Showing posts from 2011

Paris in August

When one thinks of Paris, France, one thinks of all the famous places to visit, like the Le Louvre, the Eifel Tower, the Palace of Versailles, the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, and other things like French wine and romance.I looked forward to my vacation in Paris with my sister and my uncle. While this was our first trip to this celebrated city, my uncle had been in Paris during World War II and again years later and was eager to return.
I booked reservations online choosing the hotel based on the quaint photos of the newly renovated hotel posted on the Internet – inexpensive, gorgeous looking interior, rich colors, off the beaten path, lovely spiral staircase.My uncle, on the other hand, was booked into a well-known hotel not far from the Eifel Tower- located on the other side of town.Our hotel was three-star, his five-star.We met up at the airport and engaged a taxi. The driver was none too thrilled as he jammed our luggage into the boot of his small cab. My sister and I were dropped off fi…

Misadventures in Costa del Sol, Spain - Part Three

My two-week vacation had come to an end. This was my last day at the resort and I had to be out by noon. My friends had gone home the day before.  My plane though, wasn’t scheduled to leave until the next day.  Knowing this, I telephoned around to hostels to find a place to spend the night.   Finally I found a place and made a reservation.   I checked out of the hotel, took the bus into Malagua. With my luggage, I wandered the streets of the city trying to locate the address asking everyone I met (in my halting Spanish) for directions.  After several wrong turns I found it. I checked into the small hotel, took the ancient elevator up to the third floor and stood before the old wooden door hesitant to insert the key. I felt as if I’d stepped back in time.  It reminded me of the tenement buildings in Harlem where I grew up except this hallway was much smaller.  Slowly, I opened the door to my room and stepped in.  I was greeted by a sea of brown - brown walls, brown carpet, brown doors …

Misadventures in Spain - Part Two

I had been in Spain for almost a week.At the end of the first week, my two friends joined me at the beautiful resort.Tired of talking to myself and wandering around alone, I was looking forward to their visit. During that 2nd week we visited Mijas, a quaint, picturesque village; Seville, historic, cultural, and financial capital of Southern Spain; Gibraltar where we visited St. Michael’s Cave and the monkeys that roam freely about the area; and the Casbah, a walled city in Tangier, Morocco.
I’d seen Casablanca, the 1940’s movie staring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid, and couldn’t wait to see that area of Tangier where such intrigue took place.Before entering the Casbah, our guide warned us all to keep up with the group as the Casbah is made up a maze of streets and alleys where one could easily get lost.We were also warned to watch out for pickpockets who preyed on unsuspecting tourists. He added that we would encounter many vendors trying to sell their wares and to …

Travel Misadventures Part One - Costa del Sol

I’d booked two weeks at a resort in Costa del Sol and was looking forward to spending my vacation in Spain, a country I had never before been.I flew from LAX to Heathrow in London, and then from Gatwick to Malagua, Spain. Being on a tight budget, I called the hotel prior to my departure to find the most economical way to get to the resort. The receptionist at the hotel desk where I’d plan to spend my vacation, told me the best way to get there was to take a taxi from the airport to Costa del Sol. “It will cost around $50,” she said. “Is there a less expensive way?” I asked. “Well,” she hesitated, “there is.” She gave me directions.From the airport in Malagua to the resort in Costa del Sol is a distance of over thirty miles.Piece of cake, I thought confidently. I love an adventure, or so I thought.
Outside the Malagua airport was a line of taxicabs, each driver beckoning me. “No, gracias,” I waved them away. In my halting Spanish I managed to find the local train station.The car I stepp…

My Favorite Vacation

Not too long ago on vacation in Arizona, I went to a sales presentation for a timeshare. The reward for sitting through the ninety-minute presentation was half price off a tour of the Grand Canyon. The salesman, Tom, asked me “Of all the vacations you’ve taken, what would you say was your favorite?” I had to think a while about it. I’ve gone on vacations alone and also with family.Each time was unique.
I thought about the time I went to a resort in Tobago. I couldn’t get anyone to go with me so, not wanting to cancel my vacation, I went alone.However, before I could settle in, I met a family, two sisters, their daughters and granddaughter, who feeling responsible for me, took me under their wings. “How can you travel alone?” they asked. “We go everywhere together,” to Alaska, to Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean.They couldn’t imagine me traveling alone.While I appreciated their concern, not wanting to appear standoffish, I accepted their invitation to tag along with them. But I soon fo…

Tribute to My Brother on Father's Day

When he was young, my big brother was incorrigible. He did all sorts of things, so much so that my father and mother couldn’t handle him.  Because they worked, they were unable to supervise him as they wished. He was a wild colt, doing whatever he wanted. He bullied us younger siblings, played hooky from school, stayed in the street long after he was supposed to be at home. Seeing my parents’ plight, our favorite aunt stepped in and took him to stay with her.  Not having children of her own, she allowed him to do whatever he chose at her home.  While we were not allowed to touch her walls for fear of leaving fingerprints, he could climb all over the furniture without once touching the floor. In her eyes, he could do no wrong; She spoiled him.
Whenever he’d return home to our small apartment, we children trembled in fear.  My sister, younger brother and I would plan how to get even for the mean things he’d do to us.  One example, he would sit in front of our small TV, and open an umbre…

In Praise of Diversity

I grew up in Harlem during a time when my community was made up almost totally of African Americans. As a young child, the only people of other races I saw on a regular basis were a few teachers who taught at the elementary and junior high school, the police, firemen, insurance man, and the people who owned the stores and those who worked in the stores along 125th St.; Nonetheless, there were times when we would go on school outings to the dental school in midtown, or to the museums.  As a teenager and a young adult I ventured into other communities, Little Italy, Chinatown, East Harlem.  As an adult I have traveled widely. I believe I have greatly benefited from learning about other cultures. The foods, music, dance have become part of me and, I believe, have made me a more well- rounded person.
Living in a society or a community where all people are the same gives us a myopic point of view especially when we aren’t even interested in learning other cultures.  Someone once said the m…

A New Day

Before the year ended, I decided to visit my friend Mattie to get some of her words of wisdom along with her black-eyed peas, collard greens and hot apple cider.She was in her kitchen cooking up her traditional New Year’s meal.
“Whew, this year flew by,” I said settling down at her kitchen table, my stomach starting to growl in response to the delicious smells coming from the pots on her stove.
“It sure has, faster than a hummingbird in a garden of flowers. I’m grateful that I made it this far,” she responded. At eighty, Mattie is in tip-top shape. She watches what she eats, exercises, and does all the right things. I told her so. “I hope I look and feel as good as you do when I get your age.”
“Other than a little arthritis and other aches and pains that come with age, I feel fine. Looking forward to a new year.”
“The end of the year always makes me sad when I think of all the people who have died and the things I didn’t get done,” I said, “problems that weren’t resolved, relationships …