The last few days have been filled with exhausting but amazing trips. First, a day trip to the city of Carcassone and its historic castle. In our enormous bus we arrived to an even more enormous medieval castle. Once inside the castle walls we were able to tour the grounds and the church inside. We learned about the architecture of the castle, (from the most adorable tour guide ever) including the fact that the marble steps inside the church of the Carcassone castle are made from the same marble that is in the Palace of Versailles and in the pillars of the Capitol in Toulouse where we are studying! The castle was beautiful and the pictures below don’t do it enough justice!
Next on the itinerary was a weekend in the Pyrenees mountains that are located on the southwest border of France and Spain. I’ve never felt more small and insignificant in the grand scheme of the world than when we arrived at the mountains and the town of Gavarnie (I mean that in the best possible way). The mountains are absolutely breathtaking and grand. I could have sat in the grass and stared at them for hours and still not be over how amazing they are. For anyone who talks to me on a regular basis…you know I want to move to Colorado for the mountains and this trip has completely confirmed that aspiration. We stayed in a small refuge for the evening, but of course went on a hike during the day. Our hike was a little under two hours or so and eventually led us to the highest waterfall in Europe. The weather on the way up was sweltering and sunny, conveniently for us…. The instant we got to the waterfall the clouds came in and it started pouring. When we made it home we socialized and were served a four course meal at the refuge of soup, turkey and risotto, cheese, and cake. I was a little nervous to try the soup…it looked like porridge, but it was actually great. I’m slowly learning not to judge a book by its cover when it comes to food.
Before heading home the next day, we stopped for a few hours in Lourdes, France which is considered to be the next best thing after Rome for Catholics. The “legend” behind the city is that Saint Bernadette was approached by Mary on 30+ occasions while living in the city of Lourdes. Truthfully, I don’t know much more about it other than that. In my opinion, the city seems kind of like an amusement park for Catholics with the main attraction being Porte Saint-Michel which is almost equivalent to Cinderella’s castle in Disneyland. It’s stunning from the outside. There is a church on the lower level and a crypt and basilica on the upper level. The churches are a little more modern than I had suspected, but were pretty nonetheless. There was also a grotto that we visited as well as a castle in the middle of the city. Perhaps the most amazing thing that I noticed was all of the elderly people we saw there. For many people, the pilgrimage to Lourdes is done as a last effort to find good health when they are sick since the city is holy. The people there were filling up with holy water by the gallons, drinking it, washing their hair in it, everything. It was kind of unsettling for me to know that this was the last resort for some people regarding their health, I hope all of their pilgrimage’s and holy water do them some good.
Tomorrow we go to a cheese factory and this weekend we go to Barcelona!