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The Rockets Rouge Glare
August 16, 2006 12:07 AM   Subscribe

In the South of France you'll find the fortified city of Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a classic example of the medieval fortified city. Built upon the ruins of forts that predate Christianity, Carcassonne is one of the most photogenic places I've ever seen, never more so than on Bastille Day, when the city sets the night sky ablaze. A full gallery of Carcassonne fireworks can be found here.
posted by jonson (35 comments total)

 
and a great, great boardgame
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 12:11 AM on August 16, 2006


Tangentially related, this Frenchman's valiant attempt at English (certainly much better than my French would be) adds a dimension of good-natured amusement to this set of pages dedicated to the castle's defensive structure ("on both sides of you, you are being shot from the loopholes and somebody is sending you stone balls").
posted by jonson at 12:12 AM on August 16, 2006


Damn right, BrodieShadetree - the ony way to get a non-gaming wife into it.

Carcassonne had a big role in the suppression of dangerous catharism, which incidentally provided the famous quote "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eis" — Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own
posted by wilful at 12:17 AM on August 16, 2006


You should go to the Museum of Torture in Carcassonne: they have an anal pear there. This alone saves it from being a bit like Disneyland.
posted by rhymer at 1:21 AM on August 16, 2006


It's an amazing place. Thanks for the links, jonson.
posted by homunculus at 1:42 AM on August 16, 2006


Was there in '89. Thanks for the flashback, jonson :)
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:08 AM on August 16, 2006


UNESCO world heritage sites are thin on the ground but Carcassonne actually has two if you count the 17th century Canal du Midi which runs through it. You will get more peace by the canal than you will in the old town.
posted by rongorongo at 2:08 AM on August 16, 2006


The Languedoc rocks.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 2:10 AM on August 16, 2006


Catalonia does too, but it doesn't rhyme.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 2:13 AM on August 16, 2006


The Languedoc rocks.

Indeed it does - although if I never eat another duck it'll be too soon, they're crazy for it down there.
posted by oh pollo! at 2:53 AM on August 16, 2006


UNESCO world heritage sites are thin on the ground but Carcassonne actually has two if you count the 17th century Canal du Midi which runs through it

Sweet! I cannot remember the canal, but I must surely have seen it. This officially takes me to 100 UNESCO sites. Remind me to shout you a drink, next time you are in Sydney :)
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:13 AM on August 16, 2006


As a kid we often went to Concarneau in Brittany - a fishing town which took the rather unusual step of putting it's walled quarter out in the harbour.

You get into the old town by crossing a stone bridge onto an entirely fortified island.

I have no idea if the island was man made or not, and my google searches all insist on telling you about the fishing fleet and the beaches rather than the old town.

So yes, in conculsion this was a completely pointless reply. :)
posted by twine42 at 4:56 AM on August 16, 2006


Better than nothing, is this pic of Concarneau from the air.
posted by twine42 at 5:03 AM on August 16, 2006


I'm thinking about a trip to Montpellier and Nimes next year; is Carcasonne close enough for a day trip?
posted by pax digita at 5:21 AM on August 16, 2006


Definitely close enough, probably an hour or so on the highway from Montpelier and well worth the drive through the scenic Corbieres.

While you are there, there are lots of other, non-rebuilt but nevertheless stunning Cathar Castles, mostly perched on mountain tops, that are well worth checking out.

I am a big fan of this area, it's people and their 900 year old grudge.
posted by duncan42 at 6:40 AM on August 16, 2006


Doh! I did mean Montpellier. Not that I've got anything against Vermont.
posted by duncan42 at 6:46 AM on August 16, 2006


The link to night shrinks the window in firefox. When i backed out and returned, it downsized it again. So i just kept going back and forth until all that was left of the pretty fireworks was a tiny navigation box.
Entertaining, Thanks!
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:56 AM on August 16, 2006


It's largely a 19th century fake of course - rebuilt based on a romantic idea of waht a castle should look like.
posted by Artw at 7:19 AM on August 16, 2006


900 year old grudge? Whoa, I knew they used to speak Occitan down there, but what else don't I know that I ought to? Got any good links I should read?

(Having grown up in the city that spawned the Secession and later got one-third destroyed by fire, I can relate to grudges that become culturally institutionalized....)
posted by pax digita at 7:50 AM on August 16, 2006


The rockets rouge glare.

Talk about varied interests jonson! Carcassonne is an amazing place. Love the looks of medieval fortified cities (though I'm so glad I didn't live then).
posted by nickyskye at 8:16 AM on August 16, 2006


I actually remember watching a real world/road rules type of show on MTV where they had to help set fireworks at this place. It looks very scenic but also more than a bit desolate - out in the middle of very wide plains - reminds me of the American mid-west.
posted by sporky at 8:31 AM on August 16, 2006


though I'm so glad I didn't live then

Me too, nicky. Imagine the toilet paper issues alone!
posted by jonson at 8:51 AM on August 16, 2006


Carcasonne is just one of many really wierd and wonderful castles built by the Cathars in this area of France ... In particular we've talked about Montsegur before ... and Rennes-le-Château now, of course, even more popularised by Dan Brown
posted by dickdotcom at 9:15 AM on August 16, 2006


I love this place! Maybe I'll get to visit someday. I'm curious, though, why wilful considers the Cathars dangerous.
posted by owhydididoit at 9:25 AM on August 16, 2006


I stayed in Carcassonne for two nights in a hotel in the old city with a beautiful view. The town is awfully touristy, but also beautiful and pleasant. Particularly in the evening when most of the tourists have gone home.

If you want a truly crazy Cathar experience, visit Albi a couple hours' drive north. Great town and the fortress-like Basilica of Sainte Cecile was Rome's way of saying there'd be no more heresies in this part of the Holy Roman Empire.
posted by Nelson at 9:25 AM on August 16, 2006


"You should go to the Museum of Torture in Carcassonne: they have an anal pear there. This alone saves it from being a bit like Disneyland."

I'm sure Uncle Walt has one stashed away somewhere, security at Disneyland is much tighter than most people realize.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:22 AM on August 16, 2006


Imagine the toilet paper issues alone!

Using water is, in my own experience, much nicer, fresher, more hygenic, environmentally economical than toilet paper. Though Medieval toilets must have been no fun to clean.

I was thinking more about things like the torture inflicted during the Inquisition, Carcassonne Torture Museum, an oubliette, the pear...glad not to have lived during those times...
posted by nickyskye at 11:09 AM on August 16, 2006


On our first trip to France we ended up in Carcassonne for Bastille Day without having any idea that it was a "thing" to do. We didn't plan all that well and ended up sleeping in a dingy room above a bar that even Let's Go turned their noses up at. Nonetheless, it was one of the most magical stops on the journey. The fireworks spilled out over the walls like burning oil and we were adopted by a young Frenchwoman who guided us through the old city after we were lucky enough to sit next to her at the fireworks. I use the story as a counter-example when people tell me how rude and unfriendly the French are. It was one of the best days of a very, very good trip.
posted by Lame_username at 11:39 AM on August 16, 2006


Carcassonne has, like a '32 Duesenberg, been through several kinds of 'renovation'. A friend who's an engineering historian pointed out some recent (1800s) wall repairs to me recently, which incorporated bits of brick and the wrong kind of stone.

The grey slate roofs that are such a feature of Carcassonne's 'look' are going to be removed, not because they cannot find slaters to keep them in repair, but because the slates were installed in the 18th century and they are not original. Baked tiles will replace the slates, in keeping with what was on there shortly after the towers were built.
posted by jet_silver at 12:00 PM on August 16, 2006


I think theres some kind of cottage industry making anal pears and the like as I've seen those museums all over Europe. Very popular with Americans.
posted by Artw at 12:37 PM on August 16, 2006


Lame_username: I had almost precisely the same thing happen to me on Bastille Day in Carcassonne some 22 years ago. It was the first time I drank beer from a boot, we smoked some amazing hash and watched the fireworks light up the city from the riverbank. My "guide" ended up taking me home for the night...I hadn't thought about that night for years....*sigh*

Vive la France!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:04 PM on August 16, 2006


I'm curious, though, why wilful considers the Cathars dangerous.

Dangerous to the papists, that is.
posted by wilful at 5:50 PM on August 16, 2006


You should play the game too.
posted by exon at 7:18 PM on August 16, 2006


Please accept my apologies Pax Digita for not replying to your question earlier.

I am no expert, but there are plenty of web sites demonstrating the still living links to the mystical but rather tragic Cathar past in this region. It must be tough to come from somewhere who's history and culture is based around such a traumatic event.

Incidently, I believe that plenty of folks do speak Occitane, (which if I am not mistaken is similar to Catalan). There is Occitane language TV in France and this Occ-French-English web site features tutorials.
posted by duncan42 at 9:45 AM on August 22, 2006


One of these days, I'll manage to post in one go. That would be ... mystical.
posted by duncan42 at 9:50 AM on August 22, 2006


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