Stage town for the 6th time
Population: 14 361 (Lourdais, Lourdaise)
Specialities: spit-roasted cake, Bigorre black pork, Pailhasson chocolates, Malespine sweets, Pyrenean cheese, garbure, Tarbais beans
Personalities: Jean-Pierre Maransin (Empire baron), Bernadette Soubirous, François Abadie (former mayor and minister), Philippe Douste-Blazy (former mayor and minister), Jean Prat, Michel Crauste and Jean-Pierre Garuet (former rugby internationals), Hubert Arbes (former team-mate of Bernard Hinault), Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu (film directors and producers).
Economy: spiritual tourism, plastics, household appliances, aeronautical assembly, household equipment, textile industry, bio-technological products
Sport: Football Club Lourdais XV (rugby, 5th division), Football Club Lourdais XI, Union Tarbes Lourdes Pyrénées Basket. 48 sports associations, approximately 7,400 members. Cycling clubs : Union Vélocipédique Lourdaise with a cadet and junior cycling school (FFC), Randonneurs Lourdais (FFCT), Cyclo Club Lourdais (UFOLEP, FFCGT) and Lourdes VTT (FFC)
Festivals: International Festival of Sacred Music of Lourdes, Nightscapades Festival, Arts and Cinema Festival
Slogan: Lourdes, the Inspirer
Labels: 3 flowers, Grand Site d'Occitanie
Websites: https://www.lourdes.fr/ / https://www.lourdes-infotourisme.com/ / https://www.lourdes-france.org/ / https://www.pyrenees-trip.com
LOURDES, A STORY
FC Lourdes, the long quest for renewal
If there is one miracle that is hard to come by in Lourdes, it is the return of the local rugby club, FC Lourdes, to a level worthy of its past. Led by the incomparable Jean Prat, captain of the club and of the French XV, dubbed Monsieur Rugby by the English so essential was his influence on the French game, the club from Lourdes enjoyed tremendous success between 1948 and 1968, contesting eleven French championship finals and lifting the Brennus shield on eight occasions. The names of the club's stars during this blessed period read like a gotha of post-war French rugby: Jean Prat, Michel Crauste, Jean Barthe, Pierre Lacaze and a little later Jean Gachassin, the future president of the French Tennis Federation. What followed was a long decline, not unlike that of Stade de Reims in football. Relegated to Group B in 1992 and 1994, FC Lourdes sank into Fédérale 1 in 1998 and came close to bankruptcy, which was narrowly avoided by Michel Crauste, who was called in to save the club. The miracles now concern the survival of the club. Today in Fédérale 2 (level 5 of French rugby), Lourdes only avoided relegation to the lower level thanks to Covid. The will is there, however, to go back up the slope. The great Pyrenean passes are not far away to remind the fans that faith can move mountains.
LOURDES AND CYCLING
The city of 5 million visitors per year, the third most important pilgrimage site in Catholicism, also receives the Tour's peloton on a more occasional basis. It was only in 1948 that a finishing line was drawn in Lourdes for the victory of Gino "the Pious" Bartali. On that day, the national hero of Italian cycling, who, along with Fausto Coppi, was responsible for boosting the morale of his country, took his winning bouquet to the grotto and attributed his miraculous victory in the Tour, ten years after the first, to Our Lady of Lourdes. Afterwards, he would return to the shrine each time he visited the region. Other stages were held in the hills, in the nearby resort of Hautacam, but in 2011, the victory in the town went to Thor Hushovd, who was wearing the world champion's jersey at the time. In 2018, the square in front of the basilica was used as a starting area for the penultimate stage of this edition, won with mastery in Laruns by Primoz Roglic, who came out of a strong group in the final. At the finish, the Slovenian rider, who wasn't yet considered as a potential Tour winner, took his second stage win after the one he had won the year before in Serre-Chevalier.
Sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Lourdes and the Torchlight Procession
Separated from the rest of the city by a loop of the Gave, to the west of the city, the Grotto estate, also known as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, is a private estate of 52 hectares. It is open every day of the year.
From April to October, every evening at 9pm, a torchlight procession brings together thousands of pilgrims and tourists from the grotto of the apparitions to the esplanade of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Foundation: Roman period
Characteristics: a remarkable witness to the evolution of the fortifications of the Pyrenean foothills from the early Middle Ages to the 19th century. It dominates the town and the sanctuaries. Its strategic position at the entrance to the seven valleys of Lavedan made it an impregnable fortress. Multiple outdoor spaces, from the keep to the ramparts.
History: restored in 1590 by Henri IV, then in 1828 by the State and acquired in 1894 by the commune. Transformed into a state prison under Louis XIV and until the middle of the 19th century.
Current use: in 1921, the castle became home to the Pyrenean Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions and regional history.
Listing: Historical Monument since 1995.
It was created in 1920 by the great Pyrenean specialist Louis Le Bondidier and his wife Maragalide, who brought together collections of quality and importance from the cultures of the entire Pyrenean, French and Spanish mountain ranges. Beautiful local furniture is displayed in the reconstruction of a Béarn kitchen and a Bigourdan bedroom. Traditional costumes, fabrics, tools and everyday objects from a vanished rural civilisation are on display. The Pyrenean room contains emotionally charged souvenirs: scientific instruments by Ramond and Schrader, huge ice axes of the climbers and guides of the past, with, as a bonus, a superb view of the town and the sanctuaries from the top of the keep built in 1407.
Pic du Jer
Pic du Jer is a unique viewpoint offering a breathtaking view of the city and the Pyrenees. A funicular railway, more than a hundred years old and full of charm, takes you to the summit, which rises to 1,000 metres. A visit to the caves (the highest in France) is a must. The Pic du Jer offers mountain bikers three downhill tracks, from beginners to the most challenging, and for the specialists, the black track of the UCI Downhill World Cup (in Lourdes from 2015 to 2017).
Lourdes Market Hall
Characteristics: Baltard-type metal-structured halls from the so-called "Marché de la Pierre" in Toulouse, inaugurated in 1900. Every morning, the Halles host a cheerful market for gourmets. You can find all the specialities: foie gras, confit, magret, Black Pork of Bigorre, Tarbais beans, farmhouse cow or goat cheese, but also spit cake and of course Madiran, the famous red wine. Recently renovated (2005-2007), the halls also house the media library of the Pays de Lourdes.
Lake and 18-hole golf course
Just a few minutes from the town centre lies Lake Lourdes, a vast and beautiful glacial lake. It extends over 50 hectares in the heart of a natural environment of great purity, a source of tranquillity but also of outdoor activities such as walking, mountain biking, fishing, paddle-boarding, etc. Nearby, the 18-hole golf course attracts both rookies and enthusiasts.
The Gaves Green Way
Built on a former railway line, the Green Way of the Gaves consists of two sections. The first, between Lourdes and Pierrefitte-Nestalas, is accessible to bikes, rollerblades, pedestrians, roller skis, handbikes and wheelchairs. Tourist information is available on audio terminals and signs translated into six languages and Braille. It is particularly suitable for people with disabilities and has been awarded the Tourism and Handicap label (for the four disabilities: motor, mental, hearing and visual). A second section leads to Cauterets. Both steep and gravelly, it is more suitable for experienced mountain bikers and cyclists.
The museum of calligraphy and ancient imagery has a collection that is unique in France. From 1870 to 1920, television and the press had little presence. Brands needed to make themselves known. Advertising was born, closely associated with collectible imagery. Consumers collected images of brands such as Chocolat Poulain, Liebig, Lu, Savon Lechat, Chocolat Meunier, Félix Potin... More than a hundred years of collections of these magnificent images, in an exceptional state of preservation.
Press of black Bigorre pork in a sauté pan, physalis stewed in Pineau des Charentes
20 km from Lourdes, in Saint-Savin, restaurant Le Viscos was the haunt of Tour de France journalist Jacques Chancel and has become one of the canteens of the most distinguished followers of the Tour de France. Here is a recipe from its chef, Alexis Saint-Marin, based on black Bigorre pork, of course, but also on touradisse, a pastry made from corn flour.
Ingredients (for 4 people)
- 2 pieces of black Bigorre pork press
- 500 gr of cape gooseberries
- 20 cl of veal stock
- 2 bunches of thyme
- 100 g corn flour
- ½ litre chicken stock
- 10 g butter
- 1 bottle of Pineau des Charentes (75 cl)
- Salt, pepper
Remove the leaves from the cape gooseberries and cut them to size. Chop the shallots.
Making the touradisse: bring the chicken stock to the boil and add the corn flour. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Spread on a baking sheet.
Cooking: in a frying pan, sear the presses and set them aside on a roasting tray, on a bed of thyme. Cook in the oven at 180° for 8 to 10 minutes, turning them regularly. Degrease the pan and sweat the shallots. Add the physalis and brown. Deglaze with Pineau des Charentes, then add the veal stock. Set the cape gooseberries aside. Reduce to half ice.
Strain and adjust the seasoning. Cut the touradisse into 6 triangles and brown them in a non-stick pan.
Dressing: slice the press into thin strips. Arrange the touradisse in the centre of the plate and place the slices of press harmoniously. Cover the touradisse with the cape gooseberry reduction and Pineau des Charentes.