ambérieu-en-bugey, france: my hometown


By guest blogger Fabien Reynaud.

Even though I left my birthplace some fourteen years ago to move the UK, I wanted to share a little hideaway that is well away from the normal tourist track: Ambérieu-en-Bugey, my hometown.

Ambérieu-en-Bugey is a city located in the department of Ain in eastern France in the French region of Rhône-Alpes. The city lies 50 km northeast of Lyon and 104 km to the west of Geneva in the east, and has a population of approximately 13,000. Its inhabitants are referred to as “Ambarrois” [originaire ou habitant d’Ambérieu-en-Bugey]. Located at the foothills of the Alps, the climate is semi-continental with Mediterranean influences with warm and sunny summers and cold winters. When I was younger, my parents and I used to cross country ski just thirty minutes from home.

An air base was built in Ambérieu during World War II as all-weather temporary field by the United States Army Air Forces XII Engineer Command during late August 1944 after German forces were removed from the area. The airfield was known as Ambérieu Airfield or Advanced Landing Ground Y-5. With the end of the war in Europe in May 1945 the Americans began to withdraw their aircraft and personnel. Control of the airfield was turned over to French authorities later that month.

The city is known for being an important railway junction but also for obtaining “la Croix de Guerre 1939-1945” [the Cross of War decoration] distinction to the liberation. On June 7th, 1944 an operation was organized by railway resistants resulting in the destruction of over fifty enemy locomotives. This action was intended to diminish the enemy’s capacity by reducing the strategic communications of the Nazi army. The city was liberated on September 3rd 1944 by Allied troops landing in Provence.

Some famous people have spent some time in Ambérieu, such as Antoine de Saint Exupéry [my high school was named after him]. He was a writer and a pilot [“Le petit prince”]. In 1912, he spent the summer holidays in Saint Maurice de Rémens near Ambérieu. Fascinated by planes, he often travelled by bicycle to the airfield of Ambérieu.

Several castles and towers on the hills surround the city. Among them are Le château des Allymes [pictured above], one of the most famous, where I remember going for a couple high school field trips, and La Tour de Gy which is very close to my parents’ house. Another, Le château de Saint Germain, is probably the most memorable place for me as my family and I went on top of the hill, to celebrate my grandmother’s 60th birthday in 1986, as we gazed on the countryside below.

Like most of the world, unfortunately the trappings of global consumerism have also hit Ambérieu-en-Bugey. There are now two shopping malls [on a French scale not US scale], a multiplex cinema, and even a Mac Donald’s and a Subway!

Still, Ambérieu is a very nice and quiet place to visit and relax and a great base to explore and discover the surrounding areas. My parents have a nice place with a couple of spare rooms, and a landscape garden to relax in by the swimming pool. Anybody interested to spend few days there? Come and visit! The nearest airport is Lyon Saint Exupery [him again] International airport. If it helps any, there is a beer festival in the town, held every three years. I will be there this year in July. If you are there too, come and say hello!

Fabien is a French expat currently living in the United Kingdom.

Editor’s Note: I would suggest that another famous person from Ambérieu-en-Bugey is Fabien Reynaud. And yes, Fabien, I will join you there one day!