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Walking Europe From Top to Bottom: The Sierra Club Travel Guide to the Grande Randonnee Cing (GR-5) through Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and France

Walking Europe: From Top to Bottom  (The Sierra Club Adventure Travel Guides) - Susanna Margolis, Ginger Harmon A bit of time travel, reading this now. How much has changed with the logistics (especially the planning) of this kind of travel since 1984.Enjoyed the extent that Ginger and Susanna's personalities and friendship came out in the book. It's understated, and not the main thrust of the book, but you do get a sense of them. I was craving cheeses of all kinds, beers and wines that they described along their travels. Enjoyed the little vignettes that happened along the way, and their excitement as they really got into the mountains:"You will note, should you cross the highway anytime between 12:30 and 2:30 pm, when traffic has virtually ceased because all of France is at lunch, that much of France is at lunch along the highway. When it is time for a meal, cars simply pull off to the side of the road. Families pile out of the cars. A card table and chairs are unfolded and set up directly on the roadside behind the car, and linen and flatware are produced. A meal of several courses lasting several hours then follows. All you do is call out "Bon Appetit" to these lunches; you will be thanked, and after a brief conversation during which your story will be much wondered at, you will be wished "Bonne Promenade" or "Bonne Route" or "Bon Courage." Then you will continue walking to Nice while they continue eating." p.168"By the time we were ready to start our walk along the gorge of the Doubs, we had begun to suspect that we were in the throes of discovering one of France's best-kept secrets -- the Jura. So far from being a letdown after the Vosges, as one Vosgien had described it, or a dull, flat plateau, as a Belgian had told us, the Jura was turning out to be a paradise of sharply scented woods, steep-but-not-high hills, secret valleys hugged by corniche cliffs, long valleys with field and meadow floors. It was, to an unusual extent, a water place, with water in every form: the meandering river, pools, streams, cascades. This sort of surprise, we agreed, was one of the reasons the walk across Europe remained an adventure, even while it had become a way of life." p.182"For the megwalker, the Great Crossing of the French Alps along the GR5 is one of the supreme experiences of hiking anywhere on earth. All the cliches of Alpine beauty come dramatically to life in the great spectacle of this high world: the broad plains, the river basins, the sudden hidden valleys, flower-filled meadows, rushing streams, towering peaks, glacial cirques, screen slopes, jagged rock faces -- all of it. It is true that the air is as heady as champagne, that first light turns the ice peaks blue, that sunset makes the world orange-pink and leaves a rosy alpenglow, that nights are jet-black, and that the stars, huge and brilliant, seem very close. It is also true that the cliches of classic mountain hiking come dramatically to life here: the relentlessly steep, sweat-soaked ascents; the equally steep, tip-toeing descents; the delicious taste all food seems to have (although in the Alps, the food often is remarkable); the dog-tired physical weariness at the end of each day; the thrill, nevertheless, of starting out again each morning; the importance of being in shape, equipped, prepared.The megawalker who has followed GR5 from Holland is by this time certainly in excellent shape for the Grande Traversee des Alpes. Still, you are about to spend a long time doing strenuous mountain hiking -- every day -- and this can have its effects. When we began crossing the Alps, our collective walking experience including serious hiking and backpacking in the Sierra, Appalachians, Rockies (of the US and Canada), Himalaya, Scottish peaks, and scattered Alps of Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. The Grande Traversee was like all that walking, only more so. As Ginger wrote in a letter home, "We knock off four to five thousand vertical feet before lunch -- every day." Every day for nearly 30 days: it is a demanding walk." p.198My only disappointment is that they didn't sum up their experience at the end -- how they felt once it was completed, reflections, etc. When they get to the end of the walk, the book ends there. Very enjoyable though.