After more than a decade, I was able to visit Europe again! Yes, for less than a week a few weeks back, I went to France with a terminal layover in Frankfurt, Germany.
Albeit work-related, I still had a grand time since I visited a new French region this time – an area I have not visited and explored the last time I went there. I’m talking about the midi-Pyrenees region, that separates France and Spain.
My destination was Toulouse where I had a couple of meetings. It became my base for 3 days as I shuttle back and forth from Montauban, about 50 kms north of Toulouse, where most of my meetings were held. It’s a charming town, and a pity that I wasn’t able to explore much. But I had good dining experience in Montauban, which I will share in another post.
Since Lourdes, which is in my bucket list of places to visit, is merely 2.5 hours away, I took the chance to go for a very quick visit. I was actually at first hesitant because it will mean I will extend my trip, and would mean I will be away and miss the kiddos more. But got the blessing from the hubby to go so I planned for at most 2 days extension. But travel bugs got in the way and I left the Philippines with a ticket booked on the earliest flight out of Toulouse after my meeting. Which means, no chance of going to Lourdes.
But God had other plans, on my 2nd day, I got news that I may be rebooked to the next day, which means I have an extra day to spare! I immediately went online to book my train and hotel. I got lucky in the hotel department as I was able to secure an overnight stay in one of the nicest hotels in Lourdes. I didn’t get that lucky in the transport side because there was a train strike scheduled on the days I will be traveling. Sigh.
However, I chanced upon bus transport online. I got a bus schedule from Toulouse, with a stop in Tarbes, neighboring town of Lourdes. Booked it immediately so my next challenge would be how to get from Tarbes to Lourdes. I decided that I shall think about this when I get to Tarbes.
I took the bus from the bus terminal near the Central train station in Toulouse and passed along very scenic, Instagram-worthy views – views that made me say “I’m really in Europe!!!”.
After 2+ hours, I got dropped off while raining at a round-about, with no visible public transport. Good thing there was a motel nearby, where I asked help from. The lady at the reception was very kind and called a taxi service for me. Whew!
Truth be told, when I set upon Lourdes and cast my eyes on the Basilica, all the challenges of the past days were gone. I cried, and my tears mixed with the raindrops as it was drizzling at that time. I first went to see the Lady at the Grotto, even if people are lining up for the night procession already. I was expecting it to be grandiose, but it was in fact, very simple. And because it’s very simple, you get to feel the shivers more and appreciate the Lady’s presence.
Not sure if taking photo of the stream is allowed but took the chance anyway.
Then I joined the procession. It was very moving as people come from different countries, reciting the rosary in different languages. It was a long line of people converging at the steps of the Basilica to finish the rosary and recite a few prayers and sing a few songs. It ended a little past 10PM, just when the sun had set and lights are starting to be lit up.
Because I only have a night in Lourdes, I walked some more in the general area near the Basilica before calling it a night at midnight as I plan to start the next day really early.
The following day, I was up and about, looking for the house where St. Bernadette was born at 0530H. I started early as I plan to finish the Stations of the Cross (which is probably just outside my hotel window) before the mass at 0700H. I was able to do all that and had enough time to visit Sacre Couer. I visited the one in Paris the last time I was in Europe so I was so happy that I got the chance to see the in Lourdes.
Then I rushed back to the hotel as the taxi that will bring me to the bus stop in Tarbes was already there. Got packed and running in 15 minutes. Got a nice surprise because the taxi driver had heard of the Philippines as he frequently visits the country. He actually visited many places in the Philippines and goes here every 2 years with his daughters. Because we were chatting and having a good time, I didn’t notice the time, and it was soon over as I’m back in the round-about bus stop. It was a quick ride and a quick Lourdes trip for me.
Caught my bus and in a little over 2 hours, I was back in Toulouse. Since I have plenty of time before my flight, I decided to go around Toulouse Capitole. Looking back, this was the only time in my trip I was able to sit down with nothing to do but people watch, enjoy the view and take in the vibe of France. I loved it! But still a bit careful and cautious as I’m still in France, and something weird might happen.
Then just a few more hours, I’m headed to the airport and a day after, home.
Filed under: Travel