Lourdes is a small town in the Midi-Pyrénées region of southern France. Nestled in the foothils of the Pyrenees mountains at an altitude of about 420 metres above sea level, it only has about 15,000 inhabitants, but caters to 5 million visitors annually. After Paris, it has the highest number of hotels in the country!
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When visiting Lourdes don't forget to see and experience the museums, galleries, Bars, Lounges, Restaurant and vibrant cafe society of this area!
Sights and Activities
Lourdes is of course most famous for the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes that are reported to have occurred in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous.
Because of this, Lourdes has evolved into a major tourist destination of Christian Pilgrimage and mircaluous healings which are reported as well. Many sick or elderly people come here for that same reason. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is the main place with thousands of visitors from March to October.
There are quite a few more attractions though:
- Visit The Grand Jer mountain, accessible via the funicular railway of the Pic du Jer.
- Ukrainian Catholic Church
- Château Fort de Lourdes is a historic castle.
Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport (LDE) is located in between Tarbes and Lourdes. Air France, operated by Brit Air serves Paris, BMI has seasonal flights (summer) to Manchester and Ryanair will start flights to London from December 2009 onwards.
For more options, you can try the airports near Toulouse, Pau or Biarritz.
Lourdes can be reached along the N21 which branches of the main A64 highway from Tarbes. From Paris, it is a solid 9-hour drive via Toulouse.
The small bus station has services to Pau (1¼ hours, four to six daily). Buses also go to Tarbes and Argelès-Gazost (at least eight daily) and to the Pyrenean communities of Cauterets, Luz-St-Sauveur and Gavarnie. SNCF buses go to Cauterets (one hour, at least five daily) and leave from the train station.
Lourdes can easily be explored on foot and there are several pedestrian-only streets.
France is one of the best connected countries in the world, with data speed for upload/download ranked among the top 5 in the world. Most hotels and hostels would have in-house facilities to provide free internet access. Many major cities also have initiatives put in place to provide free wi-fi connection in public spaces. Alternatively there are internet cafés available in most cities/towns at a reasonable rate. Some private businesses, such as local cafés (or even the Starbuck's chain), may also provide wi-fi connectivity - keep an eye out for the signs by the shop windows/doors. Also look for the @ symbol prominently displayed, which indicates internet availability. However, with most homes now wired for the internet, cyber cafés are increasingly hard to find, especially outside the major cities.
See also: International Telephone Calls
To dial an international number from France, the IDD is 00, followed by the country code that you wish to dial, the area code and the phone number.
To call France from abroad, start with the international direct dialing (IDD) code from the country you're in, followed by French country code 33, the area code (drop the first zero in front of the area code), and the phone number. French telephone numbers are rarely given without the area code. The telephone number, including the area code, is made up of 10 digits. They are written in a set of 5 pairs of digits (i.e. 01 xx xx xx xx xx).
In France, the area code designations are: 01 - Paris Area ("Région Ile-de-France"), 02 - northwest, 03 - northeast, 04 - southeast, 05 - southwest, 06 - mobile phone providers. From 2010 onwards, 07 will also be assigned to mobile phone providers in order to cater for the surging demands for mobile phones.
Emergency numbers are 15 (medical aid), 17 (police station) and 18 (fire/rescue). You can also use the European emergency number 112 (perhaps a better choice if you don't speak French). These calls are free and accessible from virtually any phone, including locked cellphones.
France uses the GSM standard of cellular phones (900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands) used in most of the world outside of the U.S. There are several companies (Orange, SFR, Free, Bouygues Télécom and some others MVNOs like Virgin Mobile) offering wireless service. The country is almost totally covered but you may have difficulties using your mobile phone in rural or mountainous areas. If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 MHz bands. Then incoming calls and SMSes are free.
La Poste in France is also referred to as the PTT (short for postes, télégraphes et téléphones). The mailboxes are painted bright yellow and often there is a slot for local city mail and another slot for "outside mail". Normally there is a queue in the post office, but most of the post offices have the self service machine installed which is quite easy to operate. Nowadays many of the tabac and even some of the souvenir shops also sell postage stamps. Normally an overseas postcard costs almost as much as sending a letter. Mails sent in France also have a zip code. The first two numbers represent the administrative department (e.g. in Paris' case that would be 75).
Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to 7:00pm Monday through Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Apart from the basic job of mailing letters, most of the post offices do some banking activities also and some even have photocopy machines and cyber cafes for internet access.
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