Active Boomer In France

Chateau du Chambord, France. Active boomer
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I’ll never forget Louie, the head caretaker at the school where I was Principal. He used to always say, as we were heading to a classroom, “You move so quickly. I can never keep up with you!”  If Louie saw me today, he still wouldn’t be able to keep up with me. But instead of zipping around a school, I’m running, biking, paddling, hiking or walking long distances in France. I’m an active boomer on a mission. One of the wonderful things about France is that there are so many things to do for the active boomer….or traveller of any age.

Even though I’m a boomer (aka “baby boomer” who was born between 1946-1964), I don’t act look my age. I think it’s the Chinese genes (and hair colouring).  But really, I think a lot has to do with keeping active and that includes being active when travelling.

As you can see in some of my other posts, I have done a variety of activities that not only keep me in shape, but allow me to eat lots of great French foods. Here are some ideas for seeing France….”actively”. They range from a leisurely “burn” of calories to an intense cardio workout:

Running

Running in the Marathon du Medoc. Active boomer
Running in the Marathon du Medoc. Photo: J. Chung

While some people plan their trips by considering the restaurants, museums, or attractions, when I travel to France, I first start by finding out where a running race might take place. Basically my trip revolves around a running race. [Note: my best advice is to do the race at the beginning of your trip. If you do it at the end, your feet and legs will be too tired to run after doing busy days of touring. Runners need tapering time.]

Food is my reward for doing an activity. While running 42.2 kilometres (a marathon),  I think about the foods I will eat. One burns almost 3000 calories in a race so one can eat just about anything after a race.  But I must confess, after running that long, one doesn’t have an appetite but day dreaming about food is always fun.

Marathon du Medoc

One of the most memorable races was the Marathon du Medoc. Runners do not do this race to get their best time. We run it for the wine. Yes, there is wine at every one of the 22 water stations. Little sip of wine, little water, little food (like granola bars, grilled beef, or oysters) and off we go through vineyards and past famous chateaux. It’s a big party and one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done. THIS was an active experience worth doing.

Paris Marathon

When I ran the Paris Marathon, one of the hardest things (besides running) was passing a restaurant that was preparing the dishes for lunch. I vividly remember the time and place. I had run just 32 kilometres and I was near Bois de Boulogne on Rue Molitor when all of a sudden I smelled roasted chicken. It was glorious. The memory brings back the aroma. Heaven. THAT kept me going for another 10 kilometres.

 Boomer in 20 km de Paris race
20 km de Paris race

That’s not to say you need to run a marathon. France has all types of races ranging from 5 km to ultra marathon (over 42.2 km) . I’ve done the “20 km de Paris” twice and it starts at the Eiffel Tower. You could even join a runner group’s meetup. In Paris there is the Paris Hash House Harriers (“A drinking club with a running problem”) and they meet every Thursday night and Sunday morning.

Hiking

Boomer at Refuge du Nant du Beurre
Hiking in the French Alps–Refuge du Nant du Beurre

If I can’t find a running race that fits my dates, I will look at a region and investigate where I can do some outdoor activity. I’ve done some hiking in Utah, the Grand Canyon and in Cinqueterre, Italy and hiking in the French Alps is one of my favourites. In France, the Pyrenees and the Auvergne would also be great areas for hiking or skiing. In fact, many say that the Auvergne is France’s best-kept skiing secret: The Guardian article.

In the French Alps, the hike near the bed and breakfast Chalet Savoie Faire where I stayed had an amazing hike up to Le Refuge du Nant du Buerre and Le Grand Cretet in July. It was a leisurely 2 1/4 hour hike with a delicious lunch at the refuge. My reward for making it. In the distance one could see Mont Blanc.

Hiking down to Chamonix from Plan de l’Aiguille was more challenging, but the views were just as good. I’m not a seasoned hiker, so someone who does hiking would likely find this easier.

Walk, Walk, Walk

Tuileries Gardens in Paris, France. Active boomer
Tuileries Gardens in Paris, France. Photo: J. Chung

I just love to be active when I am on vacation. In Paris, for example, I will walk ALL day. Here’s a typical route:

  • starting in the Latin Quarter
  • crossing the Seine River to the Louvre
  • through the Tuileries gardens
  • down the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe 
  • across the Seine to the left bank towards the Eiffel Tower
  • head east to Luxembourg Gardens
  • back to the Latin Quarter
Velib bicycle sharing in Paris Active Boomer
Velib bicycle sharing in Paris. Photo: J. Chung

Along the way I will stop at a museum, cafe, store, restaurant or park. But everything is on foot….or by bicycle if I rent a Velib. Rarely will I take the Metro. Paris is too beautiful to miss underground. Plus, I’m less guilt-ridden when I indulge in a pastry or an extra glass of wine when I have been “on the move” all day.

Saint Paul Asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence. Photo: J. Chung Active Boomer
Saint Paul Asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence. Photo: J. Chung

Another alternative is to follow the “walking route” that is often promoted by tourist offices. In Saint-Remy-de-Provence, for example, there was the Van Gogh walk which started in town and ended at the Saint Paul de Mausole (Saint Paul Asylum) where he stayed in 1889. Along the way were placards showing famous Vincent Van Gogh paintings. It just made the walk much more interesting. A similar route takes place in Arles. Check out: Arles In The Steps of Van Gogh

Some Other Walking Tours I’ve Taken

Biking

Bicycling in the Dordogne, France Active boomer
Bicycling in the Dordogne, France. Photo: J. Chung

I’ve written previously about biking in France and have done two tours. One thing I’ve learned is that I prefer not biking from 9-4. While we did stop at wineries or for a picnic lunch, arriving in town at 4 pm left little time to explore the town and area.

One just unpacks, takes a shower and then heads down for aperitifs and then dinner. My ideal bike trip would just have me riding in the morning with more time in the afternoon for other activities. You can check out what a bike tour is like in my post: What It’s Like To Take A Bicycle Trip In France

Water Sports

Surfers in Biarritz, France. Active boomer
Surfers in Biarritz, France. Photo: J. Chung

France has water on its three borders: the Mediterranean Ocean in the south, the Atlantic Ocean on the west, and the North Sea to the north. When I was in Biarritz, located in the south west, just south of Bordeaux, there were were hard-core surfers riding the waves. Supposedly Biarritz is known to be the surfing capital of France. If you’re not up to that, there are so many places for great swimming and kayaking.

Kayaking

Kayaking by the Pont du Gard, France Active boomer
Kayaking by the Pont du Gard, France. Photo: J. Chung

When I have been in Provence, I have rented a kayak with friends where we paddled our way down the Gardon river, underneath the Pont du Gard. I could do this activity again and again. Not only is it beautiful, it’s easy! No rapids. Just an easy sail down the river. And you can stop along the way and have a picnic lunch. Post: Paddling A Kayak Under The Pont du Gard.

Are YOU an active boomer?  What do you like to do when you travel?

Check out these other posts where you can be active in France:

Related Posts

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27 Comments

  1. I’m definitely an active bloomer and I just love looking at architecture. I must say, you definitely don’t look your age. Great post.

  2. Janice, you’re amazing! Marathons, too?! (Inferiority complex is setting in now). Although I do agree with you one not thing we having in common: travelling is probably when I’m most active, too. It all boils down to the fact that when you are seeing things that thrill you and keep you curious and looking for more, you don’t even realize you’re walking or getting exercise. So I’ll be taking my ‘fit/fat bit’ with me and proving that on our next trip!

    1. So true about not even realizing you’re exercising. Looking forward to hearing how you did 25,000 steps in Portugal!

  3. Have tried all those (okay just 10km) but I like variety. Little bit of all those activities on a given vacation makes for a great experience. Isn’t that what we truely want?

    What makes doing these activities in France unique is that they always involve wine – Before, During or at the End.

  4. There is always so much walking to be done in Europe and I welcome it! I love the route you outlined in Paris, and would more than likely do a similar one (although perhaps not at your pace). I love biking, too. We did e-biking in Spain and I’d love to do some of that long distance.

    1. Certainly I do stop along the way (anyone for a chocolate croissant or macaron?) so the walk is even more enjoyable!

  5. 42.2 kilometres!!! Wow, I’m super impressed! I really need to ramp up my activity level or at minimum the speed at which I walk. I packed on a few pounds in Italy that are still with me.

  6. Great post on how to stay active while traveling for us boomers! While running is no longer an option for me walking is and I agree walking all day in Paris is a pleasure and a way to keep up with all that eating.

    1. I’m certainly slowing down as I get older and find long runs tough on the body, so biking and walking are also my solution.

  7. I’m very impressed that you’re that active! I tend to the lazy, generally immobile end of the spectrum at home, but when I travel I want to see EVERYTHING, so I walk for hours. I’m always in better shape when I return home than when I start a trip.

  8. You only burn 3,000 calories running a marathon? Now I’m not even sorry I haven’t run one. Walking is a big part of all our travels with the occasional bona fide hike or biking tour. This is probably why as we plan each trip we say, “We better do this while we still can.” 😉

    1. Haha! I look at it this way: what can I NOW eat worth 3000 calories! I totally agree, however, that while we are able to we should travel. Sadly there will come a time when it is too difficult.

  9. My big activity while traveling is walking (and gentle hiking). I’m in awe of your energy. Great tips for active boomers who want to stay in shape while traveling in France.

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