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Roadtrip Barcelona to Lourdes

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Oct 10th, 2014, 09:33 PM
  #1
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Roadtrip Barcelona to Lourdes

Would love to hear comments on this driving itinerary from Barcelona.

Barcelona
Andorra (overnight)
Foix (lunch)
Lourdes (overnight)
Toulouse (overnight)
Narbonne (overnight)
Barcelona

This is a quick trip with the kids with a rental car. Lourdes is the goal (religious reasons). Hoping to do a quick trip, no need for extended exploring but am researching quaint BnBs or similar type accommodations, and local interesting meals.

If you have done this, or would like to suggest other towns instead of the ones I have here, we are flexible.

We have done a few road trips around the countryside of Spain (south) and France (Provence etc) so we're familiar with stick shifts, roads and tolls. I'd like to know if this itinerary sounds good, and if there are any other tips you can share.

Merci bien!
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Oct 10th, 2014, 10:25 PM
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You'll find Lourdes can be an absolute MOB scene (in the "village" itself as opposed to inside the site but you are likely to see plenty of people there as well) so be aware that parking can be at a premium at times.

"Interesting meals"...lots of chains, etc., in Lourdes..you might do well to ask you accommodation folks for recommendations about food.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 11:17 PM
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Thanks for that Dukey1. I've booked a BnB 2 km outside the village because of that.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 11:25 PM
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When are you planning this quick trip, with kids, for religious reasons? Knowing when has a great deal to do with planning this adventure.

Normally, I would skip spending the night in Andorra unless you're going up to do a little skiing or hiking/trekking.

The most interesting route would take you up through Vielha. It's also slightly shorter distance wise, but takes about the same amount of time behind the wheel because of a few more twists and turns.

If you had the time, you could spend the first night in La Seu d'Urgell and then follow the C-28 through the Val d'Arán.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 11:52 PM
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If your kids are young and/or have not had previous exposure to others with extremely difficult health issues and illness they might find Lourdes as distressing as I did, and I only passed through Lourdes. Many areas of town resemble an open air hospital, with terminally ill people in gurneys with IVs being pushed along the pilgrimage sites by volunteer nurses. They are some very upset emotional parents looking for cures and help for children with various kinds of health issues. Maybe just as upsetting is the commercial circus that permeates Lourdes with street after street of vendors hawking plastic religious-themed souvenirs . Everywhere you turn there seems to be an exploitation of people's fears and tragedies.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 11:54 PM
  #6
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Thanks for this Robert. This trip is in 2 weeks--late October--so I'm also hoping it is a bit of a lower season.

I was also looking at La Seu d'Urgell as an option because I've read about it in Karen Brown itineraries. That seems to suit my tastes more than a commercial ski area.

With your suggestion, I would book one of the BnBs in that area, then after breakfast drive towards Vielha/Val d"Aran to Lourdes. We would have to stop for lunch or a stretch before continuing on to Lourdes. Any own worth stopping in?
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Oct 11th, 2014, 12:05 AM
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I would leave out Toulouse as being too large to navigate comfortably for only one day's visit (if that) and rather stay in Carcassonne, which the children might enjoy. Lourdes has a medieval castle which is a museum of local ethnography.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 12:05 AM
  #8
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Sandralist, thanks for that very helpful input. The kids are tweens. I'm actually torn between wanting them to see Lourdes and being turned off by the crass commercialism that develops in areas like this.

I think we're leaning towards just exposing them to the whole shebang. I'm glad we're booked outside the town then.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 12:21 AM
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"I've booked a BnB 2 km outside the village because of that."

So how are you going to get to the sanctuary?

Parking during the day round the sanctuary, or during the evening torchlight procession, can be a real problem. It's absurd to stay outside the town because of nonsense about "mob" scenes: Lourdes is just a busy town (by no stretch of anyone's imagination is it a "village") with lots of small hotels.

If you don't like being with other people, don't go to Lourdes. Far horrider than proximity to fellow-pilgrims is dragging children on foot from a remote B&B to the sanctuary and back. Start off with a hotel than makes repeated access to it easy (few pilgrims just go to the sanctuary once, then drive back home), and that fits in with what you intend doing there. Planning that time starts off with understanding how the sanctuary and its surrounds are laid out (from http://www.lourdes-infotourisme.com/...ique_gb_bd.pdf), thinking through which bits of the standard pilgrimage routine you, or some of you, plan participating in and working out how best to do that on foot comfortably, or with the help of the town's just-about adequate public transport.

Don't waste energy looking for "quaint" anything (Lourdes is a 19th century boom town built on a once obscure and remote village, as devoid of "quaintness" as contemporaries like Chicago or Liverpool, but built on the assumption frail pilgrims would walk from their hostelries to the nearby sanctuary), and save your quests for "interesting" food for the rest of the trip. Nowhere in her revelations did Our Lady advocate building nouvelle cuisine pioneers round the corner from Massabielle. The town is geared to handling (and making a modest buck out of) mass multinational tourism, and concentrates mostly on standard French mass-market eating places. And, like Oxford or Florence, it's principally about getting round by short, undemanding, journeys on foot.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 12:38 AM
  #10
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Flanneruk, that's just the type of info I knew I could get on this forum. Thanks for the effort of typing it all out--much appreciated.

I will study the sanctuary area and decide what to do. I can still unbook that BnB.

You're right--part of this trip is a "pilgrimage". I have to rethink my priorities on this trip and compartmentalize experiences.

Thanks for the realistic wake up call. ��
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Oct 11th, 2014, 06:11 AM
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Flanner can SAY whatever he likes about Lourdes but I will say it again: MOBBED. When we were there last we ended up parking in one of the town underground garages and walking to the "sanctuary" as Flanner calls it.

You are going to see a LOT of people, a LOT of cars, etc. The main thoroughfare to the entrance is lined with what has been described upthread with vendors selling every sort of religious item including water bottles shaped like Our Lady, rosaries of evey description, statues, pictures, souvenirs, and you-name it.

Once you get INTO the "sanctuary" itself things are quieter and that is where you are much more likely to see various people with a multitude of medical problems being pushed or pulled by others to the grotto to hear masses.

There is a so-called "crypt church" as well as the more traditional church above it; the walls of the latter are lined with plaques thanking God, Our Lady, etc., for miracle cures.

The crutches and other medical appliances which used to line the walls of the grotto area have, for some mysterious reason, disappeared over the past few years.

Prepare yourself for what has to be the stereotypical religious shrine experience. IMO it is worth a visit for historical interests alone.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 07:24 AM
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Here is more information on Lourdes. When I posted the first time, I should have added to expect FlannerUK to come in ranting and trying to discredit anyone who objects to the exploitation of misery that goes on in Lourdes. Contrary to his attempts, the fact remains that people who love people do not love Lourdes. People who love group ideology love Lourdes. Big difference

Here are some other reactions:

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntr...a-f49c598b6bc9

http://www.motorhomeplanet.co.uk/archives/2739

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUse..._Pyrenees.html

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR..._Pyrenees.html
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Oct 11th, 2014, 08:02 AM
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Three years ago at Easter I did not see the crowds,busy yes, but far from overwhelming.Once you are a little up and away from the church/sanctuary area, the town is quite attractive.I thought the castle was fascinating,very well done inside.The open air market is also very nice to walk around.The tourist office is loaded with info about the area,ask for some posters.
No problem parking near the library.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 07:51 PM
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Lourdes is not the exploitation of misery but rather the demonstration of FAITH and HOPE! Big difference. One does not go to Lourdes for a "show". They go to PRAY. PEOPLE THAT LOVE PEOPLE DO GO TO LOURDES! Very ill or handicapped people can be the most lovable and teach your children COMPASSION..
I hope that this will be a rewarding trip for your children! Better to expose them to the love of Jesus and Our Blessed Mother than to the humanistic "rock stars" idolized by modern society that we so often expose them to.
Here is a review from a FORUM that that says it well:

My husband & I have made several prior trips to France & Spain but always felt bad about the fact
that we never had the time to make that special trip out to Lourdes even though it has always been on our must-see travel list. So, this time around, we made sure to make Lourdes our first priority and were we so happy we did! We visited just right after heavy rains flooded & forcibly closed down the Grotto but to the credit of the volunteers' clean up efforts, it was as if nothing had happened! Visiting in late October means less pilgrims making it a great time to visit. The Sanctuary is quite beautiful surrounded by trees in its fall colors & one gets to spend a lot of quality prayer time right in front of the Grotto sans crowds. I highly recommend the minimum of an overnight stay at Lourdes so one can experience the daily 9 pm candle-lit rosary procession around the Sanctuary's grounds. It was such a moving experience to pray the rosary collectively with people from all over the world, hearing the Hail Mary said in different languages but always singing the Ave Maria as ONE voice at the end of each decade! We were Catholics from different points of the globe but every single one of us could sing the Ave Maria & raise that candle high up in the air as one people honoring our beloved Mother! Totally moving. Palpable Love. Spiritually uplifting. Go.

Visited October 2012
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Oct 11th, 2014, 08:10 PM
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The crowds will not be large in mid to late October, but the weather should be better than during the middle of summer. I have been three times, once in late October, when it was cold and wet, and twice during the summer months following the fiesta in Pamplona. One time, in late July, I nearly didn't make it out of the grotto because of the intense heat and humidity, but it was an interesting adventure anyway. We found a great Moroccan restaurant where we took shelter and enjoyed an excellent couscous while recovering in the comfort of an air-conditioned room.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 09:02 PM
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Dukey1, I'm curious as to why you have enclosed the term sanctuary within quote marks? As one who says they have been there, you would be aware that is how it is referenced , no? Or am I missing something, please?
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Oct 12th, 2014, 02:05 AM
  #17
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Nannibray, thanks for that review from another forum. I could have writtent the first part myself. I travel all over the place and although Lourdes has always been on the "must go since we're around the area", I skip it for other destinations.

Precisely because the kids will be with us, and around that area, our destination is Lourdes with everything else being secondary. I visited as a teenager and the Ave Maria during the candlelit procession is a powerful memory.

That we have to opportunity to visit this October is a bonus since crowds are thinner and weather better. I appreciate and respect everyone's point of view about Lourdes. Thanks to all of you who've shared.

Now getting there...an overnight in Seu d'Urgell instead of Andorra is my plan. With an early start the next day to Lourdes. We will stay one night in town for the procession.

Thanks again all.
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Oct 12th, 2014, 05:35 AM
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I don't know about why the skepticism about the word sanctuary or reference to Flannuruck's use of it, in particular. I haven't been there but know that is what it is called in France and at the site. It is the official term used.
http://fr.lourdes-france.org/content/home-page

But I have been the other places, and think the itinerary is fine. But I do agree with the comment that if you literally mean one day in Toulouse, I wouldn't bother. I agree it's too big for a drive-by to stay in some quaint B&B one night. Smaller towns are better. Carcassonne isn't a bad idea.

I liked Narbonne but would also suggest you could stay in Perpignan instead. It is very small and an overnight should be fine. Not a lot to do there, but I don't think of the things I did in Narbonne as being that much interest to kids, either, so Perpignan around the canal and main center would be nice.

I also think you are being too ambitious about seeking out special local interesting meals, if you mean trying to find some special restaurant to go to. Just drop in any place that is convenient and looks decent and is cheap enough, with kids. Discover your own interesting places, it's too much trouble to plan some detailed iterinary for special restaurants, and who knows how much trouble to get there from where you stay.
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Oct 12th, 2014, 06:51 AM
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"you could stay in Perpignan instead. It is very small"
It is the second largest town in Languedoc Roussillon after Montpellier and has more than twice the number of inhabitants than Narbonne (118,000 vs 52,000). The "canal" is actually a river ......
To the OP : November 2 is officially the end of pilgrimage season in Lourdes
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Oct 12th, 2014, 10:57 AM
  #20
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THanks for all the input. Looks like I'm just making the pilgrimage in the nick of time. We'll be in Lourdes on Oct. 27. Flying out of Barcelona on Oct. 31.
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