26 May 2017
|Day 8 - Fri 26 May 17
After checking out of our hotel, we walked to the St Jean car park to rescue the car. On the way we returned to my coffee shop of yesterday,next to the car park entry, for a coffee and croissant each. I drew money while we awaited the coffee.
As we had left our cases at the hotel, we picked them up as we left the city. Driving over rising street bollards added a little excitement to our departure for the 177km drive to Lourdes.
Our first task was to re-fuel which also added some excitement when the automatic petrol pump would not work without cashier assistance; all pleasantly handled through sign language. Shortly after we detoured through the village Saint Elix Le Chateau to check on an attractive four turreted Chateau; unfortunately the grounds were unattended and the chateau did not appear in use.
The drive to Lourdes was along an 130kph freeway that included two tolls; both catching us in a panic; still not sure how much they cost as it was simple card in, card out and go.
Our arrival in Lourdes was less than smooth as a street change on the Rue de la Grotte had Geeps in a spin and it was just not a simple case of re- routing. After selecting a number of alternative routes, we had to circumnavigate the city and approach from the opposite direction. Even then movement was hampered by hundreds of ignorant street walking tourists. We did however make our hotel but only after driving along a few wrong way streets.
We checked into the hotel which is in the final stage of renovation and occupied our room soon after. The staff aware of the traffic problem bent over backwards for us and even offered a glass of wine while we waited.
It was 1 pm and we had not eaten for sometime and set off immediately for the Grotto, picking up a sandwich as we went. We sent 90 mins at this religious site which has now taken on a very commercial flavour. The crowds are significant and the site which started from a trickle of water in the rocks now consists of every conceivable religious structure; many separated by the attractive Le Gave De Pau River. Beyond the religious boundaries the city is a Mecca of souvenir shops, hotels and eating houses; the Grotto is big business to the city. All that said, the site was worth visiting and serves the pilgrims well.
By mid afternoon, the heat being significant, we retired to our room to rest.
At 4 pm, unaccompanied by Kaye, tired of rocks, I visited the Chateau Fort Lourdes which is nearby our hotel. Evidence of a fort occupying the heights dates back to roman times and while it was seized on several occasions, it finished it's fortification status as a prison in the 19th Century. It was transformed into a museum for the Pyrenees in 1921. The visit was quite interesting and should be seen as more than a pile of rocks. I returned to the hotel to rest in preparation for dinner by 1730 hrs.
At 1830 hrs we wandered down to the river, below our hotel for a drink and dinner. Kaye selected the Riviera and we took up a table on the edge of the deck overlooking the river. We shared a fish and chips and goat cheese salad which was nice but not spectacular; the local white wine however was great. We returned directly to bed as the pilgrims were gathering at the Grotto for the 2100ht evening mass which takes an hour and a half.