Day 113 – 09.09.2016
Dover (UK) to Calais (France) and then to Rouen (France)

We left Hilton hotel, Croydon at 6.45 am with a cup of coffee to go.  We had to drive about 78 miles up to Dover to take the 10.15 am ferry.  However we reached much earlier than the scheduled time, so we were allowed to take the 9.25 am Ferry.  All the more better, we could reach France earlier than scheduled.

We had to adjust our watches one hour ahead as we were approaching Calais, France.  From Calais we drove 224 kms to our Hotel in Rouen.

Once we arrived in Rouen, we checked into the hotel and immediately took a Metro to go to the City Centre for sight seeing.

Rouen a nice small city on the River Seine north of France. Formerly one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, Rouen was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy during the Middle Ages. It was one of the capitals of the Anglo-Norman dynasties, which ruled both England and large parts of modern France from the 11th to the 15th centuries. People from Rouen are known as Rouennais.

Rouen was heavily damaged during World War II – approximately 45% of the city was destroyed. In June 1940 the area between the Rouen Cathedral and the Seine river burned for 48 hours as the Nazis did not allow firemen access to the fire. Other areas were destroyed between March and August 1944 just before and during the Battle of Normandy, which ended on the left bank of the Seine with the destruction of several regiments belonging to the German 7th Army. Rouen’s cathedral and several significant monuments were damaged by Allied bombing. The city was liberated by the Canadians on 30 August 1944 after the breakout from Normandy.

We were walking through the street towards the Cathedral and saw a mini train being boarded by tourists to take a tour around the place.  We too thought it was a good idea to get a first impression of the town.  We bought tickets ( € 7 per person) and checked how long the ride would last. It got us to distant places that would take us quite some time to cover walking by ourselves. It covered all the main attractions, including the main shopping street, so it gave us a good idea where and how to explore the town after the ride was finished in the limited time that we had.

The train drove round Théâtre des Arts the main opera company in Rouen, the Opéra de Rouen – Normandie which we understand  performs opera, classical and other types of music, both vocal and instrumental, as well as dance performances.

Just outside was the statue of Pierre Corneille, a French tragedian, generally considered one of the three great seventeenth-century French dramatists, along with Molière and Jean Racine.

As a young man, he earned the valuable patronage of Cardinal Richelieu, who was trying to promote classical tragedy along formal lines, but later quarrelled with him, especially over his best-known play Le Cid about a medieval Spanish warrior, which was denounced by the newly formed Académie française for breaching the unities. He continued write well-received tragedies for nearly forty years.

We visited a beautiful architectural building – Palais de Justice – Rouen courthouse which was built between the end of the XV century and the XX century. It houses the courthouse since the French Revolution and was classified as a historical monument by the 1840.

Also there was an underground station at this location just a few metres away – The Palace of Justice metro station accessible via the Espace du Palais where there are three elevators, escalators and stairs.

We also visited the huge Rouen Cathedral which is a Roman Catholic Gothic cathedral in Rouen, Normandy, France, the seat of the Archbishop of Rouen. A stunning building that dates back to the 4th Century and is a wonderful mixture of various architectural styles since then. A new spire built in the 19th Century meant that it briefly qualified as the tallest building in the world.

We were hungry, so we had a Chocolate Crepe and Coffee at Pauls and then walked through several streets towards The Church of Saint-Maclou, a Roman Catholic church considered one of the best examples of the Flamboyant style of Gothic architecture in France.  Saint-Maclou, along with Rouen Cathedral, the Palais de Justice (also Flamboyant), and the Church of St. Ouen, form a famous ensemble of significant Gothic buildings in Rouen.

During our train ride we had seen this very odd shaped building which was the Church of Saint Joan of Arc.  It was completed in 1979 in the center of the ancient market square.  This is the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy in 1431.

A simple field of wildflowers marks the spot of her martyrdom.The stained glass windows come from the 16th century Church of Saint Vincent.  The sweeping curves of the structure are meant to evoke both the flames that consumed Joan of Arc and an overturned longship. Many early Christian churches were designed in the shape of an overturned boat.

Saint-Ouen Abbey Church, is a large Gothic Roman Catholic church in Rouen, famous for both its architecture and its large, unaltered Cavaillé-Coll organ, described as “a Michelangelo of an organ”.   The central crossing is surmounted by an unusual lantern-style tower similar to that at Ely Cathedral in England. The well-preserved stained glass of the nave dates to the 15th and 16th centuries, and features jewel tones among panels of clear and frosted white glass. These materials allow more light to filter into the nave, creating a brighter interior than is typical of Gothic churches.  The church was originally built as the abbey church of Saint Ouen for the Benedictine Order, beginning in 1318 and interrupted by the Hundred Years’ War and sacked and badly damaged during the Harelle. Finally it was completed in the 15th century.

The Big Clock, we were informed was recently restored.  It is located in the middle of rue du Gros Horloge. From the top we could have got a beautiful view of the city, but we did not go up.  The clock was installed in a Renaissance arch crossing the Rue du Gros-Horloge.  The clock was originally constructed without a dial, with one revolution of the hour-hand representing twenty-four hours.  The movement is cast in wrought iron, and at approximately twice the size of the Wells Cathedral clock, it is perhaps the largest such mechanism still extant.  A facade was added in 1529 when the clock was moved to its current position.  The Renaissance facade represents a golden sun with 24 rays on a starry blue background. The dial measures 2.5 metres in diameter.

We passed by the birthplace of writer Gustave Flaubert best known for his scandalous novel Madame Bovary, now has been converted into a museum of his life and of 19th century medicine (his father and brother were doctors). It is located at 1, rue Lecat, off Boulevard des Belges and not far from place Cauchoise.

After wandering the streets, pedestrian ways, shops, cafes, interesting old timber buildings we noticed many lovely places to stop and enjoy a drink and watch the passing parade.  Rouen must have really been very glorious before the war damage which changed much of its character but we noticed that the historic areas are well restored and feature colourful half timber houses.

We then walked to the river front, took some pictures and walked back to the hotel.  On the way saw a restaurant Gandhi and decided to have Indian food once again.  It was a Pakistani guy who was running this restaurant.

After dinner came back to the hotel.  That was our day in Rouen, tomorrow we leave for Caen.

Day 114 – 10.09.2016
Caen

Today we had to drive 134 kms from Rouen to Caen, a commune in the northwestern part of France, known for its historical buildings built during the reign of William the Conqueror, who was buried there, and for the Battle for Caen—heavy fighting that took place in and around Caen during the Battle of Normandy in 1944, destroying much of the city. The city has now preserved the memory by erecting a memorial and a museum dedicated to peace, the Memorial de Caen.

We checked in at Residence de Bellevue around 12.00 noon and after a little relaxation, took a bus just outside the hotel to the old town where all the attractions were.  We got down near the Town Hall and walked towards the city centre.

Just across the road was the old Saint-Étienne-le-Vieux Church ruins.  This church was probably founded in the 10th century exposed along the city walls, it was badly damaged during the Hundred Years War, especially during the siege of 1417 .  Abandoned in 1793, it is not returned to worship in 1802.  The nave is largely destroyed. Since then, the church has not been the subject of restoration. Its condition does not allow its public opening.

We then walked next to the Old Saint-Etienne-le-Vieux Church ruins towards Church Saint-Sauveur.  The Church of St. Savior of Caen was built in the eleventh century. After being the mysterious Notre-Dame-de-Froide-Rue for the last five centuries, it is today the glorious Saint-Sauveur in the rue Saint Pierre with its twin apses, masterpieces of elegance and originality and it’s typical Norman tower.  It has two beautiful apses – the ogival apse with its three tall slender windows edged with rich stone lacework, the Renaissance apse with its rich ornamentation.

We then walked further towards the Church of Saint-Pierre again a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Saint Peter situated on the Place Saint Pierre in the center of Caen in Normandy, northern France.

The construction of the present building took place between the early 13th and the 16th centuries. The spire was destroyed on the 9th July 1944, by a single 16 Inch shell, one of a fifteen-round salvo from the Royal Navy battleship HMS Rodney aimed at the 12th SS Panzer Division and has since been rebuilt.

On the opposite side was the Château de Caen on a hillock is now in the middle of the city.  We climbed a few steps and slope to the Castle.

The castle was built  in 1060 by William the Conqueror who successfully conquered England in 1066.  It has an area of 5.5 hectares, it is one of the largest castles in Western Europe. It remained an essential feature of Norman strategy and policy.

Now the castle serves as a museum that houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen (Museum of Fine Arts of Caen), the Musée de Normandie (Museum of Normandy), Saint Georges church; the Échiquier de Normandie (Exchequer of Normandy), used as a temporary hall of exhibitions, which seated the Court of Normandy; a garden showing plants cultivated in the middle-ages.  As it was a castle, it was also surrounded by a moat.  The top of the ramparts offers a splendid view of Caen.

The Abbey of Saint-Étienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes (“Men’s Abbey”), is a former Benedictine monastery in the French city of Caen, Normandy, dedicated to Saint Stephen. It was founded in 1063 by William the Conqueror and is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Normandy.

The Caen guided light transit locally known as “the Tram”, an electrically powered guided bus system in Caen, France, which uses Bombardier Guided Light Transit technology.  Twisto is the current operator of the TVR system and calls the system the “Tram”.

Bus service at €1.60 per ride was very handy to get between our hotel and the city centre.  Also it was very convenient to buy the tickets from the driver and validate it on its first use by stamping it in one of the orange boxes on board the bus.
So it was very convenient getting around Caen.

After spending more than 4 hours around this beautiful city, we took the bus back to our hotel.

Tomorrow we leave for St Mont Michel before we stop over at Tours.

Day 115 – 11.09.2016
Caen to Mont Saint Michel & Tours

We left our hotel after breakfast today driving about 118 kms to Le Mont-Saint-Michel on an island in Normandy, located about one kilometre (0.6 miles) off the country’s northwestern coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches and is 100 hectares (247 acres) in size.

After reaching the parking lot, we were informed that we could take the Free Shuttle to and from the site.

The shuttle dropped us on the bridge by the bay from where we could get a complete view of Mont Saint Michel.  This island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times and since the 8th century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. The structural composition of the town exemplifies the feudal society that constructed it: on top, God, the abbey and monastery; below, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside the walls, houses for fishermen and farmers.

Its unique position — on an island just 600 metres from land — made it accessible at low tide to the many pilgrims to its abbey, but defensible as an incoming tide stranded, drove off, or drowned the would-be assailants. The Mont remained unconquered during the Hundred Years’ War; a small garrison fended off a full attack by the English in 1433.  The reverse benefits of its natural defence were not lost on Louis XI, who turned the Mont into a prison. Thereafter the abbey began to be used more regularly as a jail during the Ancient Régime.

One of France’s most recognizable landmarks, visited by more than 3 million people each year, Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

To enter the Abbey, we had to purchase tickets@ Euro 9 per person.  When we reached the Abbey around 11.00, we were informed that there would be a mass at 11.30 so we decided to attend the Mass, which unfortunately was in French.

The cloister was not built at the center of the monastery, and thus does not link with all the other buildings. Its function was purely spiritual: to bring the monks to meditate

After spending almost 3 hours at this place, we decided to leave as we had to drive about 268 kms to the Tours city.

Tours

Tours is a city located in the centre-west of France. Tours stands on the lower reaches of the River Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. The surrounding district, the traditional province of Touraine, is known for its wines, for the alleged perfection of its local spoken French, and for the Battle of Tours (732). The city is also the end-point of the annual Paris–Tours cycle race.

We parked our car and then walked to Saint Gatien’s Roman Catholic Cathedral built between 1170 and 1547. It has been a classified Monument historique since 1862.

We then walked towards Basilica of St. Martin again a Roman Catholic basilica dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, on whose tomb it was built to replace an earlier basilica, built in the Middle Ages and thoroughly demolished during the French Revolution. The basilica was built between 1886 and 1924 in a neo-Byzantine style, on part of the site of the original Basilica which was repurchased by the Church.

The Hôtel Goüin is a mansion that was built in the 15th century and is considered to have been the home of Jean de Xaincoings, treasurer of the assets of Charles VII. The house was the property of René Gardette, a descendent of a family of silk merchants from Tours. The name Goüin is taken from a wealthy family of Breton bankers who purchased the building in 1738.

In 1944 during the Second World War the building was almost entirely destroyed by bombs leaving only the facade intact. In the 1950s the main accommodation and the entrance were partially restored, while no traces of the garden and north yard remain.
It is now the home of the Goüin Museum.

Château de Tours since 2009, sharing a beautiful common history with the Jeu de Paume in Paris. This important lively place benefits the school and students through educational workshops, receptions classes, guided tours and lectures.

The World War I Tours American Monument is located on Ave. André Malraux about 300 meters east of the southern end of Pont Wilson, the bridge across the Loire River. The monument commemorates the efforts of the 650,000 men who served during World War I in the Services of Supply (SOS) of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and whose work behind the battle lines made possible the achievements of the American Armies in the field. The city of Tours was its headquarters during the war.

It consists of a handsome fountain of white stone with a gold gilded statue of an American Indian holding an eagle. The fountain’s column between the lower and upper basins displays sculptures of the coats of arms of Bordeaux, Brest, Is-sur-Tille, Le Mans, Neufchâteau, Nevers, St. Nazaire, and Tours. Four sculptured figures appear on the column above the upper basin. They represent the four principal divisions of the SOS: Administration, Construction, Procurement, and Distribution. A bronze sculpture gleams from the top of the monument. Successful execution of those functions enabled the combatant forces to concentrate on defeating the enemy.

We passed by Place Plumereau a small square at the heart of the historic centre surrounded by magnificent half-timbered houses and is the liveliest place in the city, one of the hallmarks of the city with friendly atmosphere.

From April through end-September, we understand the “Tours-sur-Loire” guinguette café takes over the docks in the town centre. Tables and chairs, a bar/restaurant, latino or musette (accordion music) dance lessons, concerts, outdoor cinema… with each day comes a new view on the Loire, but the friendly atmosphere remains! A great place for concerts in Tours. It is a place for discussions and meeting people, a place to rest or enjoy a good read, a place to appreciate the easy living in Touraine… It’s the good life! and we enjoyed every bit of it. We also saw people dancing and enjoying.

Day 116 – 12.09.2016
Tours to Bordeaux

We left Tours around 9.00 am for Bordeaux.  We had to drive about 347 kms to Bordeaux, a port city on the Garonne River in southwestern France.  Bordeaux is among France’s most exciting, vibrant and dynamic cities, classified “City of Art and History”. We realised that half the city (18 sq km) is Unesco-listed, making it the largest urban World Heritage site. It is the fifth largest city in France.

Bordeaux has the highest number of preserved historical buildings in France, except for Paris.
It is the world’s major wine industry capital and home to the world’s main wine fair, Vinexpo.

Bordeaux’s climate is usually classified as an oceanic climate with the summers warmer and the winters milder than most areas of similar classification. Substantial summer rainfall prevents its climate from being classified as Mediterranean.

The vine was introduced to the Bordeaux region by the Romans, probably in the mid-first century, to provide wine for local consumption, and wine production has been continuous in the region since.

Bordeaux now has about 287,000 acres of vineyards, 10,000 wine-producing châteaux and 13,000 grape growers with an annual production of approximately 960 million bottles.

Bordeaux , with some buildings dating back to Roman times. Bordeaux has been inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble”.

We started our tour of Bordeaux from the Column of the Girondins on the Esplanade des Quinconces – the largest square in Europe, where we got off from the Tram.  Monument aux Girondins is one of the landmarks of the city of Bordeaux.  It is located on the western end of the Place des Quinconces, it stands at 54 meters high, built between 1894 and 1902 to commemorate the Girondists.  It is considered to be an Historic Monument since 2011.

The Girondist Fountain is an integral part of the monument.  Those statues have lived some pretty crazy adventures. In 1942, the Nazis who occupied Bordeaux (and most of France) took them out, apparently to melt them into cannons. For some reason, that never happened and they were found intact in the city of Angers after the Liberation. While they were returned to Bordeaux in 1944, they stayed partially abandoned nearby, and it’s only in 1968 that they were finally restored and re-installed to their original location and glory.

Grand Théâtre, a large neoclassical theater built in the 18th century, inaugurated on 17 April 1780. It was in this theatre that the ballet La Fille Mal Gardée premiered in 1789, and where a young Marius Petipa staged some of his first ballets.  It was conceived as a temple of the Arts and Light, with a neo-classical facade. It has a portico of 12 Corinthian style colossal columns which support an entablature on which stand 12 statues that represent the nine Muses and three goddesses (Juno, Venus and Minerva). In 1871 the theatre was briefly the National Assembly for the French Parliament.  The inside of the theatre was restored in 1991, and once again has its original colours of blue and gold. The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux is one of the oldest wooden frame opera houses in Europe not to have burnt or required rebuilding.

We then walked along the tramway to Saint-André Cathedral, which was consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1096. Of the Original Romanesque edifice only a wall in the nave remain. The Royal Gate is from the early 13th century, while the rest of the construction is mostly from the 14th and 15th centuries.  It is also known as Bordeaux Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Bordeaux-Bazas, located in Bordeaux.

In this church in 1137 the 13-year-old Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII, a few months before she became Queen.

Just next to the Cathedral was the Tour Pey-Berland.  We climbed 215 steps of this bell tower, to get an aerial view of Bordeaux from the top. On top of the tower was a golden statue of Mother Mary with Baby Jesus.  This tower was constructed from 1440 to 1500 at the initiative of the archbishop of the same name. Crowned a steeple, it has remained isolated from the rest of the Cathedral to protect the Cathedral from the vibrations of the bells. After the completion, the church had initially no money for the purchase of bells, therefore the tower was used for housing until 1790. After 1790, a lead factory was set up in the tower. Bells were installed after 1851 and the tower began to be used for its original purpose. Coming down the stairs had my knees locked and it was very painful to get down.  With great difficulty managed to come down.  Now we had to walk some more to see the remaining part of the city.

While walking next to the water front, we could see Pont de pierre, a “Stone Bridge” which connects the left bank of the Garonne River to the right bank quartier de la Bastide.   This was the first bridge over the Garonne River at Bordeaux, planned and designed during the First French Empire, under the orders of Napoleon I, but its construction took place during the Bourbon Restoration, from 1819 to 1822.  During the three years, the builders were faced with many challenges because of the strong current at that point in the river. They used a diving bell borrowed from the British to stabilize the bridge’s pillars. It has seventeen arches (number of letters in the name Napoléon Bonaparte). On the sides, each pile of bricks is capped by a white medallion in honor of the emperor. It also carries the coat of arms of the city (three intertwined crescents). It was the only bridge until the construction of pont Saint-Jean in 1965.

Again following the Tram route we reached the Historic Catholic church (Église catholique Saint-Eloi) with gothic architecture, adjacent to a city gate with a grand bell tower La Grosse Cloche (15th century), the second remaining gate of the Medieval walls right in the middle of the street . It was the belfry of the old Town Hall. It consists of two 40-metre-high circular towers and a central bell tower housing a bell weighing 7,800 kilograms. The watch is from 1759.

We were utterly captivated by its uniqueness. We had to cross over the street to explore this unusual church. It is one of the four churches of Bordeaux celebrating Mass according to the Tridentine rite.

The church measures 35 meters long and over 12 meters high in the nave and 5 meters for single aisle . The choir is slightly deflected to follow the line of the ramparts. It has an altar remarkable of the xviii th  century. Near the door is a funerary inscription (assigned) from 1633 to Theophilus Lauvergnac and his family. The altars are neogothic . The organ was restored in the early 2010s.

The Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas is a vertical-lift bridge over the Garonne in Bordeaux, France. It was inaugurated on 16 March 2013 by President François Hollande and Alain Juppé, mayor of Bordeaux.  Its main span is 110 m (361 ft) long. As of 2013, it is the longest vertical-lift bridge in Europe.  It is named in honour of Jacques Chaban-Delmas, a former Prime Minister of France and a former mayor of Bordeaux.  Opened three years ago Le Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas cuts a striking image on the blue skyline. What is unique about this bridge is that the central span of the bridge lifts vertically to allow passing ships through. The monstrous cruise liners come though followed by the hard working tug – looks like the tug is pushing the liner down the river.

We then went to Porte Cailhau which once was  part of the medieval town walls of the old city. It is an impressive fortified gate.

The next place for us to see was the Place de la Bourse, one of the most recognizable sights of Bordeaux, built from 1730 to 1775.  This building was a landscape for an equestrian statue of Louis XV.  However, the statue was destroyed during the French Revolution. After the destruction of the statue, a Corinthian column-fountain was built on the square.

We had seen a picture of the mirror image reflection at the Information Centre so we walked towards this place.  A fountain of sorts, the Miroir d’Eau is the world’s largest reflecting pool which covers an area of 3450 sq metres of black granite on the quayside opposite the imposing Palais de la Bourse.  It creates a ‘water mirror’ on warm sunny days when the reflection is seen in its thin layer of water.  This water is drained and refilled every half-hour and we got a chance to see how it was being done and it was stunning.

The complex world of wine is explored in depth at ground-breaking La Cité du Vin, a stunning piece of contemporary architecture resembling a wine decanter on the banks of the River Garonne. The curvaceous gold building glitters in the sun and its 3000 sq metres of exhibits are equally sensory and sensational. We paid Euro 20 each to get to the Museum which included tasting of a glass of wine.  We were handed over digital guides leading around 20 different themed sections covering everything from vine cultivation, grape varieties and wine production to ancient wine trade, 21st-century wine trends and celebrated personalities.  The Tour ended with a glass of wine in the panoramic Belvedere, with monumental 30m-long bar and chandelier made out of recycled wine bottles, on the 8th floor. We met So Young from Korea who served us wine here and got talking to us on different topics.

We had travelled around Bordeaux city centre to see various historic sights through Bordeaux tramway network and it was so convenient.

The tramway system uses a ground-level power supply of the Alimentation par Sol (APS) system in the city centre to avoid overhead wires spoiling the view of buildings. The whole system is under video surveillance, with a camera installed inside each vehicle.

On our way back to the Hotel after dinner & lovely Bordeaux wine at a restaurant near the water front, we visited the Notre Dame Church built at the end of the xvii th  century.  From 1971 to 1981 the church was closed following the collapse of part of the vaults. It was renovated in 1982 by the department of Historical Monuments, discovering the beautiful blonde original stone.  It has a remarkable acoustic hence high number of concerts are  organized in this place.

We reached back almost around midnight at the hotel.  Tomorrow we leave for Lourdes.

Day 117 – 13.09.2016
Bordeaux to Lourdes

In the morning, we left at around 11.20 after visit to the Wine Museum in Bordeaux for Lourdes.  We drove about 272 kms before we reached our hotel near the Lourdes Basilica.

Lourdes, a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees, rose to prominence since 1858 due to the Marian apparitions seen by the peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous, who was later canonized. Around six million people visit this Shrine every year from all corners of the world. This was our third visit to the Shrine.

After settling down, walked towards the Basilica.  On the way Louis was hungry so we stopped for Nutella Crepe and coffee.

We crossed the bridge to go to the Basilica – a view from the bridge.

On reaching the Basilica, we headed straight for the Grotto where the miracle stream flows through and the place where Our Lady had first appeared to Saint Bernadette.  It was a lovely feeling filled with prayer full of devotion.  Several people were gathered around this place for Rosary full of devotion.

I then went for the holy bath.  I was the last person allowed to enter as they were closing down for the day.  Felt so good after the dip in the holy water of the miraculous stream.

The Basilica seemed to have been restored from our last visit.  It looked very nice.  There were so many devotees around.  Unfortunately we could not get to hear a mass here.  But we decided to wait for the Torchlight Marian Procession that takes place each evening at 9.00 pm since 1872.

After a quick dinner around the corner, we came back to the Basilica.  While we were having dinner it started raining followed by strong winds.  We bought rain-coats and took part in the procession.  Seeing the rain, we thought there would be no one, but as the time was nearing, we could not believe our eyes, there were thousands of people including handicapped assisted by volunteers who were a part of the procession.  Rain or storm did not stop the devotees.

The welcoming of pilgrims and announcements begin at 8.45 pm. The Procession began from the Prairy.  Between torches, pilgrims were carrying a statue of Our Lady.  The procession had pilgrims walking in groups behind their pilgrimage banner with a lighted candle in their hand as a reminder of Baptism.  The procession lasted for about one hour and a half, with the Rosary recited in different languages. Also there was a Choir which sang hymns in between every Mystery.  The Procession then ended in the square in front of the Rosary Basilica and the Priests present gave the Blessing.

It was almost 11.00 pm, when we walked back to the hotel. On reaching the hotel, we realised that the garage where we had parked our car was locked and we had not taken our bag to the room.   There was no one available to open the garage so we had to manage without change of clothes till the next morning.  Next morning Louis went to the car and got the bag, after which we changed and left for our next destination, San Sebastian & Burgos in Spain.