It seems more and more people are putting best foot forward, passing on the beach bakeries and club-fun and taking a vacation walking in the real world. It’s not hard to see why when the variety of walking and trekking available is simply awesome. From the Hindu Kush to the Cotswold Way there are walking holidays to suit every taste, interest and budget. The one thing they all have in common is the chance for you to experience the natural world at first hand, breath the fresh air, scent the flowers, see sky, trees and horizons from close up and far away. What’s more, you usually get to do this in the company of intelligent, charming and like-minded people who have also chosen to go on a walking holiday.
La Belle France
Did you know that France still remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world? The variety of climate and landscape, the natural beauty, the space, art, history, architecture, food, wine and civilised life style is eternally seductive. ‘La Belle France’ offers an impressive range of walking opportunities too, from the most severe alpine routes and treks in the Pyrenees to gentle riverside strolls in pastoral beauty. France has it all. If you fancy the disciplined rigor of a long distance footpath top to bottom of the country then you can do it. If your tastes lean more towards a stress free, guided exploring of beautiful countryside, followed by a long lunch and a dip in the pool then you can find that too. The question is where to go and how to choose?
Poitou-Charente Walking Opportunities
Poitou-Charente is one region in France already well established on the tourist trail and blessed with a glorious variety of walking opportunities. Poitou-Charente stretches from the sandy beaches of the western littoral rising gently up the rolling hills to the beginnings of the Massif Central in the east. It runs from the cereal plans of the north to the grape vines and sunflowers of the south. It’s that bit of France where the roofs start having red roman tiles (instead of the dark slate in the north) and a more gentle slope. It also has one of the best sets of rivers in France. Each French Department in the region has a river that it is named after: Charente, Charente-Maritime, Vienne and Deux Sevres that actually has two!
When looking at the map, Deux Sevres is to the North West part of the region. One of it’s must see attractions is the Marais Poitevin, a collection of picturesque canals shaded by poplar trees. On the right side of Deux Sevres is Vienne. This is the largest department in the region and a harmonic symphony of old and new. It boasts the virtual reality theme park – Futuroscope, as well as of the Romanesque church, Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe.
Charente-Maritime is the most populated area in the region because of its enchanting islands, sandy beaches, and medieval harbour. Tourists flock to this side of France during the summer to get a healthy tan while feasting on the local seafood, in particular, the fresh oysters. Charente lies to the south east side. This is the home of the world famous Cognac, and of the Charentaise slippers. With the winding Charente River, kayaking and fishing are some of the common outdoor activities.
The lovely countryside of Charente is dotted with magnificent chateaux including the famous Ducal seat of La Rochefoucauld. Many of these Chateaux now offer accommodation and a select few even offer walking holidays.
You can find all-inclusive walking holiday packages where accommodation, meals, guides and local transport are bundled in. The only thing you need to do is book your travel and look forward to the scenery, fresh air and clean countryside that is waiting for you. The Charente is un-crowded and the pace of life is measured. Its not unusual to walk all day on the country lanes and marked paths and see not a single other walker.
The guided walks are usually scheduled in the morning when the temperatures are cooler. A helpful walking guide should not only be able to select the routes that best suit your needs but also provide the kind of background information and insight into the rural life of France you can’t find in books or on the web. If lucky, you might get to see some of the local wildlife like deer, boar and rare birds. Then, after a hectic day of walking and sightseeing, there will be a glorious meal waiting for you back at the chateau. With your appetite sharpened by fresh air and exercise you can be sure of doing justice to the food, wine and company.
Walking holidays are a great way to keep healthy. You may return home with increased energy and a newfound appreciation of the area and of the value of simple things done well. There is no denying that the Charentais countryside is a beautiful placed steeped with an interesting and colourful history. Happy Walking!