VIV PALLOT interviewed MAGGIE BEGEMAN, an Auxiliary Nurse, Specialising in Dementia-related illnesses, McKinstry/Oak, Overdale

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What is your dream destination?   
Carcassonne. It’s a medieval town in the south of France steeped in myth and legend. I’ve wanted to go there since meeting someone at work who used to live there. Then I saw a TV programme on the history and beauty of Carcassonne and my curiosity got the better of me.

What piqued your interest in particular?
I’ve always felt a connection with the medieval life – lured by the drums, the music, etc.  And I find the costumes really fun to wear. Perhaps it was a past life that drew me to Carcassonne?

An interesting theory! So when is a trip to Carcassonne on the cards?
Actually, I was there in April this year. I’d been planning the trip for my birthday since 2012.

Did you go alone?
No, I drove down with Simon, a friend from Plymouth. Our birthdays are on the same day, so we planned to celebrate together.
The other important traveller was Dougal – my little West Highland Terrier. I had to get him a pet passport and vaccinations as well as researching dog-friendly accommodation, so the trip took quite a bit of planning.
Carcassonne is only 7–8 hours’ drive from St Malo, but an overnight stop en route is recommended. I also gained confidence with my trusted Sat Nav.

“It’s definitely not one for the faint-hearted. It sent shivers down my spine. After witnessing the horrors there, I felt like I really needed a glass of wine!”

How was the experience travelling with a dog?
No problem at all – Dougal was a little star! The French were very welcoming in all the hotels and restaurants I’d booked.
In Carcassonne, there were loads of dogs walking along the canal tow paths, as well as along the cobbled streets of the citadel as there were no cars. Dougal jogged along behind us, off his lead. He even charmed a pretty French Lhasa Apso – it was all part of the ambiance of this wonderful place.

A highlight for Dougal no doubt ± what was yours?
For our birthdays we stayed at the famous 4-star Hotel du Château. On arrival, Champagne on ice, followed by dinner at a beautiful restaurant in the medieval walls. It was fabulous! Dougal came along too, enjoying duck as his special treat.

Were there any other memorable moments of Carcassonne?
We had great fun browsing around all the boutiques selling medieval costumes. We were trying on all the clothes and Simon got to wear a suit of armour.
We also visited the torture museum, showing the various methods of torture used during the Inquisition and French Revolution. It’s definitely not one for the faint-hearted. It sent shivers down my spine. After witnessing the horrors there, I felt like I really needed a glass of wine!

I’m not surprised!  Did you feel your dream destination lived up to expectations though?
Yes! I’ll never forget when we first arrived at Carcassonne … It was around 9 o’clock in the evening and the medieval walls of the citadel were all lit up by floodlights. It was totally awe-inspiring … definitely an experience to be revisited in the future!