Saturday, August 28, 2010
TRIP TO EUROPE CITY OF LOURDES,FRANCE
After we spent a few days in Paris, France, my husband and I took a train ride. Our destination was to visit the city of Lourdes. Lourdes,France is a city where an apparition was seen by a 14 year old girl, Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. Bernadette, claimed that the apparition was that of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our intent was to visit Lourdes as it has become a well known city with religious history. The train ride is about 6 hours from Paris. As the train is en route, we see small villages, often with rows of grape vines being cultivated to make wine. Our train ride takes us to the city of Toulouse, where we get a rental car to drive to Lourdes. It's a good thing that my husband is from Ireland as he is familiar with driving in a European city. My husband at times has a tendency to get lost, but for this car ride he has studied over and over the travel route to Lourdes.We arrive in Lourdes with no problem except one, because this city is very old the streets are extremely narrow with numerous one way streets. We kept going around and around until we were able to reach the parking lot entrance for our hotel, Grand Hotel De La Grotto.This hotel was established in 1872, and needless to say, has had many years to become a modern hotel. We are to stay in Lourdes several days.The hotel is clean, but I have to admit I had never stayed at a hotel with small twin beds. I told my husband, I felt we were fighting as we weren't sharing a bed.Another unusual thing I noticed the bathtub was very elevated and I had to pull myself up to get into the tub,also there wasn't a shower curtain. The hotel was indeed unique. A window from the room had a tiny balcony . The benefit of this room was that your view was outstanding. Every evening you can see a large procession of people walking to the grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is a sea of lighted candles carried by the people in the procession. It's a wonderful and very emotional site to behold. It was late so in the morning, we would venture out to explore the area. Unfortunately, Lourdes has become commercialized and there are numerous souvenir shops selling religious items. When Bernadette saw the apparition, there were many who thought this child was making up stories and not seeing anyone. Bernadette kept her faith and eventually a shrine was built as well as a church. There was flowing water from the hillside where the shrine was established. There were some reports that the water had powers to heal the sick. As a result, people came to this grotto hoping to heal their sick bodies. There were some situations that it was believed that the water actually had healing powers. When we were at Lourdes, we saw many individuals in wheelchairs or on crutches. Where the shrine is located, a statue of Mary has been erected and one by one people can go up to the shrine light and leave a candle and pray for forgiveness, healing, and guidance. There a no. of areas near the shrine where a person can buy candles. For Catholics, every day, confession is held in a building with confessional booths and a no. of Catholic priests from different countries will offer confession to English speaking people as well as French,Italian, etc.A large church overlooks the area and at each hour a mass is said in a different language. We went to the mass said in French as we missed the English speaking mass. We had no problem with this. Near the shrine, people can bottle the water that flows from the area surrounding the shrine. It is considered Holy Water to be used in praying. The water is free. In the Catholic church, a parishioner will make the sign of the cross coming and leaving the church where Holy Water that is located near the doors. In Lourdes, I cried, prayed and felt a closer relationship with God.All of this was overwhelming. Now, I have to share my glitch in all of this trip. Being very emotional, jet lag, I made a bad error. I, got my days mixed up and my husband and I left Lourdes a day earlier. We didn't realize there was an error until we returned to the train station to go back to Paris. When this error was recognized I broke down and cried like a baby. My husband was a rock,he suggested we go back to Paris that day. We were fortunate to get a room at the hotel we were planning to stay before we left Paris to go to Prague in the Czech Rep.It turned out that this mistake gave us additional time for us to go on our own sightseeing in Paris. Somebody "upstairs" was watching over us. After Paris to Prague. At this point can you see why our travel agent thought we were brave or nuts for all of this movement. After this trip, I told my husband we need to stay in one place and one country. The photos are from Lourdes. My next post will cover our trip to Prague and eventually meeting more relatives.