Confidences of travelers | 1,616 kilometers on foot on the roads of France

Traveling is like driving on a mountain road. But among the ups and downs, there will always be those indelible memories that you carry with you throughout your life. The Press tells the adventures, big and small, of travelers who are not afraid of anything. Today: a couple who crossed France… on foot.

“A kilometer on foot wears out your shoes,” says the nursery rhyme. Imagine 1616 kilometers! This is the distance that Sylvie Grégoire and her partner François Rolland traveled in the summer of 2018 in order to realize an astonishing dream: crossing France from north to south “without ever taking a vehicle”.

Where did the idea of ​​making their shoes travel in this way come from? No, she is not inspired by Félix Leclerc. It is rather the reading, more than 25 years ago, of the book A Walk Across Franceby the British Miles Morland, who made Sylvie Grégoire want to also discover France on foot.

“It had an impact on me! At that moment, I said to myself: “Ah! I would love to do that one day in my life.” There are dreams that stay with us, others that we forget. (…) This dream has always stayed with me,” she remembers in a telephone interview.


Sylvie Grégoire

In 2018, after saying goodbye to loved ones lost to cancer, including her mother, Sylvie Grégoire decided that the time had come to make her “famous journey”.

“It helped me deal with my grief and reconnect with happiness. Leave sadness behind and reconnect with the feeling of freedom,” confides the traveler.

Her husband François Rolland “jumped in” on this journey during which more than one Frenchman told them: “But they are crazy, these Quebecers!” »

A wind of freedom


François Rolland, the first day of the trip

Starting point for this long hike: Boulogne-sur-Mer, on the banks of the English Channel. Point of arrival: the Mediterranean Sea. Directions: none.

“We wanted to give ourselves as much freedom as possible,” explains Sylvie Grégoire when we are surprised by this choice.

We really wanted to leave under the sign of freedom. Sometimes, when we plan too much, we force ourselves to follow the plan, we don’t allow ourselves to deviate or slow down.

Sylvie Grégoire

The couple didn’t have an itinerary, but they did have a direction: heading south! Each day, the two walkers covered an average of 25 kilometers to get to the next accommodation, often chosen the day before. “There are lots of small, historic, romantic inns and guest houses along the road,” says Sylvie Grégoire.

Walking for long hours for 70 days is certainly demanding, admits the woman who considers herself “fairly fit”, but who has not followed any specific training to prepare for this trip. “When we went to bed at night, we were tired! “, she said, laughing. But the next day, “as if by a miracle”, the energy gauge was completely full.

“The beauty of this type of travel is that every day is a new adventure. Every day is the unknown, we have new landscapes and villages to discover. It really gives us the energy to get going again,” confides Sylvie Grégoire.

France differently


The Grands Causses park

Through this trip, the couple wanted to explore “a France that (he) did not know”. “Tourists tend to go to the coasts, to Provence, to Normandy. The interior regions, the mountains, the small villages, the hinterland, we are less likely to go there, but it is so extraordinary. These are truly regions to discover,” she says.

What were their favorites? The list is long. Sylvie Grégoire first names the Grands Causses park, in Occitanie, in the south of the country. “The Causses are large wild cliffs which are very steep. It’s as if the ground had fallen,” she describes.

She also talks about the first days of their expedition, when they walked on the great hard sand beaches along the English Channel. “There are paths that run along the cliffs and the sea, it’s absolutely beautiful. »

The charming village of Seine-Port, near Paris, Burgundy, with its vineyards and sunflower fields, as well as Larzac and its almost lunar landscapes are also among the highlights of their adventure.


A field of sunflowers in Burgundy

“The beauty of walking is that you can stop whenever you want. We can look at each flower, each facade, each cow, each sign (…). We had the gift of time, of being able to stop to listen, to feel, to observe,” confides the woman who launched the book in 2021 France, step by step, side by sidein which she recounts her journey.

In June, she will release a second title, France off the beaten track – an essential guide to your own adventurewhich brings together advice for exploring the country far from the tourist circuits.

Visit Sylvie Grégoire’s website

Three tips for long hikes

Would you like to take a long hike in France or elsewhere? The Press asked Sylvie Grégoire for some advice.

  • Take a preparation workshop. “The thing that really saved our lives and taught us so much was that we followed a preparation workshop given by the La Tienda store, from here to Compostela, in Verdun. (…) It gave us lots of tips on how to prepare, how to pack our things in our bags, the equipment list…”
  • To pack light. ” It’s really important. Basically, we don’t need much. As for clothing, we had two walking sets and an evening set. »
  • Have walking poles. ” It’s very useful. If we don’t have one, we look more on the ground. With walking poles, you feel more solid and you can admire the landscapes. »

Calling everyone!

Do you have any travel stories to tell us?

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