There are a few destinations that live up to their reputation and this is one of those. From the first glimpse of the amazing skyline view of a jumble of towers and terracotta tiles, you are hooked in. Yes it has tourist tat and is incredibly busy, and that is what it would have been like in it's heyday - crowded with people and merchants of all sorts plying their trade.Yes it has been heavily restored, and it was done sensitively and openly - you can see the Roman masonry clearly with later periods built on top for example. The richness of the history, the many stories that have played out here, including those of death and suffering, create a seductive atmosphere.
If you can, either stay in the city or come early. Wandering around before the narrow cobbled streets get too busy is delightful. We were in the Le Donjon which was excellent. The castle and ramparts are well worth the 8 euros - again get in early so you can appreciate the views without waiting for others to move out of the way! It is an object lesson in 13th/14th century state of the art military architecture.
Many places for eat & drink. We really liked the Bar a Vins, which had a relaxed atmosphere in a shaded terrace and garden - patrons from all walks of life and soothing music in the evening. Their house rose is superb at 2.30 a glass.
If you are driving, then watch out for the turning left up to the Cite - it is a small signpost. Also if using the hotel parking, keep going up the road, past the public car parks, cemetery and over the top of the hill to find it.
There are markets in the Bastide on Saturdays and the food one in the centre is a great place to buy a picnic. We would recommend a short trip on the Canal du Midi - very restful and cool on a hot day.
Finally I think a weekend is long enough to get a really good feel for the place - you can walk round it in less than an hour (unless you stop for a demi or two en route).
Overall we fell in love with France again, after too long away!
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