This week I want to share a very special experience with you – one that you may not be able to replicate exactly the way I experienced it. Some of you may remember my post about Carcassonne, a little while back. Every summer, Carcassonne hosts a festival during the month of July, presenting music of all types, theatre, and dance all over the old and new towns, in a mixture of venues. There’s jazz, pop, rock, opera, soul – you name it, it’s all there. Some of the concert highlights this year included Status Quo, Lana del Rey, Pink Martini, Franz Ferdinand, James Blunt, Vanessa Paradis, and Elton John. You can find the full programme here.
If you’re into your music you might be getting somewhat excited by now – I think it’s a pretty amazing line-up for a town like Carcassonne. And that’s just this year! They have international musicians every year!
To get back to my story, I found myself in Carcassonne on July 15, the day after the spectacular fireworks extravaganza which takes place in Carcassonne every year (I will visit that for you another year, promise!!). Carcassonne is always lovely to visit, there’s always something going on and the towers are lovely to look at.
I had arranged to meet friends for dinner before the concert, and I was early, so I had a little time to walk about. The streets were busy with tourists, but despite the bustle this cat had a lovely time, stretched out in the shade :) !!
There’s always colour and quirkiness to be found in Carcassonne!
The restaurants on Place Marcou were already busy.
Just the other side of Place Marcou I met up with my friends, and since we were too early for our restaurant, we had a drink in a neighbouring bar. Dinner was booked at La Table d’Alais, a little restaurant tucked away in a row of houses on Rue du Plo. We walked right past it to begin with, without realising that it was there. The street entrance is just a small doorway, with the dining room and terrace all located on the first floor.
It’s not easy picking a restaurant in Carcassonne – there are scores to choose from, and reviews on the internet can be variable and not always reliable. We were very pleased with our choice though; the food was delicious and the prices pretty reasonable for a town like Carcassonne.
The starters were beetroot salad with goat’s cheese mousse, foie gras, and gazpacho. Can you guess who had the foie gras??
For main course there was tuna belly with courgette puree, pork fillet with mushrooms, and cassoulet. Can you guess who had the cassoulet?? I admit, I pigged out a little, but both my dishes were very good!! After we had finished our main courses, everyone got a little anxious as the time for our concert drew nearer. We did get our desserts and in the rush I forgot to photograph it. It was a tarte tatin made with golden delicious apples – well enough executed, but slightly uninspired.
The concert was in the open air Theatre Jean Deschamps in the Cite. This theatre was created in 1908 on the site of the old Saint Nazaire cloisters, and named in 2006 after the French actor Jean Deschamps, who created the Carcassonne Festival in 1957.
Above is a view from our seats down to the stage. The orchestra stalls in front of the stage are called the Carre d’Or, the golden square. What a nice name!! The first tier in front of us is called 1ere Serie, and we were in the second tier, predictably called 2eme Serie. Now here’s a tip if you want to go to the festival. Our seats were Rang B in the second tier, numbered 77 to 81 – the view was spectacular and because it was the first row of the second tier there was nobody sitting in front of us!
As we were taking our seats the warm-up act was just about finishing – I’m glad it didn’t last long :). We had come to see Elton John, and his concert started on the dot at 9:30pm!
There then followed one and a half hours of music and pure magic! As the evening wore on, the sun was slowly setting behind the crenelated walls, and the atmosphere gradually changed. It was magical!
Very early on in the concert, Elton made an announcement to say that, after the current round of concerts and touring, he would be retiring from the music business, to spend more time with his children. I think it made the evening even more special for everyone. Elton played song after song, without a break or long chatty bits, and his music still sounded fresh. At the end of the concert he played a couple of encores, but we made a dash for it after the first one, trying to hit the road before the rest of the 5000 spectators did so. And we were successful, and back in St Chinian just after 1am, tired but very happy!!
I’ll leave you with a few shaky videos of the evening – the piano playing especially was very good! E-mail subscribers, please visit http://www.midihideaways.wordpress.com to watch the videos.
And the farewell to the music business? A few days after the concert, the media picked up on it; a spokesperson for Elton John said that he would not be retiring. So we’ll see what happens…