Rather than follow the itinerary, which isn’t quite going as planned, I’ll be doing my own thing for the rest of the week. The weather has finally changed for the better. The sun is out, and it’s quite warm without the humidity we’re used to in Wales – perfect conditions for exploring the Pic du Jer. The coffee at the Jeanne d’Arc and the hotel is also first class, and it’s not the weak ‘skinny latte’ dreck we have back home.
Underground Basilica and the International Mass
Every Wednesday at 09:30, the International Mass is celebrated at the Underground Basilica. This morning it was attended by several thousand, as expected, and a few of us watched the Mass from the perimeter.
It took about an hour or so for everyone to fall in, and another half hour for things to get started. Mass started out with the atmosphere of a convention, with each group in attendance being met with applause as they were announced. There was also another procession of 20-odd priests, bishops and deacons.
The big service for us could be on Friday, when Mass might be held at the Notre Dame itself.
Also managed to take another nice photo of the Notre Dame from across the river.
Pic du Jer
I overcame my fear of heights this afternoon by forcing myself to take the rail cab to the top – it slowly rattled up the steep gradient for about 2,000 metres, by my reckoning. A rough mental calculation during the ride (not accounting for the gradient) told me it would take at least fourteen seconds to crash if the engine and brakes failed near the top, but someone on the flight here reckoned we’d black out first if we were to descend at that speed.
From the upper station it was a short walk to the summit, which is marked by a giant pylon-like monument. A few metres away is the antenna mast, which I noticed was hooked up to rackmount kit that sounded a lot like a bank of Cisco 2600s. If nobody was around, I would have climbed the fence to see what they were.
Also from the summit, we get to see the whole of Lourdes, and the northern horizon. I didn’t think that part of France was so flat.
Looking south, we get a view of the Pyrenees mountain range, with the Spanish border far off in the distance. How much of this could I walk tomorrow, I wonder?
I didn’t fancy coming back down the same way, so I tabbed about 5KM across rocks to the base, and was absolutely wasted by the time I reached the hotel.