The city of Lourdes is one of the most visited towns in France and a centre of international pilgrimage and spirituality. This charming town, steeped in history, is situated in a pretty location in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Lourdes is the most important Catholic pilgrimage centre in France (a young girl of 14, Bernadette Soubirous, saw appearances of a lady, declaring herself to be the 'Immaculate Conception'. The appearances began on the 11th February 1858 in the little grotto of Massabielle, not far from the village, on the river Gave, and continued for several months. Bernadette claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary 18 times in total. After close scrutiny, the Catholic Church recognised these apparitions in 1862. Every year, from March to October, the sanctuary of Lourdes welcomes Pilgrims coming from Europe or even further afield. Lourdes is ideally located not far from various ski resorts in the Pyrenees such as La Mongie (45km), Cauterets (30km) or Luz-Ardiden (40km), as well as the natural, thermal baths in the area.