From Sylvamar to Lourdes - Al Fresco Holidays

Dear Becky,

For our day off this week we decided to have a trip out to visit Lourdes – we thought it was worth a blog. It is just over 160km (about 100miles) from Yelloh! Village Le Sylvamar and, after a minor wobble merging from the A63 to the A64 (evil SatNav!) we got there in a little under 2 hours.

Parking was relatively easy on the outskirts and we walked down into the centre ville following the signs for the Basilica and Grotto. First things first, we stopped at a bar/café for the house speciality of poulet, frites & verre de vin (chicken, chips & glass of wine), and then headed to the famous ‘souvenir’ shops. Luminous saintly statues, nativity cuckoo clocks, and giant candles were the order of the day. I opted for a Lourdes bottle opener/corkscrew/penknife combination and my better half bought a Lourdes holy water bottle and thimble (?).

We crossed over the bridge, ignoring the few surprisingly well dressed beggars, towards the impressive Basilica. Just inside the Sanctuary, pilgrims have been invited to bring and plant their own crosses in the grass, and there were many decorative wooden crosses from as far afield as America, Thailand and Leeds!

The Basilica itself is breathtaking, both inside and out – although relatively modern, being completed and consecrated at the turn of the 20th Century. Just behind and to the right is the entrance to the grotto where St. Bernadette had the famous visions. We duly filled up our water bottle and filed past the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Whatever your religious leanings, you can’t help but be moved by the army of young volunteers helping the pilgrims in wheelchairs from the hospital to the grotto. Some go in to be immersed in what they believe to be the healing waters, whilst others go to meditate and pray. And that is the remarkable thing about Lourdes: regardless of any crowds, it feels so quiet, calm and peaceful.

On our way back, we both agreed that Lourdes has largely spared itself from becoming a tourist trap, trading on its name and fleecing its visitors. Within the Sanctuary and Basilica, you are only invited to make a donation, and in the town the cafes and shops are reasonably priced. So, if you find yourself going home with a musical sheep paperweight, you’d be forgiven!

Best of luck if you go.

Rikki and Julie (Al Fresco Reps, Syvamar).

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