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Friday, September 7, 2012

Fun in France: Part Deux

There was so much fun to be had in France, the adventures wouldn't fit in just one blog!

This post details our first full day in France (a Friday) and the last minute misadventures of the day we left (Saturday). If you missed the first part of this series, you can read it here, Fun in France: Part Un.

Vacation fail #1: We did not get up early enough to get to the Carcassonne castle before everyone else. It was super packed!

Vacation win #1: Since we were running so late, we had to eat breakfast at the castle (well, in the touristy village around the castle). That means...I ate my first crepe, and we got to watch the baker make them!

Left: Chocolate Crepe                       Right: Strawberry Crepe
I remember watching Talladega Nights. There was a scene in which the racers discussed crepes. I had never had one, nor had I seen one. I, for one, am not too proud to admit, "I love crepes." Admittedly, they don't look super yummy. They look like sponges. They were d*** tasty sponges though. Pardon my French! (Obviously, "d***" is "deux", since we ordered two. For those of you who thought I meant something else....for shame!)

I digress. The castle is beautiful.

The story of the city involves siege. A woman (widow of the Saracen leader, Dame Carcas) was said to have made scarecrows of sorts out of straw and dead men's armor to make the army seem stronger. The attackers tried to starve the inhabitants, so she fed the last of the grains to the last pig and threw him (or her, I guess I should be PC) down to the attacking army (Franks, King Charlemagne). When the pig splattered on the ground, the grains spilled everywhere too. Seeing how well-fed the pig was, the Franks left. They thought the city had an abundance of food and that their chances of winning the city were null. The people cheered, the bells rang ("sona"). Put them together, and you get "Carcassonne".

Okay, so maybe that's not true. Who knows? The city definitely defends its story though!

Carcas, thanks for throwing your pig!
Inside the walls of the fortress, I was able to get a feeling of what it might have been like to live there. It has definitely been modernized. Shops sell plastic swords, and I had a panini, fries, and a Coke for lunch...but the romanticism and history is still there for those who will seek it.

Take a seat while you string your bow...
...all the modern comforts of a medieval fortress
Apparently he is not a fan of church music!
It was hard to choose just one picture from inside.
Will is on the Wall. Thankfully he didn't take the black!

Commercialism vs. Real History

There was a lot of commercialism, and I tend to prefer realistic historical sites; however, I must confess. Will and I went to see a tournament (jousting, swords, etc.). It could not have been more touristy, but it did rival the part of our visit when we saw the inner castle and walked the walls. I said rivaled, not superseded.

The entire show was, much to my chagrin, in French. Of course, it makes sense. I just wasn't thinking about it. I am so used to being in Spain and understanding Spanish. It really put me in my place to not understand a word that was being said. We joked when we saw a girl in business attire standing in the tourney grounds. She didn't fit in. Well, apparently she did somehow, but I can't particularly tell you in what way. Please, have a go at it.

I think the business lady was trying to tell them how to run the show, but the King was not having it. It may have been more fun to not know what they were saying and just imagine what they were talking about...

I think these guys must have been saying, "Sacrebleu! It's hot!!!"
This was the point where the lances shattered. I imaged them saying, "Prepare to be unhorsed!" The reply would have been, "Sacrebleu! My lance".

There was plenty of sword fighting. He said, "Sacrebleu, you are faster than you look." To which the man in yellow who slightly resembled Orlando Bloom said, "It's from my days on the Black Pearl and training with Aragorn and Gimlee.
There was plenty of unfair fighting, too. Axe to shield?! Sacrebleu, that's not fair!
Sacrebleu! "Funny Guy" kicks "Serious Guy's" butt.
Ah, yes. Sacrebleu, here is Randi's future husband. He's plenty hairy/beardy enough!
He's definitely looking for her.  
I don't actually know what to say about this except, Sacrebleu, that dude is going to joust on a cow!

Again, I digress. There was plenty of fun to be had at the tournament. However, the wall and its views were magnificent! Here is an actual model of the grounds. Some of the fortifications were made by Visigoths, some by Romans, and some by others. Sadly, the castle was left for ruin, badly damaged and in need of repair. None of that shows today...except for one small piece. In the model on the top right there is a circle on the outside of the fortifications. It was used by the city's army to defend the stronghold with a 360 degree vantage point. After all, some of the fighting was amongst this city and the part just below in the valley. It's crazy to see how much work went into restoring it, and I am thankful that we were able to see it!
From my lookout post on the wall, I had very diverse views....

 To the left were the fields and farmlands.
The city was directly in front of me and to the right. 


Inside the inner castle
Here's where the circle used to connect!
So, the day was drawing to a close. Unfortunately for Will, not before I found some cool medical displays in the pharmacy windows. Yes, I gawked. 
After I had my fill of antic medical supplies, we returned to our temporary French piso. 
Saturday morning we headed out and took the train back to Narbonne, but not before I snapped a picture of this car that I had been admiring during our stay. Actually, I snapped it as we were speed walking to the train station. 
I thought we were in a hurry once we got to Narbonne, so we didn't stop to check out the super fun market.

We went into the bus stop office, but the sign said it was part of a different company than the one we were using. We thought we might need to check in, but the girl in the office shut her door when we came in. I took that to mean she didn't want to speak with me. So, we tried to get some breakfast. Apparently, between 0900 and 1100, you cannot get food from restaurants in Narbonne. We were only able to get coffee. Le sigh.

We eventually returned to wait at the bus stop, but the bus didn't come. We waited, and waited, and finally I got the courage to try to talk to the attendant. She asked me why I didn't come sooner and said that I would "have to wait". I'm not sure why I needed to come sooner if she wanted me to wait, but that was her suggestion. She checked us in, and we proceeded to wait. I actually got a tan sitting there in the hot sun and waiting. We checked with her again, and she said that the bus was running late. I think it finally arrived an hour later. The driver asked us a question, which I presume was if we had checked in or not, argued with us about keeping our one bag with us on the bus, and we were off. 

Barcelona, sweet Barcelona. We missed you! 

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