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Lourdes is known as one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the Catholic faith. In 1858 a 14-year-old named Bernadette Soubirous claimed to have seen a beautiful lady in a remote grotto. She went on to see the lady a total of 17 times, and the figure eventually identified herself as ‘the Immaculate Conception’ leading to her being identified as the Virgin Mary. By 1859 thousands of pilgrims were already flooding to Lourdes, and the number of visitors still increases every year.
Lourdes is located in the Midi-Pyrenees region in south west France. Despite its popularity with pilgrims, it remains a small market town in the Pyrenees foothills. Lourdes has found itself embroiled in several conflicts, and was at one point given to England as a way to broker a temporary peace during the Hundred Years War. Thanks to its religious significance, Lourdes has more hotels than anywhere else in France apart from Paris.