The season’s over, the kids were on holiday and with many of the Getois (Les Gets locals) clearing off on their spring jolly, we thought we’d follow suit and head south for some warmer weather and a bit of a Spanish road trip.
A big draw of moving over here was the proximity to easily jump in the van and visit other parts of the continent with the kids. We’d already explored a little bit of Italy and the South of France last year but we were thinking about doing more of the same or heading to Spain or even Croatia. We ran the options past the kids and let them decide. “SPAIN” was unanimous!
It’s brilliant here. We can be in Switzerland or Italy in less than an hour, Germany in 3 and a half, Austria in under 5, paddling in the Mediterranean in less than 4 hours and it’s just over 6 hours from Les Gets across France to northeastern Spain – with Barcelona just a couple more.
With the decision made, we spent a day or two dusting off the camping kit and buying what was missing before cleaning the van out, loading ‘er up and setting off for España!
We left mid-morning on Thursday and headed diagonally, south west across France. Nina’s Mum had mentioned that Carcassone was down that way and that it was somewhere she’d always wanted to see. The city of Carcassonne is home to the medieval citadel on a hill, also known as the ‘Cité de Carcassonne’ and this was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
We figured it’d be a good place to stay the night and we set course for the local campsite. €67.50 in tolls later, we pulled up to the campsite and a very pleasant evening in Carcassone. Sat nav glitches had already given us an unnecessary but welcome sightseeing detour past the fortress itself and after checking in and pitching up the van, we set off on foot for a proper look round.
A gorgeous little tree-lined stream and foot/cycle path ran alongside the campsite and right into ‘Le Cité’. En route, the kids burnt off some of their pent-up journey energy on the monkey bars and exercise kit and we made our way through the outskirts and up to the fort. We’ve subsequently found out that Carcassone is on quite a few people’s to do lists and I have to say it was well worth a visit. Quite magnificent!
Once inside, we realised it’s not just a medieval fortress on a hill. Within the ‘cité’ walls, there’s a functioning town, with gorgeous little shops, hotels and restaurants in the ancient buildings. It was getting late and food was the main priority on our agenda so we stopped at the first restaurant we came to. The post-journey cold beer was very welcome and it turned out that our table was the last one in the whole of the walled city to get the evening sun. Jackpot! When it dropped behind the walls, however, so did the temperature. After passing our jumpers on to our shivering offspring, Nina and I sat there in the chilly dusk in our T-shirts. Luckily the traditional Languedoc meal of Cassoulet went to work raising our core temperatures.
Exploring the town afterwards, we found loads of cosy looking restaurants where we’d eat next time. We caught the sun setting over the horizon from the city walls before retracing our steps back along the stream in the encroaching darkness and back into the van.
We got snuggled up and hit the hay. As the night went on it got colder and colder and colder. It was flipping freezing! I ended up fully clothed, inside my sleeping back and with a coat on top. After several trips to the loo block and some ‘bed hopping’ by most of us except T, the sun eventually rose bringing a little warmth. By then Iz and I had ditched the ‘top floor’ for the warmth of more bodies and we had all ended up squished downstairs. Needless to say, none of us got much sleep at all!
Ahh well! On to Spain and our next stop, Sant Celoni…