Planning an international getaway is (more than) half the fun

March 13, 2011

Ahhh... can't get back to the lovely French Riviera town of Villefranche-sur-Mer next week. Planning my return to this charming place has been a pleasant trip in itself!

Ahhh... can't get back to the lovely French Riviera town of Villefranche-sur-Mer next week. Planning my return to this charming place has been a pleasant trip in itself!

Does this look serene, or WHAT? I'll have a view like this out the window of my Riviera Experience flat in Villefranche before I know it....

Does this look serene, or WHAT? I'll have a view like this out the window of my Riviera Experience flat in Villefranche before I know it....

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 a trip.

Take my journey to Europe early next week. A wonderfully thoughtful friend in the south of France owns several beautifully furnished Riviera Experience 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!

Because I’ve visited to the Côte d’Azur town of Villefranche-sur-Mer twice before—including a solo trip that rang in my 40th birthday—I know how to get there from the nearby Nice airport. I know my way around Vieux Nice (Old Nice) and how to get to glitzy, jet-set Monaco. But there’s still so much to do and see on the French Riviera and beyond. My head is nearly swimming with the possibilities. Hang out inside the adorable studio apartment or in its private garden and write? Grab my shades and camera and stroll nearby towns? Or merely open the seaside window and nap to my heart’s content?

But since I’m going to be this close to Italy—less than an hour from the border, in fact—could I dare not set foot in bella Italia? And where to go? I STILL have yet to make it to Emilia-Romagna, the region many Italians admit has the best cuisine in the country. Should I make a stop in Tuscany, to stop in Florence where I lived for too short a time? Or head way south to Rome, the only city that rivals Paris for my undying affection, and visit my many friends there? Eventually, Rome won out, although I’ll only be there for three short days—not nearly enough time to spend leisurely catching up with folks. But three days are better than none.

For me, NO trip to Rome is complete without a swing past the Colosseum. No matter how often I see it, I never cease being amazed.

For me, NO trip to Rome is complete without a swing past the Colosseum. No matter how often I see it, I never cease being amazed.

As I’ve been planning this south of France-to-Rome getaway for the past several weeks, many questions have crossed my mind: Head to Paris—my favorite city in the world—for a few days after leaving Villefranche? Take an overnight train and take in the romance of the rails on my way to Rome? Since I can’t get directly to Rome from Villefranche on the train, hit the road in a France rental car and pick up that overnight train in Dijon? Decisions, decisions!! (I finally decided to just take an hour flight to Rome to conserve my precious few vacation days… but you can bet I’ll be taking that overnight Artesia train on my next trip from France to Italy!)

I’d love to hear from you UrbanTravelGirls: What’s the best part of a holiday for you—the planning, the actual vacationing or the reminiscing? Perhaps I’ll become a convert!

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14 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Sharon  |  March 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    What will the weather be in the South of France when you are there? Sounds like a fun trip. I’ll make my first trip to France in September.

  • 2. urbantravelgirl  |  March 13, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Bonsoir, Sharon! From what says, the weather should be in the upper 50s with complete sunshine by the time I arrive! I’ve been to Villefranche around New Year’s and it’s been warm enough to sit outdoors at a cafe’ with a coat on, so I’m expecting it to be lovely. Not beach weather, but certainly nicer than Chicago that time of year.

    Good for you heading to France in September. Where are YOU headed — Paris or elsewhere?


  • 3. Yvonne  |  March 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Oh, how I’ve been dying to plan a trip. I’ve really had it on my mind intensely during the past few months. I soooo want to travel somewhere abroad! I’m paying off some medical and home repair bills, so I think I’m still at least a year away for making a trip possible. But I also am torn about whether to try for a pleasure trip, which I’ve never done, or something missionary. I’ve one foreign experience – a study trip to Israel back when we were at G-ETS. I think there’s a part of me that feels I must do something for someone else in justify having such a wonderful experience.

  • 4. urbantravelgirl  |  March 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    HOLA, Yvonne!!! Don’t let me deter you from doing something altruistic, but I’ve never believed that having wonderful personal experiences were somehow unjustified. While I think that’s certainly a worthy goal, I personally believe that God has nothing against us traveling and enjoying His amazing creation!

    I think of that conversation Celie and Shug had in “The Color Purple” where essentially, Shug said that God gets annoyed when folks walk past the color purple in a field and don’t notice it. I’m sure you saw some AMAZING things when you were in Israel… and just imagine what else is out there. I personally don’t believe in putting off for “someday” something you really want to do… because as we know, there’s no guarantee “someday” will ever come.

    OK, enough of my pontificating. Let me know when you decide to take that trip, my dear!!


  • 5. Kelly E. Carter  |  March 15, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Yvonne, you are one UNSELFISH lady and I admire that. But don’t deprive yourself by not traveling for pleasure. Think of the smile you can bring to someone else’s face by telling them about a place they may otherwise never hear of from someone they encounter. Turn your pleasurable experiences into joys for others, not in a boastful way of course but in an educational manner.

    Maureen, take me with you! I love planning a trip too! But it’s so hard when you have a limited amount of time and you’re going to an area with two countries that offer an abundance of enticing activities. Try to do too much and you end up spending too much time getting from Point A to B to C to D to fully enjoy. It sounds like you have a wonderful itinerary with quiet time in Villefrance and pulsating Rome. You’re doing the right thing by flying to save precious time.

    Barring some disastrous earthquake, Emilia-Romagna will be there the next time you visit – and that reminds me to put that on MY itinerary. (And God willing, you will return again and again and again to Italy.)

    I love experiencing the unknown, which is why last year I chose to go to a place I had never heard of and where no English was spoken. Arriving at the apartment I would call home for a month after 10 p.m., I couldn’t wait to walk to the piazza to see the cast of characters that I would get to know as the days went on.

    Yet, there’s something incredible about returning to a place abroad that you know well and where you feel like a regular. I still long to dine at my favorite restaurants in Florence and walk down the cobblestone streets that made me a regular at the shoe repair shop but figure I’ll get there next time.

    Have a wonderful time and keep us updated on your journey if you can. If not, I understand and know that you will be living in the glorious moment.


  • 6. urbantravelgirl  |  March 16, 2011 at 5:01 am

    Hola, Kelly — and thanks for your inspirational post (to Yvonne AND to me!). Yes, I will try to update the blog while I’m away… but as you know, that’s not always as easy as it sounds. I’m already one whole trip behind — I’ve YET to post anything about my dad’s and my wonderful getaway to Costa Rica earlier this year!

    But YES — I definitely plan to live in the “glorious moment” as much as I can this trip. You and I are both reporters so we know how hard it can sometimes be to just EXPERIENCE something without trying to record it in a notebook or remember it for some future article we may write. I suppose it’s all about being more conscious — something Lord KNOWS I need to work to improve!


  • 7. This Time Now  |  March 19, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Ahh! The South of France! I’m on my last leg of my contract here in Asia and will be moving to Rome in June! Oh please share some of your favorite haunts in Rome! Grazia!

    Ciao Bella!

  • 8. urbantravelgirl  |  March 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Wow, Felicia — so you’re REALLY doing it, eh? GOOD FOR YOU!! I’m actually heading to Rome in a couple days to visit some good friends, so I’ll hopefully have MORE to share after my trip.

    You know I’m totally jealous — Rome is one of my favorite two places in the world (after/along with Paris)!!

    Maureen (Marina in Italia)

  • 9. This Time Now  |  March 26, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    I really want to talk to you, I’ll write it an email. You know, traveling and living abroad is something that I’ve done since I was twenty years old. I know how blessed I am to live the life I do, but guess what, it’s time for more. Rome is a small part of my new goal. The way that women, especially Black women, are just now beginning to really thrive abroad, well, I intend to add myself to that group this year. I’d like to ask you a couple of research questions about Rome. Let me know when you get back from Rome.

    Ciao Bella!

  • 10. urbantravelgirl  |  March 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Ciao, Felicia –
    Sure, send me an e-mail and when I get back to Chicago perhaps we can do Skype and chat… would love to help answer your questions!! I think you have my e-mail ddress, yes?

    Ci parliamo presto,
    Marina :-)

  • 11. Lena  |  April 1, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    I think I like the reminiscing better, those memories can warm a cold day. Planning is the part I hate the most, I am actually trying to plan my first trip to Europe. I’ll be going the second and third week of June all by myself. Any advice you can give about things to see or do or areas to stay in would be helpful. Please share your story when you return.

    Have fun!


  • 12. urbantravelgirl  |  April 2, 2011 at 5:34 am

    Ciao, Lena! Yes, I’m all about reminiscing, as well. I’ve been comforted on many a cold day — and warm ones, too! — about great travel memories.

    Good for you planning a solo trip to Europe! Since it’s a massive place, have you yet narrowed down what countries/cities you’re going to explore?

    I would caution you not to try and see and do too much your first time there. When we Americans are fortunate enough to have two weeks at a time to see Europe, we often think we’ve got to visit one different country every two days. Better that you plant yourself somewhere you love, take time to leisurely stroll. sit in cafes and people-watch than run yourself ragged trying to see every museum and shop in every store. Remember — Europe isn’t going ANYWHERE, and God willing, this is just the first trip of many.

    I’ll look forward to hearing about YOUR trip when you’re back. Perhaps you’d be willing to do an guest blog post about your adventures?

    Happy Travels,

  • 13. T  |  April 4, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Hi Urbantravelgirl,
    do you know of any fiction novels that deal with African-American women traveling (a la EAT, PRAY LOVE). If so, can you please recommend some titles. I love what you are doing and thought it would be great if there was a book (other than HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK) that dealt with this issue. Thanks so much!

  • 14. urbantravelgirl  |  April 5, 2011 at 5:21 am

    Ciao, T –
    You mean do I know of any books beyond the novel I need to be writing based on my crazy overseas experiences? :-)

    Actually, I do know of ONE. It’s from 2005 and is called “Passport Diaries” and was written by Tamara T. Gregory, an L.A.-based author in the film industry. I actually interviewed her for the Chicago Sun-Times Travel section back in the day. But the book’s about a professional black woman who takes off on a European vacation to get over issues at work. She goes to great places like London and Paris and Greece, among others. You should check it out — I’m sure it’ll inspire you to start packing your own bags!

    Happy Travels,

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