Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Goldfish and Castles in Carcassonne

Did you wonder whether or not Body Combat had done me in on Friday? I have to admit, between Body Combat and the comparatively early wake-up time on Saturday to get to Carcassonne for a day-trip, I was starting to wonder if I hadn’t done myself in too. Sometimes, adults need naps too. Only by naps I mean gigantic grasse-matins (sleep-ins are called ‘fat mornings’ in France) and 5 cent candy. Of course, all of this comes with a story…

Looking down the ramparts of Castle Carcassonne, the walls surround the vielle-ville.
As you have likely already deduced from the title and first paragraph, I went to Carcassonne on an excursion with the school on Saturday! I’m having a hard time deciding whether I like Nimes or Carcassonne better, so that should be your first indicator that if you get the option, Carcassonne is somewhere you should visit. It’s a walled city (like Avignon) but on a much grander scale. As in… there are two tiers to the wall that surrounds this city, and a forward ‘bulge’ that juts out from the wall so that if you do happen to have someone attacking your castle, you can sent soldiers out onto this bulge and they can get rid of that nuisance for you. 

Michelle, Maribell and Laura up on the ramparts in the very chilly wind!
We all took great joy in romping all over the ramparts, but discovered halfway through our romp – very accidently – that you had to pay for a ticket to be there. Oops? Not a problem, I somehow managed to talk us into 4 free tickets to see the ramparts because we were students! That part I didn’t mean to do, but it was excellent, and serendipitous. Convincing the ticket vendor that we were all under the age of 25 was less innocent, but I don’t know that any man alive is foolish enough to ask Maribell for her ID when she gives him the look. The ‘Oh honey I’m Texan and y’all ain’t stupid enough to ask a woman her age now are you?’ look.
It’s a real thing.
Just don't ask.

Looking out over the city of Carcassonne.
Right! The castle! So inside this very large, two-tiered, very imposing and highly effective medieval wall there’s also the castle, which is a fort inside a fort. The city held a strategic location historically, so each generation of Dames and Lords who lived there augmented the security of the walled city in a different way.
By the time the 1600’s rolled around (I think… it may have been the 1700’s… I get those two mixed up in French… often…) the city was deemed impregnable, and invading forces avoided it and the surrounding lands.
There’s also (what looks to be) a very pretty cathedral, only there was a wedding taking place so we couldn’t go in and investigate. The big amphitheatre behind the cathedral was being used as a reception area, so we couldn’t investigate that either. What we did find was something none of us expected though.

The most amazing lunch I've had in France so far, Charcuterie with Chevre (goat cheese) and grapes. Served with fresh baguette :9
Laura, Maribell, Michelle and I were strolling innocently down the cobbled rues and avenues of Carcassonne, past the shops selling entire sets of chainmail armor, postcards and epic charcuterie lunch plates when we stumbled on something amazing.
Five cent candy.

5 cent candy, in barrels. 
I was starting to think that this didn’t exist in Europe! It doesn’t really, I mean it kind of pops out at random festivals, but sweet things in France tend to come from a patisserie. (I have zero complaints about this, btw) We were all very excited, and it was an excellent treat. Unfortunately, they did not count the price of candy by the number of tiny candies that you bought, they did it by weight. Uh… that was definitely not something I’d built my bag of candy around… So, 13 Euros worth of 5 cent candy later, we stepped out of the store and resolved to savor each sugary morsel given that we had to pay so much for them. It has also made me stop and wonder... It's not often that I actually have candy like that when I'm at home, but I've been craving it since about week 2 here. Maribell and Michelle noted similar cravings, as did David - who is the other token Canadian here - from Toronto. We've come to the conclusion that it's probably linked to how much more processed sugar there is in North American food than European food. How depressing is that?
On the bright side, our mood was quickly lifted when we discovered the most amazing goldfish bowls I’ve ever seen.

Posh goldfish accommodation.

In summary; we spent all day in a castle, eating candy and watching goldfish. To help the recovery process along on Sunday, we had naps. Possibly both my nephews (under the age of 8) will require someone other than me to cover what makes being an adult so different from being a child with them.

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