Ax the way, (uh huh, uh huh) We like it…

Just an iPhone pic but Carcassonne is so photogenic at night.
Just an iPhone pic but Carcassonne is so photogenic at night.

Last night’s post finished with a wee aperitif before combing my hair (well, both of them) and heading back into the walled cité of Carcassonne to sample the local cuisine. The rain had stopped at last and while it wasn’t warm enough to eat outside it was much more pleasant than the weather we’ve been enduring for the last few days.

Carcassonne was very different in the evening; more relaxed, less crowded and with what seemed to be dozens of Brits staring vacantly at the menus outside the restaurants and saying ‘Yes, but what are gésiers? Really? Surely not..’ and ‘Does that have garlic in it?’ I have to confess here, my French isn’t brilliant but the old cliché about getting better service if you at least try a bit of French still holds very true. Last night was a case in point – the folks on the table next to us ordered before we did but in English (well, Yorkshire English) then we had a go at ordering in French and had a bit of a giggle with the waiter. We’d had apéritifs, starters and our mains were on the way before they’d even had a sniff of the waiter’s apron, never mind any food!

vImg_4148The local delicacy here is cassoulet, a hearty warming casserole based on well-cooked haricot beans and (in our case) an odd combination of a pork sausage and a duck thigh. Now haricot beans are what you find in your Heinz 57; these ones were in a more natural state without the sugar, colours and preservatives found in the tinned variety but by golly they were just as potent! I shall draw a veil over their effect on me but be assured we slept with Vince’s skylights open. Gill is telling me that’s too much information but I believe in hard-hitting, no punches pulled journalism blog nonsense and I feel I owe it to our subscribers to tell it like it is. Just wait until tomorrow’s post on all things toilet cassette…you might want to skip that one.

After our meal we had another wander round the cobbled and winding streets; it was a completely different experience to daytime. All the goods which had been hanging outside the boutiques – wicker creations, scarves, postcards, mosaic bowls and ornaments – had been taken in, and the night belonged to restaurants, floodlighting, sudden bursts of music as little bars’ doors opened & closed and to voices laughing and chatting as revellers made their way home. If you haven’t visited this place you really should add it to your list. vImg_4158

We eventually managed to work out what the car park charges were for the Carcassonne aire, and rather cheekily paid for yesterday afternoon, then drove out and back in again two minutes later taking a second ticket before we went for our evening meal. This saved us €9 over the price of just staying there until 8am. The other 20 motorhomers staying overnight either arrived later than we did, had higher morals, or weren’t as good at maths. It seems a crazy charging system but you can’t blame us for taking advantage of its failings!

We left just before 8am to save us any more charges and headed up the road for half an hour before stopping in a layby for breakfast. Our destination was Ax-les-Thermes where we find ourselves now, surrounded by proper mountains – they have snow on top and everything! As you can guess from the name it’s a spa town and to our delight there’s a sulphurous-smelling fountain in town feeding into a pool of clear, hot – and I mean very hot, water. There are three expensive spa-hotels offering room and treatment packages but personally I prefer to remain rugged and handsome. Or pasty and wrinkled as Gill politely put it.

The town’s other line of tourism is skiing and this may be why we found it a little quiet and tired-looking after the season. The hotels looked barely booked and the chair-lifts silent and stationary. It’s easy to imagine how it would look in the winter snow with a busy town square full of lively entertainment and holidaymakers.

Our campsite is an interesting one – I suppose they have to squeeze their plots out of difficult hilly terrain but really? You think I can get 3.5T of Vince up there to that pitch? Round those trees..? We tried two or three before settling on pitch number 526 and even with that one I’m not sure how I’m going to reverse out in the morning.

The plan tomorrow is to head for duty-free Nirvana in Andorra so Christmas lists of perfume and make-up are being emailed to us overnight, and we’ve run Vince’s diesel down to take advantage of the cheap fuel. We’ve found an aire on the web where we can park up overnight before a pretty long drive the next day through the mountains and up to Bagnères-de-Luchon where we hope to spend a couple of nights.

All being well we’ll talk to you then 🙂

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Fast-flowing and icy-cold through the campsite.
Fast-flowing and icy-cold through the campsite.

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Hot, steamy and smelly spring water.
Hot, steamy and smelly spring water.
Local cycle routes - they take cycling very seriously in these mountains.
Local cycle routes – they take cycling very seriously in these mountains.
About Ken Tomlinson 207 Articles
Semi-retired biker, blogger and world’s best grandad. Doesn’t take life too seriously. Discovered motorhoming in 2015, sold up and downsized to fund more travels. Now with added Yorkshire.

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