Some places stay with me forever. I am guessing that Lourdes will be one of them.
Two days ago we hadn’t even heard of the town, and were planning our next stop to be in Toulouse, France.
Then we met a Kiwi couple in the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and they were traveling in the opposite direction to us, also with no hotel reservations after our final night in Bilbao. We quickly compared notes and they recommended we drive through the Pyrenees Mountains on the way to Toulouse, and stay a few days, specifically mentioning Lourdes.
We had a quick look on the internet, found a reasonably priced hotel and set off on our way.
What we didn’t expect was the emotions that come with visiting a place like Lourdes. It is another pilgrimage destination. Unlike Santiago, people come here to be cured.
The water is special, some of the best in the world. It has healing powers. They come, they pray, they drink, they bathe, they hope for the miracle.
Our hotel proprietor suggested we observe the procession which takes place at 9pm each night. I am not sure what I expected to find, but the overwhelming number of wheelchair bound people hoping for the miracle brought a tear to my eye. They walked with candles, praying and singing in 6 languages. They just kept coming. So many of them. It was hard to watch.
But there was also a power there, a strength emanating from their belief. It’s hard to put into words.
We also visited a few of the key sites in Lourdes.
As for the bath, it was a Sunday when we were there with only a 2-4pm time slot. We walked over and got into the women’s line. Nearly 30 minutes later, we were still standing out in the rain and you could see that it would be hours before we were in the baths. It turned out the women in front of us also spoke English and she explained to me how it works. You strip naked and two female attendants hold your arms as you enter the icy cold water, and then you can dunk yourself under. Then you get out, dry off and that’s it.
I know many of you think I missed a fantastic opportunity, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of fully submerging my naked body into the same freezing cold water as hundreds of sick people. So we backed out of the line and simply drank the water.
Would you have waited and dipped in the healing water?
All photos on this page ©Rhonda Albom 2012
Rhonda’s Travel Tips for Lourds France
- Every 15 days they turn some of the one-way street signs the other way (no kidding), so if your GPS seems confused, it is because the signs are turned. Just be patient and drive in circles for a while. We did and eventually we found our hotel.
- This is France. The hotel rooms are small and the shower smaller. Don’t let it upset you when your backside sticks to the shower wall and you need to get buttered up to get out, dirty then when you started.
- Nearby to the expensive funicular train to go up to the fort/castle, is a free elevator to the top.
- Bring your water jugs to the cathedral. There is a tap on the side to fill up with the healing Lourdes water.
Travel Counter: We have crossed the half way point of our 250 day overseas adventure.
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