Lourdes: Living Off of Tourism

I keep things real on this lil’ blog of mine, and when I don’t like a place (which rarely happens) I let you know. Lourdes, unfortunately, was my type of travel nightmare; like a Disneyland for Catholics. Instead of hawking Mickey and Minnie Mouse products, you had crosses, Bibles, and Jesus figurines of all colors, shapes and sizes.

But, I had an important reason to go here, and that made the trip completely worth it. I was asked to go here for a couple of very special people in my life who are battling cancer.

You see, Lourdes is not your average town of 15,000. Millions of Roman Catholics and Christians make the pilgrimage here each year because it is said to be the place where The Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette, a young French girl from Lourdes, in 18 different apparitions. In one of these apparitions, she is reported to have led Bernadette to a buried spring, whose water is believed by the faithful to have healing properties. There have been many people who have been miraculously cured after consuming the water from this spring in Lourdes (there’s even a medical bureau based in Lourdes which investigates these cases.)

Anyway, while the town itself is claustrophobic and disgustingly commercialized, the area where the apparitions took place is beautiful. The Sanctuary of the Lady of Lourdes, pictured below, looks straight out of a fairytale:

church-lady-lourdes

lourdes-church

lourdes-candles

lourdes-river

lourdes-castle

lourdes-france

lourdes-sanctuary

lourdes-gold-crown

lourdes-sunset

lady-of-lourdes

lourdes-nuns

lourdes-procession

lourdes-france-shops

 

Have you ever been to a place that lives off of tourism?

Photos: A Pit Stop in Pau France

 

pau-france-downtown

pauCollage2

pau-france-square

pau-france-fountain

pau-streets

pau-france-church

mint-green-door

pau-blue-shutters

pau-france-church

pau-streets

I loved the Pyrenees so much, that I was back a month later–but this time, staying just on the French side. A couple of hours spent wandering the streets of Pau in southern France was a spontaneous decision fueled by hunger, that made a nice pit stop on a sunny August afternoon. 

While Pau itself wasn’t particularly memorable, some bits and pieces stood out (check out that gorgeous mint green door!)

Certainly beat stopping at any old highway rest stop!

The Spanish Pyrenees: Monte Perdido

While volunteering at the Tour de France with the Euskaltel Team this summer, I was introduced to the beauty that is the Pyrenees mountain range. Let me tell you, they’re not lying about those claims of “fresh mountain air”. At these altitudes, you’re getting nothing but fresh oxygen filling your lungs, exceptionally green landscapes, and probably the happiest wild horses that exist, galloping alongside your car.

I’m continuously amazed by this beautiful world we live in.

french_pyrenees

pyrenees_mountains_france

wild_horses_pyrenees

We passed over to the Spanish side for the night to rest at the Parador de Bielsa, at the foot of Monte Perdido, or “Lost Mountain”. The Parador is a big, rustic, stone building; perfect for really getting away from it all–you’re kilometers from anyone else besides hotel staff and guests, and surrounded completely by nature. While the hotel did have Wi-Fi, it was more tempting to disconnect and open up my window to the views and (seriously) babbling brook outside. I would love to come back in the winter and have this cozy place to hole up in after hours of playing in the snow!

parador_bielsa

 

parador_monte_perdido

 

 

 

These are the views from the Parador of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Monte Perdido. This is the third-highest mountain in the Pyrenees–doesn’t it look like a place you’d expect to see some mythical creature hanging about?

monte_perdido

grounds_parador_bielsa

monte_perdido_spain

sunrise_monte_perdido

 

I was there just for one night, and headed out at sunrise to cross back over the French border and meet the cyclists at the finish line in the lovely town of Bagnères-de-Bigorre.

tour-de-france-bagneres

 

Have you ever been to the French or Spanish Pyrenees?