December 4, 2011

I'm all smiles at this charming restaurant in Nice, France. I'm even MORE thrilled to be spending 2012 in this fabulous country!

I'm all smiles at this charming restaurant in Nice earlier this spring (I was in the south of France visiting a good friend in Villefranche-sur-Mer). I'm even MORE thrilled to be spending 2012 in this fabulous country!

I NEVER tire of seeing the amazing "La Tour Eiffel." This photo always reminds me how important it is to view life from different angles -- and that's EXACTLY what I plan to do in France next year.

I NEVER tire of seeing the amazing "La Tour Eiffel." This photo always reminds me how important it is to view life from different angles -- and that's EXACTLY what I plan to do in France next year.

Those of you who follow this blog know how much I love Europe—and that there’s a super-special place in my heart for France, where I’ve spent many incredible times over the past several years, from the north to the scenic south. FINALLY, I’m getting the chance to actually LIVE there … and I’ll be a mere 40-minute train ride from Paris, my favorite city anywhere in the world!!! The plan is to leave the States soon after Christmas and launch my “new life” in France—JUST in time to ring in the New Year!

Thanks to my very good friend Katherine (aka my “fairy godmother”)—and HER very good friend Hannah who lives near Samois-sur-Seine, a picturesque French village of about 2,000 people—I discovered this most magical place this fall. I’ve decided to take a “sabbatical” of sorts here, finally breaking away from the stress of super-long work hours and daily life here in the States. It is here in Samois-sur-Seine that French artists, writers and poets found sanctuary during the 19th century—and I am convinced that this beautiful setting, with its serenity and charming scenery, will provide endless creative inspiration and offer the perfect “home base” for my writing.  

Ironically enough, I’d already PLANNED to move abroad next year—and after a great visit to Panama City, Panama, with my dad this past spring, I’d decided that Central American metropolis would be my next stop. I’d begun readying my downtown Chicago condo for rental and had jumped back into the frame of mind essential for one planning to ditch the comfort of America for the particular challenges of expat life. But when the opportunity arose to move to Samois, I decided to say OUI! without hesitation, as I’m confident that it’s ALL happening in divine order. While I don’t know exactly WHAT will happen next year in France, I can’t wait to find out. That’s what adventure is all about, isn’t it?

I’m a TOTAL big-city girl, one who loves and thrives off the energy found in the Chicagos, New Yorks and Londons of the world. But I truly can’t wait to settle into this lovely and peaceful village south of Paris, where my living quarters will look out on a lovely garden. I’m not being facetious when I say I believe that this move will be a literal life-saver. I’ve dealt with many stress-related health issues over the years—most stemming from my Type A, workaholic lifestyle here in the States. Having the chance to FINALLY relax, to write, to meditate—not to mention to shop in French fresh markets and boulangeries year-round, and actually having time to COOK what I pick up at these civilized places—will do wonders for my emotional and physical state. I’m convinced that once I get there, I’ll wonder why I didn’t pull up stakes and head back overseas years ago.

I plan to make regular pilgrimages to Shakespeare and Company, a legendary bookstore across from Notre Dame on Paris' Left Bank.

I plan to make regular pilgrimages to Shakespeare and Company, a legendary bookstore across from Notre Dame on Paris' Left Bank.

As you UrbanTravelGirl readers know, this “expat thing” isn’t entirely new to me, as I spent nearly one year living and working as a freelance writer in Florence, Italy, from 2004-05. But thankfully, I’ve learned from the time I spent there—both the good AND the bad—and expect to translate the knowledge I acquired into an even more fruitful experience next year in France. And thanks to technological advances, it’ll be WAY cheaper and easier for me to keep in touch with friends and family and clients back in the States (there was no such thing as Skype during my Italy days, when I routinely spent more than $300 a month on Internet costs alone!). Thanks to excellent low-cost airlines in Europe, I’ll be able to affordably see more of the Continent, even on short trips.

Because I’ll be living in an authentic small village, I’m VERY much looking forward to speaking French every day (although my tutor will tell you I’ve got a long way to go!), eventually becoming a fluent speaker of a language that both fascinates and humbles me with its complexity, beauty and grace. And I’ll be living in a lovely riverside setting that will inspire my creativity. While I’m there, I plan to write about African-American women and their nearly 100-year history in France, beginning with the French embrace of entertainer Josephine Baker back in the 1920s. I’m hoping to share the diverse and fascinating stories of those who call France home today.

This majestic statue, named after the French Republic, is one of my favorites in Paris. It stands in Place de la République, near many of the apartments I've rented during stays in the City of Light.

This majestic statue, named after the French Republic, is one of my favorites in Paris. It stands in Place de la République, a square near many of the apartments I've rented during visits to the city.

I’m ALSO psyched because I’ll finally have time to blog more often—and I’m thrilled that you UrbanTravelGirls will be making the trek to France WITH me! I can’t wait to share musings on what it’s like being a single, 40-something African-American woman in France (and in Europe) during this time of intense global change. Since I’m a Travel and Food writer, I plan to hit the road when I can in search of great places and stories to share with readers back in North America. How are we Americans being perceived—and received—in countries around the globe? What do we as black women experience when we get out and about in this fascinating world of ours? I can’t wait to share it all with you in 2012 as I live out the mocha version of “Eat Pray Love,” “Under the Tuscan Sun,” or whatever other American-chick-moves-abroad-book-turned-flick you like best.

Here’s to a year of fabulous adventures for us all!

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43 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Gwen  |  December 4, 2011 at 12:33 pm


    I’m jealous. Have a wonderful time and experience and continue to keep us updated on your every experience. I know your going to visit my adopted home…. Italy. :>

    Buon natli e felice anno nuevo !!!!

  • 2. Tanya  |  December 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I have been trying, desperately, to move to France or Florence. How did you do it? Will you be working there? Would you be willing to share the details with me about what type of Visa you acquired? I could use your assistance. Thanks. Hopefully, you can see my email address. If not, I’ll send it along.

  • 3. Lisbetta  |  December 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm


    I’m glad this blog is here and that I actually found it.

    I’m heading to the south of France this winter for a short-term educational course. I might end up staying, yet there’s the question of my personal effects–books and furniture and my little cat. What does a woman, 40-ish, pack for an excursion to France in the winter? Enjoy your life in Europe!

  • 4. Monetta  |  December 4, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Nice blog post — it’ll be fun to read about your many adventures in France!!

  • 5. Sharona  |  December 4, 2011 at 3:52 pm


    Even though you’re abandoning your Inner Italian for a bit, I am nothing but thrilled for your upcoming adventure.

    Bon voyage,


  • 6. Marcia Frellick  |  December 4, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I’m so excited for you, Maureen. Soak it all up and tell us about it. –Marcia

  • 7. urbantravelgirl  |  December 4, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Ciao, Gwen — and SI! I promise to keep you guys updated on everything. And don’t worry — will get to my second home in “bella Italia” as often as possible!

    Buon Natale a te,
    Maureen/Marina (in Italy, of course!)

  • 8. urbantravelgirl  |  December 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Ciao, Tanya — and thanks for your e-mail. It looks like I need to write blog posts about the process of moving to places like France and Italy. Long story short, there are lots of ways to do it and they can be very complicated … but none are impossible.

    In Italy, for example, I got a renewable one-year visa allowing me to work as a freelance journalist … but I needed to show everything from bank statements to letters from newspapers and magazines saying how much they would be paying me during my time there. I’m currently waiting to get approval on a special French visa for writers, artists, athletes, etc. (I’ll still be doing freelance Travel and Food writing)– but there are ways to go as a student, as a tourist, as an employee, etc.

    Because the requirements change, I’d suggest you look up the Visa requirements for each country in order to see which case might fit you best. For France, look initially at http://ambafrance-us.org/spip.php?rubrique102 … but you’ll need to apply at the French Consulate nearest where you live.

    For Italy, start with http://www.ambwashingtondc.esteri.it/Ambasciata_Washington/Menu/Informazioni_e_servizi/Visti/ … but the same is true about having to apply through the Italian Consulate in a city nearest where you live.

    GOOD LUCK!! And once you take a look at these, holler if you have specific questions I might be able to answer.

    Ciao for now,

  • 9. urbantravelgirl  |  December 4, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Salut, Lisbetta — and CONGRATS on your short-term stay in the fabulous south of France! In terms of what you should pack, it totally depends on your living quarters, I’d say. I hope you’re staying somewhere furnished, as it doesn’t make sense to ship furniture overseas for a short stay (I don’t really see the point in taking it for a longer stay either unless you’re taking valuable family heirlooms … I’ve found it’s not hard to find decent furnished places in France and Italy).

    In terms of your cat, I don’t know … I love pets but don’t have one, so you’ll want to check to find out about possible quarantine periods for cats from foreign countries. And in terms of clothing, that ALSO depends where in the south you’ll be living. I’d check the Weather Channel and Travel sites like Frommer’s and Fodor’s to find out the average temps for the times you’ll be staying in southern France. It’s a broad region, and weather can vary depending how close you are to the sea.

    GOOD LUCK and have a ball!


  • 10. urbantravelgirl  |  December 4, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    MERCI, Monetta!! I’ll be looking forward to a visit from you and Monsieur David next year … so please start planning your trip!!!


  • 11. urbantravelgirl  |  December 4, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Ciao, Sharona!! OUI, I admit it — I’m cheating on bella Italia, my first love. :-) But CERTAMENTE, I will be visiting Italy as often as I can now that I’ll be a mere train or inexpensive airplane ride away. It’ll be great to spend more time with my Italian friends on the same continent for a change … I can’t wait!! Hope to see you on the other side of the pond, bella!!

    A presto,
    Marina/Marine (my new French name!) :-)

  • 12. urbantravelgirl  |  December 4, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Marcia, MERCI BEAUCOUP!!! I can’t wait to share my tales with you guys … and if you’re over in France any time soon, let me know. Would be great to see you there!


  • 13. Melissa  |  December 4, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Congratulations!! I found your blog when I was looking for first-hand accounts for Black women overseas. I just left Paris and I loved it. So so much. Congratulations again and enjoy every second of it!

  • 14. urbantravelgirl  |  December 4, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    MERCI, Melissa!! Can’t wait to get to France and back to Paris … and like you, I plan to enjoy every second!


  • 15. Delia  |  December 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Maureen — What a great way to spend 2012! I hope your sojourn in France is magnifique!

  • 16. urbantravelgirl  |  December 4, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Merci, Delia!!! I’m looking forward to an amazing time!

  • 17. Lori  |  December 4, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    I am thrilled to have found your blog! I can’t wait to hear about your wonderful adventure. I will live vicariously through your experience! I’ve always wanted to live in Europe but had some concern about the way Blacks are treated. My two week stay in Italy in 2009 was both wonderful and challenging. However, I am determined to continue my travels to Europe—I love France, Italy, and Germany. I will be going to Spain in June 2012 and will share my experience. Who knows…maybe I’ll visit France and get a chance to meet you.
    Safe travels!

  • 18. Nancy  |  December 4, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    So. Where should I send your Christmas card? Plz advize ;) xo me

  • 19. Kelly E. Carter  |  December 5, 2011 at 12:40 am

    Bon soir Mademoiselle!
    I’m so excited for you to begin your new life as Marine! You know I will come and visit as soon as I can afford to do so. I can’t wait to live vicariously through your fascinating adventures. As soon as I get The Jet Set Pets launched and on solid ground, I plan to head back to Italy to write Bellini for One so hopefully we’ll be on European soil together — if I can get my s#$% together!
    Complimenti on beginning 2012 in a new country!


  • 20. urbantravelgirl  |  December 5, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Merci, Mademoiselle Kelly!! Yes, girl — I am TOO psyched … and I will be waiting for you to come over and hang out!! We most definitely must hang out on the Continent again … and keep each other inspired about all our ambitious projects!! Can’t wait to read “Bellini for One” — we need to make sure you and Lucy get back to Italy so you can get that fabulous book done!

    Looking forward to meeting up on the other side of the pond!


  • 21. Ayana  |  December 5, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Congrats! I am also looking forward to the day I will follow in your path.

  • 22. Sarah Dee  |  December 5, 2011 at 3:18 am

    OH MY GOODNESS! I cannot wait! !! !!

    Once I graduate from college (this weekend) it is a dream of mine to live and work abroad! I want to help companies in foreign marketing research. Anyways I know that its going to take a lot of work for me to get where you are. So I’m going to be living this through you!

    I am so looking forward to this. I’ve always been curious about the environment of France for African American women. I’ve heard so many different angles. But from reading your blog for about a year now, I kind of have a feel for your personality and outlook on things. So I’ll be able to get an even better understanding! Yes!

    And I’m glad that you specifically said “African American” women instead of “African” women because I hear that both are treated differently.

    SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!! ::exits doing my happy dance::

  • 23. Oneika the Traveller  |  December 5, 2011 at 6:40 am

    Hurrah! I lived in France for two years and loved it, and actually think I’ll be spending next summer in Paris! I’m a black female from Canada who is currently living in London, UK. Have been following your blog for a looooooong time. ;-) Hopefully we can catch up sometime in Paris!!


  • 24. Maureen  |  December 5, 2011 at 7:29 am


    This is so wonderful!! I’m so excited for you…and can’t wait to hear all about your new life! Let me know when you’re planning a trip up to Brussels and we can get together!

    Maureen :o)

  • 25. Andrea  |  December 5, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    You are a woman after my own heart, :). I hope you have an amazing time. I just turned 42 yesterday, and have many of the same plans as you do. Perhaps one day soon we can swap stories at a nearby cafe…

    Safe travels,


  • 26. urbantravelgirl  |  December 5, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    MERCI, Ayana, Andrea and Sarah Dee (I LOVE it — a “happy dance!!”).

    I hope to keep inspiring you ladies through this blog next year … and here’s to ALL of us meeting up in a cafe’ in Paris someday (a la Andrea’s suggestion!)!


  • 27. Donna  |  December 5, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Congrats on your upcoming move! Of course I am envious of you but cannot wait to read about your adventures.

  • 28. Lisbetta  |  December 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks ever so much for the helpful tidbits on travel, packing, and my cat. For a short-term stay, I’m renting a furnished place–really does not cost much, but it’s only a low price due to this course and the off-seaason. After one week, the cost will go back up, no doubt. I’m glad that you are happy with this move–that really comes across in this blog. Though some women might oppose me, I think that many parts of Europe are good places for women of color.

  • 29. urbantravelgirl  |  December 5, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Salut, Lisbetta — e DE RIEN for the thoughts on your upcoming trip to the south of France! Great that you’ve already got a furnished place lined up.

    OUI!! I am TOTALLY psyched about my France move — and hope to encourage and inspire those of you reading UrbanTravelGirl. I agree that MANY parts of Europe — and elsewhere in the world — are great places for women of color. We just have to think outside the box and follow our bliss, wherever on the planet that takes us!

    Bon voyage,

  • 30. Urbana Junkie  |  December 6, 2011 at 1:48 am

    Looking forward to hearing the insightful stories about your new experiences in France!

  • 31. foodfashionandflow  |  December 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Wow! That sounds so amazing and exciting. I hope you have an amazing time and I am looking forward to hearing about all of your adventures!

  • 32. Karen  |  December 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Salut! Mon Ami

    Carol and I were just chatting today wondering when you’d be leaving us for your beloved Europe. And so now we know. Enjoy your adventure (not that I need to tell you that) and think of us often. I’ll see you over there next year.


  • 33. Maritza  |  December 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Lil-Mo: Mucha suerte, Chula en tu nuevo pais y que disfrutes. Tambien, te deseo un prospero ano nuevo y muchos abrazos! ;-)

  • 34. Gina  |  December 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I’m so excited to be able to read posts from you more often. Yours was one of the first blogs I read when I first began planning my “escape”…I’m heading to Rome on Jan 28…but if I make it to France would love to meet you :-)

  • 35. Maria  |  December 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    I am happy & excited for you. I too love France. I visited a couple of years ago and it’s definitely on my list of places to visit again. I love your sabbatical idea. Continued blessings to you. Looking forward to your posts from France!

  • 36. urbantravelgirl  |  December 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you, ladies, for your CONGRATS and well wishes!! Can’t wait to get to France and start sharing my adventures with you all!!

    And PLEASE let me know when/if you guys are heading to Paris and/or France. If I can, I’d love to try and meet you in person. That’s one of the fabulous things about writing blogs and meeting great people in cyberspace … actually getting a chance to get together in person!


  • 37. urbantravelgirl  |  December 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Maritza, MUCHAS GRACIAS para tu e-mail!! ¡Feliz navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo a te!!

    Un gran abrazo,

  • 38. urbantravelgirl  |  December 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Ciao, Karen — looking forward to catching up with and Carol later this month!! And OUI — hope we all can do another European rendezvous but this time in France!!


  • 39. family vacation ideas  |  December 12, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Finally a person that puts some real work into a blog. I do like what you have done with the blog.
    my blog is family vacation ideas.

  • 40. Zahra Alabanza  |  December 13, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Adventure on. Can not wait to read your updates. They will truly be a pleasure to read!

    Please check out The Women of Color Travel Project at http://www.womenofcolortravelstories.com. You should consider submitting a writing about your travels. Inspire us all with what you have to share.

    BeWell and safe,

  • 41. This Time Now  |  December 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Congratulations! I’m moving back to Paris next month! I hope that we can meet up some time. I’ll be on the Right Bank, love! I look forward to reading your posts about Samois. I don’t think I’ve ever been there. So happy for you!!!

    Ciao Bella and see you across the great pond!

  • 42. Vincenzo Naccarato&hellip  |  January 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Vincenzo Naccarato…

    Really enjoyed this article post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great….

  • 43. SG  |  January 28, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Hi, I am travelling to Paris in a few weeks for vacay. So glad I came across this blog. Can’t wait to check out Shakespeare and Company. By the way, do you have any other suggestions for bookstores and must-see cultural spots in Paris? I am still researching for the trip. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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