Sun/Mon, 14th/15th Sept – Cordes sur Ciel

Sun:

Arrived here around 5pm. This was just an aire that seemed to be about the right distance to drive from Carcassonne and for us to spend the night before moving-on. It’s a small town, but – according to the various “Aires Guides” we have – hosts an aire big enough for 30 motorhomes. I tend to aim for the bigger ones as there’s more likelihood of being able to find a space than some of the smaller ones – and there are plenty of those that take 3 or 5 camper vans. Retrospectively, I guess the size of the aire might well be proportional to the popularity/”touristicness” of the town, so maybe there’s a clue there?

Anyway, as we drove into town, we couldn’t help notice the ancient walled city high above. The signs pointing to “La Cité” were also a bit of a giveaway. We’d have to investigate in the morning.

Mon:

It’s a long climb from the aire – right down below the “new” town – up to La Cité. It’s also pretty steep in parts up the cobbled roads: Those mediaeval folk must have been fit.

This was yet another Cathar stronghold and dates back to 1222. On a smaller scale than Carcassonne, and having less strategic purpose, it nevertheless has 5 walls built around it – though the 5th, outermost wall no longer exists. The problem with the walls was that – no sooner had a new, outer wall been built, than people would start building houses and places of work up against them, on the outside. This in turn reduced the effectiveness of the walls as a means of defence, and allowed the population to grow, meaning a new wall would need to be built further out. And the process would just repeat itself.

Most of the 13th century gates into the town still exist, though features like drawbridges, moats and ditches have been removed over the years.

Porte de l’horologe (clock gate)
Part of the 3rd wall
Port de vainquers (conqueror’s gate)

What we thought would only take us an hour or two to view, actually took up the best part of four hours so it was a little later than anticipated before we set off to our next destination: a couple of nights of luxury (hopefully) at a campsite in another out of the way place called Rocamadour, in the National parc de Quercy, in the department of Lot.