We made it to our destination of Carcassonne in the early afternoon today, and moored our barge just before the locks located in the center of town. We had plenty of time to stroll along the River Aude and into town to check out the newer part of the city, and to meander through the winding, cobbled streets of the imposing medieval fortified Cité de Carcassonne, which we had actually been able to glimpse from our barge on the Canal today. After walking, snapping photos, and peeking into the touristy little shops of the oldest walled city in Europe, lingering over drinks at one of the terrace cafés seemed to be the thing to do before our 8:00pm dinner reservation.
The Medieval Cité of Carcassonne
Dinner tonight was under the grape arbor on the terrace of Restaurant Comte Roger (14, rue Saint-Louis – La Cité – 04.68.11.93.40), where, after our first course of rich foie gras, we all partook in the not-to-be-missed local specialty, Cassoulet Languedocien, the basic recipe of which must always include duck or goose confit, pork rind & pure pork sausage, and white beans. The remaining ingredients depend on whether the Cassoulet is from Castelnaudary, Carcassonne, or from Toulouse. Another essential element of Cassoulet is that it must be baked in a clay pot or baking dish in the oven at a low temperature, and the crusty film that forms on top should be broken several times before the baking is complete. Some say that it should be broken precisely seven times to guarantee a delicious Cassoulet. According to Chef Prosper Montagné, the author of “Larousse Gastronomique” in 1938 and “La Festin Occitan” in 1929, Cassoulet is the God of Occitane Cuisine. He is also quoted as saying (in French) that Cassoulet de Castelnaudary is the Father, Cassoulet de Carcassonne is the Son, and Cassoulet de Toulouse is the Holy Spirit. And, of course, to make sure that our arteries stayed good and healthy, we washed everything down with a healthy dose of red wine, a local Syrah, which was the perfect accompaniment. Each of us had chosen the Grand Marnier Soufflé for dessert, with a touch of oozing chocolate in the warm center. The ambience continued to be amazing during our after-dinner stroll in the beautifully-illuminated Cité.