Day 10: An Evening of Tears in Carcassonne

“So, it’s day 10 of your trip. What has your favorite location or experience been so far?”

“Well, umm, everywhere has been amazing, but the hotel in Carcassonne has a shower that an actual adult sized human can comfortably wash in, so…”

Day 10. I left Sarlat this morning and am now in Carcassonne. Other than how amazing my hotel is, I’m not terribly impressed with Carcassonne so far.

There don’t seem to be any women around. There are men out on the streets chatting, usually on street corners. When I pass they stop talking and stare. It’s rather disconcerting.

Furthermore, I haven’t seen much that has been delightful to the eye. I made it a goal to try to find some beauty here, and today’s photos are a result of that effort. There are only two. I’m hoping when I explore Carcassonne’s medieval citadel (“La Cité”) tomorrow I will find better inspiration.

Also, trying to find dinner was incredibly frustrating.

I was hungry. The train ride was long and I did not eat much for breakfast this morning.

The lovely host at my hotel recommended a specific spot for the best cassoulet. It was slightly early for dinner, so I set out in search of a wine bar where I might sit and have something light while waiting for restaurants to open.

There were several cozy-looking bars I passed by. Each one was full of middle-aged and older men, though, who stared at me as I approached the entrance. Perhaps they were harmless. Perhaps they were simply curious about who I might be. And yet the fact of a woman walking around alone being an oddity to them made me very uncomfortable. I opted to keep walking.

I arrived at the restaurant a few moments before they opened, and asked if they were seating people yet. The hostess looked me over and sneered, before telling me they were full up with reservations that night.

As I turned to leave the restaurant, looking for somewhere I might sit for a minute and look up dining options on my phone, the skies opened and a downpour began. I had an umbrella with me, but I was hungry, tired, sick of being stared at, annoyed that I was in a town with no place to sit and pause for a moment when one wanted to, and overall very much not feeling like my best self.

The tears started as I looked around me, trying to figure out what to do. Thankfully, I spotted an arch over the walkway, and was able to find some relief from the deluge there. I sobbed quietly and with great shame about my lack of self-control while I looked at Google Maps in search of somewhere I might eat and not coming up with much.

I walked many blocks huddled under the loaner umbrella from the hotel, crying a little and trying to find food.

Finally, I found a place that was open and not of the variety I had passed previously. It was brightly lit and I could see a young woman was employed there. I went in and ordered a glass of wine and a bite to eat.

It was not a large restaurant. Tables were very close together. Squeezing my way into the very small seat had been difficult. I had felt the eyes of the restaurant employees on me as I awkwardly twisted my way behind the table and into the tiny chair. And while the roast camembert I had was lovely, I was thinking of it as an appetizer. When the server asked if I wanted dessert as she took the empty plate away, I didn’t have the nerve to admit I wanted an entree. Honestly, the looks I was getting made me feel like crawling into a hole and disappearing.

Since that wasn’t an option, I continued my quest for dinner.

Several blocks later, I eagerly approached a highly rated restaurant. The sign in the window announced they were closed for the evening due to a kitchen accident.

Another long walk later, finally, my day took an unexpected turn. A different place also had good reviews. It turned out to be a tiny bistro with only five tables, where the person working was kind and the menu looked delightful.

I was seated next to a friendly couple, both originally from Manhattan but now living near Sarlat, and wound up engaged in a wonderful conversation with them. As it turns out, they’re staying at the same hotel as me, so we made plans to breakfast together the next morning.

The glass of red wine I was drinking was lovely, yet when the server overheard my dinner companions and I talking enthusiastically about the wines of the region and those of the Pacific Northwest in the United States, she decided I should have something different. I wish I had taken better note of what she poured. Regardless, it was delightful, and her kindness was a soothing balm after an otherwise harsh introduction to Carcassonne.

THINGS I LEARNED TODAY:

All of these are things that came up while conversing with my dinner companions.

Foie gras is typically paired with a sweet wine, usually a Sauternes but others will do. I never heard this before and now I can’t wait to try it.

Also, the trusted website for amazing vacation rentals in France is www.gites-de-france.com

There were other things but I can’t remember them now. It was a lovely and lively conversation, and I was grateful for the company.

One of the guys: “Trying to compare Paris to Bordeaux is like trying to compare New York to Philadelphia.” I found this statement amusing, and judged it as probably quite accurate.

And with that, I shall retire for the evening. Tomorrow morning I will venture into La Cité for a bit before leaving for Arles later in the day.

I am glad I followed advice and am only in Carcassonne for one night.

Series Navigation<< Day 9: Touring Les Plus Beaux Villages de DordogneDay 11: Arles and Falling in Love >>

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