March 21st - April 7th Visit
Lourdes | Medjugorje

Thursday Mar 21st - Friday Mar 22nd, 2019: Traveling to Lourdes

Our trip began on the morning of Thurs, March 21st.  We flew into Oakland, CA arriving around 9am (Trinity from Seattle; Kevin and I from PDX).  We spent the day in the Oakland airport, while I put in one final day of work remotely and waited for our 7pm flight to London Gatwick.

Lourdes
The flight to London took 10 hours on a Norwegian Dreamliner plane, we arrived about 30 minutes late -- at about 12:30pm, Friday.  The plane was nice (big, quieter than most, power at the seats, and individual entertainment screens).  We slept most of the flight.  Once in London, we went through passport control, switched from the South terminal to the North terminal via a tram, checked our carry-ons with EasyJet's "Hands Free" service (best way to get 2 bags onto an EasyJet plan with a discount fare), grabbed some food, and boarded our EasyJet flight to Toulouse.

We arrived in Toulouse at about 5:30pm.  We went straight to the Budget counter to pickup our car rental.  This was a mistake, we should have went out to where the second counter is near the cars themselves.  The inside counter spent a long time with each of the 5 customers in front of us, trying to up-sell them.  It took an hour to get our keys.  Thanks to downloading an offline map on Google Maps, I didn't bother to use cell service with my phone -- we just started Navigating to our B&B in Lourdes (Villa L'Orante - HIGHLY recommended).  We arrived at 9pm.  We were exhausted, so we went right to sleep (after looking out our window at the Lourdes Chapel).

Saturday Mar 23rd, 2019: First Day in Lourdes

Breakfast
We woke up at 7am on Saturday morning.  Took showers (our bathroom was great in this B&B) and went downstairs to the dining room for breakfast. We were served a wonder meal: salmon, coffee, yogurt, goat cheese, fresh squeezed orange juice, hash browns, bread & jam, chocolate cake, and apple sauce.

Spring Water
We were worried about long lines at the Baths, so we headed out in search of them.  We saw the fountains of the Spring water and Trinity and I filled water bottles that we had with us (later Kevin brought his and filled it too -- we filled them and drank the water a few times throughout the day).  The water was cold and refreshing -- it's amazing how clean it looked and tasted.  It was overwhelming to think it came from a Spring revealed by Our Lady (story of apparitions at Lourdes | movie), and a spring which has been attributed to 70 confirmed miraculous cures (and many more unconfirmed).  As we kept walking toward the baths, we stopped briefly at the Grotto -- mass was underway in French.  We then got in line at the Baths (which were not long at all).

Grotto
After a short wait (15 minutes?) we were inside the baths. Each of us went into a dressing room where we undressed and waited to go into a shallow bath of spring water.  When it was my turn, they took me into the room with the bath where I finished undressing and they wrapped me in a cloth.  Next they led me to the top step where I prayed for a minute.  When I was done, they asked if I wanted to say the Hail Mary with them, I did.  They then led me to the far end of the tub, asked me to sit back and they lowered me into the bath water.  Afterward, they offered me some spring water to drink, and asked if I wanted to pour some on my head -- I did both.  I was then led back to the dressing room where I changed back into my clothes.  It was an incredible experience.

Chapel
After we were done, the 3 of us all agreed to goto Confession which was just beginning (10am) in English.

Stations of the Cross
Having been dipped in healing spring water, and absolved of our sins through the sacrament of confession, we we next decided to visit the Chapel above the Grotto.  We then walked "The Way of the Cross" -- which is incredible at Lourdes, they have beautiful depictions of each station with life-size statues.  We went back to our room so Kevin could get his water bottle to fill with spring water.  Returned, got more spring water.  We prayed the rosary during Adoration in the chapel.  We then went to lunch (at 3pm) and then did some shopping, before returning to the room to rest.

After a few hours, we headed back to the Grotto.  It was very pretty with all the candles burning.  We prayed for a while then returned to the room for the night.  It was a great 1st day in Lourdes.

Sunday Mar 24th, 2019: Second Day in Lourdes

Build a Chapel

Prayers

Pentecost Mosaic
After finishing writing about Mar 23rd at about 12:30am, I realized I didn't have my phone.  I walked back to the Sanctuary where I was certain I left it on the bench at The Grotto (20 min round trip), but it was closed.  In the morning before breakfast, I tried again -- but it wasn't at The Grotto, and Information Center was closed until 9am.

Drink from the Spring

Pope St. John Paul II

Walking
We ate breakfast at 8am, another mini-feast.  We then walked back to the Sanctuary (my 3rd trip of the day!) and attended mass in English.  Afterward, we went to the Information Center and were able to retrieve my phone (of course -- how can you lose something at a Marian shrine?).  We went to the Museum of Miracles.  Visited the underground Basilica of St. Pius X, looked at some nice artwork of each apparition.  Walked back to the room to pack and checkout. We went to lunch.  We walked back to the underground basilica, Trinity and I prayed each of the 4 decades of the rosary together (Kevin prayed one, then went to Adoration in the The Crypt until we finished at met him there).  We discovered that a relic with blood from Pope St. John Paul II was on display while we were (appropriately) praying the Luminous Mysteries (only the original 15 are portrayed with artwork inside the basilica, but Trinity wanted to complete all the mysteries).

We visited the birthplace and home of St. Bernadette for her first 10 years, a Mill: Moulin Lacade.  Then where she stayed when her family of 6 was thrust into poverty, a dungeon (she was 13-14 at the time): Le Cachot.  Next we walked to the parish church, which was being remodeled.  We walked back to the Sanctuary.  We lit candles, which represent the prayers that we offered up.  We explored the part of the sanctuary on the same side of the river as the candles (stations of the cross, another adoration chapel (closed), a couple more buildings closed for the season.  We visited the interior of the Basilica of Notre Dame and stopped by each of the 15 original mysteries of the rosary depicted.

Steps
I am probably forgetting a couple other places we walked and/or getting them out of order... but we covered a lot of ground today (my watch says over 26,000 steps!).

Exhausted, we started the drive back to Toulouse.  Thanks to Trinity's navigation, we made it to a gas station, a French fast-food restraunt, and the airport without getting (too) lost.  We returned the car, and found some benches to sleep on (our flight leaves the next morning at 7am), and began our wait.  As I write this, it's 2am, Monday (I slept a couple hours already) and we're anxious to board our 1st of 3 planes (Toulouse -> Brussels -> Munich -> Split) on our way to Medjugorje!  Good night.  💤


Lourdes