"The border is different from previous ones. It is not an invisible line that can only be seen on maps. It is a wall. A stony and chaotic wall."
In the small villages of southwest France, something recurrent strikes us. It is the smallness of what the inhabitants consider as "home", "their corner". A town or a village located 20 or 30 km away is already somewhere else, another region, another land. It is already too far for them to feel they have something in common with the people "over there".
And yet, from one end of the department to the other, from one end of the country to the other and, as we are increasingly sure, from one end of Europe to the other, we found people who were open and generous, people who sometimes had little and yet had much to give.
The pond of Gruissan is one of the ponds of the Regional Natural Park of Narbonnaise en Méditerranée. Classified Natura 2000, it represents a unique natural heritage, a reserve for exceptional fauna and flora and rare colors. The brackish waters create these special colors and give the pond a rare atmosphere.
Halfway between a western setting and a lunar landscape, the cirque of Mourèze is a place apart. The rocks have all strange and surprising shapes, sculpted by erosion. This great dolomitic chaos transports you into another universe, out of time. There are several marked trails but what we preferred... Getting lost in this maze.
It is difficult to find the words to describe how surprised we were by the Camargue. Of course, the colors of the salt marshes took our breath away, of course the pink flamingos, herons and other birds as well as the typical Camargue horses amazed us, but what surprised us the most was the desert. We walked through this sand and salt desert for almost 24 hours without meeting anyone.
The island of Porquerolles is one of the three islands of the Port-Cros National Park, the oldest land and marine park in Europe. As we go around the island, our itinerary takes us through pine trees and impressive cliffs in old military forts. The diversity of Porquerolles is incredible. From one end of the island to the other, we can find a touch of Brittany, as well as Caribbean atmospheres.
Above Grasse, the Foulon aqueduct winds through the mountain. Along the pipe that has been supplying the city with water since 1889, a path winds its way. It passes through narrow dark tunnels but also offers magnificent views of the Gorges du Loup. This section does not present any particular difficulty, except perhaps for people prone to vertigo.
"When preparing our route, we had not imagined that, at the end of May in the Pyrenees, the overabundance of snow would make this border crossing so complicated. Without snowshoes or other mountain gear, you can't just go over any pass."
From the Pyrenees to the Alps, our itinerary in France took us through the southern Mediterranean, without always following the coast, sometimes too built up. In anticipation of the crossing of the Alps, which was getting closer and closer, we voluntarily followed a more rural than mountainous itinerary, hiking sometimes in the middle of vineyards and fields, or in the forest and even on the beach and in the creeks.
At times, we followed the GR and measured how lucky we are in France to have such a culture of hiking and so many means deployed to make it accessible.