“A kilometer on foot wears out your shoes,” says the nursery rhyme. Imagine 1,000 miles! This is the distance that Sylvie Grégoire and her partner François Rolland traveled in the summer of 2018 in order to realize an astonishing dream: crossing France from north to south “without ever taking a vehicle”.

Where did the idea of ​​taking their shoes travel in this way come from? No, she is not inspired by Félix Leclerc. It was rather reading, more than 25 years ago, the book A Walk Across France, by the British writer Miles Morland, that made Sylvie Grégoire also want to discover France on foot.

“It had an impact on me! At that moment I said to myself: ‘Ah! I would love to do that one day in my life.” There are dreams that stay with us, others that we forget. […] This dream has always stayed with me,” she recalls in a telephone interview.

In 2018, after saying goodbye to loved ones lost to cancer, including her mother, Sylvie Grégoire decided that the time had come to make her “famous journey”.

“It helped me deal with my grief and reconnect with happiness. Leave sadness behind and reconnect with the feeling of freedom,” confides the traveler.

Her husband François Rolland “jumped in” on this journey during which more than one Frenchman told them: “But they’re crazy, these Quebecers! »

Starting point for this long hike: Boulogne-sur-Mer, on the banks of the English Channel. Arrival point: the Mediterranean Sea. Directions: None.

“We wanted to give ourselves as much freedom as possible,” explains Sylvie Grégoire when we are surprised by this choice.

The couple didn’t have an itinerary, but they did have a direction: heading south! Each day, the two walkers covered an average of 25 kilometers to get to the next accommodation, often chosen the day before. “There are lots of small, historic, romantic inns and guest houses along the road,” says Sylvie Grégoire.

Walking for long hours over 70 days is certainly demanding, admits the woman who considers herself “pretty fit,” but who hasn’t done any specific training to prepare for this trip. “When we went to bed at night, we were tired! “, she said, laughing. But the next day, “like a miracle”, the energy gauge was completely full.

“The beauty of this type of travel is that every day is a new adventure. Every day is the unknown, we have new landscapes and villages to discover. It really gives us the energy to get going again,” confides Sylvie Grégoire.

Through this trip, the couple wanted to explore “a France that [he] did not know”. “Tourists tend to go to the coasts, to Provence, to Normandy. The interior regions, the mountains, the small villages, the hinterland, we are less likely to go there, but it is so extraordinary. These are truly regions to discover,” she says.

What were their favorites? The list is long. Sylvie Grégoire first names the Grands Causses park, in Occitanie, in the south of the country. “The Causses are large wild cliffs which are very steep. It’s like the ground has fallen away,” she describes.

She also talks about the first days of their expedition, when they walked on the large hard sand beaches along the English Channel. “There are paths that run along the cliffs and the sea, it’s absolutely beautiful. »

The charming village of Seine-Port, near Paris, Burgundy, with its vineyards and sunflower fields, as well as Larzac and its almost lunar landscapes are also among the highlights of their adventure.

“The beauty of walking is that you can stop whenever you want. We can look at each flower, each facade, each cow, each sign […]. We had the gift of time, of being able to stop to listen, to feel, to observe,” confides the woman who launched in 2021 the book France, step by step, side by side, in which she recounts her journey.

In June, she will release a second title, France off the beaten track – an essential guide to making your own adventure, which brings together advice for exploring the country far from the tourist circuits.