Carcassonne, in two parts
Part 1: saw us all leave together and head up into the Pyrenees, following the valley into the ski resorts of Spain. Beautiful, unfettered, good tarmac roads and twisties all the way to the summit, before plunging down into the lower French foothills. Here SC decided to leave us...deciding he'd rather make the journey home via motorways and staying in hotels. Nonetheless, we agreed we would reconvene in Carcassonne that evening for what turned out to be our final meal together.
Part 2: saw PP and I set off up towards yet another unpaved section he had enthusiastically mapped online during one winter's evening several months earlier! A no go...the Sat Nav route ran out in someone's back garden and our attempts to force recalculations, confused the Garmins. Turning back, down into the valley, a slight detour found an alternative route along slightly more substantial roads.
We soon picked up the original route on tarmac and surfaces that were great. Still challenging roads, we swept our way up and over the foothills of the French Pyrenees. Passing only the occasional vehicle; otherwise having the amazing hills and hairpins to ourselves. We discovered we were riding the reverse of the preceding day's Tour de France...an absolutely amazing route!
Dropping into the lowlands, the heat became the challenge once again and arriving into Carcassonne was a welcome sight! The City walls had been adorned with an amazing optical effect, created from meticulously crafted yellow gaffer tape.
Carcassonne is a French fortified city in the department of Aude, in the region of Occitanie. A prefecture, it has a population of about 50,000.
Inhabited since the Neolithic period, Carcassonne is located in the Aude plain between historic trade routes, linking the Atlantic to the Mediterranean sea and the Massif Central to the Pyrénées.
Its strategic importance was quickly recognized by the Romans, who occupied its hilltop until the demise of the Western Roman Empire. In the fifth century, it was taken over by the Visigoths, who founded the city. Its strategic location led successive rulers to expand its fortifications until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659.
Carcassonne is the largest walled city in Europe (among those that have their defensive wall still intact). Its citadel known as the Cité de Carcassonne, is a medieval fortress dating back to the Gallo-Roman period, and was restored by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853. It has been added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.
We stayed at a very well laid-out municipal campground and, after a slightly unplanned trip around the city on a little tourist train, hooked up with SC for dinner. We'd planned a reasonably early start so, sadly, that was the last we saw of SC for the rest of the adventure.