Exploring the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes
The Gallia & Londres hotel is conveniently situated just seconds from the St Joseph Sanctuary entrance. Since the Sanctuary covers an area of 52 hectares, with a staggering 22 places of worship, I suggest your first port of call is the large Tourist Information office just down the slope to the right. You’ll be given maps of both Lourdes and the Sanctuary, receiving info sheets with timings for Mass and even an MP3 player with earphones for a guided commentary. The official Lourdes tourist office is located outside the Sanctuary at Place Peyramale.
Armed with informative maps and leaflets, I stopped for a few minutes to take in the fact that I was actually in Lourdes. The rain stopped and I was determined to see as much as possible during my 48-hour stay. To my left, I saw the impressive Basilica of the Rosary standing sentinel above the Sanctuary with its two elliptical ramps and stairways leading up to the golden cross and Venetian mosaics. The views across the Sanctuary towards the Pont St Michel are extraordinary.
I then walked down to the Grotto where Bernadette received her first vision. The queue to enter the open cave was too long for me to join it, so I paused for a while in the seating area opposite to take in the pilgrims, the Grotto, the spring and the statue of Our Lady. To be honest, I’d not expected to feel very much there, but I was wrong. The energies there were palpable and very moving. I meditated for a while, enjoying the reverence and the peaceful atmosphere.
The pools just along from the Grotto are popular with pilgrims who come to bathe in these healing waters. To the left of the Basilica there’s the uphill route of the Stations of the Cross which I recommend exploring. Allow an hour to walk slowly along this peaceful and meditative route. I decided to orient myself with a tour that follows in Bernadette’s footsteps and joined a group outside the Sanctuary’s tourist office to take in the sights, including Le Cachot, her father’s house, the museum, the hospice where Bernadette worked, the parish church and the presbytery. Walking among these historical sights brings Bernadette’s story vividly to life.
Hotel Gallia & Londres – spa and massage
After the first day’s sightseeing, I looked forward to experiencing the fabulous Nuxe Spa. They have a brilliant system here whereby you book the entire spa at a rate of €25 for 45 minutes for one person or €50 for 2 to 4 people. I had a fabulous 30 minutes there: the huge Jacuzzi is sheer heaven, and this was followed by a sweat out in the steam room and then a dry sauna. Suffice to say I was perfectly relaxed for my deep tissue massage with Nadia afterwards. A raft of face and body treatments are available at the hotel spa, including couples’ treatments.