On the GR-3 along the Loire River, France, 2007.
Tips on Planning a Route
When I was planning my six-week 2007 walk, I began looking for information about the various places along the route. Sometimes I came upon information like this, outlining a trail in paragraph form: Orléans, La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin, Saint-Ay, Meung-sur-Loire, Beaugency, Tavers (hors), Lestiou, Avaray, Muides-sur-Loire, Seuvres, Saint-Dye-sur-Loire, Chambord, La Chaussee-le-Compte, Cellettes, Saint-Gervais-la-Fôret, Blois, Chailles, Candé-sur-Beuvron, Chaumont-sur-Loire, Rilly-sur-Loire, Souvigny-de-Touraine, Amboise, Lussault-sur-Loire, Montlouis-sur-Loire, Vouvray, Roche-Corbon, Tours.
That may be a tasty mouthful of French, but it soon becomes a bewildering mess if you try to find information about any of these waypoints. It’s tough to keep track of where you are in the list, and even harder to check back to see if one of these points is being referenced elsewhere.
You can assemble a sequential list using trail guides and maps. It’s useful for studying the distances and visualizing the topography between points. You can trace the route on a small-scale map, and leave the list with your friends so they can follow your progress. But it’s only one way to look at this information, as you’ll see below.
First, a couple of notes –
One of the villages is marked ‘hors’, which in French means “outside of”, in this case off the trail – usually within 5 kilometers (3 miles). This is common notation in the FFRP Topoguides, which often list villages ‘hors GR’.
The word sur in some of the names means “on”, as in “on the River Loire”. This is a common naming convention in France that’s worth noting. There may be two villages with the same name in totally different parts of the country, but only one of them will be “-sur-SomeParticularRiver“.
A general convention is to hyphenate the name of a village, except a leading La or Le, which means “The”. For example the famous medieval gathering place for the Saint James Way is Le Puy-en-Velay. For the most part, search engines like Google don’t care whether you hyphenate or not.
Many towns are named after a patron Saint (male), or Sainte (female). Both officially and unofficially these might be shortened to St-, or Ste-. This is significant for research, since a computer search or alphabetical sort treats these as very different words. On Longwalking we generally use the full word.
The French language uses three different accents, such as é, è, and ô. Although we use them here (whenever we remember, and we try…), generally you don’t need to worry about typing them into a search engine.
Take 2 ~ Let’s Sort This Out
Here is the same list, structured as a table. It’s the sequence of villages and towns along the Loire River section of the trail from Paris to Bordeaux that I walked in 2007. On the left-hand side, the villages are listed sequentially in “trail order” (Orléans was the 21st town from Paris). On the right-hand side, the same list has been sorted alphabetically, and displayed with its corresponding sequence number. Note – some of the places are on route variants.
Paris to Bordeaux – Sequential list of stages (etapes)
Immediately, there’s a sense of order. With the alphabetical list, it’s much easier to systematically search for lodging and other resources. Many search engines, for example, have their pull-down lists sorted this way. You can plug the names into search engines, and scan book indexes much quicker and with less error. It’s easy to create a list like this using spreadsheet programs like Google Docs, Microsoft Excel, or Mac iWorks Numbers. Enter the names, one per row in a column, and then sort.
You can also add other useful columns to your table, such as the trail sequence number, region, departement, postal code, distance from last village, and codes like R for ‘Restaurant’, or F for ‘Food’ – whatever information you wish to gather. We’ll be posting trail lists in the future, so be sure to subscribe to get news on these updates. Good luck with your research, and if you uncover a particularly cool resource in any of these places, please let us know.