After the bumpy ride that was Bordeaux, we were keen for a little change of pace and scenery. A one night stopover in Carcassonne was exactly what the travel doctor ordered. No need to call him in the morning!
Heading into Carcassonne all I knew about the city was that there was a board game named after it. It was one of those medieval fantasy type games that require approximately 17 players (all virgins), take about 4-6 weeks to complete and, at the very least, require a PhD in astrophysics to comprehend the 916 page rulebook. The sort of game that makes me stop and think "This is what I could be doing with my life if I was still single. And I could wear a KISS t-shirt EVERY DAY!" It's also the sort of game that makes Jess realise that the real life version of nerds are not quite as sexy, interesting or funny as they appear to be on Big Bang Theory.
Well it turns out that, like The AFL Footy Show, Carcassonne is more than a game. So much more. The main attraction is Le Cite Medievale - a medieval fortress restored by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (or "Geno", as his mates undoubtedly called him) in 1853. This thing has more bricks than Sylvester Stallone's abs in Rocky IV and, with a history going back some 2,500 years, it has seen more significant dates than Elizabeth Taylor! Between the city's ability to throw up thousands of spectacular scenes just dying to be photographed, and the endless number of souvenir shops selling wooden swords, shields and crossbows, Jess and I both found our respective slices of heaven in Carcassonne. Check out the pictures to see some of Jess' finest work yet. And the wooden swords? If you want to know whether I bought one, I dare you to try and break into my house one night and find out ;-)
The highlight of our day in Carcassonne was an exhibition involving reenactments of various aspects of medieval life. It included ceremonies conducted by medieval Kings and Knights, as well as sword fighting exhibitions and medieval dance classes. Oh, I should also mention that the various reenactments required a fair chunk of audience participation. And guess who they singled out for some assistance? Yeah I know what you're thinking, these French geeks needed someone to get up there and show them how a real (Aussie) swordsman does it. Umm not quite. Turns out the King required someone to play the Court Jester and don some stupid outfit that looked like a leftover Village People member and smelt like John Hopoate's index finger. Oh and I had to juggle whilst wearing this ridiculous thing. I hate France. And yep, Jess caught the whole thing on video - see the video section to see me in all my glory.
Finally, our time in Carcassonne gave us a little taste of home - although it was not quite the way remembered it. Whilst perusing through the tourist material in our hotel we came across a brochure for Le Parc Australien - an Australian themed wildlife park in Carcassonne. The brochure promoted its amazing enclosures for Koalas, Emus and….Aborigines? In an enclosure??? I think something may have been lost in translation when the park creators read Australian news reports of how the Reconciliation movement was designed to bring "closure" to past injustices!
Next stop: Nice. And Avignon.