The next day I woke up to rain, and a lot of it. Fortunately I had scored a pair of earplugs and was able to get some rest, despite the best efforts of my roomie with sleep apnea. We were informed at breakfast that this day would be our first (and only) rainout of the trip. No riding.
We had some options. One was to dodge the raindrops and go for a hike, or just chill out around Arreau, or go to Lourdes. I decided to go to Lourdes.
I am not Catholic, but am always interested in things of historical significance. Four of us chose Lourdes so we piled in a car and off we went. It was about a 90 minute drive from Arreau. It was nice to get to Lourdes and see civilization. The population of Lourdes is about fifteen thousand or so. The main attraction, of course, is the shrine where supposedly folks have seen Mary and many miracles have been recorded from drinking the waters there. You can read about it elsewhere if you like, the wiki gives a pretty good synopsis.
I don't believe in that sort of stuff, but of course wanted to be respectful to the guys I was with, a few of which were Catholic. And I wanted to be respectful to the many folks that were there doing their deal.
It was amazing to see bus after bus load of people piling into Lourdes. The area around the shrine/church had steady foot traffic, even in the rain.
This is the church that they built directly on top of the grotto, or cave where Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette.
There was actually a service going on while we were there. We accidentally went in through the out door. Whoops, sorry about that.
Down below you can see the grotto itself. People were bringing things to touch the cave walls with, and many had paper that they used pencils with to make an impression of the cave on. Not my cup of tea, but to each their own. There were a lot of penguins there.
Down the line from the grotto were row upon row of candle holding areas. You could bring your own, or buy ones there. There were big candles, small ones, and medium sized ones. It was pretty interesting. I heard that there were dudes employed full time to clean up the wax.
At this statue of Mary a bunch of people were singing.
This is an area where the infirm could be wheeled/stretchered into the healing waters there. It wasn't in operation while I was present.
This is a long shot of the whole area. Note the river right there. They had a large place where you could get the healing waters for yourself and fill as many containers as you liked. Some were drinking it right out of the tap, some were filling little bottles to bring home. I don't know if you are supposed to drink the stuff or splash it on you, or what the rules were. I also wondered if the healing waters came right out of the river, or if it was from a spring, or a municipal water system. Anyway, I took a small sip for good luck.
I should give a shout out to the Catholic Church - they didn't charge a cent to get to any of the things in the shrine and even had free water bottles there if you wanted to bring some holy water back with you. They had a donation place, but you weren't forced to give. I thought that was pretty nice.
The area around the shrine is absolutely packed with stores where you can get Chinese made statues of your favorite saint, special water bottles, you name it. I picked up the Lourdes throat lozenges made with official Lourdes water. Yes, you could get practically anything with Lourdes on it.
We then toured a castle in Lourdes and I took a few shots from the top. You can see the Lourdes church complex in the distance.
We stopped for lunch and I got a pizza. I ate the whole thing, and it was pretty good. Pizza isn't that different in France and it is served everywhere. The ingredients such as the sausages are far superior to here though.
Back to the hotel we went and I enjoyed happy hour with a few of my tour mates. For dinner this evening, we had these items.
Appetizer was pasta with parmesan and some yummy bacon on top.
Main course was a BOSS veal stew. The potatoes were really good too.
The cheese course was Brie. Nothing to scream about, to me Brie only gets so good.
Dessert was this marvelous blueberry tart with custard. The best dessert I have had so far.
Time for rest - tomorrow would be the second biggest day of riding on my trip next to the race and on it is one of the most famous climbs in all of cycling, the Tourmalet.