June 24th_27th 2017 – Pamplona to Lourdes – Visiting the Pyrenees and Lourdes is like visiting a little piece of Heaven on Earth

This week’s photo shows the Notre Dame basilica above the Grotto in Lourdes with the mountains of the Pyrenees in the background. 2 weeks and 2 days after leaving Santiago in north-western Spain, I arrived in Lourdes. It was like going from the tourist hell on Earth that is Santiago to a little piece of heaven on Earth that is Lourdes. I had spent 3 days here in 2015 and in my original plan, had no intention of re-visiting it. But after getting sick in Hospital de Orbigo, I decided to spend less time in the Pyrenees and allow for more rest days so as to get to the Alps in time to see the Tour de France. So I altered my route through the Pyrenees to bypass most of the climbs and instead go more directly to the Alps via Lourdes. There is always the danger of going back to a place you visited before and it not living up to expectations. But that was not the case with Lourdes as my visit this year was just as memorable as my visit in 2015.

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Total distance cycled Saturday June 24th from Roncevalles to Arette – 100 km (includes 1,400m of climbing). Total distance so far on this year’s Tour de Travoy – 3,040 km.

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Foggy misty morning in Roncesvalles.

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Travoy at Puerto Ibaneta.

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Border between Spain and France in Arneguy.

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St Jean Pied de Port.

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Old bridge in Saint Jean Pied de Port.

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Lots of campervans parked up in Saint Jean Pied de Port.

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World War 1 memorial in Saint Jean Pied de Port.

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Butcher’s shop in Saint Jean le Vieux.

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Sign for the Col d’Osquich.

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Bista Eder restaurant at the summit of the Col d’Osquich.

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Sign for Grotte de la Verna, a huge cave inside the La Pierre Saint Martin mountain.

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Camping Arette. The campsite in Arette is lovely and it wasn’t too busy so it was the perfect place to stop for the weekend. On Sunday, I climbed La Pierre Saint Martin leaving Travoy behind at the campsite but on Monday, the trailer was loaded up again ready for another day’s touring.

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Travoy at the Camping Arette reception. I normally pay when I arrive at a campsite but when I got to Arette late on Saturday evening, I was told not to pay until I was leaving. But the problem was there was no-one around when I called to the reception at about 10 o’clock on Monday morning.

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The Camping Arette reception was empty.  You can see from the photo that there was no-one in the reception when I called in. Worse again, a Queen song was playing on the radio so I wasn’t going to hang about until someone showed up. With almost 80 km to cycle to Lourdes, I didn’t have the time to wait so left without paying.

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Total distance cycled on Monday June 26th between Arette and Lourdes – 75 km. Total distance so far – 3,115 km.

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Photos of local cyclists on the sports hall in Arette.

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Some donkeys with a French charity group beside the sports hall in Arette. I think the people in the charity group may have been waiting for a visit from some handicapped children as there were a number of wheelchairs in the vicinity.

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House beside a small river near Issor.

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Stunning scenery on the road to Lourdes.

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More stunning scenery on the road to Lourdes.

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Notre Dame de Betheram church and sanctuary in Lestelle-Betheram. This church is located only about 10 km from Lourdes and there were coachloads of visitors there when I went past.

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The Gave river near Lestelle-Betherram is popular with canoeists.

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More stunning scenery between Saint Pe de Bigorre and Lourdes.

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Notre Dame Basilica in Lourdes.

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The modern Saint Bernardette church in between the Chateau fort and the Basilica in Lourdes.

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Chateau fort in Lourdes. In 2015, I was lucky to witness the Chateau Fort being lit up by fireworks on Bastille Day and then 2 nights later, it was lit up by lightning during a huge thunderstorm.

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My destination for the night Camping Domec.  Ombrage means shade in French and as soon as I saw this sign, I had to stay there. The campsite was lovely and beautifully maintained with lots of flowers.. The toilet facilities had lovely antique style doors and were the cleanest of any campsite I have ever stayed at. It had hot water for washing clothes and lots of power points. The campsite reminded me of the campsite in Chatillion-sur-Indre I stayed at in 2015 in that it is lovingly maintained but was criminally underused  It was so good I decided to stay an extra night and get some rest.

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La Fabrique souvenir shop in Lourdes. You can’t visit Lourdes without getting some souvenirs for the folks back home so the first place I visited during my rest day was the La Fabrique souvenir shop. In 2015, I had got some souvenirs here so decided to visit again as everything I bought was beautifully wrapped. I went a bit mad buying cups, thermometers, postcards and other knick-knacks but once again everything was beautifully wrapped. They had some beautiful clocks but I just didn’t have the space on Travoy for a clock. But maybe next time.

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Group of Portuguese pilgrims heading towards the Parish church in Lourdes. In 2015, I spent about 2 hours at the Notre Dame basilica so decided this year to visit the Parish church in Lourdes instead. I am glad I did as the church is stunning.

Outside and inside the Parish church in Lourdes.

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Saint Bernardette’s baptismal font in the Parish church. The church that Bernardette was baptised in was demolished to make room for a new parish church about 20 years after the apparitions. But the baptismal font that was used to baptize Bernardette was retained and placed in an alcove in the new church.

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Painting showing the apparitions in the Parish church.

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One last look inside the Parish church.  I could have stayed for hours at the Parish church but thunderstorms were forecast for that afternoon in Lourdes so I wanted to get back to the campsite before the rain started. I ended up spending the evening at the campsite working on my website so this was the last piece of sightseeing I did in Lourdes. But I don’t think anywhere else in Lourdes would have left such a lasting impression.

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