Part of what my TAPIF contract guarantees me is an obscene amount of vacation time. Just about a month into my placement, I was packing my bags and putting away my cahiers for two weeks of freedom. About time! We decided to take advantage of the last few warm days of the year and drove south, our sights set on the Spanish Pyrénées (or rather, the Pirineos). TomTom encouraged us to take a creative route down unpaved, winding one-way roads, but by some miracle (pun) we arrived in Lourdes, one the strangest places that I have ever visited.
Our reason for making a stop at the most religious place on earth didn’t require much spiritual reflection. We’re passing through, so why not? Though Rick Steves has called it home to the tackiest souvenirs in Europe, we still wanted to visit Disneyland’s weird pious cousin, come hell or holy water!
It was an odd experience slipping through crowds of people in prayer, past long rows of spigots filling up identical Our Lady of Lourdes water bottles (available for purchase further up the road). It was a very interesting phenomenon to witness, though I think my own moment of divine intervention came when I found a very nice croissant just out of town in Arras-en-Lavedan. Heavenly.
From there, we caught our firsts glimpses of the Pyrénées. Incredible landscapes and fresh, clean air. We breathed in deep and chanced upon a cute mountain lodge with coffee and homemade cheese. The route we were meant to take, along a shear cliff, was inexplicably barred, so we had to do a bit of backtracking before continuing on our way to Spain. Despite the minor setback, the views of the Pyrénées simply could not be beat.