Thursday, 30 May 2013

London - Lourdes

Starting out at 7am the morning after my end of year geography ball was a somewhat brutal way to kick things off, particularly given that RyanAir's website didn't feel like letting me print my boarding pass until the moment I absolutely had to leave, but ultimately I made it to France without any drama. Indeed being Lourdes-bound at Stansted and not having to keep my eye on disabled people made the whole business feel a little weird - I've been going there with my family regularly in the past few years and the departure lounge under these circumstances is usually mayhem.

As I passed through the terminal at Biarritz I began to spot a number of other people with backpacks, and once on the bus to Bayonne we established that we were all heading for the Camino de Santiago. I'm starting from Lourdes (a two hour train ride from Bayonne) but the others were heading to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, the last French town before you hit the Pyrenees proper and enter Spain. As the gruff Yorkshireman pointed out 'you can't go round saying you're walking the Camimo Frances if you haven't bloody started in France'. He had a point.

Stansted airport
I arrived in Lourdes at 7pm, and headed to the Casa Italia, the best pizzeria in Lourdes, where I had what I felt might be my last decent supper for a while. Casa Italia is just opposite the Italian pilgrims hospital, which is very well equipped - largely on the back of mafia donations, or so the story goes. Food was followed by the candlelight profession, which I always seem to end up calling the Torchlight Parade when discussing it with the family. Lourdes does seem to have a lot of paradesque events: banners, uniforms, the works. Then finally a drink with my friends Alex and Laurent, two of the town's commercial pilgrimage photographers who I've got to know over the years. I'm staying with Alex tonight - the rain is bucketing down, and apparently is set to continue for the next few days. Oh well: the weather has to brighten up at some point in the next six weeks, but I'm glad to have the extra jumper I packed by mistake!

Rosary Basilica, Lourdes