Carcassonne offers much to do besides just roaming around. For example, Restaurant Comte Roger is delightful. Tucked away on rue Saint-Louis, the cool interior with white tablecloths, pale peach seats, and lime green lighting exudes LA chic. The menu features local products in innovative combinations, like crab ravioli with basil and a saute of vegetables in summer, and regional specialties, such as cassoulet, in winter.
Oenophiles can taste and buy wines from the Languedoc region at the Cellier des Vignerons de la Cit, a small but knowledgeable shop. (Occitan, or the langue d'oc -- the language of ''oc" -- was spoken here in the 13th century.) From the Mediterranean to the foothills of the Pyrenees, the appellations of Languedoc feature grapes that grow in sandy, rocky soils with an abundance of sun: syrah, grenache noir, and mourvedre for reds, and marsanne, roussanne, grenache blanc, and muscat for whites.
Outside town, a number of Cathar castles are scattered through the countryside. The tourism center in Bastide Saint-Louis can arrange a guided trip. At Lastours, a little north of Carcassonne, four castles perch like eagle's nests on a rocky hilltop aerie. To the southeast, the Chteau de Peyrepertuse is the largest and best preserved of all the feudal castles of the region.
Another fine excursion is a boat trip on the Canal du Midi. In 1633, a man named Pierre-Paul Riquet convinced Louis XIV that it was possible to link the Atlantic to the Mediterranean with a canal. The canal connects the River Garonne in Toulouse (which flows to the Atlantic port city of Bordeaux) to the Mediterranean. Pleasure boats cruise the 150 miles under oak, sycamore, and cypress trees, and through fertile vineyards and open fields. A dock in Bastide Saint-Louis offers trips. .
In addition, miles of paths loop beside the canal, and the River Aude banks are perfect for picnics.