On Friday after class, we took a bus and went to see the City of Carcassone, France. This huge fortress is a full city surrounded by two guard walls with an impressive castle in the middle. We had a lovely tour lead by this adorable little old lady who was so excited about everything she was telling us! She was just bounding with energy and couldn't wait to tell us more. We saw the old walls that were built thousands of years ago. It was so incredible to see such a beautiful and functional piece of history up close and personal. Along with the castle and the outside walls, we got to explore the city inside as well. There are actually about 50 people living in Carcassone now which I think is incredible! We also got to see a gorgeous church built inside the city walls which had the most amazing stained glass windows I have seen yet… they were so intricate and colorful and told the full stories of Jesus and Mary and some of the disciples. We were also in for a special treat in the church when a three person accapella group from Russia came in and sang for us. Their voices were breathtaking. Also, after the tour, we were able to walk around the city and found the most amazing homemade ice cream I have yet to have in my life… Like all ice cream has been to die for over here but this ice cream was something else. I would come back to Carcassone just to get more of this, that’s how good it was.
outside of the internal castle
beautiful stain glass in the city church
the best ice cream I have had yet... heavenly!
That pretty much sums up my time in the Pyrenees mountains this weekend.
We left Toulouse Saturday morning at 7:45am and after a break for (amazing) French croissants, we arrived in the mountains around 12:30. The last leg of the bus ride alone was spectacular. We were bombarded with breathtaking mountain views all with a river weaving through it. The water in the river was the clearest water I have ever seen and all I wanted to do was jump in. I could not stop looking out the window. We arrived into the town we were staying at (Gavarnie) and made it to the refugee camp we stayed at. I really do not have the words to describe this experience. The refuge was run by a young husband and wife team. There were bunk rooms where we slept and a common room with big tables. There was a sign in this room that read (in French) "No wifi, talk to each other instead!" I loved it! We ate our homemade three course dinner family style at the tables and afterwards, played cards and games together. Around sunset (which was around 10 o'clock here) we went outside to watch the colors of the sky change and then we star gazed for a while before retiring for bed. Earlier that day we hiked about three miles up the mountain to the highest waterfall in Europe! The views were breathtaking and I just could not get enough of it. The air was fresh and the water in the streams was crystal clear. On the way down, it started to rain on us but it was still amazing. We stopped at a little restaurant for crepes and a candy store where the lady gave us so many free samples that were so good that we couldn't not buy some for later. My favorite place was a small water fall over rocks that was right next to the refuge. Sunday morning I had some time to just go sit there by myself and think and pray. This was such an amazing experience especially because I was not going to be able to make a mass, but I still was able to be with God in my own way in his stunning creation. I was so at peace here in the mountains and I already cannot wait until I can get back either to these mountains or other mountains.
the view from the bus... THE BUS!
The Purdue kids at the tallest waterfall in Europe!
My favorite spot right next to the refuge
Our short visit to Lourdes was also one that I will not soon forget. Ever since I began telling people at home my plans to study in France this summer, everyone quickly told me to make sure I went and visited this holy city. Needless to say I was incredibly excited to find out that I would actually be able to make it and experience to holiness. The Basilica was unlike anything I had ever seen before and it truly was a castle built worthy of Mary and Jesus. I soaked it all in and was just so at peace to be in such a Holy place and be around so many Catholics who I know I share a big part of my beliefs with. Visiting these Churches and Holy places means a lot for me because it brings my faith alive. I have always been taught that the Catholic Church is universal, but I have never really understood it or experienced it until I have come here. We may all be speaking different languages and cannot understand each other on that level of communication, but our beliefs are the same and the love of God really unites us. Being a Sunday, I was especially excited to be there because even though I was unable to make a mass due to traveling with a group, I was able to pray and really be in a place of God. At each chapel or grand church we went into, I prayed. I collected Holy Water and I visited the famous Grotto where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette. I also lit a candle and prayed over it many intentions that have been on my heart. It was truly an amazing experience and a place of so much Holiness. My friends I was with called it "the Catholic Disney World in France" and I would say that is kinda how I felt! I know I would not have appreciated this place even two years ago, but this Sunday, it had such an impact and I felt right at home.
at the top of a fortress overlooking Lourdes
Lighting a candle for special intentions in the Grotto
Everything about this weekend was amazing and I will never forget it!