Are you passionate about heights, mountains, or seeing houses as tiny as ants? If so, you cannot miss Pic du Jer!
Lourdes has a marvellous placement in the High Pyrenees. From Pic du Jer, the best views of the town and a part of the Pyrenees Mountains is appreciated.
Situated 1,000 meters high, you´ll be able to arrive at its top in a few minutes thanks to the funicular dating from 1,920 and departing from the Avenue Francis Lagardère. Nevertheless, for those more sportive, the option to climb on foot exists. To descend, You can choose one of these two options also to drop back to the town.
It is possible during the ascending or descending way to find athletes practising mountain-bike. It is permitted to enter the funicular with the bikes, something good for cyclists to practice their descent
Once at the top, there is a path to the observatory, where a unique viewpoint is located. We can enjoy a 360° view of the town of Lourdes. At your fingertips, you will also have a few Pirenaica picks, Vignemalle, Pic du Midi de Bigorre, Montaigu… a real visual delicacy.
The arrival at the funicular of the Pic du Jer will be most effortless is to reserve a taxi. The journey by car from the town center to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary will be less than ten minutes. Also, you can go walking by Boulevard Georges Dupierris, Avenue du Paradis or Avenue Francis Lagardère, taking between 30 and 35 minutes walking.
A SWEET DOES NOT MAKE ANYONE BITTER
This tip is for the most greedy, those who cannot live without a little bit of sweetness every day. And for those who visit places and get lost in the windows of any confectionery and cake shop, getting delighted with its flavour and indulging in the artisanal delicacies everywhere they go.
We propose to you four of these delicacies, typical of the area where the town of Lourdes is located.
Gàteau à la Broche or roast cake mean the same. It was brought from the Balkans and can be found in different countries in Europe. The recipe expanded very fast at the beginning of the XIXth century: Crepe dough, butter, eggs and sugar boiled for several hours. A cone of different sizes holds it.
The Flake of the Pyrenees: A thin chocolate recovered with a white film, crunchy and sugary.
Bonbons Malespine is candy tablets including in their ingredients water from the Cave of Lourdes. Powdered sugar is added, and natural flavours, mint, lemon or anis, are the most successful ones.
Finally, Pebbles of the Gave. As well as the candies, Malespine is also caramel tablets, but in this case, the flavours are fruit.
All these products are found easily in the confectioneries, the town´s shops, and the daily market.
THE STATUARY, THE FACTORY
The detailed history of the town, linked to the religious sphere and the apparitions of the Virgin, have their reflection in the local crafts.
The apparitions that happened in 1,858 generated a great international touristic affluence, especially after World War II. Because of such a pilgrim´s congregation, a whole artisanal statuary market of outstanding quality was developed. Not only statues representing the image of the Virgin Mary were created, but also representations of Saints. These sculptures were cast in plaster that, once dried, were polished and painted., everything is done by hand.
Nowadays, this manual work only continues to be developed in one of the mythic workshops, called the Factory, which, luckily for those who love the crafts, is open to the public. This workshop is located at the crossing of the Boulevard of the Grotto with the Street of the Pyrenees. The steps for creating the images and their history are shown, reflected in its collection. Through hundreds of works belonging to more than 80 different sculptors, the history of the statuary workshops of Lourdes is demonstrated.
No doubt, these artisan statues are the perfect souvenir the tourist is always looking for.
WOOL FROM THE PYRENEES
Nevertheless, if what we are looking for is a more functional souvenir, we recommend different wool products from the Pyrenees. It is about a resulting tissue of mixing wool and cotton, invented in 1,882 to offer the shepherds of the area a resistant product, aside from being warm—a tissue of quality that has perpetuated along the years as a tradition.
Wool and cotton are two natural fibres that complement perfection. The first one contributes with its softness and warmth, while the second gives the tissue its stability, breathability and durability
THE FORTIFIED CASTLE
From the center of the town, it is easy to bump into the Castle of Lourdes. It is possible to access it through a street on the rise offering splendid views of the city, or there is another access through which it is possible to go up by elevator.
Arriving, we will see a historic monument waiting inside its walls, the Pyrenean Museum (the so-called "Museums of France"), and even a Botanical Garden. In the mentioned museum, created in 1,921, we find an essential collection of costumes, objects and furniture narrating the history of the Pyrenees, so much the French as the Spanish ones. Did you know that here you can see miniature reproductions of Pyrenean villages? The curiosities you will find between the twelve halls are many. Its function was to guard the entrance of the seven valleys of Lavedan. It is known that the fortress is previous to the VIIIth century because Charlemagne sieged it in 778. During several centuries it became the residence of the Counts of Bigorre. After a few years on assignment to England, it will return to the French power in the XVth century. In the XVIIth century, it became a Royal Prison, so the castle was provided with a dungeon, and the defensive elements and the tower of the XIVth century were reinforced. After the French Revolution, it became a State Prison until the beginning of the XXth century.
Nowadays, after overcoming many sieges and the pass of time itself, the castle still keeps some of its defensive elements, such as the Keep Tower, the drawbridge and the rake.
From this area of the city, we can enjoy fabulous views of Lourdes, its Sanctuaries, and the Pyrenees. All this while the stream of water of the River Gave de Pau completes the landscape, giving a musical note. There is no better place to take a picture as a souvenir.
LE CHEMIN DE CROIX (WAY OF THE CROSS)
Lourdes is known worldwide for its sanctuaries dedicated to Virgin Mary. Near here, there is another not so famous monument but equally praised by its visitors. Known as the Way of the Cross or the ´High Stations´, it is a route of 1,500 m representing the way of Jesus Christ to his Calvary.
Generally, groups of pilgrims do the Way of the Cross as part of the ceremonies of their visit, but individuals can also make it privately at their rhythm.
Finished in 1,912, such a sculptural group extending along a stony path in the hill of Espulgues counts a significant number of statues. Each of the images, arriving in a total of 115 characters, have the actual size and have been done in molten iron, painted in golden colour subsequently. All of them have been added to the group through donatives offered sometimes by groups or dioceses and private benefactors.
It is interesting to walk this sculptural group where the different cross stations are staged for prayer and the pilgrimage. We must remember that it is a trip oriented to go up, and it is not about a paved road on the hill.
The easiest is to find the place to face the Basilica before we leave the River Ousse to our right and address the back and left sides. Several posters indicate it as "Chemin de Croix", a route well signposted and easy to follow.
TAKING THE MIRACLE HOME
We choose a ´ challenge´ to end this advice and ideas around for your visit to Lourdes. However, more than a challenge, it is a common act and practically ´mandatory´ for all those coming to the Sanctuary of Lourdes.
Before, we commented that candles, in Christianism, are a symbol of light, peace, hope, life and salvation. At the same Sanctuary, they might be bought in exchange for the will. The candles are also placed to ask for our closest ones, help a member of our family, relieve the grief of a friend, or wish everything to go well.
If you prefer luck and the petition doesn´t remain only in Lourdes as a candle, you can also bring some miraculous water coming from the spout of the source of the Sanctuary. It is said it is curative water, water healing diseases and cleaning impurities and problems.
At the different souvenir shops, bottles of various sizes with the shape of the Virgin where you can put this water. They are to be paid, but taking the water from the source is free, and each one can bring his own container.
SANCTUARY OF LOURDES
Going to Lourdes and not visiting its Sanctuary might be inconceivable. Its history goes back to 1,858 when a 14 years old teenager named Bernardette Soubirous lived a series of mystic apparitions in the Grotto of Lourdes. It was precisely February 11th when she saw for the first time the ghost of a woman´s silhouette, that latter on will identify in front of her as the Immaculate Conception.
It is easy to find all the stories of Bernardette, the dates of the apparitions, of the construction of all the set englobing the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes...Yes, yes, all this is very well, but what about the odd facts? Do you want to know something striking about the " Town of Miracles"? Keep reading.
Everyone knows that for catholics, candles are a symbol of light, life, faith, hope, and salvation. So, what cannot be missed in Lourdes? Candles. Every year attention, approximately 700 tons of candles are burnt in front of the Grotto! Such burning is monitored by responsible relays day and night. We will also see the candles in the hands of pilgrims and visitors, as a sign of hope, marching in procession to the Basilica. All a show was making the ambience even more spiritual.
And also, concerning the symbol of the light, there is the Marian Procession, known as "Torch Retire". It takes place every day at 21:00 hours, following one of the most popular events of Lourdes. This is when pilgrims march preceded by their standards and with a candle at hand inside a lamp where is placed the story of the apparitions in a chant. A sight to see.
THE LIFE OF BERNADETTE
If you want to know more about the history of Lourdes, you can go a route through the life of Saint Bernardette. There, some of the critical points of the city are walked to know better her spiritual life and, for this reason, the message of faith.
To start this way, we will leave the Basilica of Lourdes behind us. We will cross the bridge Saint Michel and continue straight by Boulevard de la Grotte till taking a detour in Rue de Bourg. To our right, we will make our first stop: the Boly Mill, the house the parents of Bernardette had rented where she was born on January 7th, 1,844. The family had a good social status, but a series of unfortunate events made the business not profitable after some years, being impossible to face the rental.
A cousin gave them shelter where we will have our second stop: The Dungeon of Lourdes. To arrive, we will take Rue du la Bourg again till Rue Baron Duprat. We will turn the first to our right, and in number 12-14 of the street Des Petits Fossés, we will find this dungeon where the family lived till the autumn of 1,858. The trips Bernardette did to the Grotto where the Virgin appeared to her started here. Nowadays, it may be visited, without furniture and clean because the restoration is done at the end of the XXth century.
Our next stop has a direct relation with the appearances, and it is the Old Parish House. This building, Municipal Library nowadays, is where Bernardette visits the parish Peyramele to communicate to him the petitions of the Virgin. To arrive from the dungeon, we will turn to Rue Baron Duprat and turn this time to the right. We will find the building in two minutes.
And to finish, although the present Parish Church of the Sacred Heart was inaugurated in 1,903, built after the demolition of the church where the Saint was baptized in 1,844 and where the tomb of the priest Peyramale was. It is only 100 meters from the present Library, by Rue de l´Eglise.
OH MY GOD, THERE IS A BEACH HERE
When anyone thinks about Lourdes evoking its location in the area of the Pyrenees, the first thing imagined is a town embedded in a mountain environment, nature, small and cosy houses. And yes, it is correct, all this is Lourdes, but… who would imagine that we could find a beach in the middle of the Pyrenees? Yes, yes, you have read well, in Lourdes, there is a beach. As it could be imagined, it is not a natural beach but an artificial project of a beach surrounded by precious mountains.
In the middle of nature, its location in a glacial lake endows it with peace, tranquility, rest, and disconnection. Ideal to go as a couple, with children, friends or in solitude.
The beach arises from the idea of the municipality to make the Lake of Lourdes more accessible. A series of modulations were carried out to give passersby the possibility to enjoy a bath with all tranquillity. It is dotted with a first aid station, equipped with an area of rescue for greater security of the bather.
Due to the seasonal climate, it is open to the public only during the summer months. If you want to enjoy it, its access is complimentary, take profit from it and take a walk at its banks as a present. Located approximately 3 km from the center of the town, it is possible to reach it on CityBus, also being transportation free some days.
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