Lourdes was a sleepy market town in the Pyrenees region of France, unknown to most until Our Lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. It is now one of the most popular holy sites in the world, visited by millions of pilgrims and tourists every year. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes now surrounds the Grotto of Massabielle, where Bernadette (now St. Bernadette) saw the apparitions. Pilgrims come to drink and bathe in its waters and to pray for cures at the Marian shrine.
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206 Tours and Pilgrimages
206 Tours leads Catholic pilgrimages around the world. Their Lourdes trip includes three nights in a hotel, breakfast and dinner daily, wine and mineral water included with dinner. There is daily Mass, spiritual activities and guided tours of sites like the birthplace of Bernadette. Land-only prices start at £205 per person/per day based on double occupancy (2010 prices).
Low season travel
Though pilgrims come to Lourdes all year long, spring to early autumn have the best weather and are the most crowded times to visit. By travelling in the off season, visitors can save 30 per cent over peak prices. Look for packages that include a trip to Paris as well.
Volunteer to help at Lourdes
One cost-effective way to visit Lourdes and to grow in faith is to work as a volunteer. Volunteering can including greeting pilgrims at the train station, assisting at the baths and during processions, providing medical care, and helping with housekeeping and kitchen duties in the hospital-like accommodations. An application and letter of recommendation from a priest are required. The volunteer organisation conducts no-cost tours at the Sanctuary and St. Gildard Convent, as well as an “In the Footsteps of Bernadette” tour. Interested volunteers should contact the organisation to discuss costs for lodgings, meals and transportation.
Lourdes together with Spain and Portugal
Visiting Lourdes together with other important pilgrimage sites can be an economical way to travel. Fatima, Portugal, is the second most important Marian shrine after Lourdes. Look for offers a package combining Lourdes, Fatima, and the Way of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Tangney Tours is a pilgrimage operator based in the U.K. They have regular, direct charter flights to Lourdes from London, and their prices are so competitive that even for visitors from other parts of the world there can be considerable savings by flying to the U.K. and then onward from there with Tangney. For important holidays, they also offer coach tours from the U.K. at very affordable prices. The company makes free wheelchair loans available. Tours include Masses, hotels and excursions led by English-speaking guides who reside in Lourdes. Flight-inclusive tour prices start at just £88 per person per night (based on double occupancy, single supplement £22 per night, prices effective Spring 2010).
One of the most affordable ways to see Lourdes is to join a private tour with a parish. Church-sponsored trips are often run on a non-profit basis and are therefore less costly than ones run by a for-profit tour operator. Interested parties should contact their local diocese to inquire if any local parishes have Lourdes pilgrimages planned.
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