Europe,  France,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Cité de Carcassonne, Son et Lumière & Truffle Restaurant – Road Trip in France #17

I warn you: Carcassonne is one of the highlights of our road trip in France. Seriously, I asked myself : why nobody told me about it ?

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Note: this blog article is part of the “Road Trip in France” made in August 2020. To read the previous parts, click here : #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15 and #16

Part 1: Travel Diary

Probably because no one went there either. It’s so far away.

I just watched: by train, Paris-Carcassonne, it takes 5h29, with a change in Narbonne. I get train sick from 3h30 of travel (vomito blablabla…) while I can spend 19h in a bus without any problem. By the way, this is the reason why we go down so little in the South to see JB’s grandmother because the 5h30 trip is just unbearable for me. You too, do you get train sickness?

Fortunately, with this road trip, we go down in the South slowly, and by car.

The city of Carcassonne is rather small, one makes the turn in 1h great maximum. There are few hotels inside the city, but JB wanted to please me by reserving one within the enclosure. We reserved the hotel(link Booking) at the time when nobody was traveling in France (we were hardly out of the deconfinement), that’s why we had a rather good price. Most of the tourists stay outside the ramparts, or if they have a car, in the ‘new’ city of Carcassonne, very lively too.

On the other hand, for the ouhlalal parking, it looks complex! Medieval cities do not accept cars inside the ramparts (except for the handful of residents). Outside, cars are parading around, desperately trying to find a place in the parking lot. After having been going around in circles for a long time, one understands FINALLY that our hotel has a free private parking lot (but without a guard) outside the city (10mn on foot), almost empty. It is just necessary to ring the bell so that somebody opens the barrier for us. Phew.

After the stress of the parking lot, we finally have the time and the head to admire the beauty of this city.

The ramparts are very thick and high. Once inside, there are still other ramparts, going around the city… A double rampart ! Wow! The castle, inside, has also a moat

Triple protection! Why didn’t the castles in “The Lord of the Rings” take their inspiration from Carcassonne?

From the entrance, we see a replica of the statue of Lady Carcas, a legendary character. According to the legend, the city was able to resist, thanks to her, the siege of Charlemagne for 6 years. I will spare you the details concerning her tricks and strategies. At the end of 6 years, seeing the troops of Charlemagne leaving the city, she made all the bells of the city ring, and Charlemagne would then have cried “Carcas sonne” => Carcassonne! Ah ha!

I admit that I have already read legends a little more logical than that, but this one is still cute.

The streets are narrow and sloping. It reminds me too much of the Mont Saint-Michel. There are stores, restaurants, ice-cream parlors every meter, it’s hyper animated. Unfortunately there are a little too many tourists, impossible to distance oneself properly (hence the compulsory mask inside the ramparts). In order to take you pictures that are more or less acceptable, I woke up early the next day, before the tourists arrived.

We have lunch first. We are in the country of the ducks so the gizzards of duck, the foie gras… occupy a good place of the menus of the restaurants. I don’t have any restaurants to recommend you because it looks very industrial, inside the city.

Castle of the Comtal

At the beginning of the afternoon, we finally visit the castle and its ramparts (route C). We can choose routes leading to the ramparts only (route A or B) but I thought it was interesting to also visit the inside of the castle with a guide. You can buy the tickets in advance to avoid the queue here

Our guide is passionate about his work, it shows. And she explains to us in detail the evolution of the castle, why we still see a trace of the old roofs here, why the walls aren’t made with the same stones there. Then follows a long explanation on the methods of siege. We are again very far from the Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, the Borgias or others. The most effective technique is to dig under a weak wall, so that it collapses by itself. But the overall strategy is often to block all entrances and exits and wait for them to die of thirst/hunger inside the city.

On the other hand, defence strategies are quite numerous. The city of Carcassonne always resisted the attacks, it is only the lack of food that pushed to the capitulation, but otherwise, the constructions are there to last. One finds the loopholes, a place to throw big stones on the head of the enemies, the throwing machines… Carcassonne was on the former French-Spanish border. There are other castles and cities of this type in the area.

If I understood well, there are only 20 (!!) inhabitants who still live inside the city, they are warriors because despite their age, they also resisted the Covid. The buildings are all transformed into restaurants, stores, bars, hotels…

The visit of the interior of the castle is OK but no more. The interior is almost empty.

I prefer the ramparts with the superb view of the surroundings, the theater and the Saint-Nazaire Basilica. It’s high but very secure with barriers everywhere.
These ramparts are extraordinary, I have already visited others, but these are impressive, so high and see that there are still outside ramparts protecting the city, then the vineyards, the mountains…this wind! I don’t know where to give me the head, it’s overwhelming.

The rosettes of the Saint-Nazaire Basilica are also worth a look.

On this, we check in at the hotel. The outside of my hotel(Booking link) is a bit ugly. But here is the view from my window! hihihi be careful, the standard rooms are in an annex of the hotel, you have to opt for the superior rooms to have an interesting view.

Barrier Truffes l’Atelier

This restaurant was strongly recommended by my friend L. There are few tables so think of reserving. It is outside the ramparts, but only 8mn walk away.

All dishes (except 2) contain truffles and the menu changes very often. The truffles sold here are all fresh. At the moment, you can only taste the summer truffles. The restaurant is closed 2 months/year because the spring truffle does not exist. The owner (and his son) are passionate (about truffles and wine). When JB opts for a sweet white wine (just one glass), he still brings us back 4 bottles for him to taste! And he knows the wines by heart, one comes from such and such a producer located on such and such a road, the other comes from such and such a producer, such and such a year. He is even aware of the harvest in the region this year lol.

Basically, he is a truffle consultant helping restaurants to find suppliers of the freshest and highest quality truffles possible. Because you don’t really produce truffles, you find them – with the help of a dog. He tells me that you can try to “produce” truffles, i.e. create a favourable environment for truffles, but you have to wait for at least 5 years, sometimes more if you don’t have all the right conditions.

In any case, we can be sure that we have the best source of fresh truffles in the area. Summer truffles are cheaper than winter truffles, so don’t trust anyone when you buy them (some sell summer truffles at the price of winter truffles). Moreover, many truffles come from Italy. A black (winter) truffle in the middle of the summer should alert you to its freshness.

We opted for several small plates, tapas style. And we are hallucinated to see the quantity of truffles on each plate! We have never eaten so many truffles in our lives! I think that we had the equivalent of one whole truffle per person

I can’t say that I like truffles too much, there is still a particular flavor. But I don’t hate them either. It’s like caviar from je-ne-sais-quoi-poisson, it’s not unpleasant, but it’s not wow either. In any case, I’m delighted with the experience, telling myself that if even this restaurant can’t get me on the side of the “truffle lovers”, I don’t know who else could change my mind 😀

Sound & Light Show

The sound & light show is unfortunately very disappointing. It corresponds to course B, but with extra lights. They don’t even make the effort to dress the castle with light, as in Reims for example. They are just too artistic projections for the common man. Well, I’m still happy because we visited a part of the ramparts that we didn’t see with the course C, but for the price (14€), I find the show very average, without counting the very small rooms where we are really too many, with an unbearable heat.

Canal du Midi

Not far from the station, you can take boats on the Canal du Midi. I quote: “Work of Pierre-Paul Riquet realized in the XVIIth century to link the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, the Canal du Midi formerly used for the transport of goods and people […] Since 1996, the Canal du Midi is registered on the list of the heritage of humanity by UNESCO.
Locks, bridges, aqueducts, canal-bridges that cover the 240 km of waterway, testify to both a technical feat but also a work of art.”

There are several excursions, which leave quite early, but we chose to zap them. One cannot visit everything either eh.

Our next article, it’s this way

Part 2: Practical Tips

Useful links


  • Château Comtal
    • Visit: between 9,5€ and 17€/person depending on the chosen itinerary
    • Sound & Light: 14€ (not recommended)
  • Restaurant
    • inside the ramparts: count 17€ on average per person
    • Barriers Truffes l’Atelier : 62€ for two
  • Accommodation : Best Western Le Donjon, 100€ per superior room (Booking link), free private parking outside the city. If you want to have a place in a parking lot with guard, count 20€/stay.
  • PI, here are the public parking rates

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