Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lourdes, France

Never would I have imagined myself going to Lourdes, France, me, being a heretic and purveyor of religious jokes.  I was traveling with my mom, aunts and uncles, and I understood that it was one of their life goals to visit this city.

The Gave de Pau River flowing within Lourdes

Lourdes is located in Southern France, about a 6-hour train ride from Paris.  Lourdes looked nothing like Paris -- almost no people on the streets, littered with washed out, almost restrained architecture.  There were no shopping malls, an H&M or even a Starbucks. I'm like what on the Good Earth am I doing here?

I learned that tourists come here in droves and congregations not to go sight-seeing, but specifically for divine intervention.  Lourdes is famous for the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the now Saint Bernadette.  It is a town of merely 15,000, but attracts 5 million tourists a year, more than the Philippines!  The water flowing from the apparition site is said to have miraculous healing properties.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes

Interiors of the Sanctuary

A cup of the miraculous water.  For a one euro donation, you get this plastic cup.
Background shows the water fountains where you can get as much water as you please.
My aunts bought larger canisters and brought home the water!

Drinking the water coming from the Lourdes spring, or bathing in it, is believed to cure the sick.  I drank the water expecting fireworks and an out-of-body experience but I have to say it was probably the best tasting water I've ever had.  I think I came back to the fountains ten times and I did feel good afterwards.  My mom had just come from the baths and she coaxed me into trying it too.  With nothing to lose (but my clothes), I obliged.

The baths

The line to the baths was not that long, unfortunately, as I was not mentally prepared to shed my clothing in front of total strangers just yet.  My uncle was in line with me, which made it a lot weirder.  At the entrance, the attendants will assign you to a loosely-covered cubicle.  Good thing my uncle was put elsewhere.  I was asked to take off everything, yes, including THAT, and was handed a towel to hide my jewelry.  Seven other men were in the waiting area and I noticed that most of them seemed to be there for the heck of it and were regretting their decision.  But I noticed one guy who was there out of necessity.  He looked absolutely sickly and just really out of options.  I figured hey maybe I was put here for a reason -- to realize how dumb I was not to know how lucky I am.

When it was my turn, I was led into an adjacent room with a marble tub filled with the magical water.  I was asked to dip my feet into the tub and make a wish.  They removed the towel and with the help of the attendants, submerged me into the water for a few seconds.

Feeling renewed and refreshed, I saw the sickly guy outside the baths reunite with his family.  I felt so bad for him and I wish he got the miracle he asked for.

With my mom after leaving the baths
Site of the Our Lady of Lourdes apparitions

The Sanctuary sits on top of the rock that houses the apparition site

The scenic Lourdes countryside

With Tito Tony and Tita Ivy
I loved every bit of our time in Lourdes.  It's a nice place to relax and reflect.  Our next stop? Another religious place called Fatima in Portugal.