My telephone had threatened two thunderstorms in the night but fortunately nothing came of them. I rose at 08:30, showered and the usual and collected my croissant and pain au chocolat from reception. I had decided to go into Lourdes on foot and have a “gander” so I donned my walking “barefoot” shoes and off I went. It was a very pleasant change to be on foot, feeling my way forward to cross train lines and rivers and after a short while I was at the fence of the Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes. I went in unopposed by the man at the gate, it is quite a spectular sight even as a non-catholic to see thousands of people celebrating mass outside. I looked in from across the river and listened for a while then went round , over a bridge and across the area in front. I looked inside the various churches, mass was in progress in Italian, Spanish and French, they were very ornate in the catholic way and there were many plaques from the previous century and the one before for loved ones lost or one for three sons lost in the first world war, I was quite moved by it. I went into both churches (upstairs and downstairs) then walked the length of the Sanctuaire area and sat down for a while in the shade and did some “people watching”. I always find it amazing how many shapes and sizes of people there are, people from all over the world, old and young, a lot of nuns but didn´t see a single monk (in habit). It was definitely worth a visit and gave me food for thought but was glad to walk out up the touristy main drag and out into the town.
I´d seen the castle (chateau fort) yesterday and wanted to have a look so I headed that way. By a stroke of luck, today was “patriemonie” day so all sorts of cultural places in all of France were open for free including the castle. So up the 131 steps I went and round the chateau, it has a museum of pyrenean lifestyle and history in it which is interesting. The castle itself seems to have been around for nigh on 1300 years, it has been the seat of the local count, was given to the English for a while and was even the base of the “black prince” for a time. As it was “patriemonie” day there were also various musician groups playing medieval type music. If you like castles definitely worth a visit and does have the most spectular views in all directions so good for photographers too. There is, however, no tea room or loo so best to bring a drink with you.
Update: The castle does apparently have a tea room but I just failed to find it and there are loos at the bottom at the entrance which can be swiftly reached using the lift if needs should be. Google review link.
After this I perambulated through Lourdes using the back streets rather than larger thoroughfares. Lourdes has an end of era feeling to it, it is a bit delapidated in parts, more than is usual and numerous houses seem to be empty or were boarded up. Apparently, tourist numbers are dwindling and the town needs to recreate itself and find a new way or direction. I wish it luck and good fortune. The sanctuaire is certainly special with its spectrum of the world mixed in with pilgrims on the St James´way.
So now back at the site and thinking about tomorrow, if the weather holds out I shall leave the tent here and do the Larrey museum and the film premiere from here on the bike with no luggage.