Travel Itineraries and Reviews Part 11 – Carcasonne and L’Estartit

It’s been a quiet and relaxing few weeks here in Vanessa the van. Our previous few weeks were quite busy with pet sitting and lots of driving so we needed a while just to stop and enjoy our surroundings.

Our hopes of visiting Andorra were dashed when we realised that our internet and phones would be extremely expensive to use as its outside of the EU. Given we had 2 work days planned for Andorra and needed internet, sadly a visit here wasn’t a runner this time around. Instead, we continued along the south coast of France before turning inland to Carcassonne, a medieval walled city. After a lovely weekend here, we crossed the border into Spain, and have been in L’Estartit for the last week.

OH and before I forget – 2 little mice joined us in the van for a night or two. Uninvited, they came in and made themselves at home. We swiftly evicted one (via a humane trap) but the second was never seen or heard from again. I had never thought that we would have to deal with pests other than bugs and flies but, I was wrong.

Highlights and Lowlights

Highlights

  • Carcassonne was a very cool place to visit. As a UNESCO world heritage site and having its roots in the 13th century, it was steeped in history and culture
  • The weather has gotten slightly warmer (only slightly!)
  • We loved spending a whole week in one spot, we really got to relax and enjoy it.

Lowlights

  • We had forgotten how expensive the south of France was – we were swiftly reminded when we got there
  • There were 2 uninvited guests in the van who we had to evict – 2 mice!
  • Someone (me) melted the rubber seal in our Bialetti coffee pot so we’ve only had instant coffee for the last two weeks. There are few things worse

Below, I have listed some of the extra facilities available at the campsites we’ve stayed at. Each campsite also had the basics – toilets, showers, sinks for dish washing (a god send as we don’t have running hot water), laundry facilities, bins, grey water disposal, chemical toilets and fresh water.

Cultural Carcassonne

Campsite Aire de Camping Car Parc Carcassonne
Cost – €13.25 per night for two people
Facilities – No facilities except grey water, fresh water and chemical toilet
Accessibility score – 2 / 5

See here for further detail on my accessibility scoring system.

This was our first ever stay in an Aire – we have been missing out! An Aire is essentially a secure car park that has some basic services for campers like fresh water, grey water disposal and rubbish bins. There are sometimes toilets and showers. It was perfect for our needs, and super cheap!

The turrets, towers and high walls of a medieval city, set atop a hill. The sky above is bright blue and the ground below is grassy
The medieval walled city of Carcassonne

As the Aire was very small, it was easy to get around and orientate yourself. The screens at the entrance and water station were pretty small but easy enough to use and read. There weren’t any other services or sanitary blocks on site so there’s not much to review!

Regarding Carcassonne itself, I found it hard to form an opinion on how accessible it is. On one hand, its a 13th century medieval city with narrow streets, cobblestones everywhere and poor lighting in places. The city is regularly maintained and restored, and there is evidence of new steps and paths that have been added in or improved. Nowhere did I see tactile paving, a properly edged step or good signage. On the other hand, it welcomes 5 million tourists each year, and it should cater for all people that would like to visit.

I understand the historical significance of this city, and how there may be a limit on the change and additions they can make. However, where restorations and improvements are being made, accessibility for all needs to be considered and implemented. With some creative thinking, this can be done in such a way that doesn’t interfere too much with the original features of the city. For example, the edges of the below steps are clearly a new addition, there is no reason why these could not have a simple strip of white paint along the edge.

A set of wide cobbled steps with a square stone edge on each one
A set of steps in Carcassonne

Things to see and do – as Carcassonne is so full of historical significance, we did a walking tour to learn as much as we could about it. This was well worth doing, as we got to see all the main parts of the city as well as some areas off the beaten track.

Sunny Spain

Campsite Camping Les Medes
Cost – €19 per night with ACSI
Facilities – an outdoor pool, indoor pool, restaurant, shop, outdoor games and bike rental (at an extra cost)
Accessibility score – 3/5

We crossed the border into Spain ad landed in L’Estartit, on the Costa Brava. Spain was a much anticipated country on our trip, albeit its probably one of the last countries we’ll visit before we head home – even though home time isn’t until April next year! We plan to spend the next half of our trip in Spain, Portugal and maybe Andorra and Gibraltar.

We found a lovely all year campsite near to the beach and the town centre. It was so nice that instead of leaving after the planned 4 nights, we stayed for 10. It really feels like we’re on holiday here. Its also nice to be at a site that’s busy.

There are plenty of other campers here so I’m enjoying the sounds of camp life again – chatting, laughing, repairs and tinkering, dishes being washed and bicycles going by. The crunchy sandy brown gravel underfoot and the sparse trees really give this place a Spanish holiday feel, which we’ve been really enjoying.

A view over a white sandy beach with deep blue sea in the distance. A peninsula covered in green trees and white buildings juts out into the water in the distance
Our local beach in L’Estartit

Our site is pretty accessible. We got to pick our pitch so we are right beside the sanitary blocks. We were given a good map at reception that was easy to read and the staff are all excellent. The pitch signs could be bigger as could the signs for the restaurant and shop but overall, its a good site.

A row of white campervans and motorhomes parked in their pitches. The ground is a light brown gravel. The sky is blue and cloudy. A tree with a thick trunk and branches but few leaves is in the centre of the image
Our pitch in Camping Les Medes, L’Estartit

Things to see and do – As well as wandering around the local town, eating tapas and drinking coffee, we climbed up Rocamaura, a local mountain peak. It was a bit challenging, especially at the beginning and the paths were rocky and winding. I would highly recommend a guide if you are going to climb this peak.

So that’s it for this week. We’ve been taking it really easy with just local walks, some yoga of course and lots of chilling in the van. We still don’t know when or where we’re off to next. Thankfully this time of year is a lot quieter, so we don’t need to be quite as organised!

Thanks for reading! Aoife, x


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