When we’re on vacation we encounter a lot of people and inevitably in conversations the question of where everyone is from comes up. If we’re talking to French people there is instant recognition when we say, “Carcassonne”, and with other Europeans once we initially say “France” and then add our city, they too seem to know the place. After all, it is Europe’s largest fortified medieval city that is surrounded by 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) of double walls enhanced by 52 towers for surveillance and defense (photos above). In a busy year there can be 3 million visitors, half of whom are Spanish, one quarter French, with the remaining quarter coming mostly from the surrounding countries. That, plus the article highlighted below might explain why, if we meet an American on our travels, we almost always hear, “You live where?”
Our friend Liz alerted us to an article from the Wall Street Journal that was later picked up by a travel website (pdf link below) entitled, “9 Under-the-Radar Vacation Spots in Europe”. The author has assembled some ideas of alternative vacation destinations in Italy, France, and Spain that offer the flavor of those countries without the crowds you would expect to find in Venice, Paris, and Barcelona. That said, our own Office of Tourism had already noted in the spring that visitor levels in our area were at pre-Covid levels so we’re expecting record numbers by year-end.
Here’s a summary of those vacation spots:
- Ferrara: Renaissance art and ravioli
- Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park: Mountain pursuits
- Marettimo: Secluded coves, translucent water
- The Brittany Coast: Elemental islands
- Canal du Midi: Float around medieval villages
- Lille: Beer and antiques
- Cuenca: Moorish relics, abstract art
- Galicia: Wild beaches, great gardens
- Girona: Ancient architecture, seaside glamor
While we don’t know the above areas of Italy, we can confirm the choices in Spain from personal experience and comments from friends and you can probably guess that we’ve been to the French destinations multiple times. And just to ease your mind, we too had never heard of Carcassonne until Bill’s sister Lee attended a wedding here and thought that we might enjoy seeing it. She was clearly right!