FIVE ESSENTIALS: CARCASSONNE

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The Independent Travel
Fly to Toulouse, about 50 miles from Carcassonne. Air Liberte (0345 228899) has a special of pounds 96.70 return (including tax) from Gatwick. You must buy the ticket before 2 May, travel by the end of May and stay away at least a Saturday night.

Take the train, which is relatively quick, thanks to the Channel tunnel. If you leave London Waterloo at 7.53am and change stations in Paris and trains in Montpellier, you arrive in Carcassonne at 7.31pm. The Rail Shop (0990 300003) quotes a minimum fare of pounds 59 to Paris, and pounds 102 for the stretch to Carcassonne.

Ride a coach from London Victoria to Toulouse for pounds 116, leaving at 8pm and arriving at 4pm the next day, through Eurolines (01582 404511).

Stay somewhere central and relatively cheap, such as the Hotel des Rempartes (00 33 68 71 27 72). A double room costs 300F (about pounds 40), not including breakfast.

Ask the French government tourist office on 0891 244123, a premium-rate number, or the Carcassonne tourist office on 00 33 68 25 07 04.

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