I was very pleased with my interactions with the Lourdes Tourist office, both before and during my visit to the city this year.
Lourdes has a good app for Ipad that I used to familiarize myself with the attractions and do some planning, one of relatively few in Southern France that had an app that was truly helpful.
Emails were answered promptly and thoroughly, even at a time when the town was itself in dire straits with the rebuilding from this years floods.
In person the tourist office near the castle was very welcoming and offers a few guided tours through the city. They had adequate number of pamphlets in a variety of languages and were very helpful.
Additionally, the tourist office has a number of blue information kiosks throughout the city (one directly across from the bus station for example) These were filled with good information and most helpful.
In all I was very pleased with the tourist office and the services they offer.
I do note, however, that many of their publications tend to focus more on the religious attractions to the exclusion of many other attractions. For example, what is that large statue in front of the tourist office? Answer, it was Lourdes memorial to the war dead. I appears nowhere in their publications.
As many of us saw on news programs, Lourdes suffered greatly from once in a lifetime floods this summer. Many places around town will have pictures showing the devastation and their gratitude to the emergency responders who did such a fine job as well as the unity of the community and those who helped get the city back in order.
For the most part you don't really notice the damage walking around the city.
Lourdes is a very small town in the Hautes-Pyrénées département in southwest France. Which is only eight hours drive from Barcelona, Spain. Lourdes happens to be one of the largest Catholic pilgrimage nearest Barcelona, and one of the most popular Catholic shrines in the world.
Lourdes lies 497 miles south of Paris in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. The small town of only 20,000 inhabitants receives more than 5 million pilgrims and tourists each year because of a set of visions reported by a young girl named Bernadette in 1858. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes incorporates 52 hectares of property and 22 places of worship, including the sacred grotto, there are two great basilicas, and a variety of concret large and very large buildings for pilgrims and the sick who are rolled in their beds, wheelchairs and any handycap means of transporting the pilgrim. Outside the sanctuary, many pilgrims also visit the Lourdes home of the young visionary, St. Bernadette. Amongst the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception which is located onthe very top of the rock above the Grotto and behind the Basilica of the Rosary, this was the first basilica to be built in Lourdes. I believe it was constructed between 1866 and 1872.
Fondest memory: What my husband and family and all the people we have toured in Lourdes majority of us always looks forward to the very touch night rosary procession. It could be raining very hard or it could be as hot as the sun shines, we would not miss the 9 o'clock procession. As we get at around 7:30 in the morning, we have our daily breakfast, which is basically American or international breakfast, then we hear few masses inside the grotto, then we have other prayers to join, fill up our bottle with holy water, then back to our hotel and lunch. Then we take a bit of siesta and off again we are in the grotto. By 6pm, we are getting ready for the 9 o'clock procession. We are so very much looking forward to our 9pm procession.
The Candle Light Procession at Lourdes. It must be seen twice to be seen properly. The first night you walk in the procession with all the Pilgrims from church parishes all over the world. the second night, you go up on top of the ramp to the top level and watch the procession from there. It is a spectacular and most remarkable event to witness.
Fondest memory: The peace I feel wandering around the Sanctuary and Grotto at Massabielle
Since child hood it was always my dream to visit Lourdes, France and from the very first time my husband took me to Lourdes as often as the opportunity came, I was ready to drop other engagement and come to Lourdes.
Our volunteer work started three years ago, when we arrived in Lourdes as early as 5 in the morning, and after we settled into our little hotel (not a fancy hotel, as all we needed was to hung our hats and spend all day at the santuary). As my husband and I were passing by the main entrace, on our left side was the hospital for the sick and needed, and overheard someone saying that many volunteers could not come because there was a terrible storm in the neighboorhood. So, we started talking to this lady who happens to be in charge of the people using a wheel chair, and they started us in the kitchen. There in the kitchen you are to prepare and be extra careful of preparing the diet food of the patience, then the following year we enquired how we could volunteer pushing the patience to the grotto for the 9pm rosary which was one of the most touchies way of praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary. There after each year when our time permits we then would make arrangement doing more days of volunteers which we truly enjoy so very much. It is so lovely meeting all kinds of people, all walks of life, all kinds of people with different kinds of religion, wealth, culture and just from every part of the world. Lourdes makes us very grateful for all what we have and always thankful for what we are and what we have. May God Bless You All.
Fondest memory: The many times we can offer our volunteer service to the sick and needed. The very very very first time I came to Lourdes, it certainly was a very strong impact on my soul. Outside the Santuary, one will and may conclude that it is getting to be quite commercialized, however, once your in the grotto you would then understand why all those stores are selling the religious items. Just praying the the Blessed Mother is a given tranquility on our life. Then when your time permits it would be quite interesting as well to visit the museum. It is only about three minutes from the shrines, via the "ascenseur de L´Egalite", the Lourdes Museum presents an audío - visual experience, Lourdes as large as life at the time of the visions, showing everyone the extraordinary story of Bernadette.When speaking of the Sanctuary: Many and most visitors even the pilgrims when you look up to the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, is invited to look beyong the grey clouds of his or her own existence toward the heaven in order to allow himself to be bothered in the light from above. Although, whenever we are in Lourdes, what my husband and I look forward to is the 9pm rosary and the many beautiful songs "AVE, AVE, AVE, MARIA", as we sing that to Our lady of Lourdes, it seems that it automatically puts tears into my eyes, it certainly such a very beautiful song for Our Blessed Mother. "AMEN".
We went in late Feb., and early March. Very few tourists there. Lovely 9AM masses in English in the tiny old chapel atop the basilica. Beautiful mosaics behind the altar; the sidewalls are filled with beautiful and varied smooth marble sections contributed by folks as memorials, and dated from about 1862. AVOID Le Cardinale restaurant (across McDonalds) at all costs... rude and boorish owners, tasteless "food". BEST spot to eat was the unpretentious "Le Palacio Restaurant, 26 Place du Champs Commun. Facade was uninviting, but inside was spotless, nicely cloth-covered tables....superb food, wonderful, friendly service, imaginative menu, modest prices.
Hotel Ibis was good place to stay. Across Hotel Ibis is a tiny internet business...offering access for nominal fee.
Fondest memory: Hard to say.....many sweet old villages in the area....easy to get to them....mountains lovely....people warm and friendly....tiny cafes with surprisingly good meals....
This is not my fondest memory of Lourdes, but it is my most memorable.................
A young family arrived at the sanctuary the same time we did, I saw them join in the mass at Grotte de Massabielle. They had 2 children, one severely disabled in a wheelchair. The father totally lost himself in the mass, he was obviously praying for his son.
A little later I saw the father again carrying his disabled son in to one of the pools full of blessed water in an attemped to cure him.
The father was so determined & seemed so desperate to help his son. It was such an upsetting sight to watch.
The last Vatican approved Miracle was confirmed in 1987, after 12 years of investigation in to the claim.
Fondest memory: Your reward for climbing those winding, broad steps to the top of the cathedral...the sparkling blue skies and fresh air only add to the picture!