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 ….
Late last month, I wrote about the “hair issues” we black women often face when traveling abroad—and promised to offer some tips about handling these when you’re overseas.
When I first traveled to Europe in the late 1990s, visiting a friend who worked on a U.S. Army base in Germany, I was doing the relaxed hair thing, toting multiple curling irons and assorted lotions and potions in my always-overstuffed suitcase. But once I started hitting the road with friends, all those curling irons became a royal pain. What a hassle to constantly be plugging in, moving irons from one room to the other, waiting for them to cool down before you could pack them, etc. And then there was always the issue of “what if it rains?”
Now that I’ve been wearing two-strand twist extensions for most of the past five years, that’s no longer a concern. BUT, I have gotten overseas and much to my dismay, realized that I forgot to pack my favorite olive oil sheen or softening lotion. This, my friends, can be a challenge—especially since overseas trips tend to last for more than just a weekend.
But if you find yourself in a city—especially in Europe—and have arrived sans products, I’ve discovered that black folks and Arabs (who frequently have similar hair textures as ours) often live near the city’s main train station….
I don’t know about you, but I’m often more psyched about going to church on the road than hitting a bunch of must-see museums and boutiques. Although mornings and I have never been friends, when I’m overseas, I make a point of finding an English-speaking service, whether I need to hop on a subway or bus or use my own two feet to get there. I enjoy the religious aspect of worship but for me, it’s also about experiencing local culture in one of its most authentic and expressive ways….
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.
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.