Carcassonne is in many ways an artificial creation. On the one hand, it is quite splendid for the visitor: the largest fortress in Europe, claims the Michelin Guide, and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a romantic history as one of the the strongholds of the Cathar faith, subject to siege in the 13th century Albigensian crusades.

After the border with Spain moved south to the Pyrenees, Carcassonne lost its strategic position, and it was abandoned. The 19th-century Romantic movement restored interest in such monuments, and the architect Viollet-le-Duc directed the restoration of the medieval walled town and castle. But his work is somewhat controversial today, since his imagination drove some of the present details, such as the pointy tower roofs. Today only a hundred-odd people actually live within the walls, and it's quite touristy. But great fun!

Click on the small pictures to see larger ones.

Benjamin and Isabel with their great-grandmother, Mamie Lucienne. They're standing in the "lices hautes", or outer bailey.
Just the kids.
(Some wicked moiré effects with the stripes on Benjamin's shirt!)
Outside walls. This is actually part of the Porte Narbonnaise in the inner ramparts, the main entrance.
Entering the town.
Inside the Chateau Comtal, the Count's Castle, built in the 12th century. It has a further moat-and-wall system within the town walls. This is the Cour d'honneur, the main courtyard.
A view from the outer ramparts into the castle.
A view from one of the many towers, of the castle.
High above the lovely surrounding countryside, from the battlements.
Buying postcards to send to friends and family.
Relaxing at a café. In the foreground is my citron pressé. This was great on a hot day: just squeezed lemon and ice, with a jug of water and some sugar to make my own lemonade to taste (tart!).