Archives – January, 2009

"Obama: Savior of the world… and America?"

“Obama: Savior of the world… and America?” So read the translation from a recent front-page story on a French publication during my time in Paris, the second half of my solo 40th birthday adventure.

This headline may be taking the “hope” message to an extreme, but what a wonderful time to be an American abroad again.

And what a great time to be an AFRICAN-AMERICAN out in the world.

Since the election of Barack Obama, who’ll be the United States’ first president of acknowledged African descent, folks all over the globe certainly see America in a brand-new light. FINALLY, by electing this black man, we lived up to the platitudes and ideals the nation had been claiming for more than 200 years.

Continue 11 Comments January 14, 2009

Ringing in my fourth decade in (French) style

I don’t usually get hyped up about birthdays, but it’s not everyday you turn 40. And since I’ll take any excuse to take a foreign trip, I wanted to ring in this Jan. 4 somewhere abroad. Of course, I love Italy to death, am newly fascinated with Greece after stopping there twice with my mom during a 12-day cruise in November… but somehow, my mind kept drifting back to France. Paris is my all-time favorite city, but I felt like I needed to kick off this new year somewhere new. Different, yet romantic and ideally, Mediterranean.

Those who know me well realize that while I enjoy traveling with family members and friends, I’m equally fond of setting off on my own. And from the start, this 40th birthday getaway felt like one I needed to take alone. I’m thrilled about turning 40 (even though I must admit, it feels strange to type out the number!), and see the start of my fourth decade as a great time for introspection. It’s probably my last best chance to figure out who and what I want to be when I grow up. Do-overs have pretty much run out at this point, so I thought two weeks in a gorgeous place surrounded by folks who’ve long ago mastered that whole “work-life balance” thing was just what the doctor ordered.

Continue 6 Comments January 6, 2009

The kindness of (Italian) strangers

My French speaking skills pretty much suck, so rather than feeling like the village idiot, I decided to take the 40-minute train from charming Villefranche to Ventimiglia, the first town over the border in Italy. While I won’t be winning any prizes for my knowledge of Italian, I sound like a genius in italiano compared to the moron I sound like in français (multiple classes notwithstanding). So off I went to the train station, armed with my Berlitz Italian Phrase Book & Dictionary just in case all my “questi” and “quelli” got stuck in translation.

Ahhh… what a delight to stroll into a city where things felt familiar! Granted, I’d never been to Ventimiglia, but how thrilling to see signs for a salumeria and a gelateria – and actually be able to intelligently ask for my purchase! And, of course, my Italian brothers never let me down… they’re always good for an admiring glance or two and a couple whistles for a single “signorina!” (I made sure to change into my “cute shoes” before I boarded the train for Italy – I know those so-called little things make a big difference in bella Italia.)

Continue 21 Comments January 3, 2009

Serendipity on a French afternoon

So I had planned to take a 9:36 am train to the gritty, rough-and-tumble Provencal town of Marseille …but being myself, I could hardly drag myself out of the bed this morning. So after rolling back over, finally waking at 11:30 and getting myself dressed, I traipsed down the lovely Rue de May steps (I’m renting an apartment in a pedestrian-only part of Villefranche-sur-Mer) to find a restaurant or brasserie still open before the mid-afternoon closing.

I settled on a place I’d dined before – the almost-waterfront Le Cosmo Restaurant – and decided to nosh outside since the afternoon sun was so warm. (Besides, the waiter was gorgeous in that gaunt Gallic way, tall and slender!) I found a great table with a view of the Mediterranean harbor, and locked eyes with a good-looking, dressed-in-black Frenchman at the next table.

Continue 5 Comments January 3, 2009

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