Ambérieu-en-Bugey is a sleepy commune some fifty kilometres north-east of Lyon. Bound by the Rhône to the south and the Jura to the north, the Bugey is a region steeped in history – and the castles perched on the hilltops around Ambérieu-en-Bugey are no exception. In late November, Olivier spontaneously suggested a walk in the Bugey to see some of the region’s castles and the autumnal colours (which, for the most part, had unfortunately been and gone) and I was only too happy to swap the city for the countryside for a day!
More often than not, the mention of the French Riviera conjures up images of the famous faces of yesteryear sunning themselves in Saint Tropez, the world-renowned Festival de Cannes (Cannes Film Festival) and Mr Moneybags’ playground, Monaco. Glitzy goings-on aside, the Mediterranean coast is home to a wealth of impressive natural landscapes. Stretching from Marseille, France’s second city, to Cassis, a scenic fishing port, the Parc National des Calanques is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline I have ever set eyes on.
Cycling fanatics will know the Col du Grand Colombier from the 2012 Tour de France; for the uninitiated – myself included, prior to this hike – this mountain pass in the southern Jura is a superb visual gateway to the Alps. Spectacular views from the summit await those who are prepared to hike to the summit and have achy legs for days afterwards – or if you’re not quite feeling it, you could always drive your Citroën 2CV to the summit instead.
After a speedy 7-Eleven-style breakfast, we gathered our things and caught the train to Miyajimaguchi. Upon arrival, we motored over to the ferry terminal, arriving just in time to catch the next JR ferry across to Miyajima. We spent the brief journey – which lasted no longer than ten minutes – on deck, snapping away at Miyajima’s photogenic coastline.
At the crack of dawn, we were woken by the all-too-familiar buzz of our alarms. Having packed up our belongings the previous night, we crept out of the dorm and made our way to Matsumoto Station to catch the 06:27 train to Shinano Omachi (¥670; £5.26). A little over an hour later, we hopped off the train and made a beeline for “Alps Roman Kan”, a small shop adjacent to the station which ships bags to the other end of the route for a nominal fee. After filling out some paperwork and labelling our bags, we sped off to catch the 08:00 bus to Ogizawa.
To this day, Kamikōchi, a remote valley in the Northern Japan Alps, remains one of the most scenic places I’ve ever visited. Featuring marshlands, wetlands and dense forest this subalpine valley is nestled amongst some of Japan’s highest and most dramatic peaks. Simply put, Kamikōchi’s stunning landscapes are a photographer’s paradise and a hiker’s heaven.
Lion Rock is by no means the highest peak in Hong Kong, but what it lacks in height it makes up for in stellar views of Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories. Though the humidity had crept above 80% and the scorching sun was well over 30°C, this was one of my favourite days in Hong Kong – and the cheeky rhesus macaques weren’t the only reason why!