Though we couldn’t wait to experience more of the beautiful French coast that we had sampled earlier, we decided to go back in time to the more ancient history of France. Story book tales featuring a slew of classic scenes and characters do seem a bit out of place in France, but not for the town of Carcassonne. What used to be a fortified French town with its own castles and tall walls, Carcassonne is now home to a beautifully restored castle which overlooks the Audi River and the lush greenery of the town below. The castle even has arrow slits for archers, a drawbridge, and a moat. Though a damsel in distress and a knight in shining armor were nowhere to be found, the castle did seem to be right out of a fairytale. The construction in the site could be dated all the way back to 3500 B.C. With 53 towers and more than 25 square miles of land, the fortified city of Carcassonne has now been turned into a flurry of shops and restaurants for all of the flocking tourists. Nevertheless, don’t think that it’s now been turned into the sort of renaissance fair for the average tourist. For the most part, the castle has been kept in its original state and the shops and restaurants are limited to a short walkway. While I didn’t stroll through the shops all that much one did manage to catch my eye: a candy store. The candy store holds a vast array of sweets ranging from caramels to cookies, but the chocolate olives were most intriguing. Though I was expecting exactly what the name implied, the sweet is actually a candy covered chocolate ball with peanut butter inside. While that may disappoint some adventurous travelers hoping to snack on unique olives, the candy is still as delicious and unique as the name implies. After everyone was able to see the amazing view and fill up with “chocolate olives,” we went back on the tour bus to drive towards a place with a form of entertainment you might not expect.
When you first think of gladiators, beasts, and the bloody battles they had; you first think about the Coliseum in Rome, Italy. However, there is actually a more preserved arena that still hosts some bloody battles today. Nimes is home to the Nimes Arena which is the best preserved Roman amphitheater in the world. Though it can only contain up to 24,000 people, it is still home to the corrida (bullfights) and many year-round concerts. Since the arena was just about walking distance from our hotel, we were able to stop there and pose with a statue of a matador. Besides being famous for its arena, it is also a region where a plethora of lavender is grown. Boutiques and stores selling lavender can be found around at almost every corner in Nimes. Some aspects of Nimes might strike some similarity with Italy because Nimes used to be on a road which connected Spain to Italy. Whether we were dreaming about our own fairytales or a bloody battle in the arena, after a day of fairytale castles and Roman arenas we couldn’t wait to see what was in store for tomorrow. Sweet dreams.