From Barcelona, we set off to Lourdes, France at 9:00AM. Pedro Luis told us it will be a long six hours ride to Lourdes. Personally, I was excited for this road trip because it will be nice to see the sights. While we were climbing Montserrat Mountain the day before, our guide pointed to a very far end, saying that the snow-capped mountains at the farthest tip was already the Pyrenees, the natural border between Spain and France, beyond which will be France, our next destination.
As usual, we had our morning prayer and said the three mysteries of the rosary. We were mostly passing vast green mountains at first, like the ones on the way to Montserrat, but after we crossed the Pyrenees, the view became exquisite. Colorful trees lined up in the mountains greeted us- yellow, red, green, rust. It reminded me of the autumn trip we had in South Korea.
We had our lunch at the first French town after crossing the boarder. I thought there would be inspection in the boarder or even authorities guarding the boarder, but there was none. The boarder was open and without any physical barricade or visible territorial barrier setting forth the beginning of French territory. Except for the road signs written in French, I would not know it was already another country – it was that uneventful.
We sat and ate on the picnic tables below the yellow maple trees and the earth was of the same color, as the fallen leaves lie on the ground beautifully. It was already cold as it is and the slight drizzle of the winter rain made it more chilly.
As we continued on our road trip after taking our lunch, a lot of our companions dozed off, but I was wide awake. The French towns we passed by amazed me. The houses had the same designs, they were of the same colors! I was guessing they were houses provided by the government and thus, the uniform everything. The small towns were arranged well that it was like a drawing in some book. If I could, I want to live in one of those tiny French villages we passed by. My mind was painting a picture of a very serene and problem free life, hehehe.
We arrived in Lourdes around three in the afternoon. Unlike the other French towns or cities we passed by, Lourdes was bursting with life – so many people were walking around. While Ms. Rose went down first to our hotel, I saw many carts in the side-walk selling crepe and my mouth watered.
We got off the bus and went straight to the lobby of our hotel. Our hotel was first built-in the late 1800s. In fact its first owners were distant relatives of St. Bernadette. Its interior was in heavy hard wood and there were chandeliers everywhere. Right in the center of the hallway is a spiral staircase. Honestly, the hotel made me think of those Barbara Cartland novels I read in high school – especially when Ms. Rose was greeted by the owner’s son, whoa, very tall, with shoulder length curly [big curls] hair, mesmerizing blue eyes, h-a-n-d-s-o-m-e [all of the ladies gaped at the sight of him!].
Our hotel room was roomy and it was a corner room. I felt like I went back in time to those period movies. Our bed and our furniture really looked ancient. Don’t get me wrong though. Once I stepped inside the bathroom, time skipped forward by 100 years. We settled for a few minutes until my sister suggested we go around town. Our schedule for that night was only a mass at eight in the evening and the nightly procession at nine in Lourdes Square.
It was very chilly outside the hotel. The time was just around 4pm and it was that cold already. I was dreading what the temperature would be like at night. We strolled around, primarily looking for the containers we shall be storing the water from Lourdes to take back home. Various sizes of plastic containers shaped like the image of Our Lady of Lourdes were readily available in the surrounding shops. We really laughed out loud when hubby called our attention when he saw a group of nuns smoking in the corner. They weren’t nuns after all, but those countless volunteers in the Lourdes Square, their uniforms looking like the white habits of the nuns.
We just hovered around the shops and ran through the items. They were mostly religious shops with occasional restaurants in between.
The Gave de Pau river right in the middle of Lourdes was so beautiful – ‘ twas so unlike the rivers I’ve seen in the Philippines. So clean and roaring wild, fast running all over Lourdes. We sat in the benches in one of the parks and just enjoyed the quiet afternoon.
When it was almost six o’clock, we headed back to the hotel. The weather was getting colder by the minute; the light wind was not helping at all. Just a corner before our hotel, we bought the plastic containers molded in the image of our Lady of Lourdes where we will storing the water from Lourdes all the way to the Philippines. We also bought candles for the procession that night – mother and sister made sure to buy them because they did not have candles with them when they joined the nightly procession in Fatima, Portugal.
Dinner was served in the hotel restaurant at seven o’clock. Just as the hotel was full, so also the restaurant. Aside from our group, volunteer workers in Lourdes Square dressed in their White and Blue uniforms also filled the dining hall. We later learned that this was a normal picture in Lourdes being a major Marian pilgrimage site . In fact, it was in Lourdes that our pilgrimage group did not stay in one hotel. The first group stayed in another hotel because no hotel had that many available rooms to accommodate us all as one group – and it was not even anytime near the feast of our Lady of Lourdes.
Because it took so long to write this entry, I already forgot what we had for dinner, except that it was the usual European meal – appetizers, main course and dessert. We ate dinner quickly as we shall be having mass first in one of the chapels in Lourdes Square at eight o’clock before we join the nightly procession at nine.
On our way out of the hotel, the handsome owner of the hotel called us and said we can just get free candles for the procession at the hotel shop. Hahaha, just when we were already prepared, the candles were free there!
It was just a five-minute walk from the hotel to the nearest gate of Lourdes Square – we just had to cross two streets and it’s the entrance already. The whole of the square was filled with people from different nationalities. It was the last day of procession for the year because it was already winter as it would be too cold to stay out at night. When we heard it was the last procession, I was so thankful because I was not able to join the nightly procession in Fatima Square in Portugal.
Inside the square on that very, very chilly night, we moved fast across the basilica and crossed the bridge to get to the chapels where our group will be hearing mass to be officiated by Fr. Arlo. It was such a relief to enter the chapel because it was warm and cozy. During the mass after his homily, Fr. Arlo asked hubby to share his experience on the great love and mercy of God. Hubby was so serious in his testimony that halfway through it, I could not help but let out a smirk and coughed out loud to stop myself from laughing. The devil must have tickled me because I really found my husband’s very serious demeanor funny that time [sorry Lord!].
We just finished the mass in the nick of time and we immediately made a dash out the square in time for the nightly 9:00 pm procession.
It was a sight to behold out there. A flood of people amassed the square, bearing procession candles. It was a very dark night and all bright florescent lights point to the image of our Lady of Lourdes several meters above the ground in the center of the square. The image stood in majesty.
The voices of the choir filled the entire square, prompting the start of the procession. They sang of beautiful songs in different languages. We lined up among the hundreds of devotees and heartily participated. There were readings before every decade. The readings were read in five languages [French, Italian, Spanish, German and English]; the rosary was also recited alternately in the different languages. I liked it when the children made the readings. I liked it more when the children sang songs of Mary.
As we slowly walked around the square, I glanced around. The feeling was indescribable. I had goosebumps seeing so much outpouring of faith, love and devotion to Mary. I was teary eyed while walking, as I said a little prayer of thanks to God, thinking that it we were already there. For us, especially for my mother, that was the end of our journey. We joined the pilgrimage because we wanted to pay homage to our Lady of Lourdes. That night was the ultimate fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
There were additional prayers and blessings after the procession. Immediately thereafter, the customary procession of the sick ensued. This is just the crowd staying at the sides of the square to give way to the sick as they approach in front of the basilica to be blessed by the priests. I encouraged my mom to join, being a breast cancer victim, but she refused. She said the sick who were lining up looked sicker than her. She was right though. They were mostly in wheelchairs, pushed and accompanied by their families. As correctly observed by my mother, they looked really frail and weak and seriously ill.
We got back to the hotel at almost half past ten. It was already freezing and the five-minute walk to the hotel felt like an eternity to me.
We were told by Ms. Rose that we had the whole day to ourselves the next day. Fr. Arlo suggested we join the many activities in Lourdes Square, especially the Holy Bath. He also said to go to the square early if we want to experience the Holy Bath because the pilgrims are just too many to accommodate in one day.
We had our breakfast at seven in the morning the following day. There was just a few of us in the restaurant. We went early because my mother was excited about taking the bath in Lourdes. We were on our way to the sanctuaries in the square a few minutes before eight in the morning.
The people were piling up in the area. We hurriedly fell in line and just as we did, we found out we were the last of the first batch to bathe. We were then escorted inside the gates where there were benches to sit upon while waiting.
There were actually three lines in the sanctuaries. The first was for the men. This line wasn’t that long. The second was for the women. This line was the longest. The last line was for the children who wish to bathe, and their parents too [of course]. This is what I consider a special express line. If you can’t get inside in the first two lines, go grab a friend’s child and you are immediately accommodated to this line, hehehe. They give utmost preference to children, especially those who are sick and disabled [there were a lot of those]. Even infants bathe in the sanctuaries as I observed there. Grrr, how cold must it have been for the children? It was already the start of winter that time.
Bathes in the sanctuaries are only at 9:00 am to 11:00 am then at 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. As we got in and sat, we saw our companions from the first group who were ahead on the line. They said they skipped breakfast to be there early. There were a lot of Filipinos waiting for their turns in the bath too. We talked with them and learned they were migrant workers, mostly nurses, in Europe. The family beside us live in Paris and said they visit Lourdes frequently. Would you believe they originally came from Bohol, where my mom hails from as well? It was cheerful there because the Filipinos were mingling, especially when they knew that Boots Anson Roa was with us and was sitting with us too. While we were waiting, I noticed our companion, Ate Josie who quietly slipped inside the waiting area. She relayed that she was late and was already refused entry because the baths for the morning was already full. She said she begged until the volunteer pitied her and brought her to the lines for the children and let her stay with a mother and two children to make it appear she was a companion [see, I told you that line was special express line].
While we were slowly on our way to take the bath, we read the guide that was distributed to us when we entered the waiting area. When I read it, I discovered that we were primarily there to heed our Lady’s call like what St. Bernadette did. The young saint was told by Our Lady of Lourdes to wash her face and repent. As she washed her face by the water in the muddy puddle, water sprang on the site and has continuously ran until today [it’s not the Gave de Pau river ha!]. So, we were there to be like St. Bernadette, to bathe in the waters and repent for our sins. Of course, it cannot be denied that after partaking the bath and sincere repentance, there are a lot of healing miracles in Lourdes. It’s famous for it. Even my mom believes she was healed in Lourdes.
It was finally our turn to take our bath. Once inside the curtains, I noticed that there were many bathing sanctuaries inside, probably about ten or more. Mother, my sister and I were in different sanctuaries. When I was called by the volunteer to enter the curtained sanctuary, I was really nervous because I was afraid of the cold water as it was already chilly when I was dry and fully clothe. Inside, there were about three of four of us waiting for our turns to enter yet another and final curtain inside. The volunteer helped me shed my clothes, but she covered me with a navy blue cloth as I undressed myself. She also helped me put my clothes in the hanger and my bag on the shelf. The other pilgrims inside also had volunteers with them. When the pilgrim came out of the inner curtain, I was shown the way inside by the volunteer who helped me. When I got in, wrapped in the navy blue cloth, I saw three more volunteers inside. There were about three steps down the way to the tub. On the wall up front, an image of our Lady of Lourdes was standing. One volunteer was busily washing a white cloth in the running waters in the tub (there was a hole in the bottom of the wall were the water freely ran), while the two volunteers smiled at me and asked me if I speak French. I shook my head and said “English please”. They just smiled and helped me get out of the blue cloth I was wearing (I was like, Oh my goodness!). Then the third volunteer came up to us, bringing with her the white cloth she was washing. The other volunteer helped her squeeze the cold water from the cloth while I was standing there, only shielded from my nakedness by the blue cloth that was held by the third volunteer [doesn’t this look like a ritual in the movies?, hahaha]. Then, so help me God, the two volunteers, bringing along the wet white cloth, approached me and spread the white cloth in front of me while the blue cloth was folded away. Then, THE. WET. COLD. WHITE. CLOTH. WAS. WRAPPED. AROUND. MY. ALREADY. COLD. BODY. I prayed so hard because I was so afraid of the cold. The wet cloth clung to my body but surprisingly, the cold did not sting [thank you Lord!]. That’s not the end of my anxiety. I was then motioned down the steps while the two volunteers held my arms. The moment my feet touched the icy water, I could not think straight. Standing there with the wet cloth and my feet drenched too, the volunteers halted me from pursuing further. I looked at them and by their sign language, I understood they suggested I pray first before plunging in, hehehe. So I took a moment and made a quick prayer [I could not think of anything else but the Our Father : ) ]. I looked up to the volunteer at my right side and she got my eye language that I was done praying. Then both my arms were held by the volunteers at my sides and assisted me to the tub. The water slowly reached my upper legs. I slowly bended for my bath but the two volunteers continued to assist me all the way up front before the image of Our Lady of Lourdes. Before her image, I prayed the Hail Mary and I kissed the image [I could not merely touch it because my hands were held by the volunteers!]. Then, without the slightest warning, the two volunteers abruptly immersed my whole body in the waters. Before my mind could process what was happening, I was out of the waters just as quickly. The cold did not even sink in. They then maneuvered me back up, took off the white cloth and warmly wrapped me back in the blue cloth. I got out of the curtain and another volunteer outside helped me dress. There weren’t any towels there, so I just used the scarf I was wearing to wipe the water. I did not feel cold.
When I went out of the sanctuaries, hubby, my mother and my sister were already waiting for me. It was a very memorable and enriching experience. I think it’s the hope of all Catholics to take a bath in Lourdes and I’m so blessed I did it in this lifetime. I was so happy God gave me enough courage to bathe. Hubby did not. Since he is hypertensive, he was afraid to take a dip in icy water since his doctor has always warned him to bathe in warm water because when the water is cold, the blood vessels constrict and would raise the blood pressure. Even then, he washed his face from the same running waters that were available in the faucet [he said St. Bernadette only washed her face too, lol].
After the bath, we crossed the bridge and went to the opposite side because it was sunny there. I took of my shoes and my socks and dried my feet. I also sunbathe to dry myself. While there, we also participated in the rosary that was being recited in front of the grotto. There was intense praying all over the square. We were walking around and we wanted to confess. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the confession area for English-speaking pilgrims. There was a priest who passed by and we asked him if he knew where it was, but he didn’t too. I suggested we just confess to any priest, regardless of the language but my companions did not feel comfortable with it. Of course, we could have just confessed to Fr. Arlo..but nah, I’d rather not, hehehe. Unable to confess, we went back to the hotel in time for lunch.
I remember lunch that day. There was rice on the menu and my mouth could not wait to gobble it. Unfortunately, after a mouthful, I discovered the rice was served like salad – it wasn’t hot and had mayonnaise and some leafy vegetables mixed with peas, etc. Pasta followed after. Then a meat recipe. And crepe and ice cream for dessert.
After lunch, we went up our rooms for our naps. An hour later, hubby and I went back to Lourdes Square and brought our empty mineral water bottles. We walked to the faucets in the sanctuaries and filled our empty bottles with water. We will be bringing home with us for our families and friends who so wanted to wash their faces with or drink the water from Lourdes. We made a second trip to fill up the bottles of my mother and my sister.
At around two thirty, the four of us went back to the square for our guided tour. We found the rest of our companions sitting in the benches in front of the Information building, waiting for our guide. At three o’clock, the guide promptly arrived.
She first led us to the structure at the far opposite of the basilica. We went in the museum first. The museum was all about St. Bernadette. As we moved on from one section to another, we were shown belongings of the saint. The messages of the Lady of Lourdes to her were also shown in her letters which she later wrote when she became a nun. To know about St. Bernadette, click here.
After the museum, we proceeded to the old basilica/church of the square. It was also large and huge portraits of the saints hung in the walls of the church. This used to be the church were masses were held before the new basilica was made, but the church is still used up to present. There are so many churches and chapels in Lourdes square because the pilgrims are just so many, but on special celebrations, I think the mass is held in the square itself, like that in St. Peter’s Square in Italy.
From the old church, we went on hiking around the town of Lourdes, following what would have been the route of St. Bernadette during her days. There is actually a walkway in the side of the street composed of blue arrows that one will just follow during the walk [there are also arrows directing the way back to the square]. First, we went to the house where she was born, then walked on further to the other house “Le Cachot” where her entire family was allowed to stay when they lost their house. We also visited the mill where her father worked and also took a glance of the castle [yep, castle] where the owner of the mill lived.
The house that she was born was filled with many information about her and their family. A family tree on both sides [mother’s and father’s] was also illustrated on the wall in the receiving hall.
“Le Cachot” was very small and the room that the whole family lived was tiny to accommodate them all. In the said room we were told that several pilgrims even celebrate the mass there. For us though, we just said a group prayer and then took off to walk back to the square.
It was a nice stroll back our tracks. We passed by old houses and trees dressed in red leaves [wow!]. We took our time walking around town, stopping at some shops. When we passed by a Chinese restaurant, our companions said they ate there the previous day. They ordered noodles for a price of 5 Euros and when they tasted it, it was only our instant Lucky Me noodles, hehehe.
When we passed by the Gave de Pau river in another part of town, hubby and I halted for a while and enjoyed the sound of mighty and speedy river.
We re-entered the gate of the square just in time to catch our daily mass, which was to be held at the crypt of the Basilica. On our way, we passed by a building with a sign announcing that “English confessions” were held there daily — until two in the afternoon. Aish.
The crypt of the basilica was a beautiful climb on the stairways located at the two sides of the building. It’s atop the church and we walked past the huge golden crown immediately before its entrance. Walking inside, it was in moderate size but still elaborate. There were other pilgrims who joined us in our mass.
After hearing mass, we made a stopover inside the basilica. Mass has just been served on our way in. There were too many people coming out that we just made a quick look, admired its decorated interiors, made a sign of a cross and then started our walk back to the hotel.
It was almost seven in the evening when we got in and we went to the restaurant immediately. I could not recall what we had for dinner but the highlight of the night was when the chef and the handsome owner came in and rolled a huge cake complete with lighted candles for us. We almost fainted seeing him unexpectedly, bringing the cake, with a big smile [is this a telenovela?]. My sister and the others jump to his side to have a picture with him. It took all of my might to stay seated because hubby was beside me, hahaha. After dinner, Ms. Rose said tomorrow was a very long ride of nine hours to Nevers, France in Normandy. We were instructed to be up and ready by eight.
We left Lourdes at nine in the morning. Despite the long ride ahead of me, I was in good spirits because the sights were still beautiful. Except for the fact that Pedro Luis did make any toilet stops [because he was racing against time] except for our lunch, I enjoyed it very much.
We arrived in Nevers around six o’clock in the evening. Pedro Luis just dropped us in front of the Convent of St. Gildard. He said he could not wait for us and drive us to our hotel because he was way past his driving hours and would get in trouble with his company. We had no problem with that.
Mass was still ongoing in the Chapel, so we couldn’t go in yet to view the incorruptible body of St. Bernadette. Instead, we went to the building beside it and went inside the museum. The contents of the museum was similar to the museum in Lourdes, but it displayed more belongings of the saint as she spent the rest of her life and died there in the convent of St. Gildard.
When the mass was through, we quietly went inside the convent. The convent was very simple, without the majestic designs I had gotten used to. Facing the altar, at the right side, lays the incorruptible body of St. Bernadette in glass. There was a strict prohibition against taking pictures of the body. Despite such prohibition, some of our companions succeeded to take stolen pictures of her body. To read more of her incorruptible body, click here.
We stayed in the convent for about an hour and then headed to our hotel. The cold was biting me. It was a long walk to the hotel. We were already panting when we got in. We found our other companions from the first group in the lobby. They were complaining. They didn’t get to go to the convent because their bus driver said it was past his driving hours and he chose to deliver them directly to the hotel. The other group will be going to the convent early the next day.
The first group left earlier than us the following day. We started out for Chartres, France at around 9:00 o’clock in the morning. Our itinerary was supposed to be straight to Lisieux, France but our guide suggested we make a quick stop at Chartres because we should not miss the Notre-dame Cathedral and its famous stained glass.
We arrived in Chartres just in time for lunch. We got off at the bus parking and walk towards the park so that we can eat our packed lunches. It was sunny because it was midday but it was still cold, especially when the wind blew.
My mother was so enamored by the colorful flowers in the park. They were of different colors and just too beautiful. We took our time eating lunch and taking pictures.
After everyone ate lunch, our guide led the way to the Notre-dame Cathedral. The town was empty [well, the towns we visited in Europe were always empty!]. The Cathedral was very big. Its front had intricate designs or more like sculptures of religious images. We got inside a very dark church but before I could comment on the altar, the guide told us to look back, above the entrance doors. We looked up…and I saw the marvelous stained glass windows I have ever seen. The designs were not only intricate but miniscule that I could only imagine how much effort was made making a single design. The walls of the giant church were surrounded by stained windows, each window telling stories of the Catholic faith. Going passed the altar, more sculptures were displayed. It was a very interesting visit.
We headed to Lisieux, France after Chartres. We will be visiting the house of the ever famous St. Therese of the Child Jesus [aka The Little Flower]. Reaching Lisieux, we first went to her ancestral house which has been preserved until now. Know more about St. Therese here.
On the walkway to their mansion, a statue of the saint was erected. Surrounding the statue were flowers and candles and gifts for the saint obviously from her devotees. We moved forward and finally reached their ancestral home. There was a beautiful garden in the front yard. Before we went in, the nuns led us at their backyard where a statue of child St. Therese was sitting with her father. I knew later that it was the scene when St. Therese, at a very young age, asked her father’s permission to become a nun.
After relaxing in the garden, we were called back because it was our time to enter the house. We were in the receiving area and a video was shown to us about the Little Flower. The house was well-maintained, although there was a glass prohibiting us to enter some portions of the house – but we could view it fully. Then we climb up the stairs and entered the room of St. Therese. Her hair was hung [sa wakwak na!] beside it at the wall – I think you have to cut your hair upon entry to the nunnery. The bed was the size for a little girl. Then we were led to another room where the toys she played and other personal belongings were displayed.
We proceeded to the Basilica of St. Therese in Lisieux after. It was again a huge church but we did not get to enter the main church [though some of our companions stole a moment to take a peek inside]. We went straight to the crypt located at the side of the church where we shall be having our mass. At the back of the crypt, the tombs of the parents of St. Therese were placed.
We were running out of time. It was almost six o’clock so we practically ran to the bus after mass [it was annoying that those who stole glances at the main church made us wait several minutes]. I looked forward to arriving in Paris about two hours [finally!].
It was already dark and the all of us in the bus were tired from the trip that most of us fell asleep on the ride to Paris. I was awakened when hubby slightly nudged me informing me of our entry in the most romantic city. Except for the lights, we couldn’t see the sights. The ride going in was also slow due to the traffic. A few minutes later, we heaved delightful sighs — the Eiffel Tower was standing greatly at the far front and well lighted for all to admire. That time, I was already fully alive and kicking. Then we passed by the Arc of Freedom and passed by the sizzling lights of Champs Elysses [hahaha!]. It was about half past eight in the evening when Pedro finally pulled over at our hotel in Le Defense area.
Ms. Rose distributed our room cards and told us to leave the luggage in the lobby because it will be brought to our rooms by the hotel personnel. She then gathered everybody to the restaurant where we will be dining. It was past beyond Pedro’s driving hours, so we had to walk in the night, grrrrrrr. What she said was a little walk seemed like two kilometers to me. We were exhausted and hungry but it was cool to walk the streets of Paris.
When we got in the restaurant, we were escorted to the stairs below because the entire hall was reserved for us. I was dying to eat hot rice or even instant noodles but made do with the pasta and meat and desert dish we had. It was again a long walk back and I really wanted to ride the taxi already, but my sister stopped me saying everybody was having fun just strolling and talking and enjoying a chilly night in Paris. At the corner before our hotel, we met some of our companions who did not have dinner with us. They said they ate Chinese food for dinner. Lucky them.
Once inside our room, I collapsed – but only after I looked out the window and pinched myself that I’m finally in Paris, [unbelievable!].
We had buffet American [should I say European?] breakfast the next day. Then we hopped on the bus to proceed to the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Chapel for our last mass. We occupied one of the chapels and there were also other pilgrims celebrating masses in the other chapel. While there, I learned about the relevance of the medal and about St. Catherine. Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is also our patron in our subdivision chapel back home [and we celebrated her feast in November after I went on the pilgrimage]. After learning about the miraculous medal and St. Catherine, we bought medals in the shop there and I bought many for my beloved nephews and nieces and even for the children of my friends. I don’t go out now without the medal tucked somewhere in my body or my bag [so with my rosary with an image of Padre Pio]. Know the story behind it here.
After the mass, we proceeded our city tour around Paris. We again went back to the Arc of Freedom, Champs Elysses, some relevant theaters [including Moulin Rouge], other historical sites and the famous elite shops [Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier, etc]. We couldn’t get off the bus as frequently as we wanted to because parking in Paris is very, very [1 million times] difficult.
We stopped for lunch in one of the parks in the city near the vicinity of the Sacred Heart Cathedral. We ate our usual packed lunch in one of the benches and enjoyed people watching. After eating, we proceeded our short hike up the Sacred Heart Cathedral. We had about two hours in the area and since that district had lots of souvenir shops and restaurants, we shopped for our pasalubongs there.
When we were about to go back to the bus, we learned from our companions that they just ate at a Chinese restaurant nearby. How could I pass on the chance? We practically ran and bought hot yang chow fried rice and noodles [bihon] on take out. It was prohibited to eat inside the bus but what the heck, we secretly ate it like patay gutoms on our drive to the Louvre.
We spent about three hours inside Louvre. There was a security check when we entered the building. Since our group already made reservations, we went in directly; other tourists had to wait long lines outside. We weren’t allowed to bring water inside for security reasons [ha? because someone might destroy those paintings by throwing water on them].
The Louvre was vast. Of course, the art pieces were magnificent but I’m sorry, I’m not that educated on them. Except for the Mona Lisa, they all looked the same to me [bagag nawong!]. Anyway, my mom, my sister and hubby were in unison that we just go around the vicinity of Louvre for the rest of the time rather than spend it appreciating art we did not care so much for. Oh, but we did manage to view those famous ones [after that museum in the Vatican, I’m already confused].
There are mall shops inside the Louvre. Hubby roamed around the shops while the three of us got out of the building and went outside to what seemed like a boundless courtyard with matching flowers and manicured trees and plants. There were still sculpture arts in the open field.
After the courtyard, we moved on to explore the neighboring buildings beside the Louvre until it was time to meet back in the Louvre and meet the others.
Dinner was again in the bistro we ate the night before – meaning, we had to walk in the freezing cold again. I noticed Pedro Luis, our driver, had joined us this time. He said, the night before, he went to the posh Champs Elysses area for dinner [sosyal!] and paid dearly for it. Whaaaa! Maypa siya!
There was a mall beside the bistro and we made a trip there too, to buy pasalubongs (walang katapusan!).
We were at the end of our two-week journey the next day. We wrapped ourselves heavily for a morning to be spent in Eiffel Tower. It was the coldest day, out of all the cold days in the trip.
Just as we went down the bus, I was already shivering from the cold temperature – it was so foggy, I could not even see the top of the tower. It was so hard getting a picture of the entire tower in close range; it doesn’t fit in the camera!
The vicinity of the Eiffel Tower was wide in range. There were parks surrounding the tower. I wanted to drink hot chocolate while waiting for our turn to go up, but the shop beside the tower was not open yet. We rode the elevator on the way up. Going up, the elevator felt it was going up a straight direction, but actually, the ride up was slanting.
It was already packed in the viewing deck at 9:00 in the morning. What a breathtaking view it was to look at Paris in its entirety. Much as we wanted to linger more and appreciate the view, the cold was killing us already. We went inside and browsed the shops in the tower. There were also restaurants in other floors (yup, it has more than two floors up there). After a decent tour above, we went back to the ground.
We strolled in the park where several persons were jogging. Since the other park had benches under yellow trees, we sat and just talked and relaxed. Seeing that we had a good hour to spend before lunch, we walked around the streets in the area and bought pasalubongs again [gesh!]. There was a Frenchman who ran a souvenir shop in the area…and he was speaking Tagalog, waaahhhh! His Tagalog was better than mine.
Several minutes before twelve noon, we went back to the bus. We had the whole afternoon to shop at Galleries LaFayette [and its surrounding shops] until we head to the airport at 5:30pm for our 10pm flight.
In LaFayette area, we scammed the area for a Chinese restaurant [there has to be one!] even if we had our packed lunches with us. After walking about thirty minutes, we finally found a Chinese restaurant. It was lunchtime and the restaurant was packed. The owner and the servers were Chinese but we were the only Asians there. The Europeans were enthusiastically eating Chinese cuisine, mind you. Us? We savored the fried rice, fried shrimp, barbeque, noodles, etc…
Very full and satisfied from our meal, we started our excursion in Galleries LaFayette. It’s a beautifully decorated building, not your typical mall. It’s a world-famous department store where best designer products are sold. The prices were outrageous! We only got to buy the chocolates and other food items in that mall, hahaha.
Outside Galleries LaFayette, we explored the rest of the familiar [and affordable] shops of Zara, Mango, Lacoste, Florsheim, H & M, etc., etc. We mostly shopped at Zara because the prices were one half cheaper than they were priced in the Philippines [and Mango too]. We also had coffee in one of the street shops while waiting for time to pass. Of course, we weren’t bored; we loved just sitting in the streets and people watching.
Eventually, 5:30 came and off we headed for the airport. We said goodbye to Pedro Luis then entered the most populated and chaotic airport I have been in that European tour. We were only able to settle in the pre-departure area at around 8pm because the lines were just so long. In pre-departure, we made last minute shopping for chocolates and small stuffs.
Waiting for boarding time got me thinking what a fascinating experience it had been. It was doubly memorable because I was with hubby, and my mother and my sister. It would have been better if I was with my entire family and friends because I wanted them to undergo the same as I did.
When it was time to board, I was so happy – happy because I made the trip and happy because I’m finally going home. Thank you God for this awesome blessing!”]