"WALKING IN FRANCE" France Transportation Tip by pedroswift

France Transportation: 300 reviews and 244 photos

  typical well-maintained tow path
by pedroswift
  • typical well-maintained tow path - France
      typical well-maintained tow path
    by pedroswift
  • along the Doubs - France
      along the Doubs
    by pedroswift

There is a long tradition of outdoor walking in France. In French - randonnée pédestre.
If you walk south from Kilometre Zero* of the French national highways system, located in central Paris on the square facing the main entrance of Notre Dame cathedral on the Île de la Cité, you will join the Rue Saint Jacques. This was the starting point for medieval (5th to 15th century) pilgrims leaving Paris to make their way along the chemin de St-Jacques that led eventually to to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried.
There are many other long established routes taken by pilgrims from other towns and countries on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Many of these ways have been maintained as walking paths and now a new tradition has emerged: hikers using the routes for enjoyment and for a challenge – to tread the lands through which their forefathers did centuries ago and maybe get to Spain (even if it’s done a bit at a time) . Four main pilgrim routes through France
As well as these long beaten paths, there are literally hundreds of thousands of kilometers of well maintained designated hiking trails throughout France.
Google “randonnée pédestre” and you will find links to over 3000 French hiking clubs and a wealth of information.
For example - Check an overview of the Long distance Footpaths (Les Sentiers de Grande Randonnée) before checking specific trails.
This is a site with Google Maps of the Long Distance Footpaths - click on the one that interests you
The best maps for walking are provided by The Institut Géographic National (IGN), France's national survey agency.

Each summer, villages and towns organize short, themed walks for all of the family (to check the budding of the grape vines for example). The local tourist office will list such events.
Keen to walk in France?
You might like to seek guidance from the Lonely Planet Guide – “Walking in France” which as well as general info on France and planning walks describes a multitude of specific walks in nearly a dozen French areas including Corsica. Many are mountainous areas. Mont Blanc – anyone? click for review
By the way, the best way to see Paris is by walking: perhaps with a bus or metro trip thrown in to get back to base camp at the end of the day.
Some books that I have read which may inspire you to go walking in France:
“Walking in France" (a Lonely Planet guide-ISBN:1 74059 243 3)
“From the Camargue to the Alps: a walk across France in Hannibal's footsteps” by Levin, Bernard : (2009, ISBN 1840247428)
“The man who broke out of the bank and went for a walk in France” - Moreland, Myles .
"Walking in Provence" - (1996, ISBN:0 7028 3132 8) - 30 walks of 3 to 13 kms length, graded easy, moderate or strenuous....detailed navigation descriptions.

Personally I am not a keen walker but I have seen much of rural France at or just above walking pace from the deck of a canal cruiser. I can recommend the tow paths of the French canal system (over 5,000 kms) for both cyclists and walkers. Originally, boats using canals were towed by men or horses so there is a well graded path (chemin de halage) on at least one side of each canal. It’s used in modern times by lock keepers and canal maintenance workers plus recreational fisher-folk. Because water remains level, the tow paths do likewise. Flat footpaths usually only rise or fall at the locks. Of course there may be many locks in hilly regions. More importantly for walkers, there is little motorized traffic. Most have villages a day's walk apart.
So check out the canal system in France before you plan a walking holiday....has interactive linking to individual canals listed lower down the page.

photo 1: typical canal tow path - flat until the lock. In this case, the next stretch of path will be about 3 metres higher.
photo 2: tow path here passes through memorial gardens

## Location Kilometre Zero* marker: 48.8534°N 2.3488°E on the Isle de la City

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Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Mar 18, 2012
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