Get ready for take-off on an eclectic city break in France’s aviation powerhouse
While ‘la Ville Rose’ (the Pink City) may not enjoy the same international status as Paris or evoke the glamour of the French Riviera, Toulouse actually gives both a run for their money in the bucket load. Plus, when we spotted flights from London Stansted on Ryanair for less than a meal out, it seemed rude not to give France’s fourth-largest city a whirl.
Toulouse really does have something for everyone, which made narrowing down a ‘top 10’ list really difficult. However, after careful deliberation, below are my favourite places, attractions and places to eat and drink in Toulouse.
1. Place du Capitole
Instantly recognisable from its pink brickwork, the grandiose Place du Capitole makes for an obvious location to start exploring Toulouse. With its eight rosy marble columns, the square is dominated by the Capitole, named after the 12th century administration of the city and remains as the home of its local government. From just one glimpse of its impressive 135 metre-long neoclassical façade, it is easy to see how Toulouse became the official capital of France’s Languedoc region in the 16th century and has maintained that status under today’s newly-formed Occitanie super region.
I’ve tried to like golf, I really have. Despite evenings spent at the driving range swinging until I am dripping with sweat and it being a hobby with one of the best wardrobes going, I’ve just never been able to grasp its appeal. However, when you throw a cocktail bar, scrummy street food and a fistful of dildos into the mix, then suddenly, I am interested.
After being a success in Liverpool, Ghetto Golf has recently made its Birmingham debut at the Custard Factory in Digbeth and is creating quite the buzz. It was only fair then that my fiancé, one of our close friends and myself met for a post-work game and gossip in this adults-only venue to see what all the fuss was about.
Pristina in Kosovo is a moderately-sized capital city that makes for a great base to explore the wider country. Having said that, it’s worth spending a day or two here to soak up a number of important sites that really help you better understand the unique culture and recent history of Europe’s youngest capital city.
Known as ‘Pristina’ (English), ‘Prishtina’ (from the Albanian ‘Prishtinë’) or ‘Priština’/‘Приштина’ (Serbian); the very fact it goes by several names clearly alludes to it being the largest city in a disputed territory. However, we felt nothing but safe here and were met by warm locals eager to put the past behind them and leave us with fond memories of a city with a bright future.
Staying in the basic-but-fine-for-the-price Hotel Kika, we started our tour of Pristina proper by passing alongside the Brotherhood and Unity monument. A memorial for all fallen fighters and victims of the Second World War, this gigantic concrete clothes peg was inaugurated in 1961 under the authority of Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia, with Kosovo being one of the communist country’s two Socialist Autonomous Provinces.
Making the most of a stay in Albania’s capital city
Although the spectre of communist dictator Enver Hoxha may still loom large over Albania, its capital city is confidently shedding its isolationist past to reveal an exciting destination bursting with culture, cuisine and colour.
From the architectural mashup on display around Skanderbeg Square to the dizzy heights of Mount Dajt, Tirana delights from its centre all the way to the outskirts, with warm welcomes offered throughout from people eager to embrace international guests and proudly showcase the best their country has to offer.
Indeed, Tirana makes for a great city break in its own right or as the starting point for exploring one of Europe’s least-visited countries – yet one which also boasts dramatic scenery, a gorgeous coastline and some truly unique historical sites.
1. Skanderbeg Square
Named after the Albanian nobleman and military commander who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire, Skanderbeg Square’s central location and significance makes it the perfect place to begin exploring Tirana.
Exploring the sights and culture outside the convention venue while in the Belgian capital.
At the heart of Europe, Brussels is a magnet for business and industry conferences, and it was due to such a symposium that I got to visit the Belgian capital myself recently. However, with glimpses of spare time during the day and a few free evenings, I was determined to make the most of my time in the city and see as much as I could when outside the conference centre.
Landing with colleagues at Brussels Airport, getting to the city centre was a breeze, with frequent rail services whizzing visitors to Brussels Central Station in 17 minutes. For those heading further afield, up to 16 trains a day connect the airport to Amsterdam in the Netherlands via Dordrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague.
From close-up animal encounters to the history of Kenyan rail transport, Nairobi offers the perfect taster for the best this African nation has to offer.
I went to Kenya for business, but it was the spirit of its people that will draw me back.
My first trip to Kenya came about as a result of me representing my place of work at the Uniserv UK Education Fair 2017, which took place at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi earlier this year.
There was a great irony in this situation as, while I was discussing with hundreds of prospective Kenyan students all the things they might be able to do for the first time if they choose to study in the UK – attend a Premier League match, take a ride in a black cab or make a snowman – I was experiencing their country for the first time.
On the eastern banks of the River Dniester in Europe lies the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, better known as Transnistria. Although officially still part of Moldova, this breakaway territory has proclaimed its ‘independence’ since 1990. Unquestionably pro-Russian, exploring this separatist state is like taking a walk through the Soviet Union, despite the fact the USSR crumbled in 1991.
The four-car train from Chișinău trundled through the Moldovan countryside as two elderly women chatted near to me and a girl opposite was furiously texting on her mobile phone. At the rear of the carriage, a giant urn was whistling, ready to deposit water in to cups of coffee for two men who were conversing at the snack bar.