R and I decided to visit the town of Carcassonne in southern France, solely because we have a board game named after it.

Doing this trip in late February seemed like a good idea, because we thought the South of France might be warmer than the UK. (It may have been, but was still bitterly cold.)

Other than the board game, Carcassonne is known for its medieval walled ‘City’, which is built on a hill just across the River Aude from the slightly less medieval part of the city.


We took a TGV from the Gare de Lyon to Narbonne, then changed to a local train to Carcassonne. The journey was smooth and pleasant (and to my amusement the TGV passed through a town called Béziers, where it followed a smooth curve), but it is quite a long way: including waiting for the change, it took more than five hours.

Shelter on Narbonne station with coloured panel.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°11′28″N 3°0′21″E

After arriving and checking into our B&B (which incidentally was run by a couple of Englishmen; it was quite flamboyantly decorated, and rather lovely), we headed up into the old city to find a restaurant. I took some pictures on the way back, when the city was floodlit.

Archways near the Aude Gate.
1/15 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO1600 43°12′22″N 2°21′45″E
The castle, from the path leading up to the Aude Gate.
1/15 at f2.2, 23mm, ISO1600 43°12′21″N 2°21′44″E
Lamp-fitting shadow on the Pont Vieux (the old bridge, now pedestrianised).
1/15 at f2, 23mm, ISO1600 43°12′36″N 2°21′35″E


This was our official ‘City’ day; we began by walking up to the Aude Gate again.

Roof of the Eglise Saint-Gimer.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′25″N 2°21′43″E
Wall of house by path.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′24″N 2°21′44″E
Looking back down the path.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′22″N 2°21′44″E

The stepped walls leading down the hill, incidentally, were built to defend a route to the river so the people inside could get water in a siege.

Wall of building inside the City.
1/125 at f16, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′27″N 2°21′50″E

We visited the Château Comtal, which has a museum.

Bridge across empty moat. It was once a drawbridge.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′25″N 2°21′49″E
Window shadow.
1/250 at f5.6, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′25″N 2°21′47″E
Shadows in courtyard.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′26″N 2°21′48″E
Tree in courtyard.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′26″N 2°21′48″E
Ancient wall painting.
1/30 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO800 43°12′26″N 2°21′47″E

The museum ticket also lets you access the upper ramparts in two directions, one of which is a dead-end and the other lets you out into the public part of the city. We walked the full route.

Looking through a tower archway over Carcassonne and distant hills.
1/500 at f11, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′29″N 2°21′48″E
Myself and R shadowed in the walls.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′26″N 2°21′56″E
Stair exit that looks a bit like a garden shed.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′23″N 2°21′45″E
View back at castle.
1/250 at f11, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′22″N 2°21′45″E

If you’re thinking the castle (and the entire city) looks a bit too Disney-princess to be real, you should probably be aware that it was extensively and not entirely accurately rebuilt (from ruins) between about 1850 and 1930. It’s still extremely impressive.

Théâtre Jean Deschamps, with Basilique Saint Nazaire behind.
1/640 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′17″N 2°21′42″E

Later, we walked around most of the outer ramparts. You can normally walk the entire circle, but the southwest part of it was closed for repair.

1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′29″N 2°21′54″E
Archway by the Narbonne gate (with fortuitous bird).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′24″N 2°21′57″E
Sunlight through clouds.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′25″N 2°21′45″E
Complicated tower geometry.
1/200 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′24″N 2°21′45″E
1/80 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′22″N 2°21′45″E

We went into the slightly less old part of town across the river (the Bastide) for dinner.

Fountain in main square.
1/30 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO800 43°12′47″N 2°21′6″E
Barred window (1).
1/15 at f2, 23mm, ISO1600 43°12′46″N 2°21′10″E


We visited the art museum then took a walk (through grey and exceedingly cold weather) along the River Aude.

Side street in the Bastide.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′48″N 2°21′10″E
Impressive weir.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′19″N 2°21′3″E
Outdoor swimming pool (closed, sensibly).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′19″N 2°20′56″E
Fish on road bridge.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′14″N 2°20′1″E

The main road bridge took us across the river, and we returned on the other bank. At this point, the weather improved.

Trees above weir.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′14″N 2°21′1″E
Bricked-up gate with orange face.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′8″N 2°21′31″E
Tree shadows by a mill stream.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′21″N 2°21′33″E
View through old bridge towards new.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′36″N 2°21′32″E
Ornate gateway.
1/500 at f5.6, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′33″N 2°21′37″E
Psychedelic flower.
1/500 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′29″N 2°21′39″E
Garage and palm trees.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200
Chainsaw advert (in the Bastide).
1/15 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO200
Partially covered advert.
1/30 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO200


We walked into town, almost to the railway station.

The Royal Factory, an ex-cloth-mill.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′34″N 2°21′38″E
Path to the Old Bridge.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′35″N 2°21′39″E
Notre Dame de La Sainte, a small chapel by the bridge (and evil pigeons).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′37″N 2°21′30″E
Public fountain.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′39″N 2°21′25″E
Église Saint-Vincent, with green netting.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′52″N 2°21′3″E
Barred window (2).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′53″N 2°21′4″E

A bridge near the station crosses the Canal du Midi, which was built in the 17th century to connect the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. We had decided to walk along the canal a few miles.

View from bridge across oval-shaped lock and the Carcassonne canal basin.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°13′2″N 2°21′6″E
Railway sidings.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°13′2″N 2°20′53″E
Canal lined by trees.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′59″N 2°20′9″E
The Muscoop building, an apparently-disused 1962 wine factory. Nice logo.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°13′7″N 2°19′50″E
Another three cheerful fish.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°13′13″N 2°19′44″E
Window-shade on house at Épanchoir de Foucaud.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°13′38″N 2°19′12″E

We had decided to turn around at the first lock, Ladouce Lock.

Lock. The oval shape works like a horizontal arch, to stop the walls falling in.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°13′46″N 2°18′4″E
Vineyard by canal.
1/400 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°13′46″N 2°18′4″E
Side of the Muscoop factory.
1/400 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°13′9″N 2°19′49″E

After returning to town, we looked around the southwest part of the Bastide.

House. ‘Would benefit from some renovation.’
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′54″N 2°20′55″E

The southwest corner bastion (once a fort) was laid out within as a park to represent the Garden of Calvary, for some reason.

Fenced rock.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′38″N 2°20′51″E
Crucifixion scene on the top of the hill.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′39″N 2°20′51″E
Typical pastel street.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′40″N 2°20′59″E

We also had a quick look inside the cathedral.

Painted pillars.
1/15 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO800 43°12′40″N 2°21′2″E

And then we walked back toward the old bridge.

Very fancy school (the boys’ entrance is to left).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′46″N 2°21′20″E
Derelict building (with cat).
1/400 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′39″N 2°21′25″E

This time we took a look inside Notre Dame de La Sainte.

Unassuming west wall.
1/400 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′37″N 2°21′28″E
Stained glass.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′37″N 2°21′28″E

We continued toward the Aude Gate of the City.

Arched building with inset windows.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′30″N 2°21′39″E
Interesting reflections and an old painted sign: A. Dony.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′28″N 2°21′39″E
Outer ramparts by Aude Gate.
1/640 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′22″N 2°21′45″E
A courtyard inside the City, with tree shadow.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′28″N 2°21′53″E
View from ramparts to distant hills, under the afternoon sun.
1/2000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′27″N 2°21′46″E
Looking up a tower.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′24″N 2°21′46″E
View from the bottom of the walls that protected the route to the river.
1/160 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′27″N 2°21′43″E
Mercerie. (Haberdasher’s.)
1/160 at f4, 23mm, ISO200 43°12′25″N 2°21′40″E

I took a few pictures on the way back from a restaurant that evening.

High Court building.
1/15 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO1600
Alleyway to car park.
1/15 at f2, 23mm, ISO1600 43°12′40″N 2°21′23″E
Old Bridge and the City.
1/15 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO1600 43°12′36″N 2°21′33″E

And finally, here’s a photo from the window of our bathroom.

Better than the view from the average bathtub!
1/30 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO1600

That’s it - we took pretty much all Saturday to get home, which was another nice journey (we went a different route, via Toulouse and Bordeaux). Thanks for reading all this!

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.