Off to Europe: Southern France, Part Five

Today we explored Carcassonne in great detail.

We started the day with a walk along the medieval city’s inner walls, tall and imposing, the “real” defensive structure that served to stop attackers who had made it through the lower outer layer. There are plenty of towers, and battlements, and a barbican (which as I understand is a sort of fortified outpost jutting out of the wall line), and just about every defensive technique used in the Middle Ages. We then moved on to the keep. The living quarters and great hall of the keep are, sadly, converted into waiting rooms for tours and the museum, so it’s kind of hard to tell what people did in the keep when they weren’t fighting for their lives. The walk around the keep did give us some great sights of the city, a labyrinth of roof-tile and stone, surrounded by walls on all sides. The weather turned bad as we were walking around, so we stayed inside as much as we could. I did find the Carcassonne board game in the gift shop, but it was way to expensive 😦

After more walking around the outer walls and an uneventful lunch, we more or less stumbled into what was undoubtedly the greatest part of the day – jousting! In late July – early August, there are two jousting events daily in Carcassonne, and they are incredibly fun. I sat down in a packed viewing gallery (two sets of tiered benches across from each other), and almost immediately was treated to Epic Medieval Music on full blast. The Master of the Tournament came out, and got the crowd to cheer (despite the rain and the cold) for the coming attraction. He was followed by the King of Aragon, who looked pretty miserable in his long robes wading through the dirt, two ladies in his entourage, and five knights on horseback, all dressed in chain and leather, clearly excited to be taking part in the upcoming tournament. There were pages and attendants too, and I was excited to see that some of the pages were girls in men’s clothing, looking ready to kick butt. Just as everyone got done introducing themselves and what they were fighting for (liberty, beauty, that sort of thing)… a new opponent entered the fray! He was not from Occitaine (the local province), but the King of Aragon recognized him and let him join the tournament.

Then the fun began. First there were a couple of horseback riding events, with the knights picking flags off the ground, or catching rings on their lances while riding along the arena. Then two of the knights decided to have a good old fashioned axe battle, and did some impressive stage fighting with axe and shield. Then began the jousting proper. The local lord, Comte de Trencavel, was by far the best, but the Foreign Knight was not far behind, and soon it became obvious the two would duke it out for the top spot. They grabbed two swords each and started going at it, with the Foreign Knight doing better, but being far less chivalrous, kicking and punching and not letting the poor Comte get up as befits a Proper Knight. The Master of the Tournament gave the Foreign knight a stern talking-to about the laws of chivalry, and he Did Better afterwards, but, of course, so did Comte de Trencavel. The Comte triumphed in the end with an impressive flash of swordplay, and the Foreign Knight got on one knee and graciously accepted defeat. Then there was another bit of impressive horseback riding as everyone paraded… no, more like galloped out while doing horse tricks! Lots of sitting sideways and even turning around in the saddle while galloping down the sandy arena. I was much pleased 🙂

Dinner ended up being uneventful, and the day ended, disappointingly, with work, but I look forward to more adventures tomorrow, when we go to Albi!

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One Response to “Off to Europe: Southern France, Part Five”

  1. Off to Europe: Southern France, Part Five « Vlad's Blog: East … Says:

    […] the rest here: Off to Europe: Southern France, Part Five « Vlad's Blog: East … Tags: all-dressed, and-five, chain-and, clearly-excited, dirt, entourage, his-entourage, his-long, […]

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