Walking in France
Walking for a half day, here and there, allows one to move without hurry and to get a closer feel the character of a place.
Walking is the first “natural” leisure activity. Nothing is more simple that exploring a path around a hill, along a creek or the side of a mountain. Almost every tourist area has short, easy walking paths along rich rural routes. Off the main road, in regions both popular as well as unknown, there is always a secret beach, a fresh glade for a quick lunch, a solitary Romanesque chapel or an old windmill…such are small pleasures.
A few easy half-day walks
The Gallinou path explores the heart of the Cévennes mountains (between Mende and Alès), a wilderness of pine, oak and chestnut trees along a small Gardon river (upstream from the Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard). A 7.5 km hike comes across an old chestnut dryer from bygone days.
In Provence a trail threads through the dry scrubland of the Saint Hubert domain, not far from the charming village of Monieux. It passes the inventive and unique system used to capture and store rainwater that included basins and canals to fill a cistern for use on an isolated farm.
The medieval villages of Goult with its cultivated terraces and Oppède-le-Vieux with stair-stepped stone streets are some of the historic promenades found in the Luberon regional park.
The paths of the Bréhat Island and the Penthièvre coastline aroun the Paimpol port in Brittany offer a nice escape, especially in the off season. Despite its modest size, Bréhat, known as the island of flowers, invites long, but easy walks towards the Birlot windmill or the Paon lighthouse.
The wild valley of Valgaudemar, between Grenoble and Gap, offers mountain hikes in the awe-inspired heart of the Ecrins national park. Where it feels like the serene end of the earth, the Vallonpiere refuge with a range of 700 meters can be reached in two and half hours. The white water, waterfall, rhondodendrons, alpine pastures, marmottes and chamois make for an ideal stop on this spectacular rocky summit.
The Bigues paths takes walkers to the stone villages of the Crémieu Island - a place of superb medieval heritage with a true country décor. Set between Lyon and Grenoble, the circuit in the north of Dauphiné is available along with 13 others by the Isère tourist office.
Other places to walk are offered by local hiking/walking companies. They offer a variety of programs and itineraries, with baggage handling, reservations, etc.
Pedibus offers four days at the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay and the Chausey Islands, five days in Belle-Ile-en-Mer and Collioure to Cadaquès in seven days. www.pedibus.org
Other companies offering walking tours:
- Nomade Aventure
- Rando Accueil, a network of 250 gites and small hotels
- Gite guide for walking-oriented places to stay
- Panda Gîtes associated with the WWF
France has added two national overseas parks, one in La Réunion and one in French Guyana, to the seven in metropolitan France.