First visit to Carcassonne, France

We visited a part of the beautiful city of Carcassonne today.  The Bastide area, to be exact.  Underground parking costs were reasonable and finding a space was easy before lunchtime in midsummer.  Surprising.  A two-page guide to parking can be obtained from the mayor’s office website.

All the pictures we viewed of Carcassonne prior to going did not do this part of town any justice.  At first, I could not take my eyes off the ceiling of high umbrellas on Rue Courtejaire, reminding me of past illuminated Christmas displays in Oxford and Carnaby Streets in London.  Magical colours, simple and clever protection from the sun.  After passing various bars, shops, boutiques and the police station came the buzzing town square furnished with countless cafes, all of which seemed to be worth patronising at some point.  Leaving the square, and back on to the same street (but now called Rue Georges Clemenceau), more shops selling expensive fashions, speciality foods, luxury soaps, books, things for the home, cushions, throws, pots and pans, knives, corkscrews, etc.

Decided to check out a supermarket called Monoprix as we explored the street, which is apparently part of a chain of 300 hundred shops started in 1932.  In 2013, it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Groupe Casino which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.  Who knows, Monoprix might end up being my local store of that kind.  On entering Monoprix, I found the decor and shop furniture rather dated.  Puzzling because all the other shops on the street were modern and pristine.   I began to turn over issues of hygiene in my mind and my first instinct was to turn around and leave, but curiosity made me continue.  All the food and drink products on sale seemed okay, and just the things I liked to eat but dripping, open fridges made me shudder inside.  Very pleased to find some cosmetics I needed that I could not find in other shops.  What brought this branch of Monoprix totally down was being obviously followed around by their security guard for most of my visit, then having to stand in line for almost half an hour, only to be told by the cashier to join another queue, with no explanation.  Smug and cynical is how I experienced the situation.  There is no other store like this, they have a captive audience – take your bad treatment or leave.  I left my 12 Euros worth of shopping on the conveyer belt, hoping that this shop would not be my local.  What a relief to be back on the street, in the fresh air and away from all that rubbish.

Had a small sandwich and shared a soft drink for lunch.  Delicious! I had hoped to find some precious stone shops or at least a bead shop, but no such luck.  No wool shops either.  I will have another look at a later date and search more off the beaten track.

Found Carcassonne train station, good for a getaway to Paris, although I have to change trains at least once.  Not far from the station we watched the lock on the Canal du Midi fill up to let the boats continue their journey, and enjoyed the cooling effects of one of the many fountains in the city.  Crossed the Boulevard Omer Sarraut, then walked down Rue du Docteur Albert Tomey and admired the Church of Saint Vincent.

Great first visit to Carcassonne.  We will be back.

Ted & Jemima

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