Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No Culture Overload

It may look, from the many pictures we took over the past six days, like we all got a big dose of looking at churches, castles and other architectural delights while we were gone, not true! Of the six days we spent in Toulouse, we managed a one-hour visit of the center, just the time to glimpse at the Place du Capitol, the town square and have a nice, unhurried visit of les Jacobins, my favorite cathedral of all time. The rest of the time we spent with friends; talking, eating, playing, watching them cook and talking some more.

As an American, though, it is great to be able to share my favorite sites from the region with my children. We had not done much touring in the past, as they were young, time was short and the weather miserable the last couple of visits. Now we have three months, they are all old enough to walk on their own, and what we are seeing can be directly linked to a sense of history they are starting to develop in their studies.

We went to Carcassonne, which is about as cool as only Carcassonne can be. EVERYONE loved it, of course. It is a dream world, one you never think you will find in real life. When we mentioned we were heading there for the day, a friend, his daughters, his mother, his father and a young cousin joined us. We drove first to the spot on the highway that offers a panoramic view of the fortified town. As we all oohed and aahed, we greatly enjoyed watching and listening to the children see the sight for the first time. We picnicked with a view of the citadel and then headed over to see it first-hand.

There were the ramparts to climb on, with parapets to look out, window slits to imagine battles from, and lower holes for the pouring of boiling oil. The battlements run three kilometers around,(I've done enough research for this article, have your kids calculate how many miles that is), making it the largest walled city in the world. It seems at first as though you could easily run around the entire town, but they tired soon, well, not all of them, but one of mine was on crutches and another little girl in a wheel chair. We entered the town, just avoiding an accident between a tiny car and my little guy, Arthur. Cars, in a medieval town?

Next there was a lovely basilica where an Eastern European men's choir was giving a concert a cappella. The church is beautiful, the gargoyles are scary and funny all at once, and they have their own history. We meandered through the winding cobbled streets, up and down hills, until we came to the castle keep. I made a decision to take all of the kids through, since only adults had to pay and no other adult was as keen on seeing it as I was. I will never tire of Carcassonne. Even Arthur, five and a half, who hates museums, insisted on coming and promised not to pronounce the words: "I'm bored." He needed no reminding, as there is something new to see each time you turn a corner of this fascinating structure.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, have a nice tour.

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