Good Reading : November 2005
2 There are lots of ways to see a country, but travelling by foot would have to be one of the best ways to absorb a culture, to soak up the place and the people. Gillian and John Souter, devotees of this type of travel and authors of an excellent series of books for the independent walker, have just released the latest addition to the series, Walking France. This is sure to be popular, as la belle France boasts a vast diversity of landscapes and fascinating towns and villages to explore. The Souters have personally road-tested the walks and taken all the photographs in the book, so you know that what you see is what you get. Included are a variety of day- walks and long distance hikes along river valleys, through vineyards, over mountain passes, in areas as diverse as the Dordogne, Cévennes and Brittany’s coast. For the less energetic, there are also walks through France’s best-loved cities. All walks include notes on getting there, where and when to walk, the best places to stop, times for markets, website addresses and more. If you love to travel slowly, this book is for you. The French Path System Walking clubs first developed in mountain regions such as the Vosges and, in 1874, the Club Alpin Français (CAF) was formed for mountaineers. France’s popular cycling club added an arm specifically for walkers in 1904. These frag- mented groups worked together to create, in 1947, a national body to promote walking: today it is known as the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre or FFRP. Its volunteers have waymarked over 60,000 km of long-distance paths – old mule paths, drove tracks or pilgrimage routes – as grandes randonées or GRs. The standard waymark for these is a red-and-white stripe, usually painted on a tree or boulder. Some of the walks in this book are sections of a longer GR; others make use of various GRs to create a unique route. There are even more kilo- metres of shorter routes called PRs (promenades et randon- nées), waymarked with a single stripe in either blue, yellow, green or black. National parks tend to mark walking tracks using their own system, often with a yellow signpost of balisé. A variation on the linear long-distance path is the GR de Pays: a loop that explores a region, marked with red-and- yellow stripes. Horse-riding trails are marked in orange. tour de The limestone cliffs of le Grand Veymont in the Vercors. A scene along the Rhône waterfront at Arles in Provence. The 15th-century fortified château at Montsoreau.
December January 2006