NEW POST! What happens when a Black woman’s press and curl meets vacation humidity? Read on to find out how I hilariously battled back.
Think about registering your upcoming travel itinerary with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or S.T.E.P. When I ventured forth into the world, at 40, on my first solo trip, this one thought comforted me. Barack is my cousin. I know if I’m in a foreign […]
I have, thankfully, never left anything of value in a hotel safe. But like many, I’ve had some close calls. Who wants to leave their passport or cash in the hotel safe by mistake?
I started leaving at least one of a pair of shoes in the hotel safe everytime I utilize a safe. I may forget cash in a safe. I may forget a credit card. What I’m not about to do? Willingly pack up all my stuff, notice a shoe is missing its pair, and not get the shoe out of the safe.
Do you use this trick? What makes you remember to double-check the hotel safe before you check out?
It’s that time of year when we all get reflective, and make plans for next year. As I review the places I traveled to in 2018, I’m most proud that I visited The Motherland. The people I met and the places I visited left an indelible mark on my heart. I will never be the same, having tasted the African sun.
I am also happy that I decided not to book an annual trip to the Caribbean scheduled for November, 2018. Vacationing in the Caribbean is truly the one relaxing vacation I take a year. I opted out because, frankly, I don’t always have to travel. And even though I really missed walking barefoot in sun-drenched sand somewhere, my bank account thanked me.
In the Footsteps of Lewis & Clark Way Out West ~ March
My first vacation of the year was a twenty-third anniversary trip to Oregon and Washington states.
My husband had spent a semester in Portland, Oregon while in college and fell in love with the area. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest. We decided to do something different to celebrate our anniversary. I’m glad we did. That area of the country is breathtaking!
We flew into Portland, Oregon and boarded the riverboat right across the river in Vancouver, Washington. The American Empress is one of the American Queen Steamboat Company’s fleet of riverboats, and its only ship to operate in the Pacific Northwest. We spent an amazing five days cruising down the Columbia River and back.
The cool, brisk temperatures of late winter did little to dampen our excitement at disembarking at small towns along the river in both states. We huffed and puffed up 164 stairs to the top of the Astoria Column in Astoria, Oregon to fly wooden airplanes from the top, reveled in the eclectic offerings at the Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, Washington (the original home of Sam Hill, which includes artifacts from the Queen of Romania, who dedicated the museum in 1926); enjoyed Stevenson, Washington; explored the magnificent Columbia River Gorge area and visited both Multnomah Falls and Vista House; and survived a light-hearted recruitment effort by the Fort Dalles Floozies in The Dalles, Oregon, all while keeping a lookout for Sasquatch.
On the boat we enjoyed the nightly shows, attended lectures by the Riverlorian, never missed a performance of the jazz band, drank our fill of wine and cocktails (Bartender David in the Show Lounge was amazing, and Diamond Chazz in the Paddlewheel Lounge was hilariously entertaining), lost at trivia, and made acquaintances galore. The only downside? Being surrounded by so many Fox News watchers.
The icing on the cake (excuse the pun) was when my husband and I were lovingly serenaded by the cruise director in the formal Astoria Dining Room at dinner, a day after our anniversary, as the excellent wait staff presented us with a beautiful cake. I’ll always remember the cruise director’s rendition of Let Me Call You Sweetheart. Although we had been treated well on our anniversary and received a cake at dinner, this was a special touch the staff decided to do just because. Or, maybe it was because the cruise director was a fellow Buckeye.
All of these touches made the time we spent on the American Empress top-notch. We plan to take a future river cruise down the Mighty Mississippi from Memphis to New Orleans.
Wedding Shenanigans With Travel Friends ~ June
In 2016, I traveled solo to Greece to join a Trafalgar tour. On the tour I met three people who have become very dear to my heart: Rick (aka “Aunty Ricky”) and his husband, Ed (aka, “Uncle Eddie”); and fellow solo traveler Christy (aka, “Christy Brinkley”). I became “Lisa Liu” on the trip.
We bonded so much within the first 24 hours that people thought we had all booked the trip together! I remember at the beginning of the trip someone asking me how long Christy and I had been friends. My response? “Her? I just met this girl yesterday.”
We all bonded so much on that ten day tour that we cried when when it was time to leave. I’ve been a lot of places and have met so many wonderful people, and that had never happened to me before.
In 2017, we met up for a weekend reunion to visit the wineries in the New Buffalo, Michigan area because we all happen to be Midwesterners, and that location was more or less convenient. We laughed, we drank, we cried, we gambled, and we left that reunion so much closer than when we started.
In 2018, we met up in Chicago because Christy was getting married!!! It was expected to be a small, intimate wedding aboard a boat.
I didn’t expect to spend any time with Christy before the wedding due to the normal wedding flurries that all brides experience, and had planned to spend all my time with Rick and Ed. As a matter of fact, the two guys and I had dinner at a Greek restaurant the night we arrived. And we traveled the next day to the suburb of Oak Park to visit the Frederick C. Robie House, a home designed by and inhabited by Frank Lloyd Wright.
We were surprised when we got back to the hotel after visiting the Robie House and Christy invited us to join her family for drinks. We were met with hugs and greeted warmly by her family. They said they felt like they already knew us because Christy had regaled them with our ridiculously hilarious Greece travel stories. They even called us by the nicknames we had affectionately given one another on the trip!
The next day, we witnessed our friend get married on a private boat as we sailed down the Chicago River. After the fabulous spread below deck, we partied away to the DJ’s tunes as we sailed the Chicago River out into Lake Michigan, and back. What a fabulous 2018 reunion that was.
Pilgrimage to The Motherland ~ September
I fulfilled a life-long dream to visit Africa in September when I had the privilege to journey to South Africa, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Zimbabwe, and Botswana. My heart is still full from all of the disaporic connections my soul made there. I was joined by a long-time friend and her mother.
I met people who could be related to me by common ancestors, walked in the former home of Nelson Mandela, heard ancestral songs sung by elderly grandmothers, and saw traditional dances that I never would have experienced in America.
I visited the vineyards in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, and drank my fill of Chenin Blanc. I stayed overnight in the mountains of eSwatini, experienced safaris on land and water, found my happy place in Zimbabwe, and grew to admire the economic jewel that is Botswana.
In addition to my two companions, I had the privilege of traveling with eight other Black Americans. To say they made the trip a ten out of ten is an understatement. I had a wonderful time with all of my fellow tour goers, but traveling with my people added that dollop of whip cream on an already amazing dessert.
Paris For a Day ~ September
On the way back to the United States from Johannesburg, my two companions and I spent a long layover in Paris. Paris has never been high on my list, but I was absolutely down to spend a day seeing the city.
In retrospect, after spending two and a half weeks in Africa, touristing in Paris for a full day wasn’t the best idea. My heart was still consumed with the sights and sounds of Africa, and it was almost impossible to switch gears and enjoy a European capital. You can’t see the writing on the orange shirt I’m wearing in one of the pictures above, but it has a map of Africa on the back and lists all the countries we visited; complete with their flag.
It wasn’t just that I was still connected to The Motherland, I was too tired to truly enjoy the Eiffel Tower, our cruise down the Seine, our walk through the Luxembourg Palace gardens, or our trip around the Arc de Triomphe. In the same photo of me in the orange shirt, can you tell a Sista is phoning it in? I didn’t bother to ask my companions to hold nary one of my many bags before I took the picture.
The rudeness of the Parisians working the screening area at the airport didn’t help me feel better about the city. Or, the fact that there was a problem with the air conditioning on the loading ramps as we boarded the JFK-bound plane.
Because I’m ultimately a trooper, I’ve promised to give Paris another try. I’ll likely go with my husband, since France is the only country in Europe he’s interested in visiting. If nothing else, I scored major brownie points by getting him a birthday gift from the City of Love.
2018 was a full year, even though I didn’t make it to the Caribbean. Not to worry. The Caribbean is on my itinerary several times in 2019.
My travel plans for next year include:
- Spending my twenty-fourth wedding anniversary in Morocco
- Attending a high school reunion cruise to the Caribbean
- Exploring Turkey for my birthday, with a swing through Florence on the way home to visit my oldest daughter who will be working there
- Attending a wedding in Barbados
- A cruise to Cuba in the Fall
God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll tell you all all about it.