Ask Lonely Planet: Walking off the beaten track in France

2 comments
A typical landscape in the Massif de Vosges, France. Photo / Creative Commons image from Wikimedia
A typical landscape in the Massif de Vosges, France. Photo / Creative Commons image from Wikimedia

My husband and I would like to do a walking tour in France of one to two weeks, somewhere without too many mountains. I have looked at a few options but the price seems prohibitive. Can you recommend any tours? We have some experience tramping in New Zealand.

-Lynn

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

France is a fine destination for a walking holiday, with a variety of landscapes to explore. The Alps and Pyrenees are popular, but there are plenty of other destinations offering less arduous adventures.

An organised tour is an attractive option, with all the logistics of transport and accommodation taken care of for you. You do, however, pay for this privilege. With good planning there's no reason why you can't make your own arrangements, which will make your trip significantly cheaper and more flexible.

Avoid serious uphills on France's many sentiers du littoral (coastal footpaths). In a couple of weeks, you could easily knock off walks on the Belle Ile and incongruously named Ile d'Ouessant (Island of Terror) - twinset Breton islands with stunning Atlantic vistas.

If you fancy a bit more of a workout, consider the Massif de Vosges region bordering Germany. This little-known area of woodland hills, fragrant pastures and glacial lakes is threaded with 10,000km of paths, including France's famous long-distance hiking trails, Grandes Randonnees (known as "GRs").

Lonely Planet's France guidebook includes details of these. It will also set you on the right path when it comes to transport, accommodation and day-to-day living.

Eurail rollicking fun

I am a 65-year-old male planning a three-month Eurail Pass excursion. Do you envision any problems regarding communicating with officials at main rail terminals and with making connections? Also, where could I purchase a Lonely Planet Europe by Rail guidebook?

-Fred McFlinn

Eurail passes are an excellent way of discovering the continent, with participating networks criss-crossing 23 European countries; one notable exception is Britain, which has its own BritRail pass.

The multitude of Eurail passes available have, however, become quite expensive. Unless you have already purchased yours, check national railways' websites to work out what it would cost to buy the tickets separately.

Lonely Planet doesn't publish a guide for European rail travel, but there are a number of excellent online resources that'll help. The Eurail website has a downloadable rail map, while DB Bahn has detailed schedule and fare information, in English.

The Man in Seat 61 is packed full of invaluable train descriptions and details of journeys to the far reaches of Europe and beyond. Armed with this information, you shouldn't encounter too many problems; however, unless you're multilingual, you'll find that a phrasebook and some well-practiced questions will help keep stress levels to a minimum.

- NZ Herald

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