I’m sure I don’t need to convince you that you’ll experience much more of Paris wandering the tiny back streets on foot than you’ll see from the Metro or even from the top of a double-decker bus.
But walking through the glorious French countryside…from village to village?
Long-distance walking is not for everyone—but if you have a reasonable level of fitness and a love of the outdoors, it offers a unique opportunity to slow down and explore corners you might otherwise rush past and a chance to become acquainted with daily life in another corner of the world.
Long-distance walking makes you appreciate the everyday things you take for granted—access to public toilets, an endless supply of bandaids and the ability to buy a cup of coffee whenever the urge strikes.
Long-distance walking offers the opportunity to make new friends with similar goals (please God, help us to find our hotel before dark tonight) and to offer advice to complete strangers on topics you know nothing about (we’ll be taking this shortcut alongside the river).
If you’ve never done a long-distance walk before, perhaps you have the same questions I had—
Will I have to walk thirty kilometres (almost twenty miles) every day (which sounds rather like hard work to me) or will there be accommodation at more frequent intervals?
Should I plan my accommodation before I start or can I wing it as I go along?
What can I do with my suitcase or do I need to carry everything with me?
What will the countryside be like—lush green hills, vineyards, mountainous terrain?
If the weather is bad or I get distracted by too many historical monuments, is there a bus going to the next town?
If I am injured, is there a local taxi?
Do I need to start out with 200 bandaids or will there be pharmacies along the way?
The ‘correct’ answer to all these questions is different for everyone.
If you love camping and are reasonably self-sufficient, your options are far greater and you can afford to let each day play out as you go—stopping in bad weather if you wish and walking as far or as little as you like.
If you are more like me and like to stop at every ancient chapel; climb every medieval tower, looking out through observation slits and imagining invading armies charging up the hill…you may want to plan an itinerary which includes a mixture of long and short walking days and lazy afternoons for relaxing or exploring.
For me, a walk in France (the other side of the planet) will be part of a longer holiday that includes stops elsewhere in France or Europe. I don’t want to spend the entire time in walking pants or carry my dancing shoes in my backpack each day.
Thankfully, many areas are serviced by companies that will transport my luggage from hotel to hotel. But I do need to decide in advance where these hotels will be.
Looking for a little more inspiration?
Follow the Chemin de Saint-Jacques du-Puy, walked by pilgrims for the past one thousand years on their way to the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
Explore two châteaux (and the remains of a third), the underground lakes and caves of Gouffre de Padirac and six of France’s ‘most beautiful villages’ while walking from Martel to Rocamadour.
Visit seven châteaux, eleven churches, one abbey and two of the ‘most beautiful villages’ in France along the Burgundy Canal.