Lourdes, France - May 22, 2012
So I walked down into the center of Lourdes today and went to the grotto. It's much smaller than I imagined and not so many people as I would have thought. Talking to the hotel owner, I guess it is very slow now. I thought that the site was really a cave (maybe from the movie?) but it is more like a depression in the rock wall. Maybe it's my imagination but my back is feeling better.... a little. I think it was just the walk and the Advil and Metacarbimide or whatever that magic stuff is... but who knows. Do-do-do-do...
Cathedral at Lourdes
Anyway... the place is, well, what's a nice word... commercialized. Didn't have any use for the Jesus wiggle pictures or the Lourdes Bowie knives or the LED flashing St. Bernadette lapel pins, but they did have a Lourdes branded rain poncho that I was eyeing pretty good. It looked like they were a big seller in the continued rain. Not as windy as yesterday and so a good Lourdes umbrella could handle it.
Also, now I know you are never going to believe this... and I didn't have my camera or I would have taken a picture, but just above and to the left of the WC sign (no joke :| ), a bit of the stucco has fallen off and the rain has wet some of the underlying concrete. And there VERY clearly is the image of a man in a beard. Now I don't mean any disrespect because I am not making it up. Really, I'm not. Clear as a bell. I was going to point it out to someone, but I didn't want to wind up as a flashing lapel pin one day.
One place I did go, however, was along a steep walkway up one of the hills of the city that led past several scenes with statues depicting the crucifixion story. I think that you are supposed to walk all the way up, then take a separate way down, as a pilgrimage. There were many devout there for sure, some crawling on their knees and so forth. As it was, the higher I got, the more crowded it became and it seemed that each group was holding a small prayer session at each scene so it was getting very slow going. So short of barging through with a "Coming through... excusez-moi... on your left..", I just turned around and went down the up direction. Got lots of looks from folks who were convinced that I was a fallen one. Sorry.
Off tomorrow for Avignon. Don't think I will make it that far but I could if the weather is not too bad. I have a not-so-small desire to dance on the bridge "tous en rond". I also would like to stop and see the Pont du Gard, the double-decker Roman aqueduct not very far from there. Both things I remember from French class.
Talking to the hotel owner tonight, as I was the only one in his restaurant and the only guest in the hotel, he was reminiscing about the old days... 14 years ago when he opened. I said that I had never seen such a small town with so many hotels. He said that there were 460 hotels in town when he opened and they are now down to 160 and will be down to 100 by next year. He used to have 10 staff and now has 4. It's a tough go for sure. Too bad, nice place and very nice folks. He said that he and his wife visited Scottsdale, Arizona in the summer once (ooo... bad timing guy) and would like to get back but they are not sure when they will be able to travel again. I feel pretty fortunate.
Anyway, I'm not looking forward to schlepping the bags tomorrow and loading up the bike, but nobody is going to do it for me. :( The lead story tonight on the news was the rain across France and the inundation in Nancy. Guess they got 2 meters of water in the streets downtown in a few minutes. Floating cars and all that. Unfortunately, motorcycles don't float and I didn't pack my lifevest. I always seem to guess wrong when I pack!