THE BEST WAY TO LOURDES
From LAX, connecting service, requiring a change of planes and a change of airports, is available on Air France. Passengers fly to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, then switch to Orly airport. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $850.
To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 33 (country code for France) and the local number.
WHERE TO STAY
Information about accommodations and assistance for the sick and disabled at Lourdes' three welcome centers is available from the Lourdes sanctuary visitors center (see below).
Hotels, guest houses and hostels abound, though most are crowded and dour. These are the places I liked best:
Grand Hotel de la Grotte, 66 Rue de la Grotte, 5-62-94-58-87, www.hoteldelagrotte.com, is a 134-year-old dowager midway between upper and lower Lourdes. The dining room and some of the chambers have splendid views of the sanctuary. Doubles start around $120.
Hotel Beau Sejour, 16 Avenue de la Gare, 5-62-94-38-18, www.hotel-beausejour.com, is across the street from the train station. It has comfortable, well-kept rooms and a small swimming pool. Doubles start around $112.
Hotel-Restaurant Dame de Sarrance, 7 Rue de Bagneres, 5-62-94-09-83, is a small, old-fashioned pension. It is a stiff walk uphill from the sanctuary but the hotel overlooks the church where Bernadette was baptized. Doubles start about $55.
WHERE TO EAT
Lourdes is a fully international destination, so a panoply of cuisines is on offer. But gourmet food is no priority, as the quality of restaurant food demonstrates. That said, these are a few places I enjoyed:
Le Magret, 10 Rue des 4 Freres, 5-62-94-20-55, serves the traditional cuisine of southwestern France, especially roast duck breast; about $40 for three courses, not including wine.
La Royale, 5 Rue St.Pierre, 5-62-94-21-30, is a charming cafe and tea salon with a bakery, good for light lunches and snacks.
TO LEARN MORE
Lourdes Tourist Information Office, 5-62-42-77-40, www.lourdes-infotourisme.com.
French Government Tourist Office, www.franceguide.com.