What better way to meet people, practice French and explore the scenic nooks around Paris, than joining a walking group? Good exercise, too. You can start with a tourism group in English around the city or, if you want to go solo, head off to clearly marked paths in the many forests around the city, which are mostly accessible by train.

Les Randonneurs d’Ile de Paris (RIF) is the oldest hiking club in town. They organize walks for almost every day of the year, from single-day, weekend or weeklong hikes, and for all levels of difficulty. Their website (www.rifrando.asso.fr) tells all. Or go to 92, rue du Moulin Vert, 75014, Mº Alésia, tel:

The French hiking federation has a site: www.ffrandonnee.fr with a schedule of upcoming big-group hikes, and 700 ideas for personal hiking around France.

A friendly link to choices for possible hikes: www.traildatabase.org/countries/france.html.

IGN, the national geographic institute, is a rich source of inspiration. Come here for maps, guides and books on hiking, biking and climbing in local areas around Paris, plus throughout France and the world, 107 rue Boétie, 75008.

And, of course, one can always go urban hiking - take a walking tour! Peter and Oriel Caine have been conducting education city walks for over 10 years, including one to "Hemingway's Paris". See their website at www.paris-walks.com, email paris@paris-walks.com or tel:

Or try Fat Tire's Classic Walks. English-speaking walking tours of the city, on themes like the Da Vinci Code, Montmartre, the Latin Quarter, the Marais, and World War II. For more info, email: info@ClassicWalksParis.com, or tel:

For gear, go to Au Vieux Campeur, the outfitting mecca of outdoors sporting fiends. Their main store is at 48 rue des Ecoles, 75005, tel: