From L’Hospitalet we drive back to Switzerland, first crossing the Pyrenees and stopping at Carcassone. The next day we continue through the rough plateau mountains of Causses and stay overnight at Laguiole. Finally on the third day we take the French motorway end enter Switzerland crossing the Pas de Morgins. Let me start with the first segment from Spain to Carcassone.
Crossing the Penedès with Santa Creuz
Penedès is the wine region south of Barcelona that among other things produces the well-known sparkling wine Cava. Amidst the vineyards is the monastery Santa Creuz. The Kings of Aragon have been buried here, until the monastery of Poblet took over.
Inside the walls there is a small town. The monastery is closed at lunch time. It will be on our list of excursions when coming back to L’Hospitalet.
The vineyards of the Penedès are not as steep as the vineyards of Priorat.
We reach the Pyrenees and drive uphill on a sinuous road. It starts to rain. At the Coll d’Ares or Col d’Arès we cross the border to France. This sign promises great photos here.
And this was the view… it WAS misty here.
Above Prats-de-Mollo, Vauban (the architect of Louis XIV) has built the Fort Lagarde with the bastions typical of his strategy of defense (late 17th century). In the narrow streets the traffic halts for some time, as a lorry got stuck. All cars are waiting calmly.
At Narbonne we take the motorway. Heavy wind makes the cypresses bend. We cross the vineyards of the Langedoc-Roussilon and reach gorgeous Carcassone where we stop for a night.
Carcassone – a fairy tale fortress
Carcassone is located in the Aude plain between the Massif Central and the Pyrenees. It was of strategic importance. The Romans had a fortification here, the Visigoths conquered it in the 5th century and the Saracens defended it successfully in the 8th century. Around 1200 the Cathars used it. In the Hundred Years War it withstood attacks by the English. Until the 17th century it was a fortress at the border between Aragon (Spain) and France, but then the Languedoc-Roussillon was transferred to France and Carcassone lost its importance as a fortress (“Carcassone – katharische Burgen”, Estel 2011).
Tourists love Carcassone. Buses are allowed to to stop here for a few minutes and “download” tourists.
Inside the walls is a city with narrow streets. Many restaurants invite for dinner…
… and many, many shops invite to buy souvenirs (but not to sit down).
The restaurants offer home made cassoulet (fait maison). This meal is more for people who have worked in the fields all day.
I prefer lamb with herbs.
… and then we sleep well in our quiet hotel.