Also see my long walks in Britain 
Un randonneur américain en France
A hike from the Mediterranean
to the Atlantic in 2010
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  France intro                                         On y va (Let's go)                                      But why here?

  Day 1        A bitter beginning  -  Agde to Portiragnes
  Day 2   
    A glimmer of hope  -  Portiragnes to Béziers
  Day 3  
     This is more like it  -  Béziers to Capestang
  Day 4  
     Rain didn't stop play  -  Capestang - Pouzols Minervois
Day 5        Nowhere to stay  -  Pouzols-Minervois to Azille
  Day 6        Hard day not at the office  -  Azille to Carcassonne
  Day 7    
   Just rewards  -  In and across Carcassonne
Day 8   
    Hobson hunkers down  -  Carcassonne to Bram
  Day 9    
   Monsieur l'Inspecteur  -  Bram to Castelnaudary
  Day 10      
Highest point of the canal  -  Castelnaudary to Villefranche de Lauragais

  Day 11 
    Going the extra mile  -  Villefranche de Lauragais to Toulouse-sud
  Day 12 
    Canal du Midi, done  -  In and across Toulouse
Day 13      A real bruiser   -  Toulouse-nord to Montech
Day 14      A real bruise, too  -  Montech to Moissac

  Day 15      Warm sunny day at last  -  Moissac to Lamagistère
  Day 16      Mileage math  -  Lamagistère to Agen
Day 17      Fast walk to a slow train  -  Agen to Port Sainte Marie

  Day 18      An easy day  -  Port Sainte Marie to Tonneins
  Day 19     The perfect wall  -  Tonneins to Marmande
  Day 20 
    Another training day  -  Marmande to La Réole
  Day 21 
    Canal des Deux Mers, done  -  La Réole to Langon
  Day 22 
    Cadillac for Hobson  -  Langon to  Cadillac
Day 23 
    Peaceful villages  -  Cadillac to Latresne
  Day 24  
   Bordeaux, done  -  Latresne to Le Pian Médoc
  Day 25      Unfortunately  -  Le Pian Médoc to St Laurent Médoc
Day 26      Second-last day
 -  St Laurent Médoc to  Lesparre Médoc
  Day 27 
    Mediterranean to Atlantic, done  -  Lesparre Médoc to Soulac sur mer


The route first follows the famous Canal du Midi, between the Mediterranean at Agde, and Toulouse.

Between Toulouse and near-Bordeaux, it follows a canal adjacent to the Garonne River, aptly named the Canal latérale à la Garonne. These two canals (Mediterranean to near-Bordeaux) form the Canal des Deux Mers.
From Bordeaux to the Atlantic, I maintained a link with maritime history by paralleling the Gironde estuary, which is Europe's largest.

The finish line of Soulac-sur-mer is within sight of the famous Cordouan lighthouse.
The total distance is 600 km (375 miles)


Above right is a Google Maps photo of the route.
Click here for a zoomable, scrollable version.

To locate a place of interest, just type Place, France into the "Search Maps" box here and you'll get there faster than I did.

France route overview 2
Last few canal miles

Hobson, the geriatric hiker, hopes he isn't done-for yet.

My retirement lifestyle is a study in paradoxes. I have a wife who loves to work but not to travel, while I am the opposite. I love hiking, but age and injuries make hiking an exceeding struggle. I love the U.S., but hike in Europe. I love good weather but set out in the thick of winter. My next hike is in France, but my French can be described by a word common to French and English: déplorable.

In 2007 at the age of 63, Hobson (a nickname of my own choosing) fulfilled a childhood dream of walking from Land's End (the southwest tip of England) to John o'Groats (the northeast tip of Scotland), a thousand miles.

Then, giving a talk to schoolchildren in South Tampa, one little girl asked if I'd thought of walking back. So I did that next year. The two adventures paved the way to a new hobby when I got home. Due to luck more than s
kill, my website has attracted a million hits from a hundred thousand new friends. It's among the higher-rated of hiking sites, not that the genre is noted for literary distinction. I'd found a new world.

I started the overview of my British hikes with the advice to "Never let dreams die on your pillow". So here I am in 2010, raring to go on the hike described here - but feeling a dozen years older - and wondering whether I have already fulfilled my quota. Both previous hikes kept Tampa's finest surgeons busy when I got home. I am mentally a hiker - but I limp and I ache. There's a chance that I'll be home by the time you read this. If these webpages splutter to an untimely end, it's because I've done the same.

Yet hopefully the last page of this journal will end within sight of the Cordouan lighthouse on the Atlantic coast. Even if it's headed "Hobson hobbles home", it will be a dream fulfilled.

Few pastimes are simpler (and lonelier) than solo long-distance hiking. As I get into the hike, each day produces a retreat from life's normal complications, and a focus on essentials. Soon, the hike becomes the only reality.

All my possessions fit in a backpack and bellypack, and there's no support team van to carry them. I pare my belongings to save weight. Two sets of shirt and underwear, and not three. (I wash clothes at night.) One pair of footwear - boots. Perhaps I can't much lighten a one ounce tube of toothpaste. But I can replace shaving cream with soap, and cut my hair with a razor. I try hard not to carry paper, which is heavy. Everything that’s normally printed, including maps, is carried electronically on a PDA the size of a cell-phone. I carry water for one day. Emergency water will have to be found locally and purified with tablets. I consider a cotton reel too heavy, and wind a 15 ft length of strong thread around a little bit of paper in whose folds are just two needles. Food is reduced to lightweight basics - taste takes second place to nutrition. A knife, fork and spoon set fits into a credit-card size box no deeper than the width of a pencil.

Each bulge and each pocket of the backpack houses a distinct piece of my gear. My boots, coat and backpack are more important than a wardrobe of haute couture to a model.

I set out in the morning with  two priorities - to walk 15 miles without getting lost, and to stay dry. As I get to the afternoon, often soaked by rain (the precursor being a cold trickle down the spine), those priorities give way to an all-consuming where-will-I-sleep-tonight?  When I go to bed, sleep comes easily from exhaustion.

Next day, the pattern repeats.

There's a feast of scenery that unfolds oh-so-slowly as one trudges. The meticulously-planned route is a line on a map across wonderful, always-new terrain. My life is like a line too. The start point is the beginning of a new chapter, and that distant finish line is a glorious end. At each end of the line is a lighthouse. The Agde lighthouse at the start line emits a red flashing light ("no turning back"). On the Atlantic coast, the Cordouan lighthouse emits a welcoming green. One of the world's oldest and tallest, it's been described as "the most beautiful" and "most famous" of all lighthouses. We will talk more of it later.

Between the two lighthouses are untold adventures yet to be revealed. From past experience: It's a memorable privilege to be the only person for miles on a snowy trail in the Scottish Highlands. It's a lesser privilege to be lost in a sewage plant while trying for a shortcut across a blighted industrial area. I can expect muddy moments, barbed-wire entanglements, and dog encounters - juxtaposed with  beautiful sunsets, bird sightings, and meetings with friendly locals.

Reaching nightfall in winter without a bed is one of the "lesser privileges". It quickly re-orders my priorities.

I take photographs, and I study the local scene. Yet, on my hikes, sheep have been a hundred times more numerous than humans. I've made speeches to cattle, and cussed at dogs. It's a strange world out there, and one adapts to it. At the finish, the return to real life and relationships is abrupt. Getting into a car is like getting into a spaceship. By that time, I limp more but weigh less. Heart-wise, I feel like a champ.

Once home, I luxuriate in the pleasure of long lie-ins, baths, and doing nothing. It takes me a week or two to lick my wounds and assume my normal responsibilities. Then I start to plan next year's hike, a process that takes some months. This time, I waited an extra year because we moved house.

The extra year is up. Hobson, now 66, flies to France in late February to walk four hundred miles from sea to sea along famous canals. You can read about it here. He'd be honored if you did. And if you find time to write to him at, he'd be even more honored.

And so will I.
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