I spent this past weekend in Lourdes, in a half-pilgrimage, half-retreat and for some much-needed rest. It was a very strange sensation being back in the places like the grotto, the basilicas and streets of the town which I remember so well from childhood. Unfortunately, many of the activities and attractions are closed in winter, with only a handful of pilgrims scattered around the sanctuary. We were however able to visit each of the holy sights, including walking the Stations of the Cross, as well as ambling through town to take in the stunning views of the snow-capped Pyrénées and the austere Castle of Lourdes. Our accomodation even had a direct view of the main sanctuary and the weather was bitterly cold but clear and dry, with periods of intensely blue winter sky. Overall, this was a reinvigorating visit despite a tinge of sadness and emotional exhaustion. I will always keep this holy place in my heart and I urge everyone to visit Lourdes at least once in their life. The experience of peace, prayerfulness and beauty is utterly unique and transcends the personal turmoil and sufferings one brings with them on the pilgrimage. The presence and protection of Our Lady seems to seep the very ground on which one stands, especially emanating from the humble Grotto where Saint Bernadette received Her apparition nearly 150 years ago.

Photos ©2016 by The Alpine Wanderer.