Day 22: 30-Day Ultimate Blog Challenge for April 2014
MY TRAVELS IN EUROPE SERIES #01 TRAVEL TO LOURDES, FRANCE
My Travel to Lourdes, France (Abridged Version)
A personal thoughts, travel blog about my own Pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. It’s about my visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, attending most of the activities at the sanctuary, the masses, the vigils, the blessings and the candlelight processions, singing Ave Maria and talking about my experiences from the memorable pilgrimage to Lourdes including my trip to Toulouse and then flying back to Paris to start my travels to Europe on my vacation holiday.
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes
Toulouse is the city located in the South West of France, just a few hours of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Spanish border. Before the flight could take off, an elderly lady was brought in by wheelchair to the plane’s entrance but was not allowed to get inside the plane because the aisle seats were all filled up. I was on the front aisle seat and was requested by the pilot and flight stewardess if I could give up my aisle seat for the lady on a wheelchair and I was moved to the back of the plane beside the seat near the stewardess. I gave up my aisle seat so that the elderly lady can board the plane and we can be on our way and the plane was able to take off. Little did I know that after that kind gesture I have made that I would get all the attention from the flight stewardess and was offered complimentary drinks while everyone else had to pay for drinks and beverages. The entire flight was smooth all the way to Toulouse from Orly Regional Airport where I had to transfer by shuttle bus from the Charles de Gaulle International Airport when I arrived in Paris after taking the direct flight from Toronto via Air France. Here in the airport closest to Lourdes at Toulouse our flight from Paris arrived safely. After we were allowed to disembark the airplane, we boarded a bus that was destined for Lourdes and most of us were pilgrims going to the Shrine. After an hour ride by bus and passing by old towns and villages, we arrived at Lourdes, a small town filled with tourists and pilgrims.
At the bus station I took a taxi to the small quaint hotel that I had booked a two-day reservation. After checking in and being ushered to my hotel room, I went out for a walk to the Sanctuary hoping to catch some of the activities at the shrine before nightfall. I was able to see the Grotto, but the mass was already over so I just prayed the Rosary and then left the Shrine on foot again. I bought some souvenirs on the way back to my hotel where all souvenir stores were lined up along the main road in town. Also bought some plastic hollow statues to fill up with holy water from the shrine and take it home after the blessing of the Lourdes water from the eternal spring at the grotto.
When I arrived at the hotel it was time to have dinner so the waiter found me a nice table by the window, where I could see what was going on out there but I was busy trying to check out the menu to even bother looking out. The waiter recognized me as a guest at the hotel so he offered to call the chef and make me a special dinner, which I gladly welcomed. When the chef of the hotel restaurant offered to cook me a special meal, I told him to be my guest in broken French phrases. I asked if I can have an order, a glass of white wine but when the waiter came back to bring me some wine, he brought a whole bottle and opened it for me. After smelling the cork, he poured the wine to my glass, then my dinner was brought by the chef himself to my table. It was a gourmet dish with a French flavour as expected, tasted really great. Then dinner was over, I only finished two glasses of wine and the waiter took the bottle away, brought me some pastries and coffee for dessert. After dinner I went up to my room and retired for the night. I placed an early morning wake-up call so that I can start early going to the Shrine. I woke up early and got ready for my very own pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. I have my cameras ready and also my movie camcorder.
After breakfast at the Hotel Cafe, I was ready to start my pilgrimage. I would start taking pictures at the shrine when I get there, since it was a great sunny day in autumn, there was a cool breeze yet warm sunshine and blue skies abound.