Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kirsten White - Carcassonne, France - March 25-26 (photo by Liz Weeden)

Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest existing walled city in the southwest region of France, about one hour from the bustling university city of Toulouse. The medieval city contains narrow cobblestone streets lined with small pastry shops, souvenir stores, and traditional cafes. The giant stone wall on the outside containing a drawbridge originally served as a massive form of defense. Now, the bridge allows for patrons to wander the city by day and residential vehicles to roam back inside by night. In addition to the outside wall, another one stands on the inside, creating a circular blockade which further guards the city. Restored in 1853 through the campaign undertaken by Viollet-le-Duc, Carcassonne’s streets, buildings, walls, and gothic cathedral remain a notable example of a pre-Roman period settlement. As we trekked around the city, I couldn’t help but imagine the Catholic residents defending their fortress through arrow defense as intruders emerged from the surrounding hillside land. The old world architecture juxtaposed with modern day trinket souvenirs and ice cream dispensers proved an interesting experience.

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