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Opinion

A visit to Lourdes and Paris

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila -

Last weekend, we flew to France on board a Korean Air Airbus A-380 for familiarization tour with the travel group led by Aida Lim Uy of Fortune Travel who brought along her grandson Christian Uy. With the group is SunStar Daily’s Nelia Neri (with hubby Atty. Julius Neri), Allan and Penny Carvajal of Travelways International, Cathy Uy (wife of my friend Mitchell) of Manila Fortune Travel, accompanied by Audrey Tiu, Nelson and Angelita Dy of Grand Hope Travel, Cherry Pie Callelero of Grand Holiday Travel, Jeanne The of Global Link Travel (wife of Andrew) Mila Espina of Amazing Cebu and Gwen Po of Pan Pacific Travel and my wife Jessica and daughter Katrina.

We first took a direct flight from Cebu to Incheon International Airport on an Airbus A-330 and waited to change planes, this time the famous A-380 on our flight to Paris. While waiting we stayed at the Prestige Class Lounge of Korean Air, which truly pampers their passengers, giving you and idea of that Korean Air’s motto “Excellence in Flight” also means “Excellence” even if you have not boarded our flight. Mr. Hyung Soo Kim, regional manager of Korean Air also accompanied us with Ann Momongan, sales executive of Korean Air all the way to Paris. We heard the breaking news of the killing of Moammar Gadhafi on CNN and Al Jazeera news in the lounge.

The Airbus A-380 is truly a fabulous aircraft having a double deck. Its Prestige Class is on the upper deck, while First Class and Economy are on the lower deck. One thing I immediately noticed when we took off was that the Airbus A-380 was very much quieter than all the other wide-bodied aircraft that I have flown.

What I found further amazing with Korean Air’s SkyMap is that it gave you three outside views of the aircraft. One video camera was focused on the ground, while one was focused on the nose (this is the same view as the pilots) while one camera was placed on the tail of the aircraft where you can see the plane. I just had fun watching this program especially when we landed, where I would know whether our pilot had properly aligned the plane with the runway. It was my first time to experience the Airbus A-380.

It’s already autumn in Paris and yes, it’s already cold here and even on midday, it’s 22 degrees, which is as cold as an air-conditioned room. We first took the Train Grand Vitesse (TGV, France’s answer to Japan’s Shinkansen or bullet train, which runs faster than the bullet train) for the five-hour trip to Lourdes. The last time I was in Lourdes was in the mid ’90s although nothing much has changed (except that more sick people were healed), but this time I have a digital camera, which means I took thousands of photos. No doubt, digital photography is better than film photography.

Next to the Vatican, Lourdes is considered Catholicism’s most visited pilgrimage site, which draws some six million tourists annually. Consider that the whole of France attracts 30 million tourists a year; this means outside of Paris, Lourdes is France’s top tourist drawer. It was great to be back in Lourdes together with my family. After all, we succumb to the famous saying of Bishop Fulton Sheen, “The family that prays together stays together.” After a day and a half pilgrimage to Lourdes, we took the TGV back to Paris.

Still in our pilgrimage mode, we visited the apparition site of Rue de Bac, which is the site of the famous Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (which is our Asilo de la Milagrosa in Cebu) where on July 19, 1830, an apparition appeared before St. Catherine Laboure inside their very obscure chapel, which is like a hole in the wall church.

Few people know that the uncorrupted body of St. Catherine Laboure lies on the side altar in the site of the apparition of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. It was to St. Catherine that we got the prayer, “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee” which Mama Mary gave to the saint on a stamped medal. Wearing it assures one of always being in the favor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It’s good to be back in Paris, the City of Lights and like EDSA bad traffic. Yes there’s traffic everywhere, we couldn’t go up the Eiffel Tower because of the long lines. We did drive some 40 kilometers to the famous Palace of Versailles, which was totally breath-taking! What opulence, what magnificence and luxury the French monarchs had 300 years ago. It makes Malacañang Palace seem like one of its wings.

Of course, those were different times when the monarchs couldn’t care if the people were poor. Hence the French Revolution ended up with King Louis XVI killed and his Austrian wife Marie Antoinette guillotined at the Place de la Concorde. Come to think of it, the rulers of this world haven’t learned or changed much from the time of King Louis or the newly-departed, but unlamented Libyan despot Moammar Gadhafi. They are still greedy!

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For e-mail responses to this article, write to [email protected]or [email protected]. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com

AIDA LIM UY OF FORTUNE TRAVEL

AIRBUS A

AL JAZEERA

ALLAN AND PENNY CARVAJAL OF TRAVELWAYS INTERNATIONAL

ANN MOMONGAN

AUDREY TIU

KING LOUIS

KOREAN AIR

MOAMMAR GADHAFI

ST. CATHERINE LABOURE

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