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France - Day Nine

Day nine:

We began this morning bright and early greeted with a spectacular view from the Basilica. 
We were treated to a private Mass in St. Anne's Chapel concelebrated by Fr. Tony and Fr. Jim.  After Mass, we met our guide Caterina for our morning walking tour of Lourdes.  Much of our tour centered around the places of importance to St. Bernadette including the Grotto where she experienced apparitions of a "young lady" 18 times from the 11th of February through the 16th of  July in 1858.  We toured the  Basilica of the Immaculate Conception as well as the Basilica of St. Pius X before heading into town where we toured Bernadette's birthplace, the Boly Mill, a comfortable living space where Bernadette's family lived until she was ten years old.  Her family soon ran into bankruptcy and their social status declined to the point where they moved into a one-room basement, formerly used as a jail, called le cachot, "the dungeon".  This is where her fami…
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France - Day Eight

Day eight:

We departed from Tours early this morning and traveled south through picturesque French countryside as we made the journey to Lourdes. 
We arrived in Lourdes in the early evening and checked into our fourth and final hotel the Mercure Lourdes Imperial.  Upon check-in, we each received a brass room key on a tassel and were instructed to return the keys to the board next to the front desk every time we head out from the hotel. As it turned out,  Some of us found it a little more difficult than others getting our keys onto the board. 

Having made really good time on our 570-kilometer drive, we had ample time before dinner to explore the shrine city of Lourdes.  After some sightseeing and shopping, we gathered for dinner at our hotel where we were joined by a special guest, Fr. Jim Phalan, C.S.C. '73.
Fr. Phalan is currently on assignment in Lourdes working for Family Rosary International, a ministry of the Congregation.  

After dinner, Fr. Phalan and our guide Deborah led us do…

France - Day Seven

Day seven:

We began our day today with our guide Deborah and driver Jean Jacques traveling along the meandering River Cher to the beautiful 16th-century Chateau de Chenonceaux. 
As we made our way to the Chateau, our guide Deborah gave us a wonderfully detailed account of the colorful background of the Chateau.  Built on a bridge, the Chateau was once home to Catherine de Medici but was originally given as a gift from Catherine's husband, King Henry II to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers.  Upon the King's death in 1559, his strong-willed widow forced Diane to exchange it for the Chateau Chaumont. Catherine, now the Queen Regent, made Chenonceau her favorite residence and for good reason. The Chateau is surrounded by breathtaking gardens and truly spectacular rooms filled with beautiful tapestries and even a donkey farm.

After our visit to the Chateau Chenoneaux, we made our way to the absolutely charming town of Amboise. 
After spending a few hours of dining and shopping in the ma…

France - Day Six

Day six:

Today was a very special day. We ventured south to the city of Le Mans where Blessed Basil Moreau’s most significant works occurred. Beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, Father Moreau is the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
Our first stop was the Shrine of Basil Moreau, the church of Our Lady of Holy Cross, which was consecrated in 1857 and restored in the 1930s. 
We were greeted by our guide, Tiphaine Hamerel, and Fr. Joseph Gansalvez, C.S.C., assistant rector.  Tiphaine did a magnificent job of giving us a tour of the Shrine and its 14th-century Gothic-style church.  We even spied a stained glass representation of Fr. James Donahue, C.S.C.  Fr. Donahue was the Superior General of the Congregation who authorized the purchase of the Ames Estate which paved the way for the founding of Stonehill.  Thus, Donahue Hall is named in honor of Fr. Donahue.

We concluded our tour with a private Mass celebrated by Fr. Tony in the Shrine chapel that is the final resting place o…

France - Day Five

Day five:

After a truly inspirational day in Normandy yesterday, we awoke today to a little bonus from Mother Nature....rain.  We boarded the bus shortly after 9:00 am for our venture to the impressive island of Mont St. Michel.  A UNESCO World Heritage Site, in ancient times the island served as fortification along the Normandy coastline. 
Since the 8th century, the island has been the seat of the famed monastery that sits atop the island.  We enjoyed a walking tour of the town and abbey which included a stroll through quaint shops and restaurants along the village walk before taking on the 300 stair climb up to the monastery.  We marveled at the impressive architecture of the abbey that dates back to the middle ages when Bishop Aubert erected the first sanctuary on Mont Tombe in honor of  Saint Michael, the Archangel.  After our tour of the abbey, we spent the better part of the afternoon exploring the village of Mont St. Michel before returning to our hotel in St. Malo. 

France - Day Four

Day four:

Today we bid adieu to the beautiful city of Paris.  While we were able to enjoy both scheduled programming as well as ample "free time" to explore the city over the last three days, it is now time to travel west.  Once checked out of the hotel, we were greeted by our long-distance bus driver, Jean Jacques, who will be our driver for the remainder of the trip.

We hit the road early with plans to head straight to Normandy but our travel guide Deb had a wonderful surprise for us, a stop in the northern French town of Bayeux.  
A quaint little town, Bayeux is home to the Bayeux Tapestry, a 1,000 year-old hand-embroidered cloth 230 feet long and 20 inches tall that depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England.  We were in Bayeux primarily for a quick lunch and shopping stop but many members of our group decided to use the time to view the amazing Tapestry, which was inscribed as a UNESCO Memory of the World in 2007.

After our quick stop in Bayeux, we cont…

France - Day Three

Day three:

This morning we boarded our bus along with driver Jorge and our local guide Antoine for our morning sightseeing tour of Paris.  Our tour included many of the landmarks recognized throughout the world such as the Opera House, the Madeleine Church, the Place de la Concorde, the Champs Elysees, the great Arc de Triomphe,  and the Eiffel Tower.

Due to the tragic fire, we were unable to see the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral but we did visit the Church of Saint Sulpice, where, as Fr. Tony shared with the group, Blessed Father Moreau was sent to receive training in seminary formation.

It was quite special to be in the Church where Father Moreau has celebrated Mass.
From Saint Sulpice we headed to Les Caves du Louvre for a wonderful wine tasting where we learned about the three different french varietals as well as the bottling and cork selection process.

Our tasting included a quiz of our olfactory system to detect various components to French wine. 
After the tasting, we were treated …