Fighting cows, stunning views, and huge wedges of homemade cake make this homely alp herdsman's dairy farm turned walkers refuge unmissable. Nestling 2000m up on summer alpine pastures above the Rhone on the Tour de Mont Blanc, Bovine route, the refuge offers great meals, giant bowls of hot chocolate or coffee, and those cakes. You can even stay in the simple dortoir accomodation if the walk up was all too much. Swiss Valais fighting cows are the serious celebities here with pride of place for the Reine des Reines champion adorned with a huge traditional cow bell and giant floral headress. The heats of this sumo style pushing contest are on the alps, with the final down in Martigny in the valley. Photos of past champions adorn the farmhouse kitchen, and the young pretenders are in the fields.
Alpage de Bovine, on the Tour de Mont Blanc Bovine route between Champex and Col de Forclaz. Good public transport to either end, then a couple of hours walk.
ALPAGE DE BOVINE
Buvette et petite restauration + dortoir, ouvert de mai à octobre. Renseignements Gérard Rouiller
La Fontaine CH 1921 MARTIGNY-COMBE
Tél mobile de mi-mai à mi-septembre : 079/894.31.21
E-mail : email@example.com
Google map: tinyurl.com/ycuhcaw
A really warm welcome in a well preserved, attractive and unspoilt village inn with a roaring fire, good selection of beers including an excellent Black Sheep, and filling meals at fair prices. Good anytime, but well earned bliss if youve just staggered round the three Yorkshire Peaks in under the twelve hours allowed for the 26 mile romp. The worrying tale at the bar is that the fastest fell runner came in at two hours 20 something minutes, but you should feel good just if you made it.
By the bridge in Horton in Ribbledale, and close enough to the station to get you there and back, and on the Pennine Way
For stunning landscapes of the grandest scale, endless horizons and cobalt skies with racing white clouds, head south through Patagonia on Ruta 40. Cross the vast pampas and steppe staying at occasional welcoming and good value estancias serving succulent Patagonian lamb asado style, and corn free beef, washed down with fine local wine. In the north there are beautiful lakes rivers and forests, even hillsides covered in primeval monkey puzzles, whilst down south are huge creaking glaciers, and vast milky blue lakes. And always just to the west are the snowcapped peaks of the Andes cordillera and its huge icefields. Tread in the footprints of dinosaurs, spot flamingos and condors, hike, boat, ride, fish or climb, and keep heading south to the parks mountains and sea channels of the end of the world and the land of fires.
From Jujuy in the North to the Magellan Straits where it joins Ruta 3 to Ushuaia. El Chalten, and El Calafate in the centre are great bases to explore from, but its the open road thats best.
Greenest City in the UK (maybe the world!),one third in the Peak District, Sheffield has a stunning array of parks allowing the countryside to reach deep into the urban area. Many are the historic legacy of its industrial fathers and benefactors, some lovingly restored by the City and many friends groups. Amongst the historic best are Abbeyfield, Norfolk Heritage Park, Weston Park, and with its restored Paxton pavillions the beautiful and intimate Botannical Gardens. More esoteric, theres the General Cemetary, and for the C21st Devonshire Green and the forthcoming Sheaf Valley Park between Park Hill and Station.
all over Sheffields hills and valleys
A great oasis in the busy and fascinating medina, roof terrace with views over Bou Inania, great selection of snacks, meals, teas and coffees, cakes, and excellent lamb patties etc. Cheerful young local staff and an enthusiastic English patron. Restored courtyard house up a tiny alley by the waterclock, close to Bab Bou Jeloud Gate. Given the lack of eating places to occupy the gap between very cheap traditional cafes, and upmarket gourmet restaurants, this is a very welcome place any time of day. But the best thing is that the owner is determined to run a rare local cultural programme of arts and music with something on several evenings a week. And then there are the camel burgers, fresh from the camel butcher over the street...
off Tala Kebira under the water clock opposite the Bou Inania Medersa(a must visit)
The best scheduled scenic train journey in Yorkshire, and probably England, is the Settle-Carlisle route over the massive but elegant Ribble Viaduct. Setting off from Leeds, the gritty mill towns unfold as the hills rise up, a prelude to the drama of Yorkshires Three Peaks and the panoramic views that motorists, and even walkers, never get. Ingleborough, Pen-y-ghent and finally the very flanks of Great Whernside fill the windows, making an assault on one of them almost irresistable followed by a yorkshire pint at a village pub, perhaps the welcoming Crown at Horton.
Ribblehead, Northern rail on the Leeds Carlisle line, Horton-in-Ribblesdale or Ribblehead for a walk
For fantastic views and a slice of Sri Lankan life pick up some provisions at bustling Pettah Market, cross the road, brave the crowds at Colombo Fort Station, and for less than a pound rattle your way down the west coast to Galle or beyond. A stream of temples, houses, workshops show life behind the roads, and the line soon settles into its place between fine beaches creeks and bays, and the fields and forests of the coastal hills. Theres a rickety fan for air conditioning, and people sit in the open doorways reading a paper or gazing at the scene. A trolley and sellers pass up and down the aisle. You can join the train at many of the seaside resorts on route, to finally reach Galle. Straight outside the station here, nestling between dutch fort and the lapping Indian Ocean is the worlds most beautiful test cricket ground and a host of fine buildings to explore. Beautiful bays with bright small boats and stilt fishermen surround the town. And if this journey has tempted you, there are more trains and mountain views if you head for Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, or even up to Dambulla and finally Trincomalee on the distant east coast with its fine open bay and harbour. If crickets your thing you can reach nearly all of Sri Lankas test grounds and experience a riot of enthusiastic and friendly supporters.
Colombo Fort Station in the historic core of the City, Galle Fort Station right by the cricket ground.
Info at 'seat61'
Get a different perspective on this enigmatic, colourful country and its charming people with a train journey from Hanoi, perhaps to Dong Hoi, Danang, or even for those with stamina, the 1000 miles to Ho Chi Minh City. This is a great chance to talk to local travellers, have a drink with your carriage guard,and reflect on the passing rural scene.
The name Reunification Express is about as dated as the train itself, as most people in this vibrant country are younger than the unified state. Only the 'express' bit remains purely a longer term ambition with a possible Shinkansen style train designed by Japanese rail engineers.
Right from the experience of trying to buy a ticket as a foreigner to the moment you get off, this is a true journey. You'll be bombarded by sellers, so won't be short of food or drink, but you might like to take a few blue cheese baguettes and a bottle of wine from a stall in Hanoi if you think you'll tire of rice, beer and fruit.
Buy the soft sleeper for overnights for some comfort, and expect to share with a local or soldier if you are less than four. Let life unfold at a leisurely pace for a day or two, and avoid the typical, could be anywhere airport frustrations.
Hanoi Station, monument to the French past.
Lots of info at seat61,
At the end of a tiny dead end lane in the very heart of the Medina, and looking distinctly unpromising with its collapsing and propped up buildings, is this painstakingly restored small and fabulous riad. With just three rooms available, the owners have lovingly brought every historic piece of timber, plaster and zelij tiling back to its original best. The house is intimate and beautifully furnished with an eclectic and stylish mix of period and contemporary pieces, bird cages, and fabrics including objects from Vietnam, Europe and elsewhere. the terrace looks out over the Medina and hills and is ideal to relax. The home made breakfast preserves, pancakes, juices and range of teas are the passion of the owners, as is the cooking if you have dinner in. The staff and Stephen and Bruno are helpful in the extreme, and will give you lots of honest advice on surviving and enjoying Fes. Rooms E100 to E200 with taxis to airport and that fantastic breakfast.
9 Djerb Lamsside, Souiket Ben Safi, Fes Medina
A small sugar cane town just off the Bay of Pigs that was Castro's HQ for repelling the three-day invasion. The cane factory is in ruins apart from a small museum but the old rail sheds host a motley collection of decaying steam engines from its heyday, with slight signs of restoration and a helpful guardian who will let you in. Other than that it's the easiest way to visit Australia in the northern hemisphere. Now the town is surrounded by orchards and a huge juice factory.
North of Giron close to the Cienfuegos-Havana road. Station closed
An amazing crystal clear natural pool over 70m deep about 200m back from the beach and connected underground by passages. This geological oddity, a flooded cave with its roof collapsed, is as the name suggests full of colourful fish and good for subaqua exploration, or just a dip and a drink or plate of crocodile at the cafe nearby.
Bay of Pigs, coast road about 12km west of Giron, Varadero.
Camaguey was relocated in the C16th and its maze-like street pattern designed to completely confuse (pirate) attackers. The best way to see the beautiful neo-classical squares, buildings, markets and churches is therefore to let one of the many bicytaxis pedal you round at a leisurely pace, letting you off to wander (not too far) before getting back on for the next place of interest. Theres lots to see, good museums and fine courtyard eating places to recharge accompanied by an unassuming local musician or three. Theres plenty of evidence of hurricane damage in the area and it will be a daunting task to repair so many fine old buildings many of which gently crumble. My favourite was the small square, Plazuela de la Bedoya, with simple houses and the fine Iglesia del Carmen, and some striking community art bronze sculptures of local people going about their daily lives. Pushing a cart, sitting reading the paper, or chatting on benches, if youre in luck the proud locals who modelled for the works will appear and talk about their very own sculptures with a huge smile. Not so much on the tourist map but a fine city worth a diversion.
In Central Cuba, between Bayamo and Santiago. Bicytaxis congregate in Plaza de los Trabajadores
For stunning free views of Shinjuku's ultra modern business district, and most of Tokyo, head to the high speed lifts that whisk you up either of the two 240m towers of this cathedral like government building by architect Kenzo Tange (Olympic gymnasium, Fuji TV centre, catholic cathedral,and further afield, Hiroshima peace park museum) Best place to see the sun set, and marvel at the extravagance of this 157 billion yen City Hall. While in the area explore Shinjuku metro, the worlds busiest station, and the teeming bar district. For a little solitude visit Hanazono shrine or the beautiful central park, imperial gardens or nearby iris filled Meiji Jingu gardens and shrine.
Just west of JR Shinkuku, follow a subway if you can but when lost surface and head into the skyscrapers.
For such an urban country, Japan's many mountain ranges remain unspoilt and relatively unknown other than to numerous enthusiastic and fit Japanese walkers of all ages. The North Alps are as good as the European ones and once away from the busy valley entrance lodges, exhilaratingly empty, and stunningly scenic. A network of dozens of simple traditional mountain huts provide ridge-top overnight accommodation in dormitories which are decidedly cosy for taller people and a welcome evening meal of meat, fresh vegetables, rice, and mizo soup. Enormous bento box lunches see you through the days. With snow on the peaks much of the year, the summer season is quite short but the ridges are covered with alpine flowers, miniature love lies bleeding, stunted birch, pine and rhodedendron woods, and marmots. Autumn colours come early. Numerous trails are signed and there are plenty of routes for a few days to a couple of weeks. The Kamikochi Valley is a good place to start with afew hours walk up to many peaks at around 3000m. Booking accomodation which in summer is necessary will be easier if you speak Japanese or have a friend who does. Water is scarce high up, so treat yourself in a hotel with onsen baths when you descend.
Central North Honshu, a half days drive north of Kanazawa.
Unassumingly tucked behind its traditional street wall, this beautiful historic ryokan in the heart of Kyoto offers calm and seclusion with exquisite personal service. A younger and much cheaper relative of the famous Hiiragiya frequented by Charlie Chaplin and Elizabeth Taylor, the Bekkan welcomes you to airy wooden rooms with floor to ceiling sliding glazed screens and bamboo shutters overlooking the small ornate gardens. Green tea and red bean pastries are ceremoniously taken on arrival, followed by donning yukata for an appointment in the private onsen baths before a 12 course dinner is served on tatami mats in your room. Finally your futon bed is unrolled and the staff glide backwards out of the room for a peaceful night in this vibrant city of opposites. In the morning breakfast arrives and the futons disappear while you are in the bathroom. Around 20000 yen with meals, and worth more.
Close to City Hall and Teramachi shops. Within walking distance or a bus most of the hundreds of places to visit. www.hiiragiya.com/index-e.html
In the very centre of this fascinating and beautiful city of gardens, temples, shrines,markets, traditional geisha districts complete with public hot spring baths, and great food, is this stunning modern transparent art gallery. Designed by Japanese architects SANAA, it forms a huge circle of glass so that it irresistably draws you in and when inside blends with the world outside. The building and the enthusiasm of locals including hordes of school children and students makes a visit worthwhile and inside are subterranean and courtyard galleries full of visiting and permanent exhibitions of the highest order and diversity. Fascination is added by a swimming pool by Leandro Erlich which questions what you can see by having people walking under the water and a James Turrell room to gaze at the sky. The grounds around host sculptural works that add to the fun and surprises and the cafe serves immaculate food.
Centre of Kanazawa by the town hall. info at www.kanazawa21.jp/en/index.html
The most succulent Patagonian lamb grilled to perfection asada style, or huge tasty steaks. The pampas-reared animals taste a world away from northern hemisphere fattened stock. This is a stylish large modern restaurant with expert staff full of banter to guide you through the menu. You may need to book.
28 Coronel Rosales, by the river at east end of the main street, Ave del Liberador.
If you've got some time to spare between excursions in this trendy tourist boom town, and don't fancy the huge new casino, a walk down to the nature reserve on the shore of the immense milky blue Lago Argentino is well worthwhile.
There are hawks skimming the reed tops, flamingos, all sorts of ducks and waders, geese and other water fowl. It's run by a small volunteer group and welcomes visitors as it holds out against the enveloping town. On the way back have a delicious local 'calafate' berry ice cream on the main street for a perfect afternoon.
North of Ave del Liberador on 9 Julio, and over the river to the lakeside
Under its dazzling coloured tiled roof and ironwork is a huge array of specialty foods and preserves, liqueurs, caviar, berry jams, and some tourist tat. Wander round the many stalls, and if nothing else, at least buy a colourful string or two of chillies to take home. Take a little care of your possessions, but get stuck in.
Vamhaz korut, right by the river across the green Szabadsag Bridge from Gellert
A tiny cosy traditional patisserie and coffee shop on Buda hill in the castle close to the exuberant neo-gothic Mathias church. After a walk round the Royal Palace or the cobbled streets and quirky aristocrats' houses, indulge in a cherry brandy chocolate and cream coffee, with raspberry torte, and drift back a century or two. Especially nice in winter, and more chance of getting a table.
Szentharomsag Uta, opposite St Mathius church.
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org