Walking Across Europe is superb so get on your walking boots to see the region at its very best and really get away from it all.
The terrain of France is mainly flat with hills in the north and west. Mountainous regions include the Pyrenees in the south and the Alps in the east. The longest river in France is Loire. Other major rivers are the Dordogne, Garonne, Marne, Rhine, Rhone, Seine, and Somme.
Above the Alps in the southeastern part of France, there are the Jura Mountains. They stretch along the Swiss frontier in the eastern France. This range in France starts at the Grand Colombier, 1534 metres, on the bend of the Rhone River. It is the largest area of forest in France and mountains themselves are pastoral and pleasant rather than imposing for here are no 3000 metre peaks to challenge the hiker. Most of the bed rock of the Jura is limestone. In this region the traveller will find a timeless country with family friendly mountains, tumbling rivers and beautiful lakes set in deep forest.
The south east of France
Oh, those gorgeous Alps Mountains! In the southeastern part of France there is the Alps of provence region. Along with beautiful and mighty mountains with the peaks that reach more than 3000 metres, this region has a great history and architecture. Apart from magnificent wine the fortified villages of the Cotes du Rhone like Seguret offer medieval walls and gateways, narrow cobbled streets, irregular stone walls, shuttered windows and concealed courtyards. The provence Annot in the Var valley lies at the foot of a cliff of quartz and feldspar. The old town is very atmospheric with narrow streets climbing the hill in steps, passing under Gothic arches and twisting around tall houses. Entrevaux is a fortified town with an old bridge over the Var river defended by gates and a drawbridge. The great military architect Vauban remodelled a number of forts in the area for Louis XIV including this one.
The South of France
The Pyrenees Mountains in the southwestern part of France is a natural border between France and Spain, and completely enfold the tiny nation of Andorra. The mountains extend for about 270 miles from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea. The highest point is Pico de Aneto at 11,168 ft. (3,404m) . The western Pyrenees are mainly granitic. In the centre and the east there are many more layers of limestone. Rainfall in this region is higher than average for France and thunderstorms are not uncommon. The resultant moisture supports a wide variety of plants.
The Languedoc region in the south is known as a land of sun-drenched vineyards, crumbling castles, sandy beaches and rocky hills. It‘s very windy region, as it experiences strong winds between 100 and 200 days a year. The name of another southern region Cevennes means seven veins, because seven rivers flow east to the Rhone cutting deep into the mountains. The landscape of the Cevennes is varied-limestone gorges; schistous mountains with acid loving plants; forests; arid plateaus known as causses where the thin topsoil lies above a thick layer of porous limestone. Rain permeates the rock creating spectacular underground grottos. In the Cevennes trees vary according to the height of terrain: up to 500 metres small evergreen oaks flourish; between 500 and 1000 metres chestnuts as well as oaks which shed their leaves in winter; between 1000 and 1500 metres beech.
The national trail known as Le Chemin Stevenson was created in 1878 to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Robert Louis Stevenson’s journey which he recorded in Travels with My Donkey in the Cevennes. Today 10,000 make the journey on foot, many accompanied by donkeys.
Northern France and Channel Coast
Three rivers cross the North Eastern corner of France – the Meurthe, the Moselle and the Meuse. They drain into the Rhine and the North Sea. Further west the rivers move south to the Seine, the Oise for example, and eventually due west to the Channel, like the Canche flowing to Etaples south of Boulogne.
Northern France is fulfilled with rivers and lakes. Many of them are linked by canals and interspersing all these waterways are clusters of lakes, man made and natural, large and small. The Canal de la Sensee links Dunkerque to the Escaut River which runs through Cambrai. The landscape is typical of the department of the Nord – the wharves, the curving lines of the banks, the chugging of long barges, the flat open fields on either side, the screens of trees but above all the light of a wide open sky reflected off the water.
The north coast is the crumbling edge of a granite plateau. Sometimes the cliffs are high with dramatic views over the ocean. More often they are low, like the remains of a giant quarry. Walking along the coast is not a simple matter because there are so many tidal estuaries and headlands to circumnavigate.
South West of France
There are four different types of landscape in the South West of France – the coast, the marshes, the bocage and the plains.
Most of the coast consists of sand dunes, which are very fragile unless bound together by vegetation. In one great forest planted to preserve the coastal defences there are small Mediterranean oaks which thrive in the mild climate on the Atlantic coast.
Behind the dunes of the Vendee region, there are two great areas of reclaimed marsh land. The abbots of the great monasteries like Nieul-sur-Autise and Maillezais first drained the southern marsh in the twelth century.
The countryside of Saintonge alternates between rolling plain and patches of bocage. The predominant crop is grapes, interspersed with perfectly drilled rows of wheat , tobacco, apples and the occasional patch of woodland. Medieval builders in the Saintonge replicated those simple Roman arches many times on the west fronts of churches and abbeys but transformed them into wonderful galleries of sculpture. Minstrels, grotesque faces and fabulous beasts come alive alongside angels and apostles. The signs of the Zodiac are a common theme as well as friezes of intricate foliage. On the church front at Fenioux devils with tails are pushing wrongdoers into the flames of hell. One of the main pilgrimage routes to Compostela passes through this area and there are many historic monuments decorated with the cockle shell.