Saturday, 6 December 2008

France: Pau - Lourdes

The coach disgorged us at Pau station 90 minutes or so later than expected, but no harm was done: indeed, we had rather enjoyed this minor drama. Up we went on the funicular to the Boulevard des Pyrénées, but of the view there was none: the day was grey. Caroline rather likes Pau, but we didn't dawdle long in the City after lunch, feeling the weight of our backpacks. Instead, we tracked down an efficient bus which took us out to the Europcar base and to temporary possession of a Fiat 500 diesel. (It seemed plenty big enough for the two of us - though I attracted some odd looks when getting in and out - and used very little fuel: in fact it's rather more economical than the Smart car that Caroline covets.)

Though the object was to discover some more remote parts of the Midi-Pyrénées, our first stop was Lourdes, which we could have reached by train. I had been on two Ampleforth Pilgrimages in the early 'Seventies, of which I had clear and happy memories. Caroline for her part was intrigued to see what the fuss was about.

Although 2008 has been a big year at the Shrine, 150 years after Bernadette's apparitions, there weren't hordes of pilgrims about in the Domain on a damp November afternoon. All things considered we declined to join the short queue for the baths, walking past to the bridge across the Gave and into La Prairie: heavily developed now compared to 35 years ago, it remains a still and special place.

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