A few days ago we went to Lourdes and saw what looked like a real Disney fairytale castle, from the outside at least. A breathtaking castle-like masterpiece of architecture, that made our jaws drop after we layed eyes on it.
As it turned out, is was The Sanctuary of Our Lady Lourdes, also known as the Domain, as well as the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception or simply the Upper Church. And with this very long worded title our pilgrims theme continued.
The story goes that a 14 year old peasant girl, called Bernadette Soubirous, claimed to have seen appearances of Virgin Mary by the grotto over a rose bush. Or as she apparently introduced herself, the Immaculate Conception. The word got around quite quickly, and shortly after pilgrims came to this said spot. The rose bush died in the end, because everyone wanted to have a piece until there was nothing left, and the local priest together with a bishop bought the grotto and eventually it became what you can see today. That’s the history in a nutshell.
I was already quite surprised, that on the way to the Basilica, we saw many shops selling Holy Crosses, Holy Marys’ and pretty much anything you can imagine with Mary’s face on it. Even an empty white 5L water canister, and I thought London was outdoing itself with souvenirs.
Stupidly, we didn’t take a bike lock this time, as we thought we can just cycle all around the area. Sadly the shops didn’t offer a ‘Mary’ bike lock either, because as it turned out we weren’t allowed to cycle towards the Basilica! So poor Alex was left guarding the bikes while I hopped in to take pictures.
After Lourdes we came across Lestelle-Bétharram, the tiniest town with a dreamy river flowing through. The water was the most beautiful deep turquoise-blue and was a bit like a siren, calling us to have a swim. The refreshing water was a real treat after exploring the church Saint-Michel-Garicoïtz, including the 15 chapels that are dotted along the path up Verdant Hill, where you find Jesus on the cross.
We’re pretty much doing the Camino de Compostela, just in an easier more speedy version.