The Tour de France starts from Carcassonne as it heads for the Pyrenees
As I write this blog, the Tour de France begins its assault of the Pyrenees with the riders tackling a tricky stage from Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon. The stage will give the riders a taste of things to come over the next few days, as it concludes with a climb of the 1,765m Port de Balès before they descend to the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon.
The Tour enjoyed a rest day in the medieval fortress town of Carcassonne just north of the Pyrenees to give the 170 remaining riders in the race a chance to rest up for the race’s final 912 kilometres. The riders will have relaxed, eaten, met with reporters and otherwise found ways to recover from the 2,752 kilometres that they’ve raced since the start on July 5th in Leeds.
Carcassonne has often featured in the Tour de France, being a useful staging post en-route to the Pyrenees from the Alps or vice-versa. Being the holiday season there will be many tourists in the area who will have taken their chance to see the world’s most famous cycle race as it started out from Carcassonne. Tourists are attracted to Carcassonne by its wonderful setting by the Canal du Midi in the Corbières wine region of France’s Languedoc. They are also drawn by the fairytale collection of drawbridges, towers and atmospheric cobbled streets which make up Carcassonne’s medieval Cité. The citadel is France’s second-most visited tourist spot after the EiffelTower, making it a very busy and bustling place in the peak of the tourist season.
It is well worth walking around the fortifications which consist of the inner and outer walls and visiting the Chateau Comptal. There are guided tours of the château which also take in sections of the walls. During the tour, you can discover archaeological artefacts found on-site, plus an explanation of the 19th-century restorations.
For anyone looking for something else to do once they’ve explored the citadel and wandered round the shops in the “new” town, it’s well worth spending at least a few hours on the Canal du Midi. The canal port in Carcassonne is one of the busiest on the whole canal and it is possible to take a whole or half day trip on the canal to enjoy some different views of the fairytale citadel.