We wanted to continue exploring, but after 4 hours, our brains were starting to get slow from the constant processing and our stomachs were begging for some real food. So, we headed back down the hill and began the 1.2 mile trek to the hotel where we could check in, rest, and research dinner options. These are a few shots of the town of Carcassonne.
The kind husband and wife team, Marc and Séverine, showed us to our room; it was small but clean, though I probably would have been grossed out a few years back as it lacked all the frills USA hotels have that tend to hide grim. I really appreciated the tile floors in these rooms as carpet tends to gross me out, especially at hotels. We collapsed on the bed, exhausted. Our feet felt like they were going to fall off and our calf and thigh muscles throbbed; I was a little bit worried that our muscle fibers might explode. We were also dying of thirst, as we hadn’t been able to find a water fountain anywhere in the old city. We vegetated for the next hour until our hunger finally outweighed our exhaustion. We opted for Adelaïde Restaurant, a small French restuarant back in the old city. Our aching legs somehow managed to carry us back across town and up the long hill to the castle.
Jesse mumbled his way through a few French phrases and got us a table for “du” outside, and we were fortunate enough to get a waiter who spoke a teeny, teeny bit of English. We quenched our thirst with une carafe de vin rouge and une carafe d’eau (water) while skimming the menu options. We opted to get actual menus; in France, a menu has several courses in it and is usually the cheapest way to eat. Ordering one item (chicken + sides) is more expensive and is referred to as à la carte. It’s a little confusing, since in the USA a menu refers to the book that contains all the food options, and a la carte refers to a single item (1 taco). I can’t remember the names of everything (I neglected to get a photo of paper menu), but I got baked camembert as my entrée (also confusing, as this is what we know as an appetizer) and Jesse got a salad. We got different things so we could share them and taste more things. For les plats principals (main courses), I got cod with some sort of creamy sauce on it and saffron rice and Jesse got cassoulet (a traditional medieval peasant bean stew) with sausage and duck leg in it. Both were delicious, though Jesse’s was heartier and hit the spot after such a long day.
Dessert was fromage blanc and of course, the most famous of French desserts, crème brûlée. They were both delicious. Somehow the French creme brulee tasted lighter, more delicate and refined than any other I’d had before. It was also the perfect consistency – not too dense and custardy, but not under baked or runny. It was silky smooth and perfectly coated our mouths. The fromage blanc was also delicious and I am craving it as I write this. It was the perfect balance between tangy and sweet and had a refreshing, clean taste. It was a great finale to our first dinner experience in France. Actually, as we were eating, all we kept thinking was that we were eating our first French meal in France at a French restaurant in a French Castle at sunset. How freaking cool is that?! This whole day was mind blowing and unreal; this dining experience was just the icing on the cake. Jesse was having the time of his life, and I was thoroughly enjoying watching him experience a vast array of emotions. I’m not sure there’s much else in the world that would give him the adrenaline rush or high that exploring a castle did. I felt as I imagine many parents do while they watch their children wake up on Christmas morning; as much as I loved France, Carcassonne, the Castle, and the food, it was that much better because I was getting to watch Jesse experience it with so much joy and excitement.
After finishing out food, Jesse wanted to take one last walk through the castle and explore just a little bit more before the sun set completely. Much to our amusement, we passed a bunch of young adult who had bought wooden swords at one of the gift shops. They were having an epic sword fight that took them from the castle walls, down some stairs, and into a grassy patch. Their friends above cheered and taunted them on, and they all laughed hilariously as one guy pretended to die and the other excitedly proclaimed himself the victor. Jesse fought the urge to join in with them, though he couldn’t stop whispering to me how fun that looked and that he wanted to jump down and play with them. Had they all been 20 years younger, I’m sure that would’ve been completely socially appropriate.
Our walk took a little longer than expected, and it was getting dark by the time we headed out the gate and trekked back down the hill. As we got near the bridge to cross over the river, we saw police lights ahead. A little bit closer, and we saw the officers were stopping cars to protect a large procession of people walking though the intersection. They were gathering in front of a statute of Mary and singing to it. It was beautiful, and Jesse and I paused to watch. After they finished, the group continued walking, singing gently and carrying their lit candles. I was so glad to have experienced and seen something so unexpected, and it was a very poetic ending to our first day in France (I later learned they were celebrating the Assumption of Virgin Mary).