Category Archives: France

Nice to Rome

10/27 – we were scheduled on the morning train out of Nice for an hour’s ride over the border to Ventimiglia, Italy. The train was late, so I took some pix of the station.

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The train was packed, and we had to stand the whole way. When I looked at our next ticket, I realized that our 20 minute cushion between trains was now only 5 minutes. We would have to run an OJ through the station, find the right track and throw ourselves on the train to Genova. By the time we pulled into the station, our 5 minutes was down to 3. We positioned ourselves at the door, and jumped out as soon as the train rolled to a stop. As we ran for the steps, we saw others running too. There’s the display board! We yelled out the train number. Track 4! Track 4! We all ran for Track 4. An Asian couple in front of us was struggling with two huge rolling suitcases. As the man tried to lift one, Jim grabbed the other – go! Go! Go!

Do you think we made it? Yes, we did. Wasn’t that an exciting story?

We got to Genova by lunchtime, and had an hour to spare, so we walked out in the sunshine. Here is a statue of Christopher Columbus, beloved in his home town.

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And now we are in Rome! A huge, gritty city. The Roma Termini train station must be a mile long, and has clothing stores, restaurants, and supermarket inside. Our debit card doesn’t work in the ATM here, and our European adapter plug doesn’t fit in the wall socket here. What have we done? But this city is a big part of our next pilgrimage, and we’ve got work to do. Stay tuned!

A Weekend in Nice

Well, if this isn’t Nice, I don’t know what is – apologies to Kurt Vonnegut

10/25 – Nice is a beautiful city, the largest on the French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur. Our resources tell us that this is a place to be enjoyed at leisure, so we are just relaxing and strolling this weekend.

There are many ways to get around here:

Lots to see in the plaza on our street:

La Promenade du Paillon has jumping fountains and mists for kids of all ages, as well as playgrounds for the younger set. While we strolled, we bopped to Big Band music, rock, and watched couples dance the Tango:

One block farther is Promenade des Anglais and the blue-green Mediterranean, which is crystal clear and swimmingly warm at the end of October:

10/26 – on Sunday, we climbed to Parc de la Colline du Chateau, where an old fort held the remains of a medieval cathedral, a waterfall, and gorgeous views of the ocean below:

Then we walked through the winding streets of the old town, and savored the offerings in the open market. Have you ever seen tomatoes like these?

When we returned to our hotel, we were concerned with this sign posted on the lift. Why do you think they posted the English first? Do you comprehend? image

Nice is a place where I could be happy for a long time, but tomorrow, we must move along. Where to next? You’ll have to read the next blog to find out!

Lourdes to Nice

10/23 – right outside our window is a castle, and we noticed it brightly lit up during the procession at the Grotto last night. It turns out to be the Château Fort, a 1000 year old fortress that has never been conquered, so this morning we walked over for a visit. If nothing else, we figured that the tall tower would provide us some great shots of the city.

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A fool and her euros are soon parted – we climbed to the top of the tower only to find that all the windows were covered in scratched up, milky plexiglass, so our photographic aspirations were thwarted. Oh well! We got some nice views anyway:

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The place was full of schoolchildren much more interested in taking selfies than in listening to their teacher describe costumes worn in the Pyrenees: IMG_3075-0

What we did see was another church, so we crossed over to see what it was. The Sacred Heart, Sacré-Cœur, is the Lourdes parish church.

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It had a Black Madonna, as well as some tributes to Bernadette:

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I haven’t mentioned that Jim made full use of our little kitchen, cooking up a chicken stew from scratch the first night, and a killer pasta and veg with homemade sauce the second. It sure is nice to have a kitchen, and a husband who knows how to use it! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

10/24 – This morning we took the express train from Lourdes to Toulouse, and used the hour layover to eat our lunch outside the Toulouse station. Here is what we saw:

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Q: Why are there so many accidents on the French railway?
A: Toulouse Lautrec! (Too loose la track!) ha!

I’ve been waiting all my life to use that awful pun. Please forgive me.

Our second train from Toulouse to Nice was the one that was too full to enable us to use our EuRail Pass. Sure enough, we were packed cheek to jowl in second class, with not a seat to spare. If that was not indignity enough, there were two dogs in our car, one sitting directly across from me, who growled at one another in a threatening manner throughout the 7 hour trip. Here is the killer chien:

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The last two stops on our ride were Cannes and Antibes, which both looked gorgeous from the window. Maybe next trip we will bring our yacht and visit…

And now we are in our beautiful Residencial in Nice, where the weather is warm, and the French Riviera is just down the street. We are concerned with the sign posted on our window:

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What are we to do with our stumps?

Tomorrow, we will explore!

He dwells in reality

From Jim…

Beinghere

In Lourdes, France, people assemble at the Grotto (where Bernadette saw the lady who was later identified as the Virgin Mary) for a candlelight procession.

We join the crowd.

I walk beside a man in a motorized wheel chair.

We sing in front of the basilica.

Karen and I return to the Grotto, the place from which the healing water energes. I pray that you will experience inner peace.

I meditate before the candles.

Lao tsu writes (chapter38):

“The Master doesn’t try to be powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power.
Thus, he never has enough.
The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more things are left to be done.
The kind man does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just man does something
and leaves many things to be done.
The moral man does something
and when…

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The subtle perception of the way things are

From Jim…

Beinghere

We are in a Lourdes, France, place of miracles. Our room has a kitchen and we have come back from the market. We invite you to join us for lunch!
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Lunch is cooking!
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Dinner is served!

Come with us while we visit the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. It marks the place where the 14 year-old Bernadette saw a dazzling light and a small white female figure in 1858. During 18 visions, the lady directed Bernadette to uncover a healing spring and the lady suggested that a chapel be built. The lady eventually identified herself as “Immaculate Conception.” The visions and miraculous healings caused Lourdes to become a major pilgrimage site with over 300 hotels and about five million visitors each year.

We approach the Rosary Basilica.

We look around and then meditate.


You are with us.
“Did you see the cute guy to our right?” I ask…

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Wednesday at Lourdes

10/22 – So, we all know the story of a Saint Bernadette, right? I don’t have to tell you how, in 1858, the 14 year old saw a beautiful Lady, who identified herself as Immaculate Conception, in a small cave near the river, 18 times, and showed her where to dig for a miraculous spring? And miracles occurred when the ill were brought to this spot or immersed in the water? Good. We’ve all seen the movie.

Lourdes has more hotels than any other place in France except Paris, and hosts over six million visitors a year. Despite these stats, it has an intimate quality that feels relaxed and not crowded.

The town is definitely geared to separate tourists from their money, with a wax museum and brisk trade in rosaries, statues, religious souvenirs and holy water containers: IMG_3021.JPG

As we walked from our hotel, we passed the cemetery where Bernadette’s family is buried:

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We walked over the River Gave de Pau:

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The caves where Bernadette’s visions occurred is called the Grotto:

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Pilgrims move slowly through, laying their hands on the rock below the statue of the Virgin. So many hands have touched the rock, that it is polished like marble:
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I read that when Bernadette was asked to describe her vision for the sculptor, she described a young woman of 18 or so, and short. The sculptor and authorities opted to make the statue look more like the Mary depicted by others.

In the back of the cave, the spring still flows, protected under glass:

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Next to the Grotto, the spring water, safe for drinking, is available from dozens of taps. Some folks were filling gallon jugs. The water is free and there is no limit.

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For those who desire a more complete experience, full immersion is offered, with separate entrances for men and women. Assistants help those in wheel chairs or on stretchers into the water.

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The three main basilicas are built vertically, one on top of another, all above the Grotto. The Rosary Basilica is on ground level:

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Above is the smallest and oldest basilica, called the Crypt, that contains some of the bones of Saint Bernadette.

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The uppermost basilica is the Immaculate Conception:

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There is a fourth, underground basilica that was built in the 1950s, but it was closed. It is the least popular, and is said to resemble a parking garage.

At 9 every evening, the pilgrims process with lit candles from the Grotto to the far gate and back, chanting the Rosary and singing Ave Maria:

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We stopped for water one more time:

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The emphasis at Lourdes is on healing, with a hospital on the grounds to care for pilgrims who arrive sick or disabled, and wheelchairs everywhere. The basilicas’ walls are covered with marble plaques purchased by those who were healed or offering thanks for a healing. A powerful day.

Barcelona to Lourdes

10/21 – now we leave Sunny Spain and continue our trek east. As we contemplated our next destination, there was no question that we had to visit Lourdes. After walking the Camiño and visiting Fatima, Lourdes completes our pilgrimage trifecta.

This is the first time I’ve ever been to France, and neither of us speak the language, so we may be in for a challenging week, as we’ve heard from other travelers that the French are not very welcoming to those who can’t converse in their tongue.

We travelled on three trains today; a first-class high-speed from Barcelona to Narbonne, another from Narbonne to Toulouse Matabiau, then a second-class local from Toulouse to Lourdes that stopped every 15 minutes or so. We reached our destination by 17:30. Our first aha was that in French train stations you must pay .50 to pee, and the WCs on the train have no running water to wash your hands (savon – oui, eau – non!)

Here are some pics of The French countryside from out our train window (including some window reflections):

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When we got to the Lourdes station, we attempted to reserve the next leg of our journey. Our second aha for the day was that, although there are seats available on Friday’s train, there are no seats for EuRail pass-holders. We were warned that this would be a problem in France, and indeed it is. So, we ended up having to pay full price for our tickets, and will have to travel second class.

The third and best aha was that Jim booked us a killer suite here in Lourdes, with a full kitchen including a fridge, stove and a dishwasher! Unheard of! I think there may be a home-cooked meal in our future – magnifique!