I'll admit, planning any trip can feel like a daunting task. There are so many variables to consider, so much preparation, but the end result is so worth it (read: there are still bound to be f*ck ups). Europe was no different.
I wanted to go to London since I was a little girl watching the Olsen twins in the direct-to-video film Winning London. It had a lasting effect, similarly to the way Passport to Paris did. I was going to delay my travels until 2019, but ultimately decided why should I wait any longer? I can work anywhere, the nature of my life warrants flexibility, so I am finally free to move like the water I have always felt a special connection to. And so, I decided to start planning my long lusted after trip to London, England with plans to also stop in Paris.
Initially, I chose April, but after a death in the family inspired me to press pause for just a bit, reconnect to what I really want (hello, apartment), and second-guess traveling this year once again altogether, I was going to cancel. But luckily, my heart sang a different tune and I decided to sing to that instead - opted for October, paid the $308 fee to change my flight, and was London-bound for the fall.
And for those of you who might be feeling overwhelmed by the planning of it all, I've done some of the necessary work for you by gathering some of the tips that helped me plan my first European travel excursion. Check 'em out below:
Do All The Necessary Prep Work Ahead Of Time
Arriving at St. Pancras International in London
Photo Cred: Terrence Porter
Note that while there's no such thing as an "off-peak" season in Paris, you can find cheaper airline deals between September-December range (anytime after or before summer is best to avoid the heavy tourist crowd). Ensure that your passport is up to date, also read up the parameters of travel limitations for the place you plan to visit. You can read up on that via the Bureau of Consular Affairs for the given country's international travel information. Before you travel abroad, also be sure to make copies of your important travel and identity docs, i.e. your passport, license, and perhaps your social security card. In addition to your plane tickets, book any additional transportation plans, like a rental car, public transportation passes, or a train if necessary.
In our case, purchasing our train tickets for Eurostar ahead of time were a must too. It's advised to start booking your train from London to Paris at least three months in advance (find them here). We did our best to leave a couple of hours between our flights' arrival and our train's departure so that once we touched down in London, we'd take the train to Paris to pack our travel day as much as possible and do a one-shot to our next destination.
In reality, what actually happened was we missed our train by about five minutes and had to pay 44 euros for a new ticket for the next train to Paris. Some research on my part would have been helpful in figuring out how to map out the train departure in relation to our flight arrival, especially because London St. Pancras International ended up being kind of far from the airport (about 35-45 minutes to be exact). And if you do nothing else, get an International plan with your cell phone service because the data will be needed for Ubers and such. Trust. And because my friend and I had Airbnbs in both locations, WhatsApp and some data comes clutch for the check-in process. So again I say, TRUST.
Hotel Emile - it's located in Marais, relatively close to a metro station, and offers free breakfast with direct booking.
Airbnb - we stayed in this studio apartment. It was very quaint and located in a trendier complex in the North part of Paris. Close to laundry, cafes, food, grocery stores, and only a few miles away from big attractions.
The Pilgrm - it's located in Paddington, relatively close to the tube station, and is very stylish. If I didn't stay in an Airbnb, this was going to be the one.
Airbnb - Huma's Victorian townhome feels so authentically London, it was so dope to stay there for a few days. Definitely recommend.
See All The Must-See Attractions
Capturing moments at the Louvre
Photo Cred: Terrence Porter
It is impossible to see everything a city has to offer, especially in the span of three days. Think about it, there are people who call these cities home and still haven't seen everything it has to offer. On your first day, make a running list of attractions that you feel are the Must-See places and hit them up when the day breaks. See as much as possible, and do as much as possible, especially during your first day in a new place. This will give allow you to see all of the touristy spots, while also allowing the freedom of sticking a pin in some of your favorite sights to potentially go to again before your trip is over.
In London, everything was very centralized and the tube was really easy to navigate, so hitting up Big Ben, London Bridge, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and Kensington Palace was done pretty effortlessly. On our first day in Paris, we walked to Montmartre, the Arc du Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower. Because we chose walking over public transportation, we saved the Louvre for the next evening and allowed ourselves to indulge a little with the next tip.
Tour The City Like A Local
Taking in the Seine River in Paris
Photo Cred: Terrence Porter
This is the day to get lost, to take your time, and really take in the beauty and the history, the sights and sounds of the city in a less strategical way. While in Europe, I noticed that people had places to go but I also noted how lax a lot of the locals were with spending time in a state of experiencing. In Paris, they'd bring espresso and crepes to talk and gaze at the Seine or drink beer alongside the Thames. I even saw a guy outside of the Gare du Nord train station with an espresso cup that he rested on a newspaper stand as he stood and people watched in the middle of the sidewalk. Or in London, where people took midday breaks at the pub with a draft beer and wrote in their moleskins as the city moved around them.
My point is, everyone seemed to take their time a bit more. So, as we got lost, it was important to me to take breaks and take in the city, take in the life, take in the quiet and just be still. It was a lesson in being present that I really enjoyed.
Sit Back & Relax Your Mind
A glimpse of our beautiful Airbnb
Photo Cred: Terrence Porter
Don't let the go-go-go mentality of travel stop you from relaxing in the moment and showing gratitude for the fact that you are there. Make sure you don't allow guilt to dictate the moves you make or don't make. If you want to relax and recoup from your 16-hour travel day, take your time. Rest up. Enjoy yourself. You've earned it. My travel buddy was an up and at 'em kind of traveler that wanted to be up by 7 am to explore until 11 or noon, and then we'd convene and spend the day and evening together until I was ready to wrap up the night (especially because this ninja had the motto of walking everywhere in Paris). I took my time though. I slept in. I did my morning routine. I read a book and highlighted passages. I updated emails and checked on my site. And when I rose to reemerge into the city for hours on end, I lived.
Europe was absolutely magical. 10/10, I definitely recommend. Click through the gallery below to see some of the things I saw and experienced while over there.
Paris Photo Diary
London Photo Diary
*Originally published on Postcards & 808s
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The year was 2014, and the show was Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood. In its first season, we were reintroduced to Omarion and got a more intimate look into the man behind the B2K fame and hits like “Touch.” Audiences tuned in as they saw him balance being a son to his mom and a partner to his then-girlfriend Apryl Jones as they prepared to be first-time parents. And amid some of the franchise’s most iconic moments and fights, there was undeniable and unapologetic love shown between them pre-breakup.
Despite whatever issues we may or may not have been privy to because of the former couple being in the public eye, it’s clear that over the years following their 2016 split, Omarion and Apryl have done their best to keep “family” at their center. It’s why now in the year 2023 (and past messiness pushed aside, chile), it is not all that surprising to see Omarion and Apryl posted up in Disney World with their two kids like they’re "post to be" because, well, it's all love.
Omarion and Apryl made headlines over the weekend after posting to social media some behind-the-scenes moments of their "first family trip" together.
Together for a handful of years, having kids together (Megaa and Ame'i) is the kind of commitment that you keep for a lifetime, regardless of whether the romantic part of a relationship ends. And while some speculated that their very public family outing over the weekend possibly hinted that the romantic aspect of their relationship might have rekindled, it could just be another healthy example of co-parenting (especially because Apryl is still reportedly booed up with actor Taye Diggs). And lawd knows the world needs as much of that as it can get.
It is also a sign of growth and is in alignment with what Omarion shared in the past about the status of his co-parenting relationship with Apryl in 2022:
"We’re still in a transformative state. Like I said, I’m the type of person who likes to leave room for some new ideas, some different methods. I’m all for that. But we are in a transformative state right now."
Though there might have been ill will between them at some point due to how things ended and where things were emotionally (that eventually led to resurfaced animosity between him and a B2K member that Apryl eventually became involved with), the famed unbothered king doesn't don that name for nothing and has publicly stated that there's no "ill will" because he's "moved on." He has also stated that he will never speak against her publicly because she is the mother of his kids. Perhaps that has also led
In an article on our platform, "Omarion Speaks On Where Co-Parenting With Apryl Jones Stands Now & I Have 6 Solid Takeaways From It," we covered his interview with Sway in the Morning where the artist hinted at a reason that might have caused the romantic love aspect of their journey to come to an end:
“Not to generalize women, but you know, umm, sometimes women think that you know, love stories are supposed to be this kind of like, happy thing and this, ‘Oh we vibin,’ and you know, we, we get married, and we have a family,’ but it’s really, it’s really not like that. You know, umm, that wasn’t my experience. L
"ooking back on the history of how I viewed relationships, like, my mom is not married, you know, my Nana was married at a very young age…like, steppin’ back and realizin’ like, ‘Oh, your love style, your support, the things that you actually need, you know, is different from what you perceive. And it allowed me to really see, you know, what it is that I truly want, and it is acceptance. It is love. That’s what love is.”
However, wanting different things doesn't stop have to stop the way people show up in their children's lives as parents. As they make strides towards being better co-parents, Omarion shared in an interview earlier this year about the importance of moving forward for the kids:
"I will say we have been moving towards a better relationship at this particular point in time, for the kids. It’s all good, it was just something we went through. I think as long as respect is over-stood and appreciated within the scope of the blended family then I think you can virtually get through anything.”
A trip to Disney World as a family is a beautiful step in their healthy co-parenting journey.
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Featured image via Omarion/Instagram