The first time was in 2002. There was a long queue for the baths but this lady volunteer who looked like a novice nun picked me out of the long line as I stood there shaking uncontrollably in tears. I can never explain why I was picked out, warmly hugged, then brought to the front of the line.
Without comprehending the whole situation, I found myself visiting Lourdes the next 2 years (2003 & 2004), then again in 2006 with my niece. That makes this my 5th pilgrimage, this time with friends. But like the first 3 visits, sans any hotel arrangements. Well, I never lost faith I’d find a room here in Lourdes.
For the first time though, I trained into Lourdes (from Bayonne, France). In earlier visits, either I flew or drove into this Marian pilgrimage site. Quite dramatic to enter Lourdes via train tracing River Gave and viewing a clear but fleeting image of the impressive Basilica. My friends were delighted!
We found modest accommodations near the train station where we deposited our bags then rode the bus for a short ride to the grotto area. Passing some interior streets and alleys, I lamented that Lourdes appears overly commercialized with its many souvenir shops, inns and cafes.
As we’ve done all 5 ideal things to do in Lourdes ( Mass, Procession, Baths, Confession/Reconciliation, and Stations of the Cross), we found time to visit the former house of Saint Bernadette. It’s a short walk from our hotel via a staircase down to a busy street leading all the way to the Basilica.
The museum-house is now managed by St. Bernadette’s grandnephew. The 2€ admission earned us a ticket which is more like a medallion. Upstairs, a tiny store sold religious items like prayer books, religious statues, rosaries at prices even lower than what it would cost you in other stores near the church grounds. Imagine that! It is like one is invited to this house to “feel” Bernadette and to pay for items in the store at cost. For those visiting Lourdes, I strongly suggest you visit this place and buy your souvenirs here. And yes, do all 5 activities and seize the chance to meditate, contemplate and reflect on life’s blessings.