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Day Trip to Carcassonne during a Lockdown

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Where are good day trips to go from Toulouse? I asked my Couchsurfing host, as I was naturally always searching for a day trip beyond the city for some fresh views. It wasn’t that Toulouse was boring—it had its own charms. But I was here during the COVID-19 lockdown of January 2021, where non-essential businesses were closed and dining in wasn’t permitted. I had already explored Toulouse, so it was time to head out.

Out of a few choices he gave me, Carcassonne was the most interesting. It’s an hour train ride away, and is home to one of the oldest castles in France. It’s known for its medieval heritages, which fed my curiosity that was built from a love for the British TV show, Merlin.

Carcassonne would usually be teeming with tourists, as it’s heavily reliant on tourism, but not this time. That was fine by me, as I was already used to the situation by now after experiencing Étretat the same way. I boarded the train just before noon, and arrived there with the intention to only explore and enjoy being transported back in time.

A small city

Carcassonne is said to be a city, but to me, it feels more like a small town with a population of no more than 50,000. The city centre is very walkable, with plenty of quaint shops in classic buildings seen in every city, but set apart by a backdrop of the centuries-old castle in the near distance.

I took my time weaving through the alleys, peering into unopened shops and attractions, and ensuring that I eventually ended up at  the little square in front of Musée des Beaux-Arts de Carcassonne. It marked the beginning of the path towards the citadel, and I admired the statue in the square before continuing my way up.

Crossing the river

It’s necessary to take the pedestrian crossing over the river via Pont Vieux, or Old Bridge, which used to be cobblestone but has been repaved for easier walking. As I crossed, I could feel myself approaching the past with the citadel coming into clearer view.

Millennia of structure

Up close, the Cité de Carcassonne is even more impressive, with the appearance of each stone that has stood against the weathers of time. I entered the citadel and felt myself transported into the world of Merlin, marveling at the medieval glory this structure once held.

Obvious tourist spot

Within the city, a few shops had supposedly been set up for food and souvenirs, but they were closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown. I would have enjoyed a guided tour to explore deeper into the castle within and learn more about it, but this time, I could only explore the grounds on my own. While there wasn’t much to see as a result, it was still fun to wander down the tiniest alleys to see where I would end up.

It’s absolutely rewarding also to head up to the walls that surround the citadel too to get a view of Carcassonne beyond. It made me understand why castles were built on hills.

It took me 30 minutes to walk from the train station to the citadel, and about an hour to explore the citadel as thoroughly as I was allowed. It was a short day trip, but I believe there must be more to experience the medieval city during non-pandemic times. As such, I think a longer day trip would definitely be worthwhile.

Behind the trip

I’m Angie, a traveller, web developer and blogger behind A Head Full of Travel. I’m here to document my adventures through words and photography, kindling a love for life. You can trust that all content and advice shared here is genuine and from my own experiences.

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