The Grotto, Lourdes
Expect masses of people there. I was overwhelmed, but the others in our group who had been in Lourdes very often told me it was actually a small crowd.
Get in line to go to the grotto and - I don't think it's necessary to mention this to any VTer - be respectful and quiet.
Watch out for wheelchairs. Where you can see a bike lane in other towns, you can see a wheelchair lane in Lourdes.
And it's a sad fact, but even here you have to be careful and watch out for pickpockets.
Just around the sanctuary there are hundreds of souvenir shops, but inside there is none. The only thing you can buy in there are candles.
I don't think anybody can come to Lourdes, to the sanctuary and not be impressed, no matter if you are religious or not. I am religious but not Catholic and many of the rituals were new to me.
Being in the grotto in which the poor farmer's girl Bernadette is said to have seen Mary more than 150 years ago was very impressive.
Seing the hundreds if not thousands of candles each night, hearing the songs - and joining them after a night or two - was very impressive.
Seeing the many, many sick and disabled people who had come there hoping to get better made me realise how small and unimportant the few ailments are I suffer from.
It's a humbling experience and a very impressive one.
The site of the apparitions in 1858, this is the place all visitors to Lourdes, whether curious day trippers or dedicated pilgrims, must not miss. Visit it after dark, it is very special then.
When visiting Lourdes, you must visit the Grotto where the young Bernadette discovered a spring she claims she was lead to by the Virgin Mary. Whether you believe it or not, get some of the water there and give it a try!
You have to know the origins to appreciate it. It is about a girl, Bernadette Soubirous was born on Monday January 7th 1844, the first child of Francois and Louise. Mary Virgin appeared to her and asked her to dig a hole in a barren ground. Many laughed at her and she was also tormented by the authorities because of this. St. Bernadette digged it for many hours before the waters appeared and many people were healed by the spring water in different ways. Since then, every year, at least 5 million visitors went to the spring.
Every year, more than five million visitors make their way to the grotto of Massabielle. Here it was in 1858, that the young Bernadette Soubirous, daughter of a miller from nearby, saw the Virgin appear to her eighteen times. The grotto was immediately opened to the public on request from Napoléon III and a huge missionary movement swelled up throughout the country. The Catholic Church took just four years to accept the veracity of the apparitions. Sixty-five cases of miraculous cures have been put on record by the Church to date.
This is where the whole thing started, just down the side of the basilique. You probably wont get close because of all the people there waiting for their religious experience but you have to see it.