In the Travel Neighborhood, there are all kinds of books to help you get more than just exercise out of walking whether you’re a beginner or a pro or somewhere in between.
The book that first caught my eye and got me thinking about all this was Walking in France by Gillian and John Souter. What could be more romantic? Picture smooth,sun-filled roads winding through undulating fields of lavendar, a gleaming white castle on a hill in the distance. Or if that’s not your glass of wine, how about Paris, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.
The Souters start out with information on the French Path System, when to go where, where to stay and what to take, among other things. Then come sections on different regions with historical and geographical information and a list of attractions. Paris is the first section and includes several different walk routes with 10-12 attractions in each.
Other sections include scenic routes through areas like the Seine Valley and the Brittany coast with distances and the time it takes to do each one. There are even routes in the Pyrnees Mountains and through glaciers if you’re more adventurous. The book includes lots of gorgeous pictures along with maps and hours of operation for the attractions.
If strolling is more to your liking, how about Strolling Through Barcelona by Charles Teetor. His advice on the ideal way to see Barcelona is to spend a week “taking one or two strolls each day and allowing ample time for recuperation along the way in the innumerable small granjas (bars) and sidewalk cafes.” It sounds perfect to me.
Besides practical tips, the book is filled with historical anecdotes and information. He begins with chapters on topics like gypsies and bullfighting and goes on to lay down itineraries for several different strolls. Published in 1992, there’s sure to be more up-to-date guidebooks, but not many that show this kind of respect and love for the city.
For the serious hiker or mountaineer we have Walking in the Alps by Kev Reynolds. Inspired by a much-loved book of the same name written more than 50 years ago by J. Hubert Walker, this book spans five countries: France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. The chapters are divided into alpine groups such as Dauphine, Mont Blanc, the Pennines and the Dolomites. At the end of each is information on principal peaks and valleys, huts, access, maps and guidebooks.
The only accomodations mentioned are the huts maintained by various alpine clubs which are the traditional places to overnight in the world of alpine walking. These “huts” are far from the dirt and straw mounds the word conjures up and can actually be quite spacious and architecturally attractive. However, you can also find guided tours that include overnights in hotels and inns along the way.
Following famous footsteps
For the intellectual walker there’s Walking Literary London by Roger Tagholm. Subtitled “25 Original Walks Through London’s Literary Heritage,” these walks are based on literary landmarks and not necessarily the most scenic routes. Each itinerary takes from 2 to 4 hours and hits such highlights as the Rules restaurant in Covent Garden patronized by Dickens, Thackeray, Galsworthy and H.G. Wells as well as Brown’s Hotel where Rudyard Kipling and his bride stayed after their wedding. In fact, Stephen King stayed in the same room and wrote most of his book “Misery” at the desk. On the Chelsea walk you can see Winnie-the-Pooh’s house or take the Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill walk with many landmarks in the tragic life of Sylvia Plath.
Don’t slow down
Never think that you’re too old to walk very far, be inspired by Doris Haddock in Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year. With a forward by Bill Moyers, this book chronicles Haddock’s journey as she collects signatures and fights for national campaign finance reform. Author Dennis Burke uses the diaries she kept from the initial idea and preparing herself for the journey to her many adventures and the finish line to bring this incredible trip to life. Starting at Pasadena, California and finishing in Washington D.C. she covered more than 3,000 miles through the heart of America. We also have a DVD of her incredible journey.
Our neck of the woods
But if you want to stick closer to home, try Hiking Kansas City by William B. Eddy and Richard O. Ballentine. Billed as the complete guide to more than 125 hiking and walking trails in the Kansas City area this down-to-earth informative book gives times, distances and difficulty ratings on each of its itineraries. It includes pictures of area flora and fauna as well as maps for each of 69 different hikes.
Don’t know the language?
If you’re not familiar with the language of the area you’re going to, we have all kinds of phrase books.