Solo travel is a reoccurring topic within the travel community, yet despite the constant discussions 2019 was the year I finally took the big leap and ticked it off my travel bucket list and personal goals. Having spent so long researching when and where to go I resorted back to basics and after a brisk Skyscanner search opted for Toulouse. I’ll be honest though, France wasn’t my first option, despite my only French experience being Paris in 2014 I decided that it I was ready to experience more French culture and with return tickets from London only £10 there weren’t many other reasons to not go ahead with the trip.
Unlike most trips, I had no concrete itinerary planned but this freeing. Personally, I find part of the beauty within travelling is there are no concrete rules. Your trip can whatever you want it to be. Things may go to plan but it’s also worth being open to experiencing new things that you didn’t exactly plan. For some the fear of being alone may scare them out of solo travelling (it certainly did for me for a few years) but being confident will participate in the guide and experience of feeling relaxed on your trip.
To ease myself into the solo travelling experience, I booked my return for the same day so I was already on a tight time schedule. A key recommendation I’d give is to ensure that you plan your route to and from the airport (for every trip). I purchased a day return for €3.40 from the airport directly into the city via the tram service. The weather was a warm 30 C – which for late march was pretty warm for European standards (also by my very high British standards) so luckily for me, I was able to walk around the city easily.
After a stroll down, random roads I decided it was time to put some of my prior research into use before running out of time. My first visit was to Jardin Japonais (Japan Garden) – notably labelled as ‘remarkable garden’ online forums and travel websites. I was impressed with the architecture and the scenery that was available to me in such an open space. It was refreshing to sit down, relax and yet still be able to move around and explore new architectural points all in one place.
One common theme on my solo trip to Toulouse was my visit to multiple outdoor spaces, particularly due to the weather but also because they provide money-saving opportunities. Parks alongside guided tours are things I always recommend when visiting a new city for the chance to embrace yourself into the culture. Walking between most of my destinations allowed me to take in even more of the French scenery.
Jardin Japonais appealed to me as it offered a variety of different traditional features available all in one spot. The first half of my afternoon was spent here because of how much there was to cover. I was able to take time and relax with my book for a few hours and listen to a podcast. There was also the option to take part in a walking tour.
After a couple of hours relaxing with a book in the Japnese Gardens (and Facetiming friends the scenery) I moved on to my next location but not before grabbing something to eat. I knew I had tourist vibes about me but I’m convinced it was my leather backpack that officially gave it away alongside the typical British snacks that I finished within the first few hours of my trip. I stopped by a local Kebab shop: Delice Capitole and purchased a simple wrap meal for €5. The food was fresh and located in what seemed like a busy part of the city centre, an easy spot while I was on my way to the museum.
As I was raised to never eat on public transport or walk and eat I waited to find somewhere to sit down. Once I was by the entrance to the museum and Garden gates I was approached by a man. At first, it was a very embarrassing battle (more so from my part) as neither of us could understand each other’s native tongue. His hand gestures and basic ability to understand my English led to the mature agreement of him wanting some of my food and curiosity if I had cigarettes (which I didn’t).
My reaction at first was startling. Though with about half of my wrap left I gave it to him. It was a strange warming feeling when I saw how grateful the man appeared to be. Within that moment I remembered my privilege. I knew that this small gesture, which seemed weird to me as someone who could afford another wrap and knew when their next meal was. Travelling never fails to remind me in the simplest form that it is a privilege to be able to roam around the world, at your own comfort.
Jardin des Plantes is Toulouse’s beautiful Botanical garden. I can honestly say it’s a worth visiting for those who like to enjoy nature and a peaceful stroll. As a public park, you’re able to explore for as long as you wish. With the weather on my side but not much time, I spent around 30 minutes walking around the gardens. They’re popular attractions for local joggers and families where you can also take in the views with a daily train and sometimes pony rides!
I took a trip inside [x] which cost €7 euros for an adult ticket. For a Friday afternoon it wasn’t busy so there was plenty of time to walk around peacefully and explore. I managed to pace myself with enough time to take in all the exhibits until closing time.
Overall my experience of Toulouse reinstated some of my love for France with an urge to want to travel back. I previously had only experienced Paris but Toulouse was different. The city was warm, welcoming and culturally exciting. Whether solo or with company, I will be happy either way to continue more adventures.