Tag: Paris

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

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 14 Comments March 13, 2011

Sisters in Spain: Michelle Obama and Sasha wrap up mom-daughter trip abroad in style

I don’t know about you, but it’s absolutely thrilled me to see First Lady Michelle Obama taking 9-year-old Sasha on a mom-and-daughter holiday—to SPAIN, no less! I don’t have kids, nieces or nephews, but if I did, I’d be booking us on some overseas trip as soon as they were old enough to appreciate it. And I’d be sitting them down right now to watch video of adorable Sasha meeting the king and queen of Spain (http://news.yahoo.com/video/politics-15749652/michelle-obama-meets-king-of-spain-21295458). How it does my heart proud to see this darling young brown-skinned girl looking confident alongside her mom, realizing she’s a princess in her OWN right. Nothing like self-assurance, even when it comes in the package of a preciously dressed pre-teen.

I was super-proud and psyched last year when the President and Michelle took their two girls with them to Paris and London (http://urbantravelgirl.com/2009/06/10/young-americans-in-paris-the-obama-girls-take-europe-by-storm/). I wrote then about how important it is for youngsters—and especially African-American ones, who don’t always see themselves portrayed positively in the American media—to travel abroad and experience life through a different lens….

Continue 15 Comments August 8, 2010

Want the REAL scoop on ‘Black Paris?’ A new guidebook from a Chicago sister shares its secrets

As you UrbanTravelGirl readers know, Paris is my favorite place on the planet. Someone this week asked me why I love it so, and I didn’t have to think long before responding, “The diversity.” Sure, Paris is THE quintessential French city, but a huge part of what makes it so special for me, an African-American woman, is the presence of black folks from throughout the Diaspora. You’ll meet black folks from African former French colonies including Togo, Senegal, Mali, and Côte d’Ivoire. From French Caribbean “overseas regions” such as Martinique and Guadeloupe. And black American expatriates from all over the States.

And whereas most “mainstream” travel guidebooks gloss over their presence (if they mention them at all), Chicago author Kiratiana Freelon jumps all over it in her new book, Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris: Get Lost and Get Found (http://kiratianatravels.com/). An African-American Harvard grad who’s visited more than 25 countries in her young life and spent time living in Paris, she uncovers GREAT finds all over Paris (and beyond, as well)….

Continue 9 Comments June 12, 2010

‘An Education’ offers far more than a glimpse into foreign travel, culture for impressionable young women

For any of us women—especially those who still consider themselves young or young-at-heart and long to experience the thrills and pleasures that travel and foreign cultures provide—the recently released Sony Pictures Classics film “An Education” (http://www.sonyclassics.com/aneducation/) is a must-see. (Here in the United States, it’s in relatively limited release, which is a shame because it’s truly one of the smartest, most thoughtful films to hit the big screen in ages.)

I recently saw it with one of my best girlfriends from university, someone who knew me before I became completely obsessed with all things international. But BECAUSE my friend knows me so well, she knew I’d be one of the few people who would be clamoring to see it with her. Another very good girlfriend, one whom I’ve traveled abroad with and spent countless hours sharing my dreams of seeing the world, demanded I call her as soon as I saw them film so we could dissect its deeper meaning in each of our lives….

Continue 8 Comments November 30, 2009

Want to travel the ‘world’ without leaving the United States? Visit Las Vegas

Times are tough, and even us diehard globetrotters are finding ourselves grounded these days. But there ARE ways to travel the world without leaving the borders of the United States. In a recent post for my “TCW Travel Connection” blog, which I write for a great local monthly magazine called Today’s Chicago Woman (http://www.tcwmag.com), I’ve written about “going global” by sampling fare at ethnic cafes and restaurants, checking out foreign films, soaking up the sounds from other lands, etc.

But surprisingly, you can ALSO take a trip around much of the world by visiting Vegas. YES, Las Vegas. Even this most American of cities offers something for the global traveler in you….

Continue 4 Comments November 12, 2009

Traveling abroad through film often the next best thing to being there

I’m not usually a big moviegoer, but I am a sucker for a good foreign-language film. Yes, I’m a bit of a snob – I feel a bit smarter sitting and watching some artsy independent film rather than, say, “The Transformers” (not that there’s anything wrong with that if you liked it!). But since I don’t get overseas nearly as often as I’d like, I figure forking over $10 or $11 for a two-hour onscreen journey into another culture is a fair price to pay.

Knowing how passionate I am about overseas travel, friends and colleagues constantly quiz me: “So where’s your next foreign trip? I know you’re on your way somewhere.” For the first time in a long time, I’m staying put—mostly because I’m out of vacation time and am forcing myself to stick to a serious budget (for reasons I will share in this blog before too long, I hope). But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to give up globetrotting. Instead, I’m doing it right here in Chicago—no passport, visas or trips to O’Hare International Airport required—and am traveling by way of the big screen.

Just this week, I checked out “Paris,” a lovely, wonderfully written film starring Juliette Binoche that was shot—of course—in Paris, my absolute FAVORITE city in the entire world and the one place I’d happily live if told I could never go anywhere else for the rest of my life….

Continue 10 Comments October 15, 2009

Say amen, sister: Get a spiritual boost by visiting houses of worship when traveling overseas

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….

Continue 6 Comments August 16, 2009

(Young) Americans in Paris and London: The Obama girls take Europe by storm

I was thrilled to read last week that adorable young Malia and Sasha Obama would be joining President Barack and First Lady Michelle (and of course, First Granny Marian) in Paris and later London for their first European trip. It did my heart a world of good to know that these charming mesdemoiselles would be serving as America’s junior ambassadors to a continent obsessed with their glamorous parents—and one thrilled to see our formerly “you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us” nation back in the global mix.

But politics aside, I was thrilled for these two African-American girls, ages 8 and 10, both getting a chance to experience what life is like outside the prism of the United States. Granted, these are kids of privilege. Even if their dad wasn’t the leader of the free world, they’re the children of extremely well-educated and worldly parents and had a chance to travel to Africa back in 2006. But as I’ve found over the years, there is NOTHING like foreign travel to open your eyes to the realities of your own country. I just wish I’d had the chance to discover this way earlier in life rather than starting in my 20s. I’ve certainly tried to make up for lost time, visiting nearly 30 countries since then!

Just imagine how different we Americans would be if we started engaging the world as kids the Obamas’ age….

Continue 7 Comments June 10, 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

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