We flew Nice-Paris-Lourdes, and finally arrived in time for a late dinner.

My first reactions are such a mix… loud music blaring on the taxi radio as we passed through peaceful forested foothills.  An old Victorian hotel set on a street of neon kitsch shops selling plastic figurines next to lovely icons.  The hotel dining room traditional, carved paneled wood, chandeliers, white linen table cloths. Bustling with pilgirms and tourists – many in the white garb of the “hospitaliers” those nurses who push the wheelchairs and help with the processions.  After dinner the procession itself, heard and seen from our balcony, winding along the Esplanade of green lawn, singing in many languages (one after the other) the Ave Maria.  Strolling over to the Basilica where the processions were now arriving, the sun just going down (it’s 9:30 p.m.), their paper lanterns starting to light up the dark.  The thousands of pilgrims, sick and well, helping one another, singing to Mary and Our Lord words of hope and joy.

We walked up a wide path leading to the Gothic church to a place where we could see the pageant of song and light and utter delight, the lights of the church appearing in the dusk, the pilgrims lights answering in some mysterious way, a kind of couterpoint.  Further on, the river rushed below the grotto, high with the rains of last year, the snowmelt of the nearby Pyrenees.

Then we walked back through town, along the neon path of shops, to our old hotel and took the lift, the long cables visible through the shaft to the floors above.

What will tomorrow bring in this miraculous place where the young Bernadette saw and spoke with the Virgin Mary?

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