After over 700 years we could probably all use a bit of refreshing to our faces and that’s exactly what’s happening in Carcassonne this summer. The façades that we’re talking about here are for many of the buildings located inside what used to be the walled lower city laid out in 1260. According to the city’s tourist office, few structures survived the fire of 1355 but there are many examples of mansions, shops, and apartments from the 17th and 18th centuries when the textile industry rivaled only the King for power, that today are getting some help.
A main shopping and driving street through the center of town is called rue de Verdun. Bill and I walk along there most days of the week and especially enjoy it on Saturdays when it is open only to pedestrians. We’ve been in other European cities where entire sections of the downtown are given over to foot traffic only where the stores seem to thrive and it’s been a challenge to get through all of the shoppers filling what has become one very wide sidewalk. It’s on this rue that Carcassonne has chosen to concentrate the renovations for the next few months.
A total of 42 buildings have been identified as needing work, in some cases severely so, to prevent pieces of concrete from falling on cars and people below. The city provides free architectural services, shares the cost of the repairs with the owner, and even provides a bonus rebate to individuals who complete their projects within the first few months.
We were happy to see that one of those taking the city up on their early-bird offer were the owners of our favorite restaurant on rue de Verdun. While workers were busy on the front of their building, Christophe and Nathalie were occupied redecorating the indoor dining room in preparation for tonight’s grand opening reception at Le Blé Noir. Those of you returning to Carcassonne or coming here for the first time in the next few months will have even one more reason to stick around.