Carcassone on Sunday - a walled city on the hill above the modern city. Walls, moats, wells, turrets, chateau, and lots of souvenir shops and cafes. For some reason, entrance to everything was free, which was a bonus. We spent about 5 hours there, wandering through the winding streets, and we also went through the chateau from top to bottom. Imagined being up the top, firing arrows at the people below, and living in the stone rooms. Cool in the summer but no doubt freezing in the winter. Much of the old city has been restored, but there are still original elements everywhere.
I loved Carcassonne - until I spent the whole day yesterday climbing mountains (literally) to see three Cathar chateaux (castles). Queribus, Peyerpeteuse and Puilaurens. All the stairs I climbed in Paris and Menton in no way prepared me for the rock clambering up to each of these 12th century fortresses. But each one was worth it. As I drove along the valley below and looked up, they appeared on the ridges just as they would have hundreds of years ago. Stunning. And seemingly impenetrable, unless you laid seige to them, I guess.
Peyerpeteuse is probably in the best condition (all are just remains now) but in each one there is enough of the original walls and rooms and stairways to imagine how it would have been to live there. I loved every minute of it (OK, I didn't love the last thirty metres or so of each climb, when I thought my heart was going to fall out of my chest and lie gasping on the rocks). I've taken a million photos, but can post none of them yet as the internet cafe doesn't have the capacity to upload stuff. Will put some up next week.
As for research for my novel, you can't beat it. All I have to do is close my eyes and I am back at the castles, wind whistling past my ears, as I gaze down across the valley...