Day 4 - 6: Touring Carcassonne and Returning to Argens Minervois- (Back to Day Three)

The next day we moved our barges to a berth between the railroad bridge and the ecluse de Carcassonne. 
That day there was a celebration of the availability of the latest vintage of wine from the Aude region (The Canal du Midi parallels the River Aude for much of its length).  The party was held next the to the ecluse, near where we were berthed.  Since it was a wine party we had to join.
Port du Plaisance, Carcassonne
Celebration of the First Wine of the Year
Port du Plaisance, Carcasssone
Vin de Aude


That evening we all dined together at a small restaurant within the la Cite, the old fortress city of Carcassonne.  La Cite
La Cite at Night
La Cite
Entrance to la Cite
This is a remarkable living artifact of medieval times.  La Cite is the largest preserved fortress in Europe and offers a spectacular view at night.
Many of the other medieval fortresses in Europe are not much more than ruins.  Carcassonne is remarkable for both its level of preservation and restoration. La Cite
La Cite
The Inner Moat, La Cite
Between the Inner and Outer Walls of la Cite
As we walked from the outer walls to the inner fortress we could understand how difficult it would be to successfully attack this imposing structure.
Entering La Cite
Entering la Cite
Below is a YouTube video (from which the images above were captured) of our visit to la Cite.  Most of our group had toured the fortress earlier that day while I was watching the barges.  They said it was very touristy and a little tacky with many souvenir shops and steet vendors.  In the evening those shops were closed and the street vendors gone.  Of course this was the off season for tourism so things might be different in August.  It was so off-season that Lloyd had to persuade the proprietors of his favorite restaurant to open for dinner.  We were their only customers that night.
Having taken taxis from the barges to la Cite, we did not experience how dramatically it is lit at night.  Walking back to the barges gave us some spectacular views.
The following day we began to retrace our voyage back to Argens Minervois.  This was the major drawback to the having to return the barges to our departure point.  We were motivated to complete this return as quickly as possible.  This motivation combined with the a downstream  transit and the lack of other barges on the canal allowed us to nearly retrace our entire voyage in a single day.  We could have completed the return in one day, except a number of us wanted one more dose of Cassoulet at the restaurant in Homps.  The following day we returned to the Locaboat Port du Plaisance at Argens Minervois.   Several of us took the opportunity to tour the Minervois region on our rented bicycles, which were included with our barge charters.  We still had one more day before our barge rental was over so we moved the barges back into the canal and spent our last night on board tied off to the tow path.

The following day we returned the barges and departed Argens Minervois for our various individual destinations.  I returned to Marseille for two more days of touring the south of France.

On the way to Marseille I drove along the Mediterranean coast, checking out Marinas and other facilities for my planned European cruise in a few years.  I had to cross the Rhone River to get to Marseilles and had the choice of driving north to use the N113 bridge or use the ferry at Port St. Louis du Rhone.  I elected to do the later, which turned out to be an interesting crossing with a Mistral blowing that day.
In Marseille I checked into a different hotel than the one I stayed in at the start of this trip.  I thought I would go to a little more upscale hotel for my last few days in France.  Well, that didn't quite work out, but I did have a nice view of a very active sailing school in the small boat harbor next to the hotel.