For the past couple days, I’ve been listening nonstop to one of the soundtracks of my childhood: straight-up, good old-fashioned African-American gospel music. And for that, I can thank Sister Whitney Houston, whose Newark, N.J., funeral at the New Hope Baptist Church was broadcast live around the world on Saturday, giving fans like me who never knew her a chance to say farewell in the way that we black folks do. In a “homegoing service,” one that focuses on the heavenly destination of the person being celebrated.
So sitting here on the other side of the world, in a quiet French village far, far away from the urban center that is Newark, I watched Whitney’s funeral on CNN.com and “had church” right here, all by myself. Such is the power of modern Internet technology—and the far more enduring power of gospel music and the Christian source from which it flows ….
Continue February 20, 2012
When you decide to pull up stakes and leave your home country for a much different and far more challenging life on the other side of the world, you’ve already convinced yourself that the move is a good one. So once you arrive at your destination and start settling into your new routine, you’re psyched. Every errand—whether to pick up a few items at the grocery store, drop off a sweater at the dry cleaners, or pop into the boulangerie for a crusty baguette—is loaded with the excitement of a 3rd grade field trip. (Remember how jazzed we used to get about THOSE?)
Such is the “grande aventure” of moving abroad. And I’m officially residing in the “honeymoon phase” of my journey, when everything is new and different and COOL ….
Continue January 22, 2012
So I’m headed to France in a little over one week, and am alternately super-psyched, nervous, thrilled, stressed to the max, giddy with excitement, and worried. While part of me cannot WAIT to board that Iberia flight headed for Europe, my evil twin fears that I’ll spend all those trans-Atlantic hours obsessing about … STUFF.
Will my limited French-speaking skills make me feel (literally) like the “village idiot” when I get to Samois-sur-Seine, the picturesque place south of Paris where I’ll be living? Will I find enough freelance writing and consulting work to keep me challenged—but not so much that I end up overstretched and fall back into my workaholic ways? Will I finally meet a decent man who is what he claims to be—or will the language gap (and his sure-to-be-charming French ways and accent) make it that much tougher to figure it out?
When you decide to pull up stakes and move by yourself to the other side of the world, the tasks you need to handle before leaving home are LEGION….
Continue December 20, 2011
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 ….
Continue December 4, 2011
¡Hola, salut et ciao, UrbanTravelGirls!!! Lo siento, je suis desolé, et mi dispiace–in short, my apologies for having gone off the grid for awhile. My freelance consulting and writing has kept me très busy the past several months, but I promise that I’m back, ready to inspire my chicas to experience the world and let it experience THEM!!
Since I last wrote, I’ve had incredible experiences in Panama City, Panama, and am counting on loads more of overseas trips in the near future. (More on that later!) But I’ve also been living vicariously through the adventures some of YOU ladies have been having this summer… which leads me to this post. None of us is an island—and neither should we be, even when we love hitting the road solo (as you know I do). It’s one thing to visit a city or country on your own, but quite refreshing to see it through the eyes of those who live there. And even if you don’t happen to know anyone in Amsterdam or Hong Kong or Cape Town, chances are someone that you know DOES. That’s why it’s a great idea to find out in advance if folks you know have any local connections in the place you’re heading….
Continue October 16, 2011
I like to think of vacations—especially those that take me abroad—as more than a chance to check out new museums, sleep late, and struggle through whatever language is spoken in the country I’ve chosen to visit. Rather, I see them as fundamental to helping me work through “life issues” I’m wrestling with at the time.
I like to spend the hours on long overseas flights—whether to South America or someplace in Europe—in the company of my trusty, well-worn journals. I absolutely cherish the time spent hurtling through the sky at hundreds of miles an hour. FINALLY—I’m not under pressure to immediately return e-mails or answer a mobile phone call I’d rather not take, anyway. So instead of mindlessly wasting time on some second-rate film, I pontificate. About WHO I want to be when I grow up. WHERE I want to live. And WHAT I want to do when I get there.
Then, once I arrive at my destination, I make it a point to spend at least SOME of my “holiday time” contemplating ME….
Continue May 1, 2011
For some international travelers, NOTHING compares to the moment of arrival, when they touch down in a new place and are ready to check out the scene. Others love arriving back HOME, posting their photos on Facebook and Flickr, sharing their travel memories with family and friends. But for me, a pseudo-obsessive Type A, what I love most about travel is the PLANNING that goes into crafting and shaping a trip.
Take my trip to Europe early next week. A wonderfully thoughtful friend in the south of France owns several beautifully furnished Riviera Experience (www.rivieraexperience.com) vacation rental apartments and had a vacancy in one that overlooks the breathtaking Bay of Villefranche. During an e-mail exchange, she invited me to come for a visit. I thought her offer was far too generous and started to decline, but finally graciously accepted, as I’d LOVE to see her and return to one of the most gorgeous places on earth. And for me, a planner to my heart, that’s where the fun begins!
Continue March 13, 2011
We’ve all read books and watched films about folks (often single women, it seems) who travel to some exotic locale in search of self-discovery, fall in love with this new place, and decide to trade in their not-quite-right lives at home for a new one overseas. You UrbanTravelGirls know the 2003 film “Under the Tuscan Sun” motivated me to move to storybook-perfect Florence, Italy. The Frances Mayes book that inspired the film, Under the Tuscan Sun, has been translated into dozens of languages and prompted countless reader pilgrimages to Mayes’ adopted Tuscan hometown of Cortona.
Author Peter Mayle jump-started the modern expat-exchanges-hectic-urban-life-for-adventure-abroad trend with A Year in Provence, a book that when became an international best-seller when first published in 1989. In it, Mayle chronicled his life as a British expatriate in Ménerbes, a town in this gorgeous part of southern France. This former London ad executive and his wife traveled to Provence on vacation but eventually took the plunge, relocating completely from the UK to France. And once his books caught fire and made him rich—no doubt inspiring legions of folks with visions of living abroad—Mayle became the patron saint of reinventing oneself in a foreign land.
But when does an UrbanTravelGirl decide that a mere vacation doesn’t do it, that she’d rather pull up stakes and actually MOVE to another country and build a life for herself there instead of here (wherever that happens to be)? ….
Continue December 21, 2010
I’ve already declared my blind love for Buenos Aires, but there’s another fabulous part of Argentina that’s a must-see: the gorgeous wine-producing province of Mendoza. Located in the north-western part of this massive South American country, Mendoza’s most famous export is Malbec, a medium-to-full-bodied red wine that’s a perfect complement to Argentina’s legendary beef. And while the Malbec grape originated in southern France, it’s certainly got strong Argentine roots today.
While in Mendoza, I was the guest of Club Tapiz (http://www.club-tapiz.com.ar/en/index.php), an incredibly gorgeous vineyard/winery/restaurant/hotel in the town of Maipú. With seven gorgeous rooms—many of which look out onto the property’s back garden and swimming pool—Club Tapiz is the perfect destination for oenophiles, or anyone else interested in the art of living and dining well….
Continue November 29, 2010
I’m in love—and it has nothing to do with a man.
You know how you feel when you’re in the early throes of a new romance? All you want to do is think about that gorgeous guy, how great he smelled, what he said, when you’ll see him again. And you want to TALK about it. All the time, to anyone who will listen.
Well, that’s how I feel about Buenos Aires, the charming and seductive Argentine city where I spent the better part of the past two weeks. In theory, a city can’t hug you back—but this one sure felt like it did. As you UrbanTravelGirls know, I’m a huge Paris lover—but I am SO ready to cheat with BA. Even when folks ask me, “What did you like so much about it?”, I find it hard to put into words. Some places just seem to embrace you, to make you feel like you’ve come home to somewhere you never knew you left….
Continue November 23, 2010