DAY 6, MAY 23
(CHRIS) It is now 10 a.m. and we are approaching Pau. Lourdes will be ours before noon. Today we were awakened at about 6:30 by raindrops on our faces. We had slept in the grassy corner of the rest area. We only grabbed a few hours, but all slept well. After refueling and getting more franks, we drove to Lourdes.
MONEY NOTE: We bought a total of $485 dollars in Francs in Toronto. These only disappeared after our gas purchase this morning. So we have spent after airfare and car lease, a total of $500 in just over four days. This leaves (figuring we each started with $1600) $5900 for the final 38 days on the ground. $155 per day. We're O.K.! CFF
We got to Lourdes about 11:30. At first the town seemed terrible gaudy--tourist shops and cafes with flashing neon signs. We parked for $2 and walked five minutes to the basilica. The basilica was actually at least three churches built on top of the grotto. In the bottom was the crypt--the first church on the site and the one Bernadette actually went to before her death. On top of that was a domed basilica which reached up through the front porch of the biggest gothic-looking cathedral on top. All were beautiful.
On the side of these churches was the actual grotto--perfectly preserved. Next to it were a couple dozen taps to get as much miracle water as you want--it tasted great too! There were tons of devotional candles burning. The grotto itself had a plaque where St. Bernadette knelt, a statue of Mary (inscribed "I am the Immaculate Conception."), a glass covering showing the original spot that Bernadette first dug with water still flowing, and a walkway for pilgrims to walk through orderly-like and touch the grotto. This was all situated about 100 feet from a nice little river La Gave. The other side had a huge round building where children sing and join hands.
We ate lunch after seeing all this by buying bread, cheap cheese, pastrami, and eating it with yesterday's wine and fruit. Bon! After lunch, Jon went to the baths and Sam, Matt, and I went to the visitor center to see the English film. While waiting to see it, we talked with some members of an Australian tour group who had recently seen than Holy Land and other distant places.
(MATT) They were traveling with a Polish priest who was keeping them hopping. Some of them were pretty old (no one under 40). He took them up Mt. Sinai; all the men walked and the women rode camels to the last 800 steps to hear Mass. One of the men I spoke to was 80 years old. The priest complained laughingly that they insisted on 5 star hotels and he couldn't find them. I told him we had slept in a gas station last night and we were happy to find a bathroom.
After the film, we went to the baths. We saw Jon on the way and he talked me into going to the bath. (For the record, I felt that I didn't want/deserve to have anything healed when so many people around me were suffering so much. I also need suffering to keep me human. Anyway, Jon told me there was no one waiting in line and Sam told me to be a spiritual glutton, so I went.) We walked into the area and they separated us male/female and by our languages. Sam, Chris, and I waited and then they called us into the outer chambers. (By the way, they thought Chris was Irish right away.) We sat on a bench and waited to be let into the dressing rooms. (Each room had about six guys in it disrobing and four attendants to direct us, towel us, and dunk us.) We put some Francs in a collection box and then were called in. Chris and Sam into one room and me into another. I dropped the laundry and sat down in my skivvies for my turn. They saw that I was ready and sent me in. (Most of the other men were older and less agile in the art of shedding clothes. One man came up to me with a towel and wrapped it around me, after I removed that last layer which is normally not removed in public places, tied on the towel and led me to the edge of what was very much like a large bath tub. At this point, two other men on either side of the tub took each of my hands, led me into the tub asked me if I was Italian. I said English. 'They said the Hail Mary with me then walked me to the far edge and dipped me in, like a slow Neste plunge up to my ears. Then, quick as quick let me kiss the Mary statue at the end of the tub and walked me back to the other guy who held up the soaked towel while I donned the unmentionables and walked to my clothes pile.
We all dressed totally wet, but were surprised at how dry we were. It was not a hot or dry day and we felt dry. Apparently, Sam and Chris were "allowed" to drink a glass of water from the pool which they had bathed in. Sam, who thus far on our trip has been the most careful about the water he drinks and usually buys water, looked and saw stuff floating in it and downed it in a gulp. Impressive show of faith--one I am not inclined to follow. We all said the rosary in front of the grotto very near the spot upon which Bernadette stood to receive her visions and despite the large crowd, were all able to focus quite well.
We decided to find a campsite and to come back for the candlelight rosary procession. I drove out of town. We stopped at another supermarche and Chris decided that he liked what we had been buying so he'd wait. So we went in and bought dinner (9 cresants and some jam--nice change from bagetes. We also bought some ice cream dipped in chocolate--mmmm, good.) Then up the mountain to a campground, set up camp, ate, took down camp because the campground was closed so told us the "nice" man (as Jon called him) who kicked us out. Then it was back down the mountain to the campground across from the supermarche. We napped and bathed again, and Chris and Sam woke me up to go to the rosary procession and in my tired stupor, I told them I was going to stay and relax. And so I did and am still here relaxing writing in the log waiting, waiting, relaxing, writing, writing, writing...
(CHRIS) Sam and I went to the evening rosary procession at Lourdes, 15 minutes from our campsite,
(SAM) and we were surprised at the number of people in the Grotto area. All the people had candles, even a great number of people in wheelchairs. We joined the procession at just the right moment and began the rosary. The Our Father was said in Latin and each Hail Mary of the following decade in various languages. After each decade, we joined in rousing --------- that would be choruses of the Ave Maria while the people raised their candles into the air. Chris (the water spout) was reprimanded for filming in a restricted area. After the procession, we filled up two more bottles of the Lourdes water, took another swig, and headed back to the homestead where Jon and Matt were relaxing and waiting. Back at the Lourdes camping ground, we bedded down in the IIII position instead of the traditional III. After a long discussion whether the hot dogs had e.coli bacteria, we ate them and went to sleep content.