Our next stop in France was something we had been looking forward to for quite a while – meeting up with Andrew, Janette, Louise, and Mike again in Carcassonne, in the South of France. Our previous few days with them in the Lake District hadn’t been part of the original plan, it had just happened to work out really well that we rearranged our plans to go back to Teen Ranch, meaning we could catch up with them right after.
We had a long journey from Perigeaux to Carcassonne, made a little bit more complicated by having no mobile data in Europe yet, but we made it safely and were happily united once again with our family. We did love driving past millions and millions of sunflowers in the fields. It definitely made for a picturesque drive. We were fortunate to be staying in a lovely villa in the country, just near the tiny village of Hounoux.
We started off our week by heading into the medieval Cite of Carcassonne. I had been here once before about 7 years ago, and was pretty excited to see the place again. It is a truly magnificent city, walled all around with over 50 towers standing guard, with an medieval castle, the Chateau de Comtal, within.
We enjoyed a day in the nearby city of Limoux – Pete and I had a much anticipated lunch by ourselves. It was made a little bit sad by the fact that we had practically wrenched Elena away from us and left her frantically sobbing with her grandparents and Aunty and Uncle. She LOVES her extended family, but has been very attached to me lately. This attachment has become very exhausting at times (for both myself and Pete), and we were very thankful for a bit of a break. Thanks Richardson’s! We had a very fun lunch in which we had no idea what we had ordered, and were vaguely confused at the dishes when they did arrive. We are really enjoying being in a different country, a little out of our comfort zone, with lots of new experiences and culture to enjoy. We would have loved to have another little date, but sometimes things just don’t work out, and this week it was not to be. Both Elena and Kilian slept terribly all week, with me often sitting outside their room for 1 hour plus waiting for Elena to finally fall asleep, so nights were ruled out. Thanks family for being so willing to give us a break and look after the kids for us. Even without going out, having four extra people to play with our kids was amazing!
If you happened to be watching the Tour de France on Friday the 14th of July, you might have caught a glimpse of us watching the finish at Foix! We were pretty keen to get another chance to see the Tour, this time watching from the finish line. It was made even better by the beautiful Chateau de Foix in the background, and by watching the cries of excitement from the other Richardson’s (mainly Janette) as they caught some of the freebies from the caravan. This time as the riders came in, it was a bit slower due to it being a mountain stage. We really enjoyed this slower pace, as we were able to see the riders a bit better (last time they went past rather quickly) and had a great time cheering the riders on with our waving Aussie flag.
We spent the Saturday exploring the rest of Carcassonne city (the more ‘modern’ part), and really enjoyed the various markets around, including a flea market and a food market. We had a pretty nice lunch in town where Andrew showed off his high school French – we were actually very impressed with his ability to speak French. It has been a while since the HSC……
One of the highlights of the week was the day we just stayed at home. It had been a pretty busy week with all the sightseeing and family time, so we needed a day to just recharge. We loved going for a walk in the country fields near our house, picking plums and eating them straight from the tree, and finding interesting sticks and snails and bringing them home. Sometimes it’s the quiet adventures that really stand out, and we were really glad we could share this with our family.
We really loved relaxing in the evenings with the Richardson’s. We very rarely go out at night, so it was great to have a bit of variety in our evenings, and some new conversation.
Our last day together we suddenly realised that there was so much we would still love to do. We whittled the list down to two things – visiting a cave (Mike’s wish), and a mountain castle (my wish) featuring Cathar history (Janette’s wish). Our first stop was the mysterious underground river Labouiche, 60m underground and over 1.5km in length, which we toured in a tiny boat. It was really interesting cruising through the caves, which have been open to visitors for about 80 years, and hearing the history of the early explorers as they discovered the caves and its vast caverns. Some of the caverns date back 800 000 years. Janette, Louise and Kilian passed this one up – thanks guys for looking after our boy!
In the afternoon we drove to Montsegur, a very cool mountain with a Cathar castle atop it. It was a steady, sweaty uphill walk on a decently hot day, but it was well worth it for the view from the top, the satisfaction of the ascent (Pete and I love a good hill climb), and the ruined castle as the prize. We were VERY impressed at Louise and Andrew making it to the top, after we had left them at the bottom having decided not to go up. Louise, you are our hero!
Our last night together we stopped off at the beautiful town of Mirepoix for dinner. We so wished we had come to this place sooner, as it was quite stunning. We will just have to come back I suppose. After enquiring at many restaurants in the main square, we soon realised that the French don’t do toddler/pensioner dinner hours (i.e. dinner before 7). We ended up at a little ‘snack’ bar which did a pretty mean paella and were very satisfied with that.
Some tears may have flowed as we said our goodbyes the next morning, but I think we can all agree that we had a pretty awesome week together. Only six months left til we see you all again!