Friday, August 3, 2012

From Lourdes to Lembeye to Paris... more photos from my trip to France

If you've been keeping track, I never got to post photos from the rest of my trip to France. But if you missed the earlier post on my pilgrimages to Rue de Bac and to Lourdes, you can go here. On the podcast this week, I described a little bit about my journey to the homeland village of my paternal grandmother, Henrietta (ne Pelay) Wilhelm, and what it was like to be in Lembeye.

I also talked about Lembeye and the gift of a faith legacy in my recent column at Patheos.

After the pilgrimage to Lourdes, (podcast on Lourdes) we rented a car and decided to drive back to Paris over a period of days to see more of the countryside. What we did not know, until shortly before our trip is that my father's mother, who came immigrated to the United States as a girl, came from a small village, Lembeye, just about 20 miles from the mountainous Lourdes. So after we rented the car, Lembeye became our first stop.

The first sighting that we were getting close...

Lembeye is located in the south of France, in the rolling hills before you get to the Pyrannees.

The outskirts of town

We did not have anyone to visit in Lembeye. So we programmed the GPS to take us to the Catholic Church in the town... that we had researched online before the trip.

So we rolled right up to the Church's front door.
Our Lady of the Assumption built in the 1800's...

... and currently undergoing restoration, even though the congregation is still meeting there for Sunday Masses.
We heard the echos of lots of pigeons living in that bell tower. I'm sure that's on the restoration "to do" list. 

In the right foreground, you see the town veterans memorial with names from the first and second world wars.

Sadly, the poor weather gave us a poor exposure of this soldier on the monument.

On the sides of the monument are the names of the native sons who were lost.

And we found one that we believe may be a relative: "Victor Pelay".

Here I am before I go in to the church (It was raining so I'm dressed for the weather.) Note the very old statue of Our Lady above the threshold, welcoming guests.

She need some restoration too. I wonder how long she has stood there?

The church door was locked until a workman came by, so we got a peek inside. Sadly, a photo of the stained glass did not come out, plus it was very dark inside and no lights were on. But we were happy to say a little prayer there.

A mission statue from the late 1800's. We did see many crosses like these on the roads in and out to many villages and small towns in France.

Here are some more views of Lembeye...

The tower

LOVED that the local pub was called CENTRAL PARK! 
(being native NYer's we got a kick out of that!)

Yes, there was a chain on the gate of the cemetery. Yes it was not locked so we went in to see if we "knew" anybody. Crazy? Maybe. But since this was an impromptu "family tree" expedition, we had no  other ideas as to how to explore for family. (Next time, we'll try to meet the living locals.)

And yes, we did find one tombstone that seemed to resemble a family name. We're still researching.

Moving on from Lembeye, we also enjoyed Bourdeaux, (and its wines!)  

Plus a trip through the Loire Valley, is not complete without visiting some of its many Chateaux...

Yes, more rain! But lovely gardens are still lovely in the rain!

Bob and me... somewhat waterlogged!

We had dinner in Orleans... where the battle of Orleans was fought under the leadership of St. Joan of Arc, who is honored behind me.

At night, many cities in France illuminate their cathedrals with lights... so those shapes are projected onto the Cathedral de la Croix (where St. Joan would pray before battle.)

Closer to Paris, we stayed in Chartres... a city I will gladly return to-- I just loved it! Maybe cuz it was a sunny day??  Chartres is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in France, so please see some great Google images elsewhere so you can really appreciate it. It is undergoing enormous restoration. Those white walls and columns show off the natural stone after centuries of candle soot and dirt and grime have been removed.

That's me, before the famous Lady of the Pillar, praying for all the intentions I brought with me.

In this shot, you can see "before" restoration on the left, and "after" restoration on the right. I'd like to return to Chartres in about 5 years. 


One of the many magnificent doorways.

Chartres was build to house its most sacred relic -- the veil of Our Lady that allegedly was what she wore at the birth of the Christ. (Sadly, due to the major construction going on around the sanctuary area, we were not able to view the veil.) What Wikipedia can't tell you is that this Cathedral is known as Chartres because that is the city in which it is named... often nicknamed the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Chartres, or the cathedral of Our Lady... but its official name, that good Catholics would recognize is the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady. So, just like Lembeye's little church built over a hundred years ago, Chartres, built over 800 years ago recognized Mary's Assumption into heaven, even before the doctrine was officially promulgated in 1950.

Leaving the pilgrimage-ish side of the tour... we leave you with these parting shots...

History buffs will recognize Versailles...

and its Hall of Mirrors...

and two suspicious looking tourists taking a self-portrait in its mirrored walls.


  1. What a beautiful trip! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. I love the pictures, especially those tourists at the end. They look suspiciously like a couple I know.


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