We entered France kind of by default. After Spain we wanted to go through Andorra. A tiny little country that is really sandwiched between France and Spain. Knowing nothing about Andorra our only attraction to it was to be able to say, “Yes! We’ve been to that tiny little country between Spain and France.” BUT, we had a reservations in Paris and that schedule didn’t allow for Andorra; we drove straight into France.
Sunday March 22 we arrived at Carcassonne just about sunset. Too late to see anything so we found a reasonably priced chain hotel (39 Euros) nearby.
The next day we spent a half day wandering around inside the walled city. Carcassonne is a medieval town in southwest France. The main gate has a classic drawbridge and moat. (Dried up of course) As soon as you pass though the gate you step back in time to walk on narrow cobble stone streets lined with cozy little shops and buildings from centuries ago.
You are not totally submerged in medieval times as the shops are now selling souvenirs and junk food to bus loads of tourists.
The existence of people living on the hill where the fortified city of Carcassonne sits, goes WAAAAY back. Back to about 3500BC. By the 6th century BC it had become an important trading post. Then around 100BC the Romans show up and say, “This is a pretty good spot, let’s make it one of ours.” By the middle ages (Year 1100 or so) Carcassonne was a well established city with a wall surrounding it. It was the site of some battles and was involved in one of the crusades. It became part of the Kingdom of France in 1247. In 1853 the fortress of Carcassonne underwent a big restoration. In 1997 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site. It deserves it… its really cool.
By afternoon on Monday we were on our way to Bordeaux. The drive was nice and the scenery was fabulous. However, France is a big country and by 5pm we were only half way to Bordeaux. We searched for another chain motel. We found one but their price was high and their rooms were old and worn out. Across the street was another motel. Their rooms were similarly priced but much nicer. I said we’ll take it.
All along our travels Soon Jeong has been telling me to ALWAYS ask for a discount. I ignored her advice because in Europe prices are fixed. Right? It’s not like Bolivia. First world western countries are not on the barter system any more. Room prices are usually posted right at the front desk. Fortunately my wife has a little broader thinking that I do. She talked to the manager and I don’t know what she said but Soon Jeong got our room for 5 Euros cheaper!
I promised our couchsurfing hosts we would be in Bordeaux by 6:00pm on Tuesday. I was on time. Getting on to their street was a more difficult because my instructions were “…just after Quinconces Square turn left. Well, I’ve never been to Bordeaux and Quinconces Square was not marked with a big sign that says, Here is Quinconces. So I ended up circling around a few times before I made the correct left turn. Then I had to do a right and another right because the street we wanted was a one-way street.
After 30 minutes I was on the correct street. In the e mail instructions I had the directions to the street and the cell phone number of Fleu, our host. What I didn’t have was the exact building number of their apartment.
It was illegal to park on the street because it was so narrow. Ignoring that, I parked with the emergency flashers on. Soon Jeong and I got out and walked along the street looking at the apartments buildings hoping for some clue or sign. Or hoping that fluw would be watching out the window for us. A nice French man stopped and asked us if we needed help. I told him we were looking for the apartment of Flow and Julian. The man didn’t know them and asked me what was the number of their apartment. I explained our situation. He said we should call them. I said we didn’t have a cell phone. To the man’s credit he didn’t say anything like “Whao how dumb of you!” or “Stupid American” or worse, a sarcastic noise of Pbhhhh or something like that. No, the nice French man just pulled out his cell phone and made the call. The apartment was #14, just two doors down.
After greetings and unloading our luggage, Flow got into our car and directed me to the closest free parking. Because of the one-way streets, this took another 30 minutes and four circles.
By time it was dark, we were safely in the cozy apartment of Flow and Julian in Bordeaux France.