Bonjour à tous!
Finally got around to writing again. This week has gone well, but I've been really busy trying to get everything ready for fall break, which has finally started! The French educational system has breaks every seven weeks, which means that I'm already halfway done with this semester. I'm so glad that I opted to stay for the year because time is going by so fast.
As for my break, I'm traveling to Oslo (Norway), London, and Dublin with three of my good friends. I leave tomorrow and I'm so excited! I've always wanted to see England and Ireland, plus we'll be spending Halloween in Dublin, which should be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to seeing Norway, too, because I never thought I'd end up going there and it seems like one of the less-visited countries.
Anyways, there will be lots of photos and stories when I get back!
Last Saturday, the program took a trip to the medieval city of Carcassonne. It's the largest fortified city still standing in Europe, and has a beautiful mix of architectural styles that evidence its long history. A fortified settlement existed there even before the Roman time period, and played an important role in ancient trade routes. The Romans further fortified it, building large defensive walls and a castle. It later fell into the hands of the Visigoths, the Arabs, and then the French, and played a role in historic events such as crusades and the Inquisition.
As the city grew, another unfortified part was constructed nearby, known as the ville basse. The heavily populated ville basse eventually became more economically prosperous than the fortified Cité, which fell into disrepair before being restored in the 1800s.
Our tour guide pointed out the different architectural styles in the walls and towers, which changed a lot over time with the city's inhabitants and are visibly patch-worked today. She showed us how the Romans built with layers of brick and stone, whereas higher up on the walls it was simply stone from later periods. The exterior faces of the walls were purposely left bumpy so that attackers couldn't lean ladders against them.
The city itself is composed of two giant outer walls, a large castle from the 12th century, a gorgeous basilica, and a total of fifty-two towers (also a charming mismatched mix of heights, styles, and roof tile colors). We had guided tours of the castle and the church, spent the afternoon wandering around the shops inside the city, and then stopped by the museum of torture. They have torture artifacts dating from the Inquisition, which were interesting but horrible to see- I can't believe some of the things they would do to people. Let me just say that I'm so glad I don't live in the Middle Ages!
I really liked Carcassonne, but unfortunately it was pretty gray and windy out when we went. The gloominess did make for some pretty ominous and dramatic photos, though, plus all of the pigeons that kept flying around. I'd seen pictures of the city before I came to France (thank you, Pinterest!) and really hoped to see it, so I'm glad we went.
My host family is having a dinner party tonight, so I need to finish up my packing! Hope everyone is doing well and I'll write again when I get a chance.