Burgundy, Provence still popular, but walking goes beyond

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NEW YORK -- Burgundy and Provence were among the first regions in France explored by walking tours, but nowadays, tours are also heading by foot into the Dordogne Valley, Brittany and other regions.

A sampling of trips follows:

Cross Country International is exploring very different ground this year with its Lot Valley walk, a journey starting near the village of Montcuq and ending after about 50 miles at the medieval town of Cahors. On some trips, hikers will follow the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, across the border in Spain.

Burgundy countryside Walkers are met at Toulouse Airport, driving first to the Roman town of Moissac for lunch and then to the village of Lascabanes for the first two nights. Lodgings during the walk will be in restored farmhouses, manor houses and a 15th-century chateau.

The per-person cost of $2,300 includes seven nights' accommodations, five days of guided walking, all meals, luggage transfers and transfers to and from the airport. There are two or three departures monthly from April 3 to Oct. 16. Cross Country International, Phone: (800) 828-8768, Fax: (914) 677-6077, e-mail: [email protected]

Butterfield & Robinson is walking into four regions on seven-night programs in Burgundy (between four and 10 miles a day) and Provence (six to seven miles a day) and six-night tours in the Dordogne Valley (four to 10 miles a day) and the Pyrenees (seven to 12 miles a day) along the French-Spanish border in the Pays Basque.

Features on all trips are top class accommodations, most often at Relais & Chateaux properties; dining at Michelin-starred restaurants; full van support and trip escorts.

On the Burgundy walk, for example, tour members start in Dijon and finish in Lyon, visiting vineyards, enjoying food and wine tastings and staying at the 18th century Hotel Chateau Andre Ziltener in Musigny, the Hotel le Cep in Beaune and the Chateau de Bagnols in Bagnols. Departures are scheduled in May, July, August and September, and the per person cost is $3,925.

The company also offers a program called Paris Walks, both for individuals or groups and led by expert guides, for a flat rate of $200 for a three-hour walk and $300 for a full day. Butterfield & Robinson, Phone: (800) 678-1147 or (416) 864-1354, Fax: (416) 864-0541, e-mail: [email protected], Web: www.buttterfield.com

Wayfarers introduced a Gourmet Walking Tour of Provence, hosted by culinary expert Nathalie Dupree, departing April 25 and Oct. 3. Participants will meet some of Provence's leading chefs, bakers, cheese makers and vintners, on a walk that begins in the village of Lourmarin and spends a morning with Reine Samut, proprietor of Michelin-starred L'Auberge de la Feniere. A cooking demonstration and lunch follow a trip to the market.

Other highlights include a picnic at a local cheese farm, a visit to the bakery of master baker Roger Auzet, a tour of an olive mill, wine tasting at the Cotes du Luberon cellars and other cooking demonstrations.

Priced at $2,600 per person, the program includes six nights' lodging at country inns, all meals, transport of baggage and the services of a walk leader and manager.

The Wayfarers, Phone: (800) 249-4620, Web: www.thewayfarers.com

Europeds' walks in France focus on Provence and the Dordogne River Valley.

The company takes advantage of the pet-friendliness of this country and offers two weekly walking tours for people and their dogs. The six-night Dordogne Doggie Walk is in the southwest region of France, known for its castles and prehistoric cave art, with departures on May 13, Sept. 12 and Oct. 3. Average daily walking distance for this trip is about 5.5 miles, with five hours of walking time.

There is also a Provence Doggie Walk, starting in Avignon and visiting Les Baux, St.-Remy and picturesque byways in the Luberon Valley. Departures on this six-night tour are scheduled for May 23 and Sept. 23, and the daily walking distance is about four miles.

The cost of both programs is $2,495 per person, double.

Included in the company's fact sheet for humans is advice such as the following: Dogs must be at least eight weeks old and weaned at least five days before flying; they must also be well socialized to other dogs and humans. The French government, however, has more stringent requirements on bringing in a pet that clients should check prior to departure.

Europeds also has walking tours for travelers without dogs: trips for the whole family, such as the Dordogne Family Loops and the Provence Family Loops; Singles Loops in Provence and the Dordogne, and just plain walking tours in those regions as well as in Alsace and Burgundy. Europeds, Phone: (800) 321-9552 or (831) 646-4920, Fax: (408) 655-4501, E-mail: [email protected]

Abercrombie & Kent's newest walking destination is the Dordogne, where an intermediate-level tour takes travelers through unspoiled, stone-built villages and towns as well as along roads and trails through the countryside of the Vezere.

The six-night tour starts in Brive and covers a circuit that includes St.-Cyprien, Domme, Le Bugue, Les Eyzies, Montignac, Lascaux, Sarlat and St.-Amand-de-Coly. Most meals, lodgings, trip escorts and support vans are included in the walk price of $2,950 per person, double; departure dates are June 20, Sept. 19 and Oct. 3.

In France, A&K also offers walks in Provence and Burgundy, plus a barging/walking six-night tour, also in Burgundy. Abercrombie & Kent, Phone: (800) 323-7308 or (630) 954-2944, Fax: (630) 954-3324, Web: www.abercrombiekent.com

Marketing Ahead, which promotes almost 50 properties in Brittany, including four-star chateaux, three-star inns and private homes, manages to link them in seven-day hiking treks.

A seven-day walking circuit takes travelers from the Bigouden region, where Breton traditions still thrive, to nature reserves near Pointe du Raz. The average walking distance per day is 15 miles. The trip features lodging in two- and three-star hotelsand roundtrip boat crossing from Audierne to Sein Island. It is priced at $750 per person, double. Marketing Ahead, Phone: (212) 686-0271 or (800) 223-1356, Fax: (212) 686-0271, e-mail: [email protected]

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