How to savor exploring the Hexagone
Trips to France always seem to go at warp speed. I often say that time goes twice as fast in Europe! Our itineraries are packed so full that we don't get to enjoy each place as much as we would like to. Traveling by train or even by car, the landscapes rush by. There is an amazing castle, then a church perched on a hill, but there is no time to stop.
Post-Covid travel seems to have shifted our priorities, and travelers are seeking off-the-beaten-path destinations more than ever, plus creative ways to explore them. Fortunately, France always comes through! Here are 3 of our favorite ways to wander:
1 - A VELO
France has ever-changing landscapes, and I am certainly not "Tour de France" ready, but the e-bike has made roaming the countryside on 2 wheels a bit more accessible for my fitness level. My first experience on an e-bike was on the island of Ouessant, off the Brittany coast. It was absolutely magical - I felt so alive! While you still have to pedal an electric bike, it's like having a friend give you a little push when the going gets tough. (Like when a gale-force wind suddenly hits you head on!)
My next experience was less rural - in the city of Nice! My husband and I did a wine tour of Nice, which began in the old town, continued down the Promenade des Anglais and then climbed up into the steep hills of Nice. Once again, we were ecstatic to have help as we climbed higher and higher! (Wine in the vineyards proved a worthy reward for our efforts).
My third trek was through the vineyards of Burgundy. Absolute bliss. That cinched the deal, and we bought our own e-bikes back at home. We love feeling part of the landscape, and the freedom to stop for photos whenever we want is pretty great too.
These types of experiences are offered throughout France, but if you are looking for more than just an afternoon adventure, you can actually plan an entire trip on either traditional or e-bikes Many companies will take your bags from stop to stop, while you just ride at your leisure along the way. The trail system is quite developed, and there are many routes to choose from. France Vélo Tourisme is the best place to start. Choose everything from the region you want to discover, the type of terrain, level of difficulty and duration.
2 - EN BATEAU
I have to admit, I have never been on a cruise. Ever. There is something about a huge ship that makes my motion-sick/claustrophobic self just a bit anxious. What about a river cruise? Better, but still perhaps a bit "much" for me. A canal cruise, however, sounds just my speed. A small group of people meandering through the countryside on a "péniche" sounds remarkably romantic. Throw in the fact that someone is cooking gourmet meals for me, and I am in! I don't crave the 24/7 activities that cruise ships provide, rather I love the idea of watching the world go by s-l-o-w-l-y, and having the opportunity to get off and explore small villages, on foot or by bike. I am planning to book my canal cruise soon!
France is filled with waterways, so there are many possibilities! Choose your region, the size of your boat, or even captain one yourself! Here are a few companies to get you started:
3 - A PIED
Of course the slowest way to travel is on foot. I am delighted to share my hiking experience in an article called "France on Foot" featured in the online magazine "My French Life™ - ranked #2 globally. I am proud to be a new contributor to this magazine, and will have one article published each month. You can get either a free or paid subscription (allowing you more articles and interaction with the writers). Click on the button below to read my article, as well as so many more!
And for those who have followed my Compostelle journey, here is the promised video - a pictorial diary of my adventure.
There are of course many options to walk throughout France, from the Grande Randonnée trail system, to guided walking tours. I hope you find your petit bonheur, and I hope to cross paths, at a leisurely pace of course, with you in the future!