Tourism & Religion

Road trip! Destination, Lourdes. Wikipedia comes to my rescue here with a quick description: 

Lourdes is a town in the Midi-Pyrénées region of southwest France. It’s known worldwide for the Sanctuaries Notre-Dame de Lourdes, or the Domain, a major Catholic pilgrimage site. Every year, millions visit the Grotto of Massabielle where, in 1858, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Bernadette Soubirous. Religious processions take place daily for most of the year.

We were in no rush and the drive to Lourdes took a couple of hours. Dozens of little towns, each with a church in the centre, placed along winding roads. We stopped for croissants, navigated the many roundabout in Tarbes, stretched our legs and wondered when the leaves on the trees would spring out. Soon we hope. 

Arrived in Lourdes and almost everything was closed. It was a cold grey early spring day. We warmed up with a coffee, hot wine, soup and a crepe au sucre et citron at a cafe near the river and set out to find out what this town was all about. As we navigate the narrow streets with the many hotels and souvenir shops it quickly becomes apparent that this is a huge tourist destination. Figurines in all shapes and sizes of the Virgin Mary can be purchased along with hundreds of different types of paraphernalia. Store after store offer what looks like the same selection and right across the street you can pick up a pizza or a brew at the pub. 

It is impressive how the cathedral is built right on top of the cliff and the Grotto of Massabielle. It was a quiet day but in the summer time all the hotel rooms will be booked and thousands of people will participate in the torchlight procession every evening at 9 pm. On this cold day we try to imagine it and conclude it would be quite a sight to have seen. 

Our drive home brought us even closer to the Pyrénées. We are talking Tour de France territory here and we passed several riders out for a spring ride. The mountains were covered under a thick blanket of clouds and a few times as the clouds parted we could see snow in the foothills. In Mauvezin another surprise, a medieval castle, complete with a spiked pole perimeter, appeared out of nowhere and we made it the last stop of the day.