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Sleeping Beauty Castle in Carcassonne, France – Day 33
Friday 14th August 2009 – France
My short stay in Andorra had come to an end and I was leaving today, bound for France. The road took me eastwards towards Soldeu, and I decided I would take the scenic route to France, rather than the 6 Euro tunnel that takes you straight there. It would always be the scenic route for me.
The fantastic views and winding roads eventually lead me to the lively ski resort of ‘Pas de la Casa’, and although it was not ski season, the tourists were out in numbers today, lining the sides of the roads with their vehicles before walking the distance into the busy shopping town. I wanted to go down and take a look but I knew it would take me the best part of a couple of hours to go there and come back, such was the volume of traffic. Instead I passed straight past, and only glimpsed at the fun that was taking place below me. I carried on towards the border as the roads busied themselves.
At the border control, I half expected to go straight through – going on past experience – but I know the French are a little more strict, and the possibility of a search was more likely. As it happens the guards were standing about smoking cigarettes, seemingly disinterested in the vehicles passing through. It wasn’t until my little car pulled up that they almost jumped out of their skins, ordering me to halt. A guy marched out from the office with a gun and ordered me to wind my windows down. In my panic I wound down the passenger window by mistake before correcting myself, then had the misfortune of having him yell a long sentence at me in French. I began to explain I was English, but before I finished my sentence, he repeated himself in broken English. He asked if I had anything to declare, I said “no”. He then asked if I had any alcohol, cigarettes etc, again I said “no”, by this time he was looking inquisitively at me, and into my car. He pointed to the side of the road to a clearing where I was ordered to park and open the boot of my car, which I did. It would be stupid of me not to really. Once the boot was open, he looked at the many items packed into the relatively small space and gave a sigh. He lifted the guitar case and said “guitar?”, I said “yes”. He then put it down and said it was OK for me to go now. Not much of a check eh!? Interrogation over, I re-entered my car and filed back into the queue of traffic, which had been moving steadily while my lengthy search was going on. No other car was pulled over, but then no other car was English I guess.
The rest of the drive today was fantastic. I entered France and was immediately confronted with countryside. Lush green fields and beautiful forests were in abundance in this area, and I drove on admiring every sight. The sat nav was leading me through the thickest of forest lands, and through country parks and by picnic areas, yet I was the only car on the road for much of the journey. When the kamikaze drivers approached from the other direction, it was up to me to get out of the way down the narrow roads, the other drivers not even slowing. There was only one car that moved aside for me, this car was English believe it or not. I suddenly had a little more respect for English drivers, but Europe as a whole is off the scales I think. You definitely take your life into your own hands on the roads in these countries.
Further on the roads began to turn a little more busy as I approached Carcassonne, home of a castle town (La Cite), that was the influence behind the castle from Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’. The building has been fully restored to look the part, although not to everyone’s taste.
I came to the campsite and claimed my little plot of land for the night. It was a nice site with divided areas for each camping plot, with rows of bushes all around. I liked it. It was then that I took the short walk to the castle and did the tourist bit. It was nice, and felt a little like Disney, although the paths were overrun with people, and I couldn’t really get anywhere very fast. I spent a long time visiting the various areas of the castle, and walking around the surrounding areas of this huge place. I sat by the river in the shaded woodland and had something to eat, then walked back in the direction of the campsite to see out the rest of the day.
It was good to use the Internet today in the site, and I bought some very warm water from the incredibly understocked shop before being reunited with my little tent. The rest of the evening was devoted to food and guitar, then I got ready for bed, trying to drown out the sound of the baby in the tent near me as it cried for most of the night.
Written by Daniel Stevens,
Founder of Roundtheworldtrip.org.
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