Walking in France: Inspiring pictures and some words of warning

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I like to think I am a fairly accomplished lowland and, at times, with the weather on my side, highland walker in the UK. Over the past few years I’ve planned a couple of trips to France with the sole purpose of walking about in a French manner essentially to earn that evenings cheese and wine. I’ve walked about in some beautiful places but have also got myself (and those who have accompanied me) temporarily misplaced on more than one occasion!

This post has lots of lovely pictures of my walkabouts in France but let me also share with you some of the things I have learnt during these randonees.

  1. Just because you are in France doesn’t mean there wont be snow at 900m – just like there would be in the UK. Do not plan a route that tops out at 1500m when you can clearly see snow from the car park (unless you and your party are properly knowledged and equipped)
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French Pyrenees – note the definite presence of snow and somewhat steep angle of slope 

2. There are a lot of woods on the non snow covered slopes of French mountains. Woods are very hard to navigate in. Especially if the pot of paint used to paint the friendly and reassuring little stripes on rocks or trees or its painter becomes tired during their journey.

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Emerging from a highly unproductive two hour walk in the woods

3. For first forays into new territory stick to way marked paths on the quite good (but not quite as good as OS) IGN 1:25,000 maps. If you’ve gone on holiday to go walking there’s no shame in easing yourself in. Sometimes actually sticking to the paths can make for some delightful well marked, well planned trails that lead to civilization.

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Free foot spa post pastries in the spa town of Aix-les-Bains, French Pyreenees

4. Guidebooks are good but often cover quite large areas. For a short break much better to base yourself around a nice town which has ample providers of wine, cheese and pastry and to walk all the walks in that area. Distances are long and roads are windy, you came to walk so don’t spend all your time in the car getting to an even more beautiful bit of mountain.

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Cap Esterel, Nr Agay, Cote D’Azur

5. Always be on the look out for obvious walks if you have gone touring for the day. Sometimes a map just isn’t needed and there is a clear route to a spectacular view point – ideal for a post lunch stroll.

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View from Chapelle Notre Dame du Roc, Castellane, Provence

I love France and I’ll definitely be returning – all hints and tips welcome! Meanwhile I will leave you with a little photo montage. Au revoir.

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