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Lourdes is simultaneously a major pilgrimage site and a place where tourists come to see the pilgrims and religious facilities in action.
History in brief
In 1848, a peasant girl named Bernadette said she saw visitations by the Virgin Mary in a local grotto. The site eventually became a Catholic shrine with presumed curative powers.
Lourdes draws 5 million tourists and pilgrims per year.
The faithful come to pray. If they are sick or infirmed, they hope they will be miraculously healed by the sacred spring water.
Seasoned travelers have keenly curious minds. That's why they should visit Lourdes once in their lifetimes. They will get to observe tacky commercial tourism at its worst. The town streets are packed with merchants selling cheap, in-bad-taste religious souvenirs to the willing throngs.
On the positive side
A seasoned traveler sees the spectacular candlelit evening processions (thousands participate), the exceptionally large-capacity cathedral, the sacred grotto, and the healing pools.
Lourdes is pronounced loo'rd ("es" is silent).
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