Off to Europe: Southern France, Part Four

Today we left the lovely English BnB we’ve been staying at and moved on to Carcassonne, by way of Fort Salses and the Fontfroide Abbey.

Fort Salses was reasonably interesting for being a medieval castle that was transformed into an age-of-Exploration era fortress that had to deal with cannon fire, mines, and all sorts of nastiness that came with firearms and gunpowder. The castle walls are very thick, and it has all sorts of underground passages and tunnels to help troops move faster within the castle and repel invaders. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before, however, so I was left unimpressed by the visit.

Fontfroide was a much more interesting experience! This used to be a Cistercian Abbey, but for the last century it’s been owned by a wine merchant who preserved and restored the complex. Even before the merchant, the abbey went through several periods of reconstruction, so it has examples of Romanesque, Gothic, and Neoclassical architecture. The mix of different styles works well, and between the looming towers, the lovely cloister, and the huge rose gardens in the back, the abbey is perfect for quiet contemplation. I ended up ditching the tour pretty quickly, walking around the buildings and reading Pendergast. I also explored the garden a little bit. It’s amazing, with tall cypress trees growing right next to castle walls, and rows and rows of flowers.

We ended the day arriving in Carcassonne, which made my inner board game geek happy. We stay here until Tuesday morning, and we got to explore the city a little bit at night (and, of course, eat delicious French food). There’s towers and ramparts and walls *everywhere* and tons of little shops selling mostly souvenirs and cookies. I haven’t found the board game yet, but I hope to! The day ended with a rock concert, which we heard from afar while walking around the Old City.


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