Our 2012 Cathedralquest to France day 18 a visit to the Salt Marshes before our visit to Carcassonnes .


Day 18, Thursday, September 20



Breakfast was served on a beautiful outdoor terrace overlooking the canal, but it was too cool to eat outside so we ate in the nicely appointed indoor room.   We finished packing and checked out. This is second hotel that didn’t have an elevator and we were on the second floor.  The steps up were a circular and rather steep, so I made several trips to get our luggage down.  

We wanted to see the Salt Marshes which were just a few miles south of the walled city of Aigues Mortes.  The salt production in Aigues Mortes goes back to the first century. Each year, Aigues Mortes produces 500,000 tons of salt. In the Camargue, salt can be found widely in the flat clay soil, dotted with ponds which lends itself well to the extraction of sea salt. It is also a region where evaporation is the most intense and rainfall the weakest. 

We got to the salt company site at 10:30, just in time to buy our ticket for the little train ride which lasted 1 ¼ hours.  The ride circled all of the ponds which reflected different colors, depending on the amount of salt. There were huge piles of salt, like mountains.  We saw a lot of pink flamencos out in the ponds.    About ¾ of the way through the ride, the train stopped and we got off to see a movie about the area and visit a gift shop.  We purchased several packages of salt for gifts then we boarded another little train that took us back to the start. 

It was afternoon when we left the salt marshes and headed toward Carcassonne.  On the “A” road, there are a lot of service areas with several eating places, gas stations and often hotels.   We got diesel and  sandwiches, diesel for the car and sandwiches to eat. 

 It was around 3:30 when we got to Carcassonne.  We understood that there was a parking lot for the hotels as it is not advisable to drive through the “Cite” – the old part with in the castle walls. After one false parking, we finally found the correct hotel parking lot.   A young man came in a small van and helped us with our luggage.  Now we know why it is not a good idea to drive through the very, very narrow streets lined with tourists.

Carcassonne has been of particular interest to us.  We first learned about Carcassonne when I purchased Kate Mosse’s historic novel, Labyrinth, several years ago (last month I read it again in preparation for this trip)  It is a fascinating story about a modern young lady who was with a friend on an archeological adventure in this area.  Her discoveries send her back to the 1200 and the castle.    It is a sort of back and forth novel – present to the past.

 In this area of France, known as Languedoc, there was a very large group of Christians known as Cathars in the 1200’s.  They believe that God created all things spiritual and the devil all things of the world.  They were good, hard working people who didn’t want anything to do with the existing Catholic Church structure.  The Catholic Church and the French Government joined up to do away with them.   We drove past the town of Beziers today where about 9000 people were killed in one day, July 22, 1209.  The Inquisition was very active in the area and many, many people were tortured, burned at the stake and imprisoned.  We read several books about the Cathar history which was really fascinating and sad. Among the books were Stephen O'Shea's -The Friar of Carcassonne and Perfect Heresy, and Rene Weis' Yellow Cross.

Carcassonne, was a fortress castle built in the early days of the Roman Empire, the larges fortress city of Europe rising against the background of the Pyrenees. For 400 years, Carcassonne remained the capital of a county, under the counts of Toulouse.  It changed hands several times as a result of wars.  It was a prison for the Cathars at one time. It finally fell into decay.  In the early 1800’s Viollet-de-Duc spent 50 years restoring it. It consists of a fortified walls, the Château Comtal (the counts Castle), and a double curtain wall; the outer ramparts, with 14 towers separated from the inner ramparts of 24 towers. I have built a model of it – SEE MY MODEL

Our hotel, the Best Western Hotel Le Donjon was just a few feet from the fortress.  From our hotel window we could see all of the towers of the front side.







After we got settled, we took a tour of the entire castle – yes up and down , up and down many steps, along the top and down in the lower floors.  It was so much fun seeing all of the little parts that are in the model.  I took over 100 photos in the castle alone.


We came back to the hotel and stopped at the bar – yes they had Jack Daniels.   We went to the room a few minutes, then to an 8:00 reservation the Comte Roger, which was right behind the hotel.  It was fancy restaurant, and service was rather slow starting.  We had a wonderful meal, I had veal with risotto nd Kathleen had duck cassolet.  

When we came out of the restaurant at 10:00, the streets were empty.   We had seen pictures of the castle lit at night, but it was dark.   We learned it is illuminated from the other side which can be seen down in the valley.  We have to see the cathedral tomorrow and then explore some of the area and castles that we have read about in the Cathar history before going to Toulouse which is our last place to stay—four nights with several side trips.


Next day 

Day 1 - Paris

Day 2 - Sens

Day 3 - Vezelay 

Day 4 - Abbey Fontenay, Semur-en-Auxois, Vezelay -

Day 5 - Beaune

Day 6 - Beaune, Autun, Citeaux, Chateau du Clos Vougeot-

Day 7 - Cluny  

Day 8 - Cluny 

Day 9 - Paray-le-Monial and Clermont-Ferrard

Day 10 - Le Puy-en-Velay 

Day 11 - Avignon 

Day 12 - Avignon to Nimes

Day 13 - Avignon

Day 14 - Marseille

Day 15 - Marseille

Day 16 - Marseille

Day 17 - Marseille to Aigues-Mortes

Day 18 - Carcassonne 

Day 19 - Carcassonne to Toulouse  (posted 10/6/15)

Day 20 - Toulouse

Day 21 - Albi

Day 22 - Toulouse