Long ago, I heard the story of Bernadette, who saw a vision while she tended to the sheep. The vision showed her a spring and the water is said to be miraculous, a cure for all sorts of aches, pains and illnesses. I’m not sure about that, but the story of Bernadette was captivating, so when I was lucky to win some tickets to try the TGV…. A visit to Lourdes was a quick decision!
Even the most hardened doubter would be impressed at the faith and hope that brings pilgrims to Lourdes from all over the world – the little French town is bursting at the seams with hotels – from 5 stars to small B&B’s. There are cafes, restaurants and about a million (!) souvenir shops selling rosaries, medals, statues, candles, just about everything!
By contrast the Sanctuary and the Basilica are quiet and peaceful. The crowds here are hushed, they tirelessly queue to visit the grotto, or to bathe in the waters. At any time of the day, you can attend a service in one of other of the numerous chapels; there are some set walks, called The Way of The Cross, to contemplate, and torchlight processions at night, if you care to join in.
More than 5 million people visit Lourdes every year – to sit, rest and wonder. And I wonder too, at the faith of the believers, young and old, some in wheelchairs and many accompanied by carers or nurses, at what comfort they get in their hopes for a miracle
My weekend was all about Lourdes, but its position, close to the Pyrenees mountains, and also so close to the Spanish border, means you can get away to Pau, Tarbes and Argeles-Gazost to enjoy the clean and clear fresh air – hiking, mountain biking and kayaking – great to explore and enjoy!
I went on the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) France’s high-speed train – can get to 200mph! Starting from Ebbsfleet with a hot breakfast, crossing Paris by metro from Gare de Nord to Montparnasse, lunch was a typically French baguette in a very comfortable seat with a table, power connections for laptops to work or recline to relax