Guided Walking Holiday in the South of France
Once her official character was demasked, Michèle was a hoot. In her capacity as receptionist and ticket seller at la Chapelle des Pénitents Noirs, she was as detached as any other French heritage site employee. She had no change, you see. She needed her colleague to skip across the road to get some, along with two coffees while she was at it.
“Vous en voulez un aussi, monsieur ?”
I declined the coffee, but with the offer and as the other lady vacated the building, out popped the real Michèle. We joked about the town, the hoteliers who don’t answer enquiries by email, the chambres d’hôte which claim to remain open all year but which, in reality, hibernate from September 30th.
As I left this wonderful old church, Michèle pleaded down the street after me to go and tell the local Tourist Office about these issues. After all, this was not good for the image of her town. I assured her I would, but didn’t.
There’s little resemblance between the French people that mass tourists meet on the streets of Paris or the Côte d’Azur (if they meet any at all) and the rural southerners you meet while out walking in the Midi. The southern rural French person is warm and inquisitive. They’re interested. And for that, they are interesting themselves. Walking in this part of France is a real treat. Not only does the south of this wonderful country have spectacular scenery, full of broadleaf forest cover, vineyards, sunflowers and more, but the people make the trip special.
As we left Villefranche, to climb towards Monteil on a 23km long day, we met Yves building a stone wall perimeter to a new primary school, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We discussed the state of our economies which, he mused, paled into insignificance compared to that of Spain, the homeland of his beautiful wife. We could have stayed chatting to this total stranger for an hour, but had to push on. He didn’t mention having to get back to work …
Back in Limogne, the almost impossible to contact local taxi driver (I had sent multiple texts and emails, to no avail), when eventually I got to speak to him, declared himself unable to take us the few km we needed to hurdle. When I told a local our story, he offered to being us in his own car. We had a great chat along the way.
Then there was the evening we forgot to get food for the following day’s lunch. Arriving in a tiny village, luckily for us the market had pitched up on the square. Lunch consisted of a glass of rosé, a handful of Muscat grapes, two apples and some cheese. All accompanied by un café. We were the talk of the town that day, with locals asking about where we had come from, where our destination was and the state of the Irish economy.
Guided Walking Holiday in the South of France
Our one-week guided walking holiday in the south of France in September 2020 consists of four or five days (depending on flight time) on stunning forest tracks, one ‘link day’ mostly on small rural roads, one rest day visiting the beautiful town of Villefranche and the final morning in one of France’s most beautiful towns. We will stay in a combination of basic gites d’étape, chambres d’hôte and small hôtels. As always, we will travel in a small group (no more than 7 guests). The cost of the trip will include B&B each night (sharing), 3 dinners and 2 lunches. Flights are not included and guests are reminded that you must be covered by your own personal travel insurance and ensure that you have an up-to-date European Health Insurance Card (aka E111).
Please note that this trip is more geared towards groups of friends and couples than individuals, unless you are happy to share rooms. As the area we visit is so beautiful and rural, there is very little choice of accommodation and, for example, on one night rooms are shared between three.
If you’d like to join us in France, or learn more, please get in touch by email to info[at]tourismpurewalking.com or call me on 086-8318748.
Dates : September 13 to 20, 2020
On this guided walking holiday in the south of France, we will be traversing the southern départements of Lot and Aveyron, a wonderful rural area far from the madding crowds and brim full of traditional French culture. Come not just for the walking, but for the sights, food and wine!
Walking will be mostly on lovely off-road tracks through magnificent oak-dominated forests, stretching across the hills to the blue skied horizon. We will walk “entre deux rivières” from the banks of the River Lot to those of the River Aveyron, rising up onto the so-called Causse that stands between the valleys. Le Causse is a rich limestone landscape – think of our Burren, but still covered in its soil carpet and enormous forests. While one day is almost entirely on-road, these are tiny roadways that see very little traffic as they sinew from one small hamlet to the next.
Highlights of our week include the gorgeous little towns of St Cirq and Najac, both among the select range of “Les plus beaux villages de France” and the former the initial winner of “France’s favourite village” in 2012. The larger town of Villefranche is great too, boasting numerous excellent visits, including France’s largest cloister at La Chartreuse, splendid churches, its arched town square and medieval architecture throughout.
We will experience one of this nation’s famed outdoor markets and her world-renowned cuisine, while enjoying seven days of the best of walking in France. With one day’s rest in Villefranche for visiting and relaxing, the pace is nice and easy throughout the week. We walk between 12 and 24 km over most of the other days, with some inclines, though few and far between. Most of all, we will take our time to discover this wonderful place and her people.
Accommodation is in twin rooms (triple on one night) and, due to the fabulously rural nature of the areas in which we will walk, quite varied. We walk from gorgeous little hôtel, to simple gîtes d’étape, to comfortable chambres d’hôte to gastronomic hôtel. Indeed, the variety is part and parcel of the experience of walking in France.
Guided Walking Holiday in the South of France, 13 – 20 September 2020 – Provisional Programme (subject to change, depending on flight times, etc.)
Day One – Arrival & up to 9 km walk
Day Two – 17 km
Day Three – 13 km
Day Four – 19 km
Day Five – Rest day, for outdoor market plus visits
Day Six – 24 km
Day Seven – 15 km
Day Eight – rest and shopping (optional), before departure
Please note that walking distances are approximate, in function of flight times and other factors.
Luggage transfer is provided on each day, so we will only carry a rucksack with our requirements for the day’s walk.
The trip is on the basis of per person sharing and excludes flights.
Single room bookings are, unfortunately, not available.
Please feel free to ask any questions you may have. Get in touch, on 086-8318748 or by email to info [at] tourismpurewalking.com to express your interest and receive the detailed brochure.