Author

Chris O'Brien

  • France’s AccorHotels wants to make it easier to hit the slopes this year without sacrificing luxury with a new concept dubbed “Flying Nest.” The first version of this hotel that uses refurbished shipping containers was introduced this season at the Avoriaz ski station in the Alps. The Flying Nest was created in partnership with Paris-based designer Ora-ïtoand Capsa, a Lyon-based startup that converts old shipping containers. Using old shipping containers as frames, the modules are then fitted with eco-friendly wood and a minimalist design. The containers are 130 square feet, have their own bathrooms, living room, and a bed next…

  • Toulouse’s Cité de l’Espace has reopened today after its winter maintenance as the space-themed park gears up for a year-long celebration of the first human stepping onto the moon. Back in July 1969, the Apollo 11 touched down and Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface. Visitors to Cité de l’Espace can relive that moment while experiencing a range of cultural, scientific, and historic events related to the moon. The celebration includes a mural 20 meters by 4 meters that honors the challenge issued by President John F. Kennedy. A larger exhibition called “Moon, episode II”, will open on April 20,…

  • Train-Ski packages from SNCF-TER are a great deal There is simply no beating the price of the convenience of buying the SKIRAIL package from SNCF-TER. For less than €50, you can get a round-trip train ticket from Toulouse to Ax-les-Thermes which also includes a ski pass for the day. If you want, you can also reserve ski equipment from a partner for a reasonable price. The trip is about 2 hours on the regional TER train. Ax 3 Domaines It’s easy to take this station for granted becasue it’s probably the most accessible from Toulouse. But Ax 3 Domaines is…

  • The snow has returned to the Pyrénées, much to the relief of tourists and the tourist industry alike. And so if you’re looking for quick getaway for the family to play in the white stuff, Val D’Azun is a great place to start. We made the long and windy drive from Toulouse up to the Station Val D’Azun. One passes through the town of Argelès-Gazost in the Hautes-Pyrénées Department before climbing the last few kilometers. But once there, we discovered a sweet, family-oriented station that offers three distinct experiences: Cross-country skiing (or “Nordique”) Snow shoe trails (“Raquettes”) Nordic Park, a…

  • Visitors to Paris can soak up the past. But now they can step into the future. Digital entertainment company Ymagis has opened in Paris the first of what it expects to be a network of virtual reality adventure parks. Dubbed Illucity, the facility offers four different immersive experiences.: Hyper Reality Experience, VR Escape Game, VR Arcade and VR Film. HYPER REALITY EXPERIENCEA team game in a 100m2 space that vibrates and has heat sensors. Games include After Humanity and TOYLAND : Crazy Monkey. VR ESCAPE GAMESeveral players work to solve a puzzle as part of unraveling a mysterious plot.Games include Assassin’s…

  • Tourism is serious business in France. And so this week, the Tourism Office of the Haute-Garonne Department held their annual press conference to explain their strategy for marketing their corner of France and attracting those economically important tourists. In a Department that stretches from the cosmopolitan city of Toulouse to the upper reaches of the Pyrénées, it’s a varied stretch. But seducing those tourists is critical, particularly for those small, independent businesses that produce local delicacies or run lodging of some sort. To that end, this year’s promotional focus will be: The Secret Haute-Garonne. Yes, people know about the big…

  • One of the things we love about Toulouse is how quickly we can escape from the city on the weekend and be in a place that feels remote. Thanks to some friends who organized a hike this weekend, we dashed out to the small village of Montgazin for a wonderful 2-hour walk. Mongazin is a blink-and-you-missed-it town about 45 minutes south of Toulouse. Its main feature is a chuch whose date of origin we couldn’t quite pinpoint. From the church parking lot, we walked straight back on the main local road which led us to a trail. You can see…

  • ‘Thanks to its giant robotic minotaur and spider, La Machine caused a huge sensation in its new hometown of Toulouse back in early November. The 4-day Guardian of the Temple street theater production was followed one week later by the grand opening of La Halle de La Machine, its permanent workshop and menagerie for its fantastic creations. While we knew these were both big hits, now we know how big. As La Halle closed for the holiday season, the group released a statement indicating that 900,000 people witnessed the Guardian spectacle. And the 3-day inauguration drew 70,000 visitors. That included…

  • The rumors and buzz started swirling late last summer in the small French city of Angoulême: Director Wes Anderson would be filming a movie in this town starting in the fall. While there has never been official confirmation from city officials who are apparently swown to secrecy, the director of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” has indeed invaded this town, located about one hour northeast of Bordeaux. Angoulême may not be the first destination tourists think of when coming to France, but I visited several years ago and it’s easy to see how Anderson could have been…

  • With last-minute getaways, sometimes you just get lucky. That was certainly the case for us when we left the Thursday after Christmas for a two-day escape to the Pyrénées. With no firm destination in mind, other than to just be in the mountains and away from work, our frenzied internet searches stumbled upon La Soulan, a gite and restaurant located just up the hill from the town of Boutx. Snow in the Pyrénées during winter vacances can be hit or miss, and this year it was definitely a miss. But instead, we found spectacular food at La Soulan and a…

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