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Valar Qringaomis

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Monday, February 10, 2014

France 2012 - Day 12 - Carcassonne (Part 1)

France 2012
Day 12 - 24th October - Carcassonne
(Part 1)

I woke up early to take the train to Carcassonne. My motto was: "I can sleep when I'm in the train".

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I couldn't read this. I assumed it was in the local dialect.

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"Kodak"
Passé sign

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Defaced mural

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"3 Dragons. Japanese, Chinese, Thai specialities"
I didn't know dragons are a big thing in Thailand too.

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"American Bar. Paris Hotel"
This bar was open at 5am. Wah.

I had almost reached the station - then I realised I had left my breakfast (delicious pastries) somewhere (probably the hotel). Gah. Even if I'd wanted to and been able to go back for it, there was no one there at this hour. Luckily I'd lugged some leftover food from Rambouillet so I ate cheese cubes and a chocolate coated gauffre.

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"Laïcité Esplanade"
HAH

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As usual, normal Mastercard was not accepted by the SNCF. So I was unable to pick up my ticket; amazingly at 5:30am there were staff at the station but they couldn't help me, asking me to see the conductor. I said I couldn't collect my ticket from the machine and he knew it was probably a foreign card. Apparently it's a known problem, and he didn't ask to see it. Apparently Eurocard is a Mastercard brand so I don't know why normal Mastercards won't work.

Even though it was a 5:50am train, reservations were needed. Probably because it was the line to Bordeaux. There were very few people on the train and most were sleeping except the ones beside me; the food trolley girl and the passenger were flirting and she sat down to talk to him, since they were both hispanophones.

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Butterfly toilet

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Misty fields

You couldn't smoke on the train, so at stops people popped their heads out to smoke before leaving. And it was too fast to finish a cigarette so I'm sure they threw them onto the tracks.

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Sigean African Reserve ad. Open 365 days a year! Must be run by immigrants.

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"Thanks to Julien, Yvette's loneliness is nothing more than a distant memory"
At first I thought this was a matchmaking service for old people but it's an elderly befrienders service.

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The disabled have no style

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"SNCF is happy to inform you that this summer in Languedoc-Roussillon, 90% of TER trains arrived on time"
Gee.

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"Aude. Cathar Country"
They're so proud of their heretic heritage.

There was a bus that'd take me to the Old City but instead of waiting 45 minutes I decided to walk ~2.5km and reached the City at about the same time the bus would've.

At the SNCF station I passed over the Canal du Midi but at this point it was nothing special.

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Early morning smog

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"Cathar Country
Sites
Castles
Medieval Cities"

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School

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Drawing school, library

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Nice house

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Pensive statue

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Mmm

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"Artisan patîssier of France"

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"Chinese restaurant. Dragon of Annam"
Bastardised food, I'm sure

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Carcasonne shrouded in mist
The old town lay across a river, surmounted by a bridge (the Pont Vieux from the 14th century - I took this from the new bridge - what you see is the old rustic stone one)

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Bridge

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On Bastide (Fortified Lower Town)

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Town below

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"Esoterism. Incense. Books. Parchments. Pendulums. Pentacles.
Well-being. Bath salts. Soaps. Vegetable ?. Essential oils. Massage oils."
Talisman hocus pocus shop

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Fat cat

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Even the town below the fortified city was pretty

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Glimpse of the way up

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City from below

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Towers

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Way in left unguarded

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Rue du Four St Nazaire

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On the fortified city

I hadn't been able to find my Hostelling International card so I had to get a new one. It used to be €7 according to the sign but now it was €11. Gah.

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My breakfast speculoos (spiced gingerbread) and pignon (pine nuts)

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Looks nice in pictures, but good luck getting there.

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For some reason there were HI hostels in New Caledonia but not on Corsica.

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World Heritage List 1999

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"It is forbidden to offer a free drink containing alcohol to young people under the age of 18 in such places as bars, shops and any public area"
So do it in private!

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Free Wifi... till 6pm?!

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You know the Castle of Carcassonne is a major tourist site because it is open daily

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I opted for the "extensive visit through unusual places of the monument" since there were special sights. One of the staff members asked me why I didn't opt for the English audioguide since I spoke English, so I said "lieux insolites" (sic).

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Barbican

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On the Barbican

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Moat

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Keep inside wall

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Courtyard

I was the only one on the tour with an old French guy guiding (it was off season so they didn't have an English-speaking guide). I think we didn't actually go anywhere 'insolite'. Maybe because I spent too much time talking history with him. Maybe I should've gone on the normal guided tour instead - mine was only 1.5 hrs though I think I asked for 2.5.

I saw my first French guy in a beret this France trip, eating at a restaurant. It was black too.

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2 x Guidebook-recommended restaurant - CLOSED

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"VAT drops, so do prices. Products with a red asterisk would benefit from a fall in VAT"

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There was a square with lots of tourists - the Place Marcou, a square with only restaurants, and a lot of English menus. So it was probably a bad idea eating there. There's even a white box (to demarcate turf, presumably).

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Place du Chateau

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Bust of Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille, "the uncontested first recognised saviour of the city"

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Sundial

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Muscat and smoked salmon. The Salade Gourmande sounded nice but it had gésiers (gizzards).

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Huge dog

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Cassoulet. This was so rich and creamy and meat that I was giggling to myself (well, maybe the muscat, weather and the city contributed too).
Presumably the creaminess was due to mushed beans and fat. It was mostly beans sadly.
Unfortunately the flavour became the same after I was a third way through, so it wasn't that exciting.

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I don't know why I took this

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Tarte au citron

VAT here was only 7%. I asked the waiter why it was so low and he said it depended on the restaurant. Here it was 7% so I was lucky.

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Idealised view of Carcassonne

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"Wines of France. History of a Great Vintage"

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Lunch restaurant

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Biscuits

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Tourist trap street
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