From Roman ruins, an iconic cathedral, medieval clock tower, and the oldest pub in the country, to Instagrammable brunch spots, chic boutiques and a stunning spa hotel, St Albans makes a great getaway from London.
As I hopped on the train at St Pancras, I couldn’t quite believe it was only 20 minutes by train from Central London to St Albans. It was quicker to head there, than to head across the city to see a friend.
St Albans is a city on the periphery of my childhood… close to where I grew up in Buckinghamshire, but not close enough that we visited regularly. However, on the 13th day of my life I spent a very special evening in its iconic cathedral. My parents took us for midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and my mum recounts a quiet time of prayers, where I decided to ‘vocalise’ my dreams for the future. Apologies to the midnight mass congregation of 1985!
While hard to beat my 13th day on the planet, this trip in my 30s was set to be a special one in a different way. I was heading to the city, not just to experience what it offers visitors, but also to meet a local tourism superstar.
Christo Tofalli is one of just 10 Tourism Superstars, nominated for their incredible contributions to their local communities. I met Christo at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, the oldest pub in England (dating back to 793!) He’s been the landlord for six years and is warm-hearted, passionate and ambitious. He’s taken a run down pub, and reopened it as an inviting spot, retaining all of its historic character. With its incredible heritage, it has the potential to be more than a good pub, it could be one of the best pubs in the country, and with Christo’s determination, I don’t doubt it will be.
He recounted entertaining and endearing stories of purchasing the pub (which was triggered by his brother passing away), the six month process to develop the best sausage and mash recipe from scratch, ghosts in the kitchen and more. He’s also extremely active in the community, and wants to be part of the generation who put St Albans on the map for more than its famous roman roots and cathedral. He even helps produce a local newspaper, which has a circulation of 16,000 people!
His enthusiasm was infectious, and after tucking into one of the most delicious plates of sausage and mash that I’ve ever eaten, I left feeling excited about the future of St Albans.