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Oloron
My former housemate, Keoni, comes from the Atlantic Pyrenees and suggested this little town. I thought perhaps we might stay the night but instead we just drove through it to see where the rivers collide and to enjoy just a taste. It was quite a feat of sound and strength from the rushing water underfoot. I heard there were some great hiking trails to do in this area so I hope next time, I might get to experience them when I have more time!


Lourdes
I feel ashamed to even admit it… I knew nothing of Lourdes, just that Madonna had used it as the name of her daughter, which I could never understand as being entirely appealing. Nevertheless, as we drove we thought it might be a great place to spend the night, offering more hotels than some of the smaller villages we drove through. We sorely underestimated it.

Having arrived just moments after the tourist info had closed, we were left to fend for ourselves in finding a hotel. Usually we had suggestions in one of my moms books or we could find something easily on the GPS. Lourdes was just confusing, it had SO many hotels. In the end mom and I walked down one of the main streets and walked into one and found a cute character room on the top floor that was charming. After dropping off our things we headed out for a bite to eat and stopped for some tagines at a Moroccan restaurant that caught our eye. We may not have made it to Morocco but at least we got to experience the flavours! As we sat we couldn’t help but notice all these strange candles in the hands of those walking by or what seemed like mass tour buses of what looked like pilgrims. You can imagine my furrowed brow right about now because I was just that confused. After dinner and tea we went for a walk to see where everyone must have been going and I noticed a line on the ground which seemed to point to the religious significance of the place (clearly – I wasn’t raised Catholic and the protestant church doesn’t celebrate these things…) We walked past the house of Bernadette and continued walking until I was far enough ahead and I could hear music. I remembered noticing it seemed like an event must have been happening on the drive in though it didn’t offer many hints. We walked in the direction of the sound only to discover a massive cathedral with thousands of people praying the rosary in front. We tossed around the idea if it would be weird to walk with them, would that be offensive? We finally came to the conclusion it was probably fine though we hadn’t quite understood yet what this was. It seemed like a special holiday must have happened on that very night. After much prodding of the pilgrims we discovered that in fact these processions happen EVERY night as people pray for healing. I had no idea. We stayed until it ended and were all completely mesmerized by what was unfolding. The rosary was being prayed in several different languages and the candles would be raised at various portions which caused it to be quite spectacular. As you can tell by the photos I just couldn’t stop looking around and taking it all in.

After it ended we decided to just follow the crowds to see where they’d go. My mom cracked an inappropriate joke and I made her repeat it, much to her dismay because I was in such disbelief. I’d repeat it but I don’t want to embarrass her. It was bizarre, walking back we passed tens of shops selling holy water, rosaries and every type of Catholic kitsch. A bit off putting but it was all coming together. I’m glad we stopped in Lourdes.

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