Journey to one of the most beautiful countries in the world with Christopher McCauley and Frank Ramirez.
Day 1: Sunday, May 19
Depart from Los Angeles for France (pilgrims from out of state leave separately)
Day 2: Monday, May 20
Arrival in Toulouse and transfer, via coach, to the UNESCO world heritage village of Rocamadour, a Christian pilgrimage site for more than a thousand years. We gather for welcome prayer, dinner and rest as we form our pilgrim community in this dramatic setting high atop the cliffs.
Day 3: Tuesday, May 21
Breakfast and Pilgrimage Orientation. Then we will walk in the deep woods of the Alzou Valley, known for its quiet and sense of deep peace created by the wild forest gorge. We take private time in the afternoon in this city called “the citadel of faith.” Dinner. Free time in the evening
Day 4: Wednesday, May 22
Breakfast and our walk to the sanctuaries of Rocamadour, including the eight-hundred and fifty-year-old Romanesque Gothic church, Basilique Saint-Sauveur and the Notre Dame Chapel, home to the revered Black Madonna This site of healing and inspiration has drawn pilgrims for more than a thousand years. It is a place of solitude and prayer, acknowledgment of broken places, and requests for miracles and healing. Early evening small group and dinner. Free time in evening.
Day 5: Thursday, May 23
Morning Departure for the drive to Lourdes, the second most visited pilgrimage site in Europe. This shrine city is the holy place where pilgrims venerate the apparition of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette, a young shepherd girl. We settle in, have dinner and then attend the evening Blessed Sacrament Procession and the Torchlight Procession.
Day 6: Friday, May 24
Breakfast and a guided walking tour of Lourdes. We pause at the Grotto of Apparitions where Bernadette’s visions astonished the world. We enter the Rosary Basilica, Basilica of St. Pius X, and walk the Way of the Cross over the Hillside. In the afternoon, we take quiet time to walk, reflect, journal, rest and heal. Early evening small group, followed by dinner. Free evening to enjoy the city.
Day 7: Saturday, May 25
Breakfast. Pilgrim Walk from Lourdes through the French countryside following in Bernadette’s footsteps to her home village of Bartres. There Bernadette lived just prior to her mysterious visions. In this small village, The Burg Farm retains its charm and even preserves the bedroom for Bernadette. Nearby, the village church, with its choir dating to the late 17th century remains unchanged. The sheepfold where Bernadette watched over her flock remains an iconic scene of pastoral simplicity. Pilgrims take time for lunch. The afternoon is free to enjoy Lourdes, with its many streets, shops, and places for quiet and reflection. Evening prayer, dinner and open time to stroll.
Day 8: Sunday, May 26
Breakfast and depart Lourdes by coach. Morning prayers aboard our coach as we drive through the Languedoc Province passing by Carcassone, the largest walled city in Europe. The massive walls and citadel, built in Gallo-Roman times to protect the strategic trade route between the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, is the best preserved medieval fortress in Western Europe. We continue on to Avignon, the heart of Provence, a region of immense beauty, famous for its art, culture, and history. The Avignon Papacy was established during a time of turmoil in the Church that resulted in the Pope removing the administration of the church to France. Seven successive Popes reigned here from 1309 to 1376. This famous city will be our home while we explore this region of lavender and mustard fields, small villages, and the intense light that drew painters and photographers. Dinner and time to stroll or rest.
Day 9: Monday, May 27
Breakfast and then a walking tour of Avignon, including a visit to the imposing Palace of the Popes, seat of the Catholic Church for more than seventy years. The Palace is a magnificent expression of medieval architecture and history, symbolizing a time of rapid change and challenge in the Christian religion. In this land of lush gardens, we will walk Jardin du Rocher des Doms, a English public garden and nature refuge in the city center, on the heights of the Rocher des Doms. In the afternoon, an excursion to Villleneuve les Avignon where we visit St. Andre Abbey and Gardens, considered among the most beautiful gardens in France. We return to Avignon for a free evening to walk the city, find a cafe and enjoy dinner out.
Day 10: Tuesday, May 28
Breakfast and full day excursion to St. Remy de Provence to visit Saint-Paul de Mausole Monastery, Chapel and Gardens. It is here that Vincent van Gogh stayed for a year from May 1889 to May 1890 and which now houses a collection of his paintings. On to Arles to visit the Vincent van Gogh Foundation, dedicated to his life and work. Free time to explore the city. In the afternoon, we make a special trip to the Espace Van Gogh Garden, located at the hospital where the artist recovered after cutting off his ear. Here, he thrived and completed some of his most notable works. The garden is restored and landscaped to match one of Van Gogh’s paintings. We linger here to savor its beauty and give thanks for his healing through art and compassionate care. We return to Avignon for dinner and small groups to reflect on healing and beauty.
Day 11: Wednesday, May 29
Breakfast and a full day excursion to Aix en Provence, where we will explore the birthplace of Paul Cezanne. We will visit the Atelier Cezanne, the artist’s final home and studio. We will also visit San Sauveur Cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Ax-en-Provence and Arles. Free time to find a cafe for your lunch. In the afternoon, we make a pilgrimage to enjoy the beautifully landscaped lush and verdant gardens, including the restored Romegas Gardens, the Parc Jourdane, and the Parc Saint Mitre. The day of art, sky, and flowers closes with dinner. Time to stroll in the city.
Day 12: Thursday, May 30
Breakfast and Morning Prayer. The rest of the day is free to explore Avignon, visit shops, have an intimate lunch in a cafe, or visit the nearby caverns/caves to see some of the oldest art in the world. We reassemble at day’s end for our Farewell Dinner and closing reflections.
Day 13: Friday, May 31
Breakfast and transfer for our departure from the airport in Marseilles and return to Los Angeles.