A pilgrimage to Lourdes can be fulfilling, memorable and of course healing, but only if you go armed with some very important traveling information. For the next few posts I’ll give you the necessary tools to make your visit a success.
It is important to fully prepare yourself for your trip to Lourdes, as you will be in an environment unlike no other.
What to expect:
1. Be prepared to see many near death devotees. You’ll see more crippled, mentally handicapped, and terminally ill than you would ever see in any given hospital. It is not uncommon to watch a stretcher wheel by with what you are sure is a skeleton or a never ending row of wheel chairs moving faster on their private wheel chair lane than the pedestrians are on the sidewalk. it is ok to stare,but please do not gawk. These fellow Catholics have traveled very far for a dip in the healing pools, treat them like heros not like lepers. Lourdes might be the only place in the world where the sick and crippled are transformed from outcasts to first class citizens, or even royalty. Embrace this and offer to push a cart, lend a smile or offer kind words of encouragement and hope. This is truly what the experience is all about.
2. The tourists are inescapable, arguably more than you saw on your last trip to Disney. And while they are all bible abiding, Jesus loving Catholics, they still are extremely pushy and even rude. Hold your own. You deserve the holy water or to visit the cave just as much as the next pilgrim, and remember that. If you let one person cut in the line to the baths, you may have just unwittingly let an entire busload cut in front of you.
3. This is the most disappointing expectations, but a complete reality. DO NOT EXPECT TO GET INTO THE BATHS. I know, I know, you traveled all this way with the sole purpose of being healed in the baths. Well, you and the 90,000 other tourists who visit every year. The baths are open from 9-11 and 2-4 in the summer months. If you are set on dunking under, then I would advise waiting in line at 7:30 AM as the very first activity you do in Lourdes. Be prepared to get cut by people who are very sick or crippled, as they get top priority. *Also make sure you check the Catholic holiday schedule, the baths will be closed on these days… and there are quite a lot holidays.
4. If you are traveling alone, or without a bus group, then I would strongly advise mapping out your route to Lourdes and your hotel stay once there. Despite the thousands of pilgrims heading to Lourdes, finding the bus, taking it to the train station and getting on the right train to Lourdes.. only to be dropped off a few miles from the tourist hub, can be daunting. Not everyone speaks English, so come manned with a few basic travel phrases and a pocket dictionary.
5. You will not be “seeing France” or experiencing any of the wondrous French delicatessans or fabulous shopping. Lourdes is a very small village of sorts that only caters to tourists. The food is mediocre, the non-religious shopping non-existent. There are other fun tourist activities, like museums and a trip to the castle, but you will not satisfy your desire to see and embrace French culture in Lourdes.