The Joe Walsh Tours pilgrimage team in Lourdes has been expertly led by Caroline Trainor and Fionnuala Brua, who have been welcoming pilgrims for many years. We catch up with Caroline to learn a little bit more about life in Lourdes.
Originally from the village of Ardmayle, just outside Cashel in County Tipperary, Caroline first travelled to Lourdes in the early 1990s, not knowing it would eventually become her ‘home’.
-When did you first travel to Lourdes?
I first travelled to Lourdes in the early 1990’s very briefly, on a day trip, when I was an au pair with a French family, with 5 children!! After that, I came here to work as a representative for an Irish Tour Operator for a summer in 1994 before returning to university where I was studying French.
-What made you stay in Lourdes?
Very good question!!! I spent a few summers working here as it fitted in with university and another job I had. I really enjoyed the work, interacting with the clients, the atmosphere and the great colleagues – we shared a lot of fun and now lifelong friendships …Then ‘in due course’ I met a ‘local’ and that gave me a ‘serious’ reason to stay and so here I am!!
My first summer working here was 1994 so you could say that I have been more or less working with Lourdes pilgrims since then with a few breaks in between.
-What makes Lourdes special for pilgrims?
I think everybody ‘gets’ something out of being here … as we often say it may not be a ‘front page’ miracle story but a lot of pilgrims over the years comment on the peace they find,the healing in the wider sense of the word, they feel like their prayers are being listened to, they enjoy also the whole ‘social’ side of it – travelling with a group be it parish or diocesan – being part of a ‘bigger picture’.
They cross paths with people from all over the world, sharing the atmosphere of the big ceremonies or the peace and quiet in the evening time or early morning in front of the Grotto. Many of the pilgrims we deal with come year after year and for many of them they feel ‘at home’ in Lourdes.
For many as well it is ‘time out’ , time off the merry go round of life, time to ‘recharge the batteries’.
-What would be one unmissable place/thing to do in Lourdes and the region, in your expert opinion?
Lourdes is situated in the foothills of the Pyrénées at approx 400m altitude and it would be a pity not to get a view of the magnificent mountains while you are here.
Without going too far from Lourdes you can get breathtaking views from the summit of the Pic du Jer, one of the ‘peaks’ situated just outside the confines of the town of Lourdes, a funiculaire rail takes visitors to , almost, the top and a short walk from the arrival station takes you to the summit, 900m approx above sea level with magnificent views of the town of Lourdes, the Sanctuary, and south towards the Pyrénées.
On a fine day it is truly breathtaking and also very peaceful just to sit there and take it all in!!
Otherwise there are many beautiful sites to visit in this part of the Pyrénées: Pont D’Espagne, Saint Savin, Gavarnie and Lac d’Estaing to name but a few, all within 50kms of Lourdes.
In Lourdes itself, outside the Sanctuary there are a few ‘gems’: the Ukrainian Church being one of them, the Castle Chateau Fort or sometimes it is just nice to find a quiet spot within the Sanctuary by the river and just sit there and observe (or not!).
-What would be your advice for those looking to travel on pilgrimage to Lourdes?
To come with an open mind…in all respects. Bring comfortable shoes, as you will cover a lot of ground!
Don’t try to do everything when you are here ….it’s important to take ‘time out’ while you are here. You can always leave some things to do for the next time that you come!
Enjoy all the different people that you will meet. Be prepared to laugh a little (or a lot!) and be nice to your reps!!!! 😉
For more details and dates for upcoming tours to Lourdes: PILGRIMAGE TO LOURDES. Talk to our travel experts for advice, we are here to help.Contact Us