June 07, 2022: Carcassonne. Madam Carcas threw a fatted pig over the La Cité battlement to burst at the feet of the besieging enemy. Dispirited, they withdrew.
“Before me lies Carcassonne, the perfect medieval city. Like a fish that everyone thought was extinct, somehow Europe’s greatest Romanesque fortress city has survived the centuries.”
― Rick Steves
About 1200 years ago, Charlemagne’s army besieged La Cité for a year. The defenders were nearly starving when Madam Carcas fed the last of the grain to the last pig, and threw it down at the enemy. Believing that their siege had failed, they left in frustration. La Cité sounded it’s bells in victory. Soon after, the city name was changed to “Madam Carcas-sounded-the-bells” (Carcassonne). The story is probably not true, but it makes a great tale, nonetheless.
A Mighty Fortress
Carcassonne is probably Europe’s best preserved medieval city. There is no “site” to see here; it is the city itself: massive towers, turrets, cobblestone streets, a drawbridge over a moat. The wall walk gives amazing views, into and beyond the city.
We enjoyed a light picnic in our hotel garden for dinner, as we had a heavy meal planned the next day: cassoulet, the dish of the region. It is, without a doubt, the best “pork and beans” you’ve ever had, with white beans, duck fat, chicken, ham hocks, and more baked long, low, and slow. The French love their cassoulet as Americans do their BBQ. A comedian from the UK punk’d the French in Castlenaudary, the home town of cassoulet. The locals were not amused, and minor violence ensued. This is serious stuff!