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      September 2012 > Hooked on walking in France (vol.II)

Hooked on walking in France (vol.II)

Walking holidays in FranceTerry Cudbird went on an Inntravel holiday in the Queyras, French Alps. He liked walking in France so much he decided to take off on his own for 4,000 miles! His fascinating story continues…

Part two:
"The landscape of France was constantly full of surprises and its variety a never ending source of delight.

I particularly remember the massive limestone gorges of the Cathar country, the never ending vistas on the high plateaux of the Cévennes, the crumbling chasms of the Alps, the woods of the Jura and the sea spray flying off the rocks of the Breton coast.

Walking holidays in FranceWhat struck me every day was the richness of the heritage of each of France’s many regions; the distinctive building styles dictated in part by the availability of local materials; the number of regional languages still in existence – Alsatian German in Alsace, Breton in the West, Occitan, which is half way to Catalan, in the south.

Every region has its own traditions, its own folklore and of course its own cuisine and wines. Sometimes the regional heritage is so strong you almost feel you are not in France. This is particularly true in the vineyards and walled towns of Alsace, overlooked by the pine-clad Vosges mountains topped with German-looking castles. I joined a sing-song on a wet day in one of the local ferme auberges (inns on farms) and thought I was in Bavaria.

Walking holidays in FranceI met some fascinating characters on the way (with fellow walkers, above), including a species of post-1968 drop out running refuges in the mountains of the south – Gérard the shepherd advertising for unconventional encounters; Lucien the hermit on the Montagne de Lure; Christophe the ex-night club entertainer and his twenty-eight cats high up in the Languedoc.

On the Santiago de Compostela trails near the Pyrenees people leapt out of their cars to greet me offering food and wine; some champagne growers blew their trumpets; a veggie pilgrim hobbled along with a sack of lettuce and olive oil, and a dreamy young poet (left) rode by on an exhausted white horse.

Walking holidays in FranceAs I went round I just had to make notes on all these experiences and I used to talk into two pocket dictation machines despite a few odd looks. When I got home I wanted to pass on my enthusiasm for exploring France on foot to others. Believe me trying to write something which readers might find interesting was far more difficult than walking 4,000 miles. Writing the book, finding a publisher and getting the book onto the market took as long as doing the walk itself.

France is more than twice as large as the British Isles, with space to get away from the rush of modern life but packed full of interesting sights. The Grandes Randonnées stretch for over 35,000 miles and there are masses of local footpaths too. Why not get a taste of them for yourself?"

Terry Cudbird’s book Walking the Hexagon is published by Signal Books priced £12.99 and available from good bookshops, Amazon and Terry's own website. [Inntravel customers' discounted price of £9.99 – simply select 'Inntravel' under 'Customer type'.]
Walking holidays in France

Posted: 13/09/2012 14:56:51 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: France, heritage, media, opinions, walking

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