I wasn’t able to do much yesterday, as we needed to check out at 12:00, and the flight was due to leave late-afternoon. It’s delayed until ~02:30 this morning, but I don’t mind as I’ve found some decent quality absinthe in the duty free (only 55%, mon ami), and have made a start on that.
So… Lourdes was a mixed bag. I most certainly don’t regret coming here, and can understand why, for some of the people I’ve met, it was their 40th or so visit. Overall it’s been quite an experience – the Basilica, and the art and culture are unlike anything back home, and the sights from various positions around the Pyrenees were breathtaking. I saw a place where the least among us are treated as first-class citizens, which is a miracle. I walked miles south and saw the isolated French villages and mountain peaks crowned with snow that dwarf those of the Welsh valleys. Had the weather been slightly better, I would have gone there to view the night sky.
I cannot tell you exactly what St. Bernadette saw at the Grotto, or whether it was Our Lady, but I’ve seen a couple of inexplicable things in Lourdes that I’m reluctant to describe in detail or make any conclusion about, things that convinced me something is there.
But to summarise Lourdes as a tourist spot: If, like myself, you’re independently-minded, have a basic grasp of French and an abundant supply of money, Lourdes can be a very pleasurable stay. There’s just so much to like about the place and the locals, who always return a smile and say hello (actually ‘bonjour’). The staff at the Hotel St. Louis de France were extremely accommodating, providing immaculate rooms, very nice food and excellent service – I know first-hand how stressful the job can be, and I sincerely appreciate it.
I’ve probably mentioned there’s plenty of cheap and affordable merchandise religious items, but Lourdes is otherwise quite expensive. You might want to leave the gift shops until the last day there.
Now, I said the trip was a mixed bag, and there were a couple of bad sweeties in this one. About 90% of the others supposedly in my group were not the nicest people, to put it charitably, and multiple times I had to look after a severely disabled person they ostracised. A few other related things culminated in yours truly walking out of Mass rather abruptly yesterday afternoon, feeling more than a little disgusted by the hypocrisy. WTF they chose to behave like that in Lourdes, of all places, and during a Mass, is a mystery. That said, there were still a few wonderful people I hope to meet again there.
I will return to Lourdes at some point, but probably not next year, as I have the seeds of a plan for something a little more adventurous. When I do, I’m taking the flight through Amsterdam, or from London, and booking into a four-star down the road.