• Cité Carcassonne
  • Cité Carcassonne
  • Cité Carcassonne
  • Cité Carcassonne
  • Cité Carcassonne
The Cité Carcassonne

There are several fascinating cities within easy reach of Trausse: Toulouse, Beziers and Narbonne for example – each has its own individual charm and appeal and is well worth visiting. Closest, however, and undoubtedly the most fascinating of all, is Carcassonne – effectively, two cities in one, and less than half an hour away from Villa des Rosiers.

Dramatic, imposing, romantic, awe-inspiring – there are almost insufficient adjectives to fully describe the visual impact of the old Cité. Perched majestically above a sweeping bend in the River Aude the huge, many-towered citadel has dominated the local landscape for centuries.

The site dates back as far as the 6th century B.C. and has, in the intervening millennia, enjoyed a very chequered history. Variously a stronghold for Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, Saracens, Francs, local dynasties and, of course the French, it began to take on its present day appearance during the reign of Louis IX, in the 13th century. For the next three hundred years the fortress was the key military outpost in the border regions between France and Spain. However, through geo-political change and, quite literally, the ‘impact’ of gunpowder, the Cité eventually lost its significance as a military stronghold and drifted into obsolescence. By the 18th century it was in ruins, completely eclipsed by the more recent, commercially thriving, lower town on the opposite bank of the river.

In 1850 it was decreed that the remains of the Cité should be demolished but, thankfully, a consortium headed by famous architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc was successful in gaining permission and financial support for its restoration. Thanks to their endeavours we are able to enjoy the magnificent, bewitching experience that the Cité is today.

The old Cité of Carcassonne is, after the Eiffel Tower, the second most popular tourist destination in France. Recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site (or maybe that should be sight!) within its walls are a wonderful diversity of restaurants, bars, shops, cultural events, museums, heritage exhibitions, heraldic displays and, to crown it all, a very sophisticated, 5 star hotel.

Throughout July there is a fantastic, music festival featuring world-class acts from a variety of performing arts: music, dance and theatre. Performances are held each night in the fabulously atmospheric, open-air amphitheatre: built inside the citadel itself, with a fabulous backdrop of battlements, turrets and towers. Each year performers include top names from ballet, classical music, contemporary music and theatre. The Paris Ballet, The National Orchestra of Lyon, Sting, Joe Cocker, Diana Ross, Massive Attack and Tom Jones have all featured in recent years.

The lower city – officially known as Bastide Saint-Louis – may live in the shadow of its celebrated predecessor, but it has much to offer in its own right. Generally thought of as the newer city it is, in reality, quite ancient: dating in its present day layout to the 13th century. It is built on a grid system centred around the Place Carnot with its chic bars and restaurants – and where there is a wonderful, vibrant flower, fruit and vegetable market each Saturday morning.

The Canal du Midi slips through the city just below the railway station and adjacent to ‘Le Port’ is a public park area where free music concerts are staged throughout the summer, and where a remarkable open-air ice-rink is created for winter entertainment.

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