Bonjour France!

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.

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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.

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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!!!”.

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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.

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Not sure if taking photo of the stream is allowed but took the chance anyway.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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