The French word for “heavy”, if you’re talking about feminine nouns is lourdes which is exactly the same spelling as the town in the Pyrenees that is a major pilgrimage site for Catholics. According to legend, Bernadette Soubirous saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary there in 1858 and believers soon started arriving at the cave (grotto) hoping for a cure. Although I have long wanted to visit the town for its historical significance, Bill said that it would “take a miracle” to convince him to go. Given that today’s blog post was supposed to be about our planned but now postponed side trip from Bordeaux to Cognac because the tasting rooms weren’t open during the holidays, I’d say that we achieved that lofty goal. Hop aboard the train with us for our next destination: Lourdes.
An easy 20-minute walk and the most distant site from the train station was our first stop of the day, the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes, below which the grotto is located where the visions were supposed to have taken place. I knew that up to 6 million people visit this city each year but, perhaps like in Carcassonne, there aren’t many on a cool winter’s day. With our photographs taken there, we then began one of the two self-guided walking routes that the Tourist Office has designed: Evoking Lourdes in the Middle Ages. The other is called Bernadette’s Life Path that will take you past the mill where she was born, the house in which she lived and several other buildings important to her story.
To symbolically step back into the Middle Ages, we crossed the river Gave de Pau on the Pont Vieux (old bridge) built during that time period, which gave us access to another major structure from the 13th century, the Garnavie Tower. From the southside It helped to protect the city as well as our next stop, the castle. I particularly wanted to go here because of the shared legend involving Charlemagne and the fortifications in both Carcassonne and Lourdes. It seems that a Moorish chief and his troops had barricaded themselves inside the castle while Charlemagne decided to wait indefinitely outside until the food ran out. Months later an eagle that had captured a trout from the river dropped it at the feet of the starving chief who immediately threw it over the castle wall to the army below. In our town, it was the last remaining pig rather than a fish but the result was the same: the Emperor concluded that it was pointless to continue the siege if the occupiers still had food inside so he left while the castle residents celebrated. The entrance fee that also includes the museum and even an elevator to get you up is 7 euros per person.
We continued with the “light” theme in our search for lunch. Our choices included La 100 Culottes (I thought culottes were women’s shorts disguised as a skirt but in French it means “panties”), Restaurant Lung, The Chicken Shop, and The Parking Lot. For a quick meal we were tempted by The Immaculate Conception Sandwich Shop but we settled on Ganapathy just because I liked the name and it happened to get good online reviews.
As on most of our day trips, there are always other sites that we didn’t have time or, perhaps, the inclination to see. There’s the wax museum, the miniature version of the city, a funicular (in the summer), an animal park, the earthquake museum, and the miraculous medal museum. Maybe next time? Well, Bill did say that it would take a miracle to get him to go to Lourdes (once) but I don’t know if we can count on a second one!
Lourdes tourist office: https://en.lourdes-infotourisme.com/?langRedir=1