On Wednesday morning we left the empty ski resort of Les Angles and took a beautiful drive through the French Pyrenees (which followed an awesome river which I would like to try white water rafting in one day), and arrived in Carcassonne. A destination we chose because it was in the right direction and had a cool looking fortress we wanted to have a look at.
On arrival we found the most convenient place to park was a large Aire in the middle of the town and a 5 minute walk to the castle/walled city/fortress. We were also intrigued by the massive outdoor stage with stadium seating in the field next door where they were just starting some sound checks. We parked up pretty quickly and made our way over to the castle to have a look around. We found that the town is made up of an inner walled city, protected by two walls and a draw bridge, which is where all the tourists shops, restaurants, cafes and craft shops are housed, but has expanded outside of these walls to create the more expansive lower city.
We had a quick look in the tourist information center first and found out we had arrived at the start of a festival going on all over Carcassonne with different music events taking place over the following weeks on different stages. The stage in the field next door to us was opening with a group of famous French rappers that evening followed by David Guetta in a few days time. We weren't planning on staying in Carcassonne for very long, we thought one day was enough to look round this castle, but since we still had enough time before we had to get home and that the castle was free entry, we made a plan to look round the castle over the next couple of days and stay to see David Guetta on Friday night. We were planning on meeting up with Adam's dad the day after somewhere around St Tropez so we would just have to make up the miles that day. I wouldn't say we were David Guetta's biggest fans but why turn down a free gig?
For the rest of the day we looked round the castle, watched the horse drawn carriages, had a traditional regional French lunch in a cafe and then went back to the van to try and chill out but the sound check still going on was quiiite annoying. (Check, one, two, check, wooooo. Repeat 562 times). We decided to try and fix this by getting in a few bottles of wine and setting up our camping chairs next to the vin yard behind us so we could settle down and watch some traditional French hip hop for the evenings entertainment on stage. A few other people from the town had the same idea and watched from the vin yard with us. We made friends with a couple called Phillipe and Sandrine using tiny bits of French/English and mostly hand signs. They very much enjoyed and were big fans of the French hip hop group. (Wish I could remember what they were called...something along with lines of Sexual Abduction..maybe, I really can't remember).
Friday started off beautifully but unfortunately did not end so well. It was a really nice sunny day and we went to have another look round the castle, this time we followed the battlement walk which takes you all around the walls and has great views looking out from them. I can't remember much about the history of the castle because it had been invaded, knocked down and rebuilt so many times by different people but it was cool to see that in the walls themselves with all the different bricks and layouts.
We set up our chairs again to watch David Guetta and it was actually quite a good show and you could hear that the audience loved their fellow Frenchy, even if Guetta himself did sound a little bored, maybe it's just the accent? We had a happy night raving away in the vin yard with Phillipe and Sandrine again. We started to wind down after it had all finished but noticed that the barriers to the car park were up. We had been in the car park for a few days now so we knew we had racked up a small bill but thinking we could get away with it decided to drive just outside the barrier so we wouldn't have to pay, as we were leaving in the morning anyway.
It seems they say karma is a bitch for a reason. Instead of just staying put we decide to get a few miles under our belts and drive a bit further out of the town to stay somewhere else for the evening. It's around 2am by now but after jumping around for hours with all the excitement and loud music we're still not tired so it seems like a good idea. After driving about an hour into even more remote countryside we realised we've missed where we wanted to stay and try to turn around. We're surrounded by fields and on the reverse of the three point turn Adam accidentally puts the back of the van into a ditch at the side of the road, making the front wheels just raised enough to spin on the road and not pull us out. Brilliant, 3am in a ditch in the middle of no where!
Over the next hour we try and figure out what to do as we don't have breakdown cover (I may write a post on what not to do if you're going travelling in a van soon). We tried waiting to see if anyone would come along and we could see if they could pull us out as we had the rope for it. Three cars did come by, I thought it should be my job to wave them down as seeing a giant blue van blocking the whole of the road and grizzly Adams standing nearby might have seemed a little scary to the drivers, however all their cars were tiny so we had no choice but to direct them down the dirt track nearby to get around us. Eventually we called the AA and advised them we were stuck in a ditch with no cover and in France. They kindly gave us the number of a 24 hour garage nearby who miraculously understood our problem and where we were even though he spoke hardly any English. Twenty minutes later and 140 euros lighter we were out of our embarrassingly tiny ditch. Lesson learnt.
|Flashing lights of the tow truck|