The Airs at Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains while good was very windy overnight and the rain was horizontal with the occasional clap of thunder. After checking out the weather on the internet the 10 day forecast was for cool weather with rain and wind every day. Not good weather for cleaning the van or anything else for that matter.
The 10 day weather forecast for the South Eastern French Mediterranean coast was cool but sunny every day. Hmmm. So we hit the road around lunchtime and headed East. As this would take us near Lourdes we decided to make this our overnight stop.
On the way to Lourdes we stopped at Orthez. Orthez straddles the westward-flowing Gave de Pau with a 13th century Pont Vieux (bridge) a symbol of Orthez, seen on all the postcards. It was the scene of two bloody battles, 1569 by Charles IX to revive the Catholic faith there and most recently 1814 in which the Duke of Wellington defeated Marshal Soult. The bridge proved very difficult to cross. The Nazis also hung people from the bridge during Orthez’s occupation in World War II.
We walked over the picturesque bridge and there are no longer any problems with bows and arrows, gates or pots of burning oil. The only risk now is getting squashed by a passing train as the exit of the bridge is over a railway crossing.
We arrived at Lourdes in the late afternoon.
Lourdes has a population of around 15,000 but is able to take in some 5,000,000 pilgrims and tourists every season. With about 270 hotels, Lourdes has the second greatest number of hotels per square kilometre after Paris. This is obviously a very seasonal place, we have never seen so many large hotels in one place all closed up!! This included all the campsites.
We found an empty car park next to the Gave de Pau river and took a late afternoon walk exploring the town and making our way to the Castle and town centre then down to the Bassilica and Grotto.
On 11 February 1858, a 14-year-old local girl, Bernadette Soubirous, claimed a beautiful lady appeared to her in the remote Grotto of Massabielle. The lady later identified herself as “the Immaculate Conception” and the faithful believe her to be the Blessed Virgin Mary. The lady appeared 18 times, and by 1859 thousands of pilgrims were visiting Lourdes. Lourdes has become one of the world’s leading Catholic Marian shrines and the number of visitors grows each year.
Unfortunately for us darkness quickly descended and the Basillica was already closed for the night. However the water from the grotto was still flowing so we filled some small Lourdes souvenir bottles with the special water to bring home. The spring water from the grotto is believed by some to possess healing properties. the Roman Catholic Church has officially recognised 67 healings considered miraculous.
The car park we were in had a no camper parking sign and the camper stop was closed. We did not believe it would have been a problem staying there there was only one other motorhome and no cars in the whole carpark! Nevertheless we decided to move on to a free Aires with electricity located 35k further East at Lannemezan where settled in for the night under the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees.