Daily Archives: September 8, 2023

Wednesday September 6 – Paris to Carcassonne

Metropolitan Abbesses Subway Station Entrance – 48° 53′ 04″ N, 2° 20′ 19″ E

Today we leave Paris & travel by train to Carcassonne in the south of France. Carcassonne is almost 800 kilometers south of Paris. The entrance to the subway station is only about a 5 minute walk from our hotel. This is the deepest station in Paris’ entire subway network. Thankfully there were not too many stairs to the ticket area & there was an elevator from there to track level. The ground level entrance is a beautiful example of Art Nouveau architecture & there are only a few entrances of this style in Paris.

Our subway ride to the Gare Montparnasse train station took only about 20 minutes & then we waited another 30 minutes to board our "first" train to Bordeaux St Jean – about 3 hours duration. The station is absolutely massive & extremely busy. Our train was very fast frequently achieving speeds in excess of 300 km/h. It puts Canada’s Via Rail system to shame. We have a lot of catching up to do. The next segment of our train journey to Carcassonne involved a quick transfer to another (slower) train but still very fast & comfortable. We arrived in Carcassonne around 4:00 & took a taxi to our hotel.

Our hotel was located on a small street in an older part of the city with great views of the medieval walled city high on the hill above. After settling into our rooms we walked up to the old city & explored it for a couple of hours before sunset. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site & when you see it it is easy to understand why. It’s like something out of a storybook.

There are two sets of walls surrounding the city. The first set surrounds the main city area & the second set surrounds the main "castle" area.

Once inside the city walls most of the buildings around the perimeter of the inner walls are dedicated to tourism shopping, souvenirs & food services. We were not very interested in shopping, etc. but really enjoyed the architecture.

We are really looking forward to having a much closer look tomorrow (Thursday, September 8).


Tuesday September 5 – Montmartre

Paris Cafe Bruant: 48°53′8″ N 2°20′7″ E

After a reasonable night’s sleep we were ready to start exploring the Montmartre area of Paris. First on the agenda was some breakfast. There weren’t any Tim Horton’s showing up on Google maps so we “settled for” fantastic coffee & fresh croissants at a sidewalk cafe just a few steps away from our hotel. Sorry Tim’s but we could very quickly get used to this French routine!

We lingered at the cafe for quite a while just enjoying our surroundings & people watching. Also wondering if we looked like locals or like the jet-lagged Anglos that we really are.

Our friends Barb & Bruce we’re staying at a place just a 10 minute walk from our hotel so we set out to rendezvous with them. Bruce is absent in the photo below because he was the photographer!

Our guide books suggested an interesting walking tour of the area so we set out to see the sights.

There are several well preserved windmills in the area that looked somewhat out of place but we learned that they were used to grind gypsum that was quarried throughout the area & used for building.

The architecture in this area is very interesting & attractive. Lots of photo opportunities.

I was also interested to see how much care was taken to blend the water tower into its surroundings.

We stopped at the Musee de Montmartre which had a lot of displays about famous painters Renoir & Suzanne Valadon. She was a model for several famous French painters & an accomplished artist in her own right. The photo below shows a recreation of Suzanne’s studio in the museum which in the house where she actually lived.

Our final objective on the sightseeing tour was the Basilica of the Sacred Heart which was located at the “top” of the mountain. This was opened in 1875 and overlooks Paris. It is beautiful inside – sorry, no photography allowed – & the views of the city were fantastic. It was well worth the climb!

We enjoyed the vista of the city below but unfortunately there was a bit of a haze in the air so it was hard to spot the iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower & Arc de Triomphe

By this time we were all running out of steam & ready for a bit of a rest. Thankfully it was mostly downhill back to our to hotels.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning we take the train from Paris to Carcassonne!