Albi to Carcassonne to Narbonne

Yesterday was a three strike day as far as staying overnight.  First was Albi and market day.  Second, we drove to Carcassonne to the 2000 vehicle pay parking lot at the citadel where supposedly there is an Aires for 50 motor homes.   Normally when there is motor home parking, there are directional signs.  None – just the ones forbidding entry to motor homes.  Luckily, after driving all around the downtown,  we found a small free parking area on the opposite side of the walled fortress.  Steve then walked at least a mile trying to find the RV lot.  After he got back we ate lunch and then searched together using the GPS directions which took us right back to the big parking lot.  So we toured the site and went into the information office and were told yes, there is motor home parking almost right in front of the gate where we had entered the fortress.  He even gave us a map and then we walked all over creation and still could not find it.  I could fill a whole book on our experiences trying to find Aires.  But the best/worst experience was attempting to leave Florac.  The road we came in on was one way.  The second road took us to the downtown plaza where the road to the other side was non-negotiable for us.  The third (which we tried) was a steep, steep climb over the mountains.  The fourth was forbidden for vehicles over 3.5 tons.  That was our only choice so we took it.  How the other campers left will always be a mystery.  Steve tried to talk to one to find the way out but he only spoke French.  We aren’t meeting many people who speak any English or German.
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Evidence of the Carcassonne settlement dates from the sixth century B.C.  Parts of the inner walls and tower date from the Roman period.  By the 12th century, the town was one of the great powers of the south.  Carcassonne is on The Cathar Trail which is a remote and beautiful region of France with a rich variety of historical sights.  For some reason, I had envisioned that this part of France would be dry, brown, and flat.  It’s not at all that way – the scenery changes continually.  The shorter mountain range we drove over to get to Carcassonne was lush forest with ferns and looked much like driving in the northwest Cascades.  I need to add that we didn’t take the main highway nor the minor highway.  It was almost a forest service road.  When people talk about how crowded Europe is, just drive in France on secondary (thirdondary should be a word) roads and you will see miles of country and rarely a car.
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This picture is from a post card and you can see how enormous the citadel is.  There’s actually a town within it’s walls with very narrow lanes (pedestrian only) and many eateries and shops. And hordes of tourists.
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Tourists are only allowed on the upper wall that circles the site in horse drawn tour carriages.  The caps were hand crocheted.  I wonder how one of these would look on our dog.
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Next, we drove to Trebes where there was “supposed” to be a nice Aires on the Canal du Midi next to the marina.  We found the location easily but the Aires was history. That was a real disappointment because it was so scenic and just a short walk over the bridge into quaint Trebes.
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Now we are taking a much needed vacation (maybe two days) from every day touring.  When we drove into the large beach Aires near Narbonne a German man came over to us and said that he was at the same Stellplatz as us on the Mosel River.  Given that there are a thousands and thousands of camper stops (not campgrounds) in Europe, that is quite a coincidence.  This Aires is one of those places where campers come to relax and stay a while.  There’s nothing to see except sand so that forces us to do nothing.
If you are reading this and interested in RVing in Europe, and perhaps don’t want to ship an RV over, there is a couple living in Prague who have a 2008 View J for sale.  Their RV is listed on EBay US.  Or email me (address at top of our home page) and I will send you the email address of the sellers.


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