The decision was to travel from London St Pancras to Lourdes by train given that most of our HCPT pilgrimages to Lourdes had also been by train, mainly using, the now largely defunct couchette trains from Boulogne, Dunkirke and more recently, Calais.
The first obstacle was overcome by selecting travel dates that did not coincide with the the series of strikes planned by the French SNCF railway unions from between April and June. The next obstacle was the difficulty caused by the closure of Metro Line 4 at Gare du Nord. Nonetheless after some unexpected walking through the lovely streets of Paris and taking a different metro line we duly arrived at Gare Montparnasse in the south of Paris. The travel down to Lourdes was then straightforward and provided ample time for the three of us to catch up on news and to take some French refreshment.
Lourdes seemed much less crowded than usual probably because both the large HCPT pilgrimage had departed and many French schools had not quite started their holidays. In any event we were warmly greeted at The Hotel Alba the MD of which had kindly reduced their full board charge by almost 50% upon recognising us, The Alba was also hosting a three day French mountain bike rally in the surrounding Lourdes hills and countryside.
Otherwise the beauty of Lourdes, peace, prayer, and song were happily unaltered. Nonetheless some photos of sights that I had not seen before in Lourdes included;
The sewing of a cooking apron for my 4 year old grand daughter and a few mountain bike competitors;
The Blessing of the sick, torchlight procession and high stations were all beautiful. Mass in the highest of the three basilicas late on Saturday night was a fitting end to the main part of our pilgrimage.
The journey home by train from Gare de Lourdes we assumed would be uneventful as Sunday was a SNCF non-strike day. However upon arriving at the station notification was given that the TGV to Paris had been cancelled. There was a chance of finding a train to Paris from Dax so we took a local train to Dax. Over coffee there while we waited many people French and others mentioned Mrs Thatcher's union fights which they hoped President Macron would emulate.
However that kind offer was not needed as a lady in the Eurostar ticket office upon learning of our trek from Lourdes found us two seats (Bernie was staying on in Paris and Nevers for a few days) on the next Eurostar to London, free of further payment, despite a public announcement that all remaining trains to London were full.
A miracle indeed.