Wednesday, 12 November 2008

French Facts: Carcassonne and the legend of Dame Carcas




Dame Carcas was the wife of the Saracen King who found herself in command of the near impenatable city of Carcassonne. At some stage late in the eight century  Charlemagne forces had surrounded and besieged the city after falling to take it by force.

The siege lasted for 5 long years by which time the garrison was in a state of famine.  Dame Carcas used straw impersonations to create the belief that the city was strongly defended and she spent all her time flailing her assailants with arrows.  With the remaining grains she fed up the last pig and threw it over the ramparts. 

The pig, splitting open on the ground spilled out all the grains.  Charlemagne gave up and lifted the siege thinking that if they had enough grain to feed to the pigs they could stay holed up in the city forever. 

Dame Carcas rang the bells all day long in celebration, which is where the name of the city is said to come "Carcas-sonne", sonne meaning "ring".

Carcassonne is the largest walled city in Europe. The city is surrounded by two concentric walls, the exterior one is 1650 metres and the interior one is 1250 metres.  Backing onto the interior ramparts of the inside is the Chateau Comtal which was partly built in the early 12th century and which is the last defense inside the city.


Toulouse or to win

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We parked up in Toulouse by 11:30, not bad going for getting away from home on route to Carcassonne.   Our plan was to have lunch and then wander the streets taking in the sights. Lunch was good, it was a bit of a grey day but at least we missed the rain.

First impressions were very good.. a very attractive and vibrant city.  The shopping looked great - fortunately most the high street stores were closed as it was a public holiday. Phew!!

This short visit was just that.... too short.  Might need to try and get back again.