Day Trip to Lourdes, France
As Notre Dame graduates, a trip to Lourdes, France was a necessity. When we realized our northern Spain trip would put us 2 hours away we made plans to spend a day in Lourdes. Some Notre Dame friends who are living in France agreed to drive down and meet us for a fun day.
We met at Chateau Fort de Lourdes, a thousand year old fortress perched on a hill overlooking the entire town of Lourdes. With some luck we scored a parking place right in front of the castle and it was a free parking day in the city! Normally you would need to park in one of the city’s many parking garages.
The fort was the perfect outing for the five kids ranging in age from two to seven. Each child got to pick a wooden sword, dagger and horse to take on their castle adventure.
The castle has gardens the kids enjoyed running around in as well as a collection of miniature models of castles. Although there are elevators up to the castle, exploring requires lots of steps, so leave the stroller in the car! The castle affords stunning views over the city. I’m sure it’s even more impressive on a clear day.
Our friends had been to Lourdes previously and warned us that the town itself is a bit overrun by tourist shops. It honestly felt like a third world country with everyone hocking rosaries and other items on just about every street.
The plan was to have a picnic lunch at the top of the funicular, but the weather made that an impractical plan. So instead we camped out on the benches just in front of the castle and enjoyed our picnic lunch. It was so fun to have a French picnic of baguettes and cheeses.
Then we worked our way through the crowded streets from the castle down to the Lourdes Grotto. I was honestly a little overwhelmed by the shops and crowds on the streets. I was relieved when we entered the area owned by the church and the entire atmosphere changed.
The compound that surrounds the grotto is quite large. There are a variety of facilities. We headed straight toward the grotto though. There was a small line to pass into the grotto where Bernadette saw The Blessed Mother. There is a place to fill your bottles or take a drink from the spring water, but it is adjacent to the grotto. The spring inside the grotto is protected from visitors. There are several large churches that you can walk through as well. All are magnificent.
Additionally there are a variety of facilities. The webpage said there was an area for children with some activities and coloring pages, but we never found it. (We thought we did but the building was locked.) We also attempted to go into the bookstore, but it was on its afternoon break during our visit.
We did take a nice walk through the lines of prayer candles. We purchased and lit our own as well to offer up a prayer. (If you don’t purchase one of the approved candles the staff will remove yours from the official stands, moving it to the bottom row and allowing it to burn out.)
The kids were all pretty worn out and the rain was still coming down so we decided to say our goodbyes to our friends and make the drive back to San Sebastian, Spain.
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