Traveling in France
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Paris, with a history stretching back more than two millenia, has attractions sufficient to last a lifetime. But for some experiences—the deep blue of a Provençal sky, the aroma of a cheese cave at Roquefort, the fresh breeze of the Brittany coast—you must leave the magic of Paris and venture into the French countryside.
When traveling outside of Paris you can choose from a variety of transportation. We begin with the slowest form of travel and work our way up...
Hiking provides an appreciation of the natural beauty and and the people of France at a pace which ensures that nothing is missed. A variety of marked trails are available, grouped by length. The longest trails are classified Sentier de Grande Randonnée (GR), or long distance path. Intermediate-length trails are called Sentier GR de Pays, regional long distance path, while local paths are named Sentier de Petite Randonnée (PR). The three trails display striped markers colored, respectively, red and white, red and yellow, and yellow. The trails are created and maintained by the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre (FFRP), which offers guidebooks, catalogues, and maps describing the routes.
The French have had a love affair with bicycles since their invention. Perhaps this is why the most famous bicycle race in the world takes place here. Every July for three weeks the Tour de France winds its way through French town and country, capturing the hearts of citizens who line the roads to cheer the peloton.
In most train stations in France the SNCF rents bicycles for a modest price. They can also transport your bicycle on most trains. Maps of bicycle routes for road touring and off-road (VTT) adventures are available from the IGN, including in particular map number 906, VTT et Randonnées Cyclos.
Less than a century ago France's network of canals and navigable rivers comprised 12,000 kilometers and attracted worldwide admiration. Today, with commerce that demands the greater speed of more modern forms of transport, the waterways have become the province of the leisure traveler.
The waterways of France have amazing sights to reveal, including the Canal du Midi, classified a World Heritage site by UNICEF, the bridge-canal of Briare, and the inclined plane of Arzwiller. Numerous enterprises offer houseboats and barges for rental to vacationers. Even those without boating experience can manage the pace of a gentle cruise along a tree-lined canal.
For more information contact the trade organization La Fédération des Industries Nautiques (Federation of Nautical Industries), which combines about 80 maritime and rental companies, at 01.44.37.04.00, fax 01.45.77.21.88.
The automobile is a comfortable and efficient means of travel in France. Roads are well-maintained and the road network is one of the most complete in the world. There are 8,000 kilometers of limited-access roads called autoroutes.
French driving habits and driving laws differ from those in other countries, however, so if you plan to rent a car in France, it is advisable to learn a few things in advance. And, you may need to obtain an international driving permit before you leave. For more information see renting and driving a car.
Trains are a practical, punctual, and comfortable way to travel in France. They are operated by the SNCF, which provides most intercity connections via its network of express trains and TGV trains. And with a bus terminal near every SNCF station, the train-bus combination is an inexpensive way see the country.
If getting there quickly is important, flying is the answer. A typical domestic flight in France lasts an average of one hour. Airports are usually outside cities but offer efficient shuttle connections to city centers, typically for 5 to 15 €. Domestic air service is offered by Air France and a few economy airlines such as EasyJet.
Airlines often have youth, couple, and family rates on domestic flights. They also offer reduced fares, usually with restrictions, for advance booking. For information about special fares, visit the Air France website.