Carcassonne: Cité Médiévale et Pont vieux
(image: Mairie de Carcassonne)
Although I've only spent two days in the Languedoc [Occitan: Lengadòc] in my entire life, the region has had a hold on my imagination out of all proportion to what you might make of that. Ina Caro's chapter on the area in The Road from the Past: Traveling Through History in France (1994) was one of the first books that got me hooked on the subject, a point I was reminded of while rereading the section in question over the weekend. Essentially a collection of six mini-travelogues on visits to Saint-Roman, Narbonne [Narbona], the Abbey of Fontfroide, Carcassonne [Carcassona], Albi [Albi], and the "pilgrimage churches" of Conques and Rocamadour, this spotlight on Languedoc obviously benefits from Caro's graceful prose and pleasantness as a travel companion. However, her novel approach to the genre--deciding to "visit these sites in the order they were built" in order for the reader to "feel almost as if you are traveling through the past" (Caro, p. 2)--adds an historical dimension to the writing that makes the reading experience so much richer. A lack of footnotes and at least one overly-confident assertion of a disputed 13th century "fact" (Caro claims that Simon de Montfort murdered Raymond-Roger Trencavel of Carcassonne, a point not in agreement with contemporary source Guilhelms de Tudela nor accepted by all modern historians either) tarnish the historiographic value of the work to a certain extent, but this is otherwise a great place to read about modern touring in the Languedoc région informed by a narrative that also travels from Roman times to the aftermath of the Albigensian crusades. Cool!
- Caro, Ina. "Languedoc." In The Road from the Past: Traveling Through History in France. San Diego and New York: Harvest, 1994, 55-111.