With two UNESCO World Heritage sites here within a stone’s throw of each other, you might find it curious that I would choose to post a photo of scaffolding to represent Carcassonne. This is the city’s Fine Arts museum currently encased in piping and netting as repairs are made to its block-long wall that faces the busy shopping street of rue de Verdun. In this part of the city that was founded in the 1200s it’s only inevitable that repairs will be necessary from time to time. That’s exactly what’s happening now, all over town, with the big construction project aptly named Opération Grand Site.
With the summer tourist season just a memory, and many shops closed until spring, the streets and sidewalks that were once jammed with people and cars are now filled with machinery, construction materials, and workers intent on getting the next phase of the Opération complete. Across the country there are 40 historic and/or natural sites, Mont St. Michel, for example, that have been singled out to receive federal subsidies to ensure that the principles of sustainable tourism can be maintained. Although designed to assist visitors, those of us who live in Carcassonne cannot help but benefit from all of the work. In addition, the city itself is making major investments in the infrastructure of roads, bridges, and utilities including widespread fiberoptics, refurbishing schools and other public buildings, creating a convention center, and maintaining parks along the river and the canal.
Although we are now well into autumn with the first day of winter only a month away, Carcassonne has clearly not gone to sleep. I feel as if Bill and I have been allowed to stay after-hours at the amusement park where we get to see how the magic really happens. It’s a good feeling.