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Synopsis

Why would a man retire from his job and take off on a unique 4,000-mile walk around France? What possessed him to wear out his sixty-year-old hips and knees when he could spend a comfortable retirement at home? In this fascinating book Terry Cudbird reveals the obsession which is long distance walking--the intoxicating freedom to go where you want, the escape from the complications and paraphernalia of everyday life, the unpredictable encounters. His itinerary covered the six sides of the French hexagon. In a year's walking he passed through the Pyrenees, the Languedoc, Provence, the Alps, the Jura, Alsace, Lorraine, Picardy, Normandy, Brittany and Aquitaine. En route he discovered the astonishing variety of France's regions; their culture, history, languages, architecture and food. He passed through cities and hamlets, idyllic mountains and bleak plains, the heat of Le Midi and the cold of Le Nord. The author relates the highs and lows of a sometimes gruelling trek: the dramatic changes in landscape, the unexpected acts of kindness but also the guard dogs, snorers in hikers' refuges, storms, man-eating insects, blisters, exhausted limbs, lack of water and a rucksack which was always too heavy. Most important, he met hundreds of French people, many with an unusual outlook on life and interesting stories to tell: hermits, hippies, pilgrims, monks and farmers to name but a few. He made some lasting friends. Terry Cudbird's journey is rich in incident and observation. It is also, in part, the story of an individual coming to terms with his parents' old age and growing dementia. Through walking he finds not only a source of endless new horizons but also the means of accepting the past and its loss. This book will be of interest to walkers, lovers of France and anyone who has ever dreamt of encountering real adventures not far from home.

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