For the second half of our spring break adventure, my mother and I boarded a rocky Ryan Air flight from Stansted to Carcassonne after navigating a glitzy duty free shopping minefield. The remaining five days of our trip would be split between a day and a half in a small town in the south of France, Carcassonne, and the capital of the country – Paris. When we landed in France we walked right out on the tarmac – putting on our sunglasses and stripping our layers to enjoy the sunny weather. After the gloomy England clouds, it finally felt like a spring break. Carcassonne turned out to be my favorite stop of the trip.
La Cite de Carcassonne is an ancient walled city, first conquered and built by the Romans in the fourth century. Over time, various regimes had conquered it and restyled it according to their fashion. Now, it feels like entering the portal to another world, where there could be a princess or a knight just around the corner. It’s filled with little boutiques and cafes ready to sell you a cute trinket, a glass of local, impeccable red wine or a freshly baked crepe. I lost count of the number of streetside Nutella banana crepes I purchased over the course of the long weekend. On my first morning in Carcassonne, I ran through the winding, ancient city streets – with everything in French, a language I don’t speak, they were reminiscent of how nonsensical I found the streets of New Orleans while tipsy at Mardi Gras – I found a worn footpath. I followed it up the hill and somehow found myself surrounded by towering ancient stone walls on either side. They were crumbling around me, and yet the discarded beer cans let me know that they were at least safe enough the local teenagers were willing to scale them. Following suit, I found a centuries-old staircase, and began my ascent. I burrowed into a little divot, like the ones you see on the castle chess piece. The rising sun reflected over the Aude River just ahead of me, and I enjoyed the fresh morning air, feeling free and alive in a spot where I knew countless must have come before me. Only on my reluctant climb down did I notice the “Danger: Do not climb” warnings that marked the footpath I had taken.
We took a train to Paris via Narbonne on Friday. Heading back north, we reentered the gloom and scattered rain, so it felt like we had arrived in Seattle, only older and even more beautiful. We spent our time in Paris picnicking in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, hiking the steps of Montmartre, sipping wine along the Siene River, attending the ballet at the Paris Opera House, enjoying dinner at a Michelin-star restaurant, entering a speakeasy through the washing machine in a laundromat, attending a service at Notre Dame, visiting the Musee Lourve, D’Orsay, L’Orangerie and Gustave Moreau, eating macarons in the park, and losing ourselves in the romance of the city.
In short. Paris in the spring was everything they said it would be and more.