Exploring Carcassonne then dinner at Barbacane in L'Hotel de la Cite.
Whilst we were at O'Vineyards near Carcassonne (see O'Vineyards) we meet George the Sommelier, from Barbacane which is a Michelin Starred Restaurant in the very exclusive,L'Hotel de la Cite, within the old city walls at Carcassonne. We promised we would check out his restaurant so we made a booking and took the short trip from Olonzac.
L'Hotel de la Cite is not all that spectacular from the outside but once you go through the entrance, and especially into the restaurant it is fairly impressive in a neo-gothic way.
We are seated not far from the bar where a piano player is tinkering away on a grand piano and the large open fire is blazing. We meet up with George and I think he gives the other staff a bit of a heads up on us because we get the most constantly attentive service for the whole evening.
The dinner is very good. 3 Little amuse bouche to start and then I have the oysters. Margie has the scollops and both are excellent. There is a game menu,it being winter, and I have the hare. It is very good. Margie and I are done by dessert time so we opt for the regional cheeses but Alex goes for the souffle with the whisky ice cream. It almost defeats him but he struggles through it (and eats nothing at all the next day).We retire to the lounge and have coffee and a luscious plate of chocolates in front of the open fire.
The meals are expensive but very good. This is one of the best restaurants that we have encountered on our travels.
Yes George looks after the wine and it is local, good and well matched to our food. At E550 for the 5 of us it was a first class meal. Not cheap but the degustation with wine here is E165 pp so the night does not damage the bank as much as it might have.
Carcassonne has been one of the most important cities of this region since roman times. It is not far from Olonzac and we have visited it several times to take in the market and do Christmas Shopping. Now that Alex and Rebecca have joined us for Christmas some last minute shopping and sightseeing in the old city are on the agenda.
The old city (la Cite de Carcassonne) is the largest complete walled city fortress in France.It has been a fortress since the days of the Roman Empire and there are remnants of the Roman buildings to be seen in the walls and fortifications. The city was also one of the strongholds of the southern nobles who gave protection to the Cathars. After the sacking of Beziers and murdering of its population the Crusaders turned upon Carcassonne. It would seem that the Count of Carcassonne, Roger de Trencavel, tried to negotiate a settlement, was taken prisoner, and Carcassonne fell. The Cathars and other inhabitants of the city were stripped of all their possessions, some say even their clothes and sent out of the city. The Count died in his own prison. The murderous crusaders continued to pillage the Cathar areas of the south for the next quarter of a century.
The walled city was eventually given to the king of France. In the Middle Ages this area was on the border of what is now Spain (then called Aragon).It was therefore an important fortress for many centuries before falling into disrepair.
In the mid C18 Viollet Le Duc put his life's work into re-establishing and renovating the the City. Today it is a magnificent, if somewhat hodge potch,
example of a ancient walled fortress town.
Outside the walls Carcassonne is a sprawling township, with shopping areas, markets and a rugby side servicing the surrounding countryside. Like every other town in France it is decked out for Noelle and Christmas Markets and carnivals have sprung up in the town. In the town square an ice skating rink has been set up around the main fountain and is very popular with all the kids on holiday.
There are several menus, al la carte, degustation with or without wine and game and seafood. Plenty to choose from.
Finally a few photos of the tour of the castle