We stopped by Salon Mickey, checked out of the hotel and made our way to Gare Marne La Vallee Chessy. We were catching the train to Montpellier to begin our journey across Southern France. Our platform was only announced 10 minutes before the train arrived. The station was poorly signed and we had no way of knowing where to stand for our coach. We had to get it right because the train didn't stop for very long at the station. We had to sprint down 6 carriages and only just made it on in time. Thank goodness for 4 wheeled suitcases! The four hour journey flew past. It was a lovely way to travel being able to see the french countryside roll by. Everyone was thankful to have some time to sit and do nothing! Fortunately our seats were right next to the door which it made for an easy exit at our destination.
|On the train to Montpellier|
|Trying to draw her newly acquired Disney figurines|
|Playing chess with Star Wars pieces|
The train ran 15 minutes late and we had difficulty locating the car hire depot at Montpellier. Once we found it, we spent an incredible 45 minutes just going through paperwork to pick up the car. Our original plan of arriving at Carcassonne by 6pm was now looking highly optimistic. We were lless than happy to then be told that they didn't have any of the Grand Picasso that we had booked. Malcolm firmly told the attendant that the car had better be able to fit our family and our suitcases. It was a case of be careful what you wish for. We walked to our car to find a Mercedes B2, a van which fitted 9. Malcolm went grey re-acquainting himself with driving on the wrong side of the road in a behemoth of a vehicle by European standards on narrow streets which were poorly signed. Despite having a GPS, we missed a few turn offs and went around on a few roundabouts reminiscent of the Griswalds in National Lampoons vacation. After circling for about 15 minutes, we finally made it onto the highway towards Carcassonne. It was a miracle that we survived it with good humour. The children thought it was fun...
|Trying to arrive at Carcassonne before the sun sets...|
|Our Mercedes B2|
|Finally...on our way heading in the right direction!|
The french roads were in excellent condition except that there were no streetlights! This meant driving took a lot of concentrating. We were relieved to finally see the magnificent lit up walled city of Carcassonne in sight Our navigating woes for the evening though was to continue. We were staying at the Hotel de la Cite which was within the walled city. Although we could see the walled city, we could not get to it! We circled around it twice before giving up and calling the hotel. Patricia who answered the phone, thankfully worked out where we were quickly and stayed on the phone giving us explicit instructions to follow. By the time we arrived at the entrance to the walled city, she had arranged for someone to be there for us to follow. He was driving the tiniest of cars and was leading us through the tightest of streets in a medieval city. We were in a big van. Malcolm's hair went from grey to white. I was almost positive that he side swiped the Christmas tree that belonged to one of the shops along the street...
|Our first glimpse of the walled city|
|Uh...you want us to drive our van up that street?!?!|
Our rooms were beautiful and luxuriously appointed. They were huge by European standards and the way they were designed made it feel like we had an apartment. The marbled bathrooms were gorgeous complete with a dressing gown for each member of the family. There was a loofah in each bathroom and even a little soap for each child. The chocolates by the bed were castle shaped which the children loved!
|Our hotel for the night|
|Beautifully ornate and big rooms|
|The hallway leading to the children's "quarters. Bathroom, toilet and closet ahead. And to the right...|
|...their massive bedroom!|
|All amenities included|
|Individual soaps for the children!|
Excitement was running high so we took 10 minutes for a quick exploratory walk within the walled city before having our dinner at a local brasserie recommended by Patricia. The food was surprisingly reasonably priced. By now, the energy levels were running low as it was well past 9 pm. We finished up quickly and walked back the short distance back to the hotel. The children wanted to try some of the exotic looking toiletries so we obliged them. With the scent of juniper and white nettle in their hair and their little bodies smelling of invigorating citrus we sent then to bed.
|Walking back into the walled city after a quick exploration. This was the same entrance that we had to drive through!|
|Dinner venue for the evening|
|My very first dish in Southern France. Cured meat and parmesan salad. Very nice!|
|Cassoulet, a regional specialty with sausage, beans, duck and pork|