I suppose this would be intended for any of our French members, but anyone who wants to comment, please, don't let me stop you.
What I would like to know is , If I wanted to cross france, on foot, would that work? My intention would be to literally knock on doors and ask for a place to stay for the night. Is that just stupid, or do I have some Merit?
Walking across France on foot: feasible. Has been done before and yes, it will work. Knocking on people's doors to find shelter - that is where it gets tricky. You would need to be quite fluent in French to have a decent chance at it. It would also be a good idea to take a tent. It will be more likely that a farmer allows you to camp on his land for one night with your tent than invite you inside the house. I've travelled by bike in Germany and Italy so I know your problem - but pitching my tent generally was not a problem at all.
Also check out couchsurfing and other hospitality sites, you might find a place to crash there.
Since you are a US-citizen: Be aware that your stay is limited to a maximum of 90 days in the Schengen area of Europe (this includes France, Italy, Spain, Germany and many other countries) unless you hold a residency permit. So you got a maximum of 3 months to walk across France.
Yeah I agree that camping would be better than knocking on doors; people are generally friendly to people they meet round and about, but can you imagine someone knocking on your door and asking if they can stay the night? I think I'd be considering calling the police! It certainly sounds a wicked idea to walk across a country, what a brilliant way of seeing somewhere! I would suggest looking at your route and seeing if you could place yourelf in a village or somewhere with people of a night tho, that way you've more chance of finding somewhere safe to sleep!
Well, that was sort of the plan. Figure out a feasable distance to walk every daya and plan to end in some town at night. So where would you camp? Just knock on a door and ask to stay in their yard or look for some public park/campgound?
Sorry for the late reply, but here it is:
I like to camp wild. This means that I do not look for camping sites, but pitch my tent whenever I am too tired or it gets too dark to go on. Can be any place. If an official camping ground is near, I use that, but if not any decent place will do. It needs to be near bushes or trees to get out of the wind and out of sight so that nobody takes offence of me camping there. I like to pick places that are away from people - the less likely somebody is going to come, the better. A little clean creek or a lake nearby for washing is great, as is being on a small hill in case of heavy rain. It takes a bit of experience, but after a while you get the hang of finding spots to camp wild.
The few instances when I've knocked on doors where when I needed something - like having my (thermos) bottle filled with (boiling) water (for tea) or when I have run into people in a village. When I see locals in mid-afternoon I ask them whether they knew a place where I could set up my tent. They usually try to direct me to official camping sites first. Then I clarify that I only need a patch of grass and ask for a farmer who would not mind. (I've so far only done this in Germany. ) A few times I met very nice people this way, who have let me into their house so that I could wash and use the toilet.
A walking route that is very popular is the Way of St. James from Germany, Italy and France to the grave of St Jacob in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
The downside of walking this route that people who live alongside it are too used to pilgrims. They are seen as a source of income, not as an interesting novelty that you invite into your home for coffee, cake and a chat. If you ask whether they let you sleep in your house and they agree, you'll be expected to pay around 30 EUR for your bed.
On the upsite it is probably the most historical walkway still in use. You can feel connected with history. It is largely car free and facilities are geared towards walkers too.
If you plan to pitch the tent, be aware that there are some legal restrictions. In France, it's forbidden to camp:
-in woods, natural, regional and national parks
-on public roads and streets
-on the seaside
-less than 200 meters from watering place used for human consumption
-on natural protected sites
-less than 500 meters from a protected monument
- everywhere where it's forbidden by local laws
- on private properties without the owner's consent
hope this helps