What is Lourdes?
Lourdes is a town in the southwestern part of France, located on the Gave river, between the larger town of Pau (to the west) and city of Toulouse (to the east). It is a pilgrimage town, receiving millions of pilgrims every year.
Made famous by Bernadette Soubirous, who at the age of 14 in 1858, witnessed multiple apparitions of a Lady at the grotto.
Many various reasons bring people to the site every year. To drink, bathe in, or collect the healing waters whose source is located in the grotto where all of the apparitions took place. To join in prayer in the numerous basilicas and chapels (six total) on site. To light a candle and offer prayers of intention.
Our Lourdes Experience
I have to admit, even though I mentioned the grotto of Lourdes in a post explaining our grotto for Millie’s garden, I was really quite ignorant about the town of Lourdes and famous story of Bernadette and the apparitions.
When we went to France, the town wasn’t even on my radar. However, our host family in Biarritz decided that this might be good for our soul. It was only about 2 hours from where they lived. They were right. Then again, they’re mes parents français (my French parents), so I wouldn’t expect anything less.
We arrived into Lourdes early afternoon, and wound around small streets driving past rows upon rows of hotels. Shuttered hotels. Hotels closed for the off season. We were in a religious resort town of sorts. We parked right next to the Gave and began our short half mile hike to the basilicas and grotto.
We wound through those same streets, open at street level with souvenir shops. They were selling empty bottles ranging in size from an ounce to two gallons with the express purpose of taking water from the source. There were rosaries, night lights, baseball caps, candles, mints made from the source water, cookies, handkerchiefs, books and coffee mugs. Something for everyone. A little over the top for me.
We arrived to the entrance of the pilgrimage site, with hundreds of people milling about. We were lucky to be there during the off season and were able to experience everything without the crowds. We spent some time walking around the outside – listening to a prayer by a chaplain at the grotto, drinking from the fountain, and lighting candles. Just sitting in the sunlight and taking in the fresh air. Trying to understand the history of the place and come to a calmness.
How it helped our healing
In some very profound ways it helped the continuous mending of our hearts.
We lit three candles. We remembered my Dad, we remembered Millie, and we celebrated our blessing – MC.
We visited the grotto and touched the smooth rock, worn down by the millions of visitors that do the same each year.
We drank from the line of water fountains that distributed water from the source.
We visited the basilicas. Yes, basilicas, plural. We took a moment to pause and reflect on life. To be grateful. To hope. To let go.
It’s been ten months, nearly to the day, since life without Millie became our new reality. We’ve been navigating life one day at a time, and trying to find all the silver linings that we possibly can.
For the past couple of months it’s been hard to stop thinking about what “should be” instead of focusing on what is. To wonder what “will be” instead of being present in the moment. To stop blaming myself for what I had no control over. To stop stressing over what isn’t. To be grateful for what we have.
Information for explaining the geography, history, and facts of Lourdes, France was taken from the following sources:
This is part of a mini series of stories shared from our recent trip to France. Visit my Instagram for more pictures from the trip. Previous posts include:
- Two helpful apps: Two apps that made navigating Paris super simple
- A trip of firsts: First time personal and family experiences traveling to France
- Three lessons: What I learned traveling internationally with our family
- Preparing to leave: Tips I found on the internet for traveling with a young family
Do you have questions about our trip? Please email me or share in the comments section – I would love to answer them!