I have visited Carcassonne a few times over the years – and my love for this city grows with each time. This Medieval fiefdom is winding streets of golden stone, dusty courtyards (now filled with ice cream stands and sparrows, but you can still imagine the original markets that were there), and darkened, cool antechambers that ring with footsteps.
I was enraptured by the fairy tale beauty of the place. The surrounding green vineyards and bobbing sunflower fields. The smooth yellow stone and cone-shaped roofs that gleam in the sun, and the looming cathedral.
The whole place is steeped in history (but I’ll let you discover that yourself) – though nowadays it’s riddled with trinket shops for the tourists (sterling silver and glass beads for the girls, and little metal soldiers for the boys and overpriced postcards to send home) and cafés with plastic tables and chairs under red awnings that serve hamburgers and French fries in baskets.
But that doesn’t concern me.
The whole time I’m there I reimagine it – women hanging washing from the upper windows, shop fronts open to the crowds and yelling their wares, guards on horseback, and a city thriving in its true purpose – filled with intrigue, love, hate, life and death.
No matter what I write – whether it’s fantasy, horror, or even the odd bit of traditional fiction – Carcassonne will appear in some form. In my current WIP, the children race each other over the rooftops, and in my past WIP (shelved until further inspiration), it was down the back alley of this city that events take place. I once wrote a short story about a tourist here – exploring the streets just like I did.
Your surroundings in a story are just as important as your characters, and Carcassonne is my comfort blanket in that respect. If I can start a story in the Carcassonne of my imagination (under its many guises), I can take my story anywhere. I have lifted it up and placed it close to a harbour, at the foot of mountains and in arid desert. My characters flee and flock to it. They are natives and foreigners, friends and enemies. But they all come to Carcassonne.