Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Carcassonne & Montpellier

After a hectic 4 days of early magic hours, the whole family slept in until...gasp...8am! We wandered out to the compact streets and were able to admire just how pretty the city was in daylight. The first thing we had to do was to fill our stomachs. With pastries and crepes being about 30 percent cheaper than in Paris, we couldn't resist. Nutella and sugar crepes it was in the sun just outside the city walls. 11 degrees under sunny blue skies felt positively warm after temperatures closer to zero during our first 11 days in France. I can now understand why our European and Canadian au pairs think the Australian winters are like summer!

The entrance to our hotel

Everything is old

The details inside the hotel

Wandering around looking for breakfast

Great selection of pastries

Eating crepes for breakfast just outside the city wall. Thanks Dad! 

We organised to visit Carcassonne as it was a city which lent its name to a boardgame that is well loved. We really didn't expect that there was so much more to the city. Big slap to selves for ignorance! Firstly we had to explain to Lara that the game was named after the city and not the other way around. We then started our exploration at the castle within the city walls, where we went through the history of the city and the various additions and restorations that it went through. This was followed by a walk along the ramparts. Much of what can be seen today was due to restoration done in the 1800s. Some sections which were originally built by the romans in the 1200s were still intact. Walking around the medieval city was a lot of fun! We spent the day within the city before leaving to drive back east towards Montpellier at around 3pm. We were not prepared to repeat the night time driving experience.

The area between inner and outer wall of the city

The moat leading to the castle within the city

Walking up into the castle

The view along the castle wall

The inner and outer wall of the city and the township below

Determining defensive strategies against stray meeple placements...

Exploring the ramparts. This is a section of the city walls originally built by the Romans over 1000 years ago.

Our hotel backs onto the city wall

The gardens of the hotel . This would be a great place to come in summer

The city has many interesting tiny streets to explore

Gothic cathedral within the city

Beautiful stained glass windows seem to be everywhere

Big interior

Window shopping

Had to enter the chocolate shop

Home made nougat

Our stop for the night at Montpellier
We arrived at Montpellier and went around the same intersections that we circled through the day before! Thankfully our hotel was not in the historic centre so we did not have to navigate through more tricky streets and intersections. We did however, have to work out how to get into the entrance of the hotel carpark. Satisfied at passing the intelligence test, we checked into yet another huge room. It felt a little strange going from medieval to ultra-modern, but it was nice in a different way.

Right by the river

In a rather funky square. Hotel De Villiers is the large blue building

The very hard to get into carpark!

The entrance to our room. Everyone opening anything they can open...

Look to the left and you see the lounge room with the sofa bed

Close up

Look to the right...you get the room with the King bed

Our balcony view to the left

And to the right

The bathroom

We took the tram to Place de la Comedie which is the main focal point of Montpellier. The trams were easy to use, clean and frequent. Everytime I come across cities with good public transport, I get frustrated with the lack of decent public transport in Sydney. We seem so backward compared to many modern cities of the world. Moving on...

Montpellier seemed like a pretty city but we were dismayed to see the chimneys and domes of beautiful buildings defaced by graffiti  We window shopped around the main Square and perused the stalls of the Christmas markets. The children somehow managed to convince Malcolm to buy churros BEFORE dinner. They were making them fresh, and he couldn't resist. The man kindly gave us extra. Unfortunately, no photos could be taken as I had to fight with the unruly to get my share.

Very colourful and efficient trams

At Place de la Comedie

The children managed to convince Daddy to get churros BEFORE dinner!

Making it fresh

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