Top 10 Toulouse

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.

Capitole, Place du Capitole
Capitole, Place du Capitole

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The ‘gayest’ city in the world?

Skopje’s classical makeover may be both controversial and kitsch, but we couldn’t get enough of it!

Imagine if Mariah Carey decided to rebuild Ancient Rome… Thankfully, one doesn’t have to conjure up depictions of glitzy statues and wedding-cake style buildings, as such a place exists and it is called Skopje.

From faux neoclassical façades to willow trees plonked in the middle of the river, every nook and cranny of the city centre is an Instagramable dream.

For us gay travellers, it was Warrior on a Horse that did it.

Warrior on a Horse
Warrior on a Horse

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Pristina, Prishtina, Priština

Exploring Europe’s youngest capital city

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.

Brotherhood and Unity monument
Brotherhood and Unity monument

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt in Pristina

Unmissable attraction and wildlife sanctuary for all of Kosovo’s privately kept brown bears

“We’re lost, aren’t we?”

“Err… no…” I replied nervously to my boyfriend.

Clearly, we were lost, but I’d brought us out here and I didn’t want him to think I didn’t know what I was doing, so I frogmarched us deeper in to the Kosovan countryside.

Delfina petrol station
Delfina petrol station

The bus had dropped us off hastily in front of an abandoned petrol station that appeared to have not served a car in the best part of a decade. Passing peeling yellow paint and creaky metal, I noticed a vague sign pointing to our intended destination – Bear Sanctuary Prishtina.

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The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World

It’s a bit of an Icelandic mouthful, but that’s fine by me

I love a bit of karaoke. My go-to song is Shirley Bassey’s ‘Big Spender’, but anything by the Spice Girls or Roxette will do. Clearly, I’m no singer, but I like to think I can give a good performance.  If truth be told, I think most people are happy to grab the microphone for a sing-a-long after a tipple or two.

Regardless, it was music to my ears (see what I did there) when I heard that Inspired By Iceland have combined two of my favourite things – travel and karaoke – to create what is being billed as ‘The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World’ (I also love a challenge).

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Top 10 Tirana

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.

Tirana International Hotel and National Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Skanderbeg Square
Tirana International Hotel and National Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Skanderbeg Square

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Transnistria: Back in the USSR

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.

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