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Tour Company Suggestions--Paris, Lourdes, Barcelona

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Nov 13th, 2013, 03:25 PM
  #1
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Tour Company Suggestions--Paris, Lourdes, Barcelona

Hoping that some of the seasoned travelers on this forum can give us some suggestions. My niece's high school had planned a trip to Paris, Lourdes and Barcelona in the summer and my sister and I had put in our deposits and were excited to go. Unfortunately, due to an inadequate response they had to cancel the trip--but we still want to go! We have searched the internet for a trip that follows basically the same itinerary, but are not getting very far. Does anyone have any suggestions for tour companies? We are looking for 4 or 5 star accommodations and prefer some structure with a little free time built in. We really want to go to Lourdes--I know, I know--I have read others comments about Lourdes being very commercialized and not worth the time--but it is one of those bucket list items for both of us and we would be very disappointed if we did not include it in our travels. Also, while this is a spiritual trip for us--I don't want it to be solely a religious pilgrimage and thus am not sure that some of the more "Catholic" tour companies would provide us with the other things we want to do--like visiting museums, sitting at sidewalk cafes, enjoying great meals and drinking great wine. Thanks in advance for any suggestions that you can provide.
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Nov 13th, 2013, 03:30 PM
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Why Lourdes - is this a religious trip???

Stu Dudley
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Nov 13th, 2013, 03:52 PM
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I think there are a lot of people who go to Lourdes for other than strictly "religious" reasons. I certainly did and I have been twice.

Be aware, as much as you may not want to hear it, that Lourdes is quite easy to do on your own. You can get direct fast TGV train services from Paris at least once daily; that trip takes about 6 hours one way; you can alos get connecting services.

The part of town, i.e., the grotto area, is easily walkable; in fact the whole place is walkable.

Yes, it is commercialized outside the grotto area and there are any number of hotel accommodations both right next to the grotto entrance as well as further away.
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Nov 13th, 2013, 04:29 PM
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Thanks Dukey1 for your comments. So are you of the opinion that we do a tour of Paris (I really want to do something that is more structured) and then at the conclusion just do a freestyle trip to Lourdes and possibly Barcelona? The last time I was in Paris I was 17 years old and that was 30+ years ago. I prefer to have someone else responsible for the logistics of getting from point a to b and easy access to the museums--not having to wait in lines or worry about purchasing tickets etc. Any one have good recommendations for a tour company? Stu--to answer your question--this isn't so much a religious trip, but more a desire to go to Lourdes--it's sort of a family thing that we have always wanted to do and we figured that this was our chance if we we wanted to include France and Spain in our travels. The trip that got cancelled also included other parts of France that had to do with St Bernadette and other locations that were relevant to her--not so sure that I need to include those in the trip particularly if they are out of the way.
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Nov 13th, 2013, 04:34 PM
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I very much doubt that you'll find a tour company that will include only these three destinations. It's better if you do the trip on your own and join local walking tours or docent led tours of particular sights. Paris and Barcelona have lots of local tour companies. No need for a tour of Lourdes as the town is only the religious site and tons of tacky souvenir shops. You can't possibly get lost - just follow the crowd. You can take a train between locations; fly into either Paris or Barcelona and fly home from the other city with Lourdes in between.

If you feel you definitely need tours in Paris and Barcelona, take a look at Road Scholar tours of each city.

Keep in mind that 4 or 5 star hotels in Europe do not mean the hotel is nicer or more charming than a 3 star hotel, it means that there are certain amenities such as room service or a restaurant. You can save some money by booking a 3 star hotel. Often with guided tours you'll get a business type hotel that is nearer the outskirts of the city to give easy access to the tour buses as buses are too large for the smaller streets found in old quarters of European cities.
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Nov 13th, 2013, 05:59 PM
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"inadequate response" wouldn't be a surprise for such an itinerary. Finding one tour company that had something like this prearranged would be difficult simply because of Lourdes, which tends to be a unique destination for a number of people. I suggest you contact someone like Maribel to prepare an itinerary and make what arrangements you may need, including guides, transfers and hotels.

As noted, 4 and 5-star accommodations can vary widely. It's knowing the property that matters when selecting your hotel.
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Nov 13th, 2013, 06:27 PM
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I'm sorry - but while there are many 3* hotels that are charming, they really are nothing like 5* hotels overall. However, a 5^ hotel is going to cost probably 3 times as much (think $600 per night and up). So you may want to rethink that requirement.

Also I don;t think tours will have the itinerary you want. They tend to move on every day - or 2 for a big city like Paris - and you may find yourself doing a lot of sitting on buses rather than in sidewalk cafes in Paris.

I would reco organizing yor own trip and getting s couple of day tours around or from Paris or Barcelona.
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Nov 13th, 2013, 06:54 PM
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Hi Luli38

Here is an extensive tour of France which includes a one night stop at Lourdes:

http://www.globusjourneys.com/Product.aspx?trip=3RA
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Nov 13th, 2013, 07:41 PM
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That Globus tour is 15 days and covers 19 towns so there are 17 towns that the OP doesn't want to visit, just to get one overnight in Lourdes.
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Nov 13th, 2013, 11:46 PM
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I would be VERY leary of any tour which says it is "the best of" or that tries to cover a lot of France in a couple of weeks. Why? First of all, because France is the largest (geographically) country in Western Europe and to cover all that space in a short time you will be "seeing" a lot of superhighways (just ask me how i know this!!!)

Yes, you can certainly do Lourdes on your own and I agree that the village which is much more than just a "village" is filled with every sort of religious souvenir shop you can imagine to include places selling all sorts of religious "art" as well as water bottles in the shape of Our Lady (think Mrs. Butterworth's), rosaries of every description, etc., etc.

However, when you get to the grotto area itself ALL of that stops. There are several churches in the grotto area to include an older building above the grotto (which apparently originally was basically the city dump) and a larger facility below. There are almost continuous religious services.

The grotto itself has undergone cosmetic changes over the past few years. Those masses of crutches, braces, and the other "medical devices" that used to hang on the grotto walls and which were supposedly cast off by those cured by the grotto waters have disappeared.

It is an often heartbreaking scene as many sick people hoping desperately for a "miracle" attend the masses held. There are two hospitals in the town and you can imagine the occupants.

The place is often filled with many pilgrims from various countries.
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Nov 13th, 2013, 11:48 PM
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And another thing: there are a lot of reasons to travel; some people here actually go to Europe mainly to EAT so there is certainly no reason for you or anybody else to "explain" why you want to go somewhere.
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Nov 14th, 2013, 06:48 AM
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for the OP...you don't have to explain at all why you want to go to certain places. Given your statements about what you are looking for I would suggest actually going into a travel agency with the itinerary that got cancelled and ask them to help you find something. I don't know what the rules on this forum are but I did note that Robert above referred you to his wife and on most forums self promotion is not permitted and thought you should be aware of that connection. I think there is an organized tour out there that could work or at least come close and if not including Lourdes they could arrange a side trip. Good luck.
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Nov 14th, 2013, 07:09 AM
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I don't know how to add a link but google Globus Religious Tours. They have 4-5 trips that go to France and Spain and soumd just like what you would be interested in. If you do get on the main Globus web site they are called Faith based tours.
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Nov 14th, 2013, 07:33 AM
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the town is only the religious site

There is more to Lourdes than the religious site

http://www.lourdes-visite.com/

http://www.picdujer.fr/
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Nov 16th, 2013, 05:37 PM
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Interesting. Having visited the three places you mentioned last year I do have some comments. I agree that you definitely do not need a tour of Lourdes. Perhaps fly into Toulouse and take a prearranged bus trip to Lourdes. Definitely spend the night then return to Toulouse and fly to Barcelona. Once there you could use Viator for a local tour of interesting places in the area and of course the city itself although I recommend getting around Barcelona using local buses or trains. Google Viator and see what they have in any city you want to visit. My wife and I have used them in many cities around the world and found them quite good. I know that you will have a great time.
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