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CARCASONNE "We rounded a corner and there, on a rise beyond the river, was a vision for which no photograph could have prepared us. We pulled over to the curb and got out of the car to stand and stare." By Wade Rowland I got hooked on travel early in life. And for many years, beginning long before my first passport, it seemed to me that one of the transcendent travel experiences must be to walk the grey stone ramparts of Carcassonne, preferably at night and preferably in the autumn. This notion was firmly lodged in my brain when, as a diffident fourteen-year-old, I discovered the books of one of the most popular travel writers of any era, Richard Halliburton. In his heyday in the 'twenties and 'thirties, Halliburton was a household name in America and one of the most widely-read authors of his time. He had discovered early on that what his audience wanted from him was not culture, not politics and geography but adventure and, above all, the romance of travel. And that is what he gave them. He travelled on a shoestring to the most exotic corners of the globe and when adventure did not present itself, he created it. One example will give you the flavour: broke in Buenos Aires while writing the newspaper series that was to become New Worlds to Conquer he spurned an easy bail-out from his publisher and instead invested his last few dollars in a trained monkey and a broken down hurdy gurdy. Performing in the city's parks and streets earned him: a) a night in jail for by-law infractions; b) a memorable yarn for the newspapers and c) enough money for his passage all the way north to Rio. The unfortunate monkey died on the voyage - not to worry, he milked that story too. Halliburton blew in to Carcassonne late in 1921 on his first trip to Europe as a young Princeton graduate with literary ambitions, and he wrote about it inThe Royal Road to Romance, the first of his five, wildly successful travel books. He was on his way by bicycle and knapsack from Paris to Andorra. The air at the foot of the Pyrenees was sharp and clear... "Late on that glittering November evening I left the modern ville basse on foot, crossed the sevenhundred-year-old bridge over the river that separates the fortress from the modern town, looked up the sharp escarpment, and behold, before my eyes, nine centuries disappeared. I became an anachronism, a twentieth-century American living in eleventh-century France. In one sweep the Middle Ages were revealed. A magical moonlit city of walls and towers and battlements, defiant and impregnable, rose before me... Not a person was to be seen, not a light showed, nor a dog barked as I climbed the path and walked beneath the massively fortified gate, through the double line of enormous walls, into a strange world. Incredibly ancient houses, dark and ghostly, reeled grotesquely along the crazy streets. My footsteps echoed. There was no other sound..." Halliburton spent the night exploring the city and eventually watched the dawn break from the battlements:

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