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Bar Felix, Place Carnot, CarcassonneIn the Bastide on the other side of the RiverAude, I love Bar Felix in the main square,Place Carnot. It was the first café we eversat in back in 1989 - in fact we had ourwedding party diner there! Sitting outsideunder the plane trees with a glass of localrosé, an amazing salade de chèvre chaud andwatching the market day shoppers is one oflife’s great pleasures. There's been anamazing restoration programme of theBastide in recent years and it's looking asgood as I've ever seen it. Here's the life ofthe real Carcassonne. Don't forget to popinto the great Breithaupt bookshop whileyou're there or wander up to the Canal duMidi at the top of the town to watch thebarges pass through.Toulouse features in your books – is thisanother favourite places?Toulouse - la Ville Rose - is one of myfavourite cities in the world. I think it hasabsolutely everything. Incredible music,Photo: Rue du Taur,theatre, art galleries, the wonderful historiccentre, the mighty river and the bridges. Ilove the rue du Taur, which I wrote about inThe Burning Chambers and previously in my2009 Gothic novel, The Winter Ghosts. I likethe mix of grandeur and tiny little streetsthat lead out from the Place du Capitole and,of course, I love the story behind the places.The rue du Taur gets its name from thelegend of Saint Saturnin being dragged by abull to his death along this road in 250 ADwhen he refused to participate in a paganceremony. The Basilica Saint-Sernin standsat the end of the street, a beautiful memorialin stone to his martyrdom.If you look up as you walk, above themodern day shop fronts, you’ll see evidenceof the old city walls. When I was writing TheBurning Chambers and walking in Toulouse,it was surprisingly easy to imagine the city inthe 16th century – there are still so manysigns of its past.
Toulouse, Boigontie, Toulouse Tourist OfficeI could see where the gibbets once were,gates in the defence walls, and even theplaces used as jails by the CatholicInquisitions.And Paris – the city often features in yourbooks, another favourite?Yes, I love Paris too, though my heartbelongs to the Midi. I met my husband whenI was at school, but we went to differentuniversities and our separate ways. Then,years later, we met again on a train when hewas at that stage living in Paris. So it waswonderful to discover the city through theeyes of someone who lived there for severalyears.One of my favourite parts is Beaumarchaisand the area around Bastille. Quite a lot ofthe early sections of The City of Tears, thesecond in my The Burning Chambers Series,are set in Paris - not least of all the mostnotorious engagement of the French Wars ofReligion, the St Bartholomew's Day Massacreof Huguenots by the French Crown in August1572 - so I spent a fair amount of time therewhen I was researching and writing last year.It astonished me to realise how tiny Paris wasin the 16th century and suddenly the historymade sense - how, as the alarm bells rang outon that fateful day in August, whenthousands of women, men and childrenwould be slaughtered, it would actually beeasy to close the city gates and trap everyoneinside.When you think of Paris in the modern world,you think that's impossible, it's too big. Butwhen I walked the footprint of the 16thcentury city of Paris, I realised you couldeasily go in half an hour from the city gatesto the west of the Right Bank, whereCatherine de Medici was building theTuilleries Palace, all the way to the Bastille inthe east.