Pamplona for the running of the bulls, then made my way back through Provence before going back to Paris for Bastille Day fireworks. An epic trip to finish an epic year 🙂

      • xpat92
        July 17, 2013

        Très bien!

  2. Tina Schell
    July 17, 2013

    Beautiful sunset shot!

  3. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: The Golden Hour | Ryan Photography

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  5. sallyschateaux
    July 28, 2013

    Lovely pics of La Cité, did you explore the Bastide too ?

    • Penne Cole
      July 28, 2013

      Thanks Sally 🙂 We had a little time to explore the Bastide, which was good because our visit coincided with the Carcassonne festival. Not enough time to really discover it I’m afraid.

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This entry was posted on July 17, 2013 by in Europe, France, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge and tagged , .

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