When Charlemagne stood before the gates of Carcassonne with his troops, the castle army existed of only one person, Madame Carcas. She gave the illusion that many men were still on the walls. When Charlemagne wanted to starve the castle, and Dame Carcas heard of his plans, she threw a pig over the wall, filled with sweet corn. This made Charlemagne believe that there was still enough food left, so he packed up and left. On the site of his retrieve, she triumphantly blew her horn (Carcas sonne).”
So goes the legend of Carcassonne. Carcassonne is located in the region known as Languedoc in the south of France – a land full of legends and mysticism, from King Arthur to the Holy Grail. A stone statue of Dame Carcas now stands at the entrance to Carcassonne and whether she is real or a stuff of our imagination, there is no denying the romantic charm of this medieval fortress.
These thoughts cross my mind as we enter the city’s towering gates and cross a stone bridge over a moat. Walking over cobbled-stone pavement and sand, I remember the old city of Jerusalem, built with limestones quarried in the city. Under the light of the sun, the walls of Carcassonne have the same golden color as the sand on our feet. These walls are a legacy from the Romans who built them in the first century BC, much like the walls in Old Jerusalem which were built under King Herod during the Roman Empire.
Seeing an ancient castle for the first time is fascinating and enlightening. It does look romantic on the outside, but as soon as we pass through the courtyard into the confines of the chateau, the experience turns challenging. The four of us – Aida, Rachel, Joan and I – walk through narrow, dark passageways, pause to view the modern village beyond the castle walls and watch a video presentation on the history of Carcassonne. The challenge lies in not getting lost among the maze of dark passageways and rooms in the chateau, because we have no maps or a guide to help us. After the chateau, we pay a short visit to the ancient Basilica of St. Nazaire which is being renovated. Like most ancient churches in France, there is a huge pipe organ located in the second floor of the church, stained glass windows, gargoyles, naves, arches and stone walls darkened by time.
By contrast, the village shops in Carcasonne are very modern and attractive behind their stone facade. Shops selling chocolates, cookies, confectionaries such as marzipan, herbs de provence for cooking, souvenir tee shirts and postcards, soaps that smell of the sea and various herbs, woodcrafts and porcelain figurines are just some of the attractions. Soon it is time for lunch.
At La Taverne du Chateau, Joan and I order the regional dish known as Cassoulet, a soup consisting of kidney beans, foie gras, pork sausage and vegetables. Aida prefers French Onion Soup with Spaghetti Bolognese while Rachel opts for the Entrecote (beef) sandwich, all choices for 12 euros. Sitting outside under a canopy, our conversation turns from food to dream houses.
“You’re all invited to visit my house here in the south of France in the future.” I begin half-jokingly. I don’t even know why I said it, it just came out. It’s good to have a belly laugh with friends once in a while.
“Yes, I can imagine you here,” says Aida, “you would be perfect in this place.”
“And with a French hubby,” adds Rachel, her eyes gleaming. “My dream house would be somewhere near the sea or a lake, as both my husband and I love to snorkel and scuba dive.”
“I prefer to live in Paris, in the 16th arrondissement near La Tour Eiffel,” says Aida, “with French balconies from the living room to the masters bedroom. I’m a city girl.”
Only Joan is silent. But if I know my twin its because she’s not thinking of just one place. She’d like to see the rest of Europe like Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, or Spain. Maybe go back to Italy again.
I call this chapter in our lives the Carcassonne Dreaming, a paraphrase of the original song, California Dreaming. Someday in the future, we will look back to this day, and remember how we dared to dream as only young people can.
We journey back to Canet en Roussillion via the scenic route through the Gorges of Galamus, passing through the countryside full of vineyards and I wonder if the Jewish people really started the vine culture in France. In his book, A Year in Provence, author Peter Mayle writes that he would never be able to drink another glass of wine without remembering all the tremendous labor that went into making it.
I recall the words of French aviator & writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery at the end of our wine tour in Canet: One cannot understand what an estate is unless one sacrifices a part of himself, fights to save it and embellish it. An estate is not the sum of benefits. There lies the error. It is the sum of all the gifts.
In other words, the value of an estate lies not in what one can get out of it, but rather it lies in the love that has been poured into it. The value of a land lies in the work of the many hands that labored to toil it, embellish it and sustain it for the community so that future generations can enjoy the fruits of the land.
By Elaine Friend http://friendelaine.blogspot.com Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Elaine_Friend Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1541491