I have been lucky enough to have had many magical moments on overseas holidays. However some stand out in my memories more than others. Carcassonne is a charming hilltop town in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of Southern France, surrounded by a medieval fortress. We were a travelling party of 5 and had hired a car to take a road trip, driving from town to town. We loved seeing the landscape of gently rolling hills and green countryside as we travelled. As we were travelling in a car we were able to stop to pick poppies in a field which we had never seen growing wild before and take lots of photos and practice our French on the locals!
We stayed in a little hotel just outside the city walls of Carcasonne and had a breath-taking view of the medieval town, which certainly seemed take on a magical quality as it lit up at dusk (see above). Immediately we began talking about how this conjured up romanticised visions of princesses and knights, and of the medieval citizens scurrying behind the safety of the city walls and closing the gates to protect the town…
It was a chilly, grey and drizzly evening, but already enchanted by this charming town, we were completely un-deterred and we put on our winter coats. armed ourselves with umbrellas and set off walking into the town. The town shops were still open, but the wet cobblestone streets were empty and there were no other tourists to be seen. It was as if we had the town to ourselves. We ducked into a cosily lit sweet shop and spent a happy 20 minutes marvelling over the variety of and selecting some to sample before braving the rain again.
We wandered around, and came across, among other sights, a square, a beautiful church with stained glass windows lit up by candles, a well, and a poster exalting the local dish, Cassoulet!
By now the light was fading and we looked for somewhere to have dinner. We were welcomed by the owner of a charming country pub and climbed the stone stairs to the restaurant on the upper floor. The room was delightfully warm and lit by candles and a crackling fire. The waiter was hospitable, charming and of course knowledgeable about wine. We did order the famed cassoulet, a provincial dish of duck leg, sausage and haricot beans cooked in a clay pot. The warm and hearty meal was the perfect end to a magical fairy tale of a day.