For millions of pilgrims, a visit to Lourdes to take its miraculous healing waters is an intensely spiritual experience. Since Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the first of 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary almost 150 years ago, the shrine has become a place of quiet contemplation and religious devotion.
But now the town's peace is being shattered by thousands of British tourists whose behaviour has become so bad that officials have brought in riot police. The decision to deploy officers from the notorious Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS) came after local gendarmes admitted that they were unable to cope with the nightly excesses of British visitors who, after going to the famous shrine, take to the town's bars and clubs.
A Sunday Telegraph 8/20/2006 story on chavs wrecking ruin in Lourdes.
I have been to Lourdes twice - as I recall many of those in late night bars were priests...
Update: Live webcams from Lourdes.