After weeks of mostly gray skies, it was an incredible treat to head south last week to the French Pyrenees for the kids' ski break. I made the plans with some trepidation; my last experience downhill skiing was a dreary day almost 30 years ago when I went with some college friends to Hunter Mountain, New York. Experienced skiiers all except me, they left me on the bunny slope where I spent a lonely day, falling down, getting cold and wet, and generally having no fun. My kids wanted to give it a go though, and just the thought of them ending up like me, a pathetic nonskiier in a world full of skiiers, was enough to get me into planning mode.
As it turned out, we really couldn't have done better. We booked 5 nights at Chez Passet, a bed and breakfast outside Lourdes, where our hosts, transplanted Brits Vicky and Andrew, carted us to and from the slopes, recommending the best spots for beginners, plying us with delicious food and drink, and sharing with us the beautiful valley where they live.
The tiny village of Lezignan, west of Lourdes, where we stayed.
The weather was spectacular, sunny skies and warm temperatures even at high altitude. My husband was a patient teacher and the kids enjoyed the triumph of making it down the mountain without a tumble. We never got off the green runs (except for the time when we made a serious wrong turn and there was no way down but on the blue trail) but it was still great fun.
On the last day, our train back to Paris left midafternoon so we took some time to visit the sights of Lourdes, the second most visited spot in France after Paris. This town of 15,000 is host to some 6 million visitors annually, mostly pilgrims seeking solace at the site where a young French girl, Bernadette Soubirous, saw the Virgin Mary 18 times in 1858. Although quite a bit of the town was shuttered with the main onslaught of visitors not expected until Easter, we still managed to take in the cathedral, the grotto, and the vast number of souvenir shops. If you're in the area, it's worth a stop even if you're not a believer.
If you forget to bring your own bottle to draw the healing waters, not to worry. Bottles of varying sizes and forms are available for purchase.
Nothing more need be said.