Lourdes is a deceptively weird town. It’s sort of the gateway to the Pyrenees. Pictures showing hill top castles and cascading waterfalls roused my excitement. Once I was there that fantasy washed away.
The 1st hour I arrived nobody was there. All the shops were closed and the streets fashioned tall narrow condemned buildings that claimed to be functioning hotels. The towns people came out around five and opened their souvenir stores where they sold only tiny figurines of the Virgin Mary. In every store there were hundreds. There must be one million Virgin Marys in Lourdes.
The town is built around this holy cave where a saint is said to have been visited by the Virgin Mary herself fourteen times, why fourteen I don’t know. There is now a beautiful cathedral build atop the cave. Thousands come each day to pray and to drink the holy water to heal ailments. There are many blind and disabled people that make the pilgrimage, as well as devout Catholics. There were also lots of nuns smoking cigarettes. The actual cave is more of an alcove. The ritual is to walk in and run your fingers along the wall while praying. Some people kiss the wall. Some kneel and cry. There are candles everywhere.
I decided to go into the cave myself. I reached high to avoid as many germs as I could. Walking along touching the wall I can’t say I had a religious experience. However, participating in this practice that has gone on for centuries touches a deeper sense of spiritualism that I could feel. Afterwards I searched for an authentic restaurant yet had to settle on one of many called “Cheeseburger Pizza.”
I returned to my Addams Family Hostel to prep my pack for the journey into the Pyrenees. The reason it was the Addams Family hostel is because there were no lights, the walls creaked, and the owner operator who showed up an hour late to check in was the spitting image of Uncle Fester.
Lourdes is creepy, it was time to leave France’s Gatlinburg.