France - Activities
France's varied geography and climate allow for a wide ride range of outdoor pursuits. The French have taken to hiking with gusto, and there are walking paths through every imaginable kind of terrain. Probably the best known trails are the sentiers de grande randonnée, long-distance footpaths designated by the letters GR. The GR 5 winds through the Alps, the GR 4 is in the Massif Central and the popular GR 10 runs along the Pyrenees from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Cycling is another mania in France. La Margeride in Languedoc is a particularly inviting area for mountain biking, as are the Alps, Brittany and the Pyrenees. Skiing is also popular with some of Europe's finest - and most expensive - facilities in the Alps (at Chamonix, for example), though prices tend to be much cheaper in the Pyrenees around Cauterets and the Massif Central, which is good for cross-country skiing.
The best swimming spots are found along the Atlantic coast (near La Rochelle), the Channel coast of Normandy, southern Brittany, the Mediterranean (including the coast of Corsica) as well as on lakes such as Lac d'Annecy and Lake Geneva. The French are at ease with their bodies, and this is reflected in a number of venues for naturism (walking around bollock naked), mostly in Langedoc-Rousillon and the Côte d'Azur. Other activities include: rock climbing in the Alps and the Pyrenees; horse riding in Burgundy and the French Basque Country; surfing in Biarritz; rafting down the Gorge du Verdon in Provence; and hang-gliding in Languedoc. If your interests are more cerebral, you can take French language courses or learn the ins and outs of the soufflé at regional cooking classes.
French obsessions with spectator sports such as soccer, rugby, basketball and cycling, especially the Tour de France, should not be overlooked. Traditional games such as pétanque (similar to lawn bowling but played on a hard surface) are also popular.