Today has been more emotional than my trip to Africa; I came to Lourdes last night after an 8 hour train journey. I started by going to St Bernadette's house ( St Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary on 18 seperate occassions around 1844 ), then visited the grotto where she first saw the Virgin Mary. It was the most beautiful sight I've ever seen ( apart from Gareth's bum )!! Alot of people were kissing the cave, drinking the water from it and even trying to hug it. I then had the opportunity to take a very quick dip in a bath of holy water, I had to queue for 3 hours as there were many sick people waiting too. You had to enter a small room with other women, take all your clothes off, put a blue gown on, then when it was your turn to go in and the curtains opened, you went in to find a small bath which was kind of built into the ground, with 3 nuns inside and a statue of the Virgin Mary. They wrapped me in a white sheet and helped me into the water for about 2 seconds; the water was freezing but then amazingly as soon as I stepped out I WAS DRY! and warm too, it was wierd but in a good way.
I came back to the grotto tonight as all the sick patients that are staying in a free hospital were pulled round either on beds or wheelchairs by volunteers, holding candles. Then many pilgrims from all different backgrounds walked behind them, also holding candles and singing songs. It was heartbreaking to see so many ill, disabled people, including babies and children. Amazingly some were laughing and smiling, even if they knew they didn't have long to live, but I know for sure they were all hoping for a miracle to happen. There was then a ceremony for all the pilgrims and patients which included prayers and songs. Lourdes is amazing; however there's one thing that spoils it and that's that there are way too many shops selling crosses, posters, postcards and every single one looks the same. It feels like everytime something happens in this world, either good or bad, poeple see it as an opportunity to make money, it's ashame.
I'm off to San Sebastien tomorrow and meeting up with Beth!