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Location - Western Europe; Capital - Paris; Population - 65 million; Currency - Euro MORE FRANCE

After a stopover in Paris it was off to Lourdes by train, a very religious but tacky place. However it's ideal as a base for the beautiful Pyrenees - October/November 2016.


euro1A more recent version of the 10 Euro note










france1084If you're stepping off the train this is the very welcome first site you'll see - Lourdes


france1078The Chateau Fort set below the Pyrenean mountains - Lourdes


france1094Crossing the River Pau to the Sanctuary Of Our Lady Of Lourdes - Lourdes















france1095One of two St Bernadette movies playing in Lourdes, and the reason why Lourdes is teaming with pilgrims. In 1858 a 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous saw apparitions of a woman identifying herself as the Virgin Mary at the Massabielle Grotto. In 1862 the Catholic Church confirmed their authenticity and in 1933 she was beatified













france1108Pilgrims and tourists queue at the Massabielle Grotto, touching the walls and getting a glimpse of the spring where Bernadette saw her visions - Lourdes


france1129The Sanctuary Of Our Lady Of Lourdes is set above the grotto - Lourdes


france1098Straight ahead, at ground level, is the Rosary Basilica. Go through the arches on the right and up the stairs to the Upper Basilica behind - Lourdes













france1127Lourdes is one of Christianity's biggest pilgrimage sites where many sick and disabled from all over the world come to drink the (alleged) healing spring waters and hope for a miracle cure














france1130Light some seriously big prayer candles in the Sanctuary grounds - Lourdes


france1135Not content with building above ground, and with limited space, there's also the underground Basilica of St Pius X - Lourdes


france1114The Chateau Fort stands above the Sanctuary - Lourdes














france1138On one of the days at the sanctuary a march began with many women dressed in what looked like traditional costume and men in dapper suits - Lourdes














france1139One of a huge number of souvenir shops selling religious memorabilia as well as plenty of tacky nonsense. I plumped for a water bottle moulded as the Virgin Mary.. - Lourdes


france1125But you could go for a St Bernadette or Pope Francis 'medal' pressed from a 2 Euro coin - Lourdes


france1152Lourdes has a great location nestled at the foothills of the Pyrenees, and to take it all in board the funicular up the Pic du Jer - Lourdes














france1146The panorama is brilliant, taking in the Pyrenees, the mountains that form the border between France and Spain, and fill the whole of the Principality of Andorra - Lourdes


france1157You can see the whole of Lourdes from here; middle right is the Chateau Fort while the Sanctuary spire is middle left, partially obscured by trees - Lourdes


france1159The Chateau Fort is primarily a medieval castle built and extended over several centuries - Lourdes














france1176The castle's imposing 14th century keep was rebuilt around 1406 - Lourdes














france1165There's good views from the castle including the Pau River and a slightly obscured Sanctuary Of Our Lady Of Lourdes (top middle) - Lourdes


france1178In the distance smoke settles on the Pyrenees, with the Chateau Fort's walls on the right - Lourdes


france1187A couple of kms out of town is the Lac de Lourdes - Lourdes














france1183It was very peaceful when I went, with just a couple of fishing boats on the calm waters - Lourdes














france1192I took a bargain 2 Euro bus trip from Lourdes to La Mongie, where a cable car whisks passengers up to the Pic du Midi for a bird's eye view of the Pyrenees


france1194The ski resort of La Mongie lies at 1,800m


france1195Not an inspiring photo but for Tour de France lovers this is the Col du Tourmalet from La Mongie, one of the most famous climbs on the Tour














france1205 Beginning the climb to the 2,877m Pic du Midi














france1206The trip is in two stages with this being the scarier second stage to the peak - Pic du Midi


france1212Rising above the mountains - Pic du Midi


france1231The cable car stops at the Pic du Midi














france1214At the top is the Pic du Midi Observatory which houses the largest telescope in France - Pic du Midi














france1218Despite it almost being November at 2,877m it was warm at the top, with people lying in deckchairs sunbathing! Pic du Midi


france1227Most of the peaks measure between 2,300m and 3,100m in height - Pic du Midi


france1232Waiting for the return cable car to La Mongie - Pic du Midi














france1220The sun was intense at this altitude. Something tells me I need camera with a UV filter.. - Pic du Midi












france1234On the way back to Lourdes we pass Bagneres-de-Bigorre


france1237Another good hiking base near Lourdes is Cauterets














france1243From Cauterets head to Pont d'Espagne at 1,425m altitude, and begin a 45-90min walk up to Lake Gaube at 1,725m. Or be lazy and take the chairlift..


france1251It's a great site to see, especially if you've done the trek up from Pont d'Espagne - Lake Gaube


france1250The morning sun rises to cast light on the green lake, with Pic du Vignemale behind - Lake Gaube














france1240Pic du Vignemale is the highest mountain in the Pyrenees at 3,298m and straddles the French/Spanish border - Lake Gaube














france1267In season there's a lakeside cafe, ideal for taking in such a picturesque area, but closed when I was there in November. You can also walk in the direction of Pic du Vignemale where there's a refuge cabin for climbers - Lake Gaube


france1244My first view of the lake in the eraly morning, when there were only a couple of visitors. By midday I must have passed around 100 people walking up the trail - Lake Gaube


france1273The trekking hub of Pont d'Espagne itself is worthy of exploration, surrounded by several waterfalls and rapids














france1277Posing in front of a waterfall at Pont d'Espagne














france1287Lourdes is the most practical base for Cauterets, Pic du Midi and Gavarnie but only 25mins further away is a far better option, Pau


france1291The town has a small but attractive old town and a more lively, cafe-society feel to it - Pau


france1289The Chateau de Pau is a castle where French King Henri IV was born in 1553 - Pau














france1290Exiting the castle grounds. The town is built on a plateau, so either walk up the hill or take a funicular - Pau















france1292The town's old quarter - Pau


france1294Love the umbrellas! Pau


france1297I had an hour to kill at Tarbes, enough time for the 5min walk to the landscaped gardens of Jardin Massey

















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LINKS - Eurostar train from London to Paris, Brussels and more - French tourist office - Pyrenees guide - French trains


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