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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At this point, I’ve been talking to couples for so long that I’m pretty much able to conduct my own surveys. And when it comes to one of the main reasons why a lot of them see a dip when it comes to intimacy in their relationship, it’s because of life’s demands, sleep deprivation, (sometimes) being stressed out, oftentimes not having the best diet, and, quite frankly, not prioritizing sex as much as they used to all play a direct role. Yet, if you review those reasons one more time, you’ll notice that it’s not so much that people don’t want to have sex — they just need some help getting into the mood.
If you share those sentiments, look no further. Here are 12 things that you can do to get into the mood for getting super up close and personal with your bae, as soon as tonight. (Thank me later!)
1. Stop OverthinkingGiphy
It’s kind of wild how many people overthink when you (pardon the pun) think about all of the unnecessary drama that it causes. Hmph, let me tell it, at the end of the day, overthinking is just a less stress-filled word for worrying because it definitely has a way of inviting stress, creating problems that don’t exist, and taking you out of staying mindful and in the moment — and none of this is good for your sex life.
That’s why I decided to start here. If not being in the mood is something that is a regular event (or has been increasing lately), consider doing some sex journaling and/or setting an appointment with your doctor to see if there are some underlying health-related reasons. However, if it’s not a consistent thing yet, it just seems like you and your partner have not exactly been on the same page the past few times that he has initiated, share with him how you’re feeling and what you think you need to get into the mood more easily rather than internalizing thoughts to the point where you create movies in your mind that is full of fiction, not facts.
Oftentimes, just communicating your thoughts will make you feel closer to your partner — and that can automatically cultivate a level of closeness that can lead to physical intimacy.
2. Do Some SextingGiphy
While checking out some statistics on texting not too long ago, although it didn’t surprise me that 80 percent of people do it, I was caught a little off guard at the fact that people between the ages of 35-44 seem to text the most and that folks receive a whopping five times more texts than calls (on average).
Chalk it up to the counselor in me, yet I prefer calls because you can’t read tone in texts, no matter how much you may have mastered emoji speech. However, if texting is your thing, something that can get you in the mood is sexting back and forth with your partner. Sometimes, just putting your mind in an erotic/sensual space can do wonders; plus, you never know what kind of response you will get back. #wink
If a part of you is totally down, yet you’re cautious about sensitive content somehow getting hacked and/or exposed, you might want to consider a platform like Telegram. Not only is it heavily encrypted and has a “self-destruct” feature, but it also keeps third parties from using your intel for marketing and advertising purposes too. A win all the way around if you ask me.
3. Go “Sex Shopping”Giphy
While doing some online perusing, a pretty Black woman modeling what Victoria’s Secret calls its Bombshell Apron Teddy. I liked it because it was sexy and, because there is an “apron feature,” it can look really good on all body types (you can take a look for yourself here; also, check out “Lingerie Hacks: How To Choose The Best Kind For Your Body Type” while you’re at it). Yeah, I don’t get how anyone can see lingerie (or anything that is sex-themed/sex-related) and not get at least a little hot ‘n bothered.
So, why not treat yourself to a bit of sex shopping? As far as lingerie goes, it has trends like pretty much everything else. This year, be on the lookout for bright colors, satin blows, super sheer pieces, and lots of lace. As far as sex stuff, in general, massage candles, sex games, or even a sex swing (that isn’t as expensive as you would think and is pretty easy to assemble) is a great starting point when it comes to getting your creative juices flowing.
4. Or on a Sex DateGiphy
When you take a vacation, it helps you to get off of the grid, relax and get some much-needed quality time in with whoever you’re on vacation with. A romantic vacation is about doing this with your significant other while a sexcation is about doing this, with the sole purpose of manifesting sexual fulfillment being on top of the to-do list.
Okay, so when you think about a date being about spending quality time with someone you truly care about, what do you think a sex date would be for? EXACTLY. And here’s the thing — one fairly large and popular study revealed that the key to a couple having a successful relationship (as far as their dating life goes) is to go on a date once a month. At the same time, couples who have sex no less than once a week reportedly are in a healthy relational space.
So, how do you merge the two of these? My two cents would be, if you’re like some of my clients who need to be romanced in order to get into the mood (meaning things like quickies rarely work for them), plan a sex date and then another kind of date once a month; that way, you’ll be able to get both kinds of quality time in. For tips on how to do that, check out “When's The Last Time You And Your Man Had A 'Sex Date'?”
5. Put on Some Vanilla, Patchouli, Peppermint or JasmineGiphy
USA Today once published an article that said people with a heightened sensitivity to smell tend to have a better sex life (no joke). According to a particular study, “The perception of certain body odors may contribute to the concept of sexual pleasure by enhanced recruitment of reward areas.”
If that truly is the case, it’s important that you also surround yourself with scents that have a reputation for stimulating the senses in every way. Some of those include vanilla, patchouli, peppermint, and jasmine. Whether you put them on your body, spray them on your bedding, or get some scented soy candles (soy burns longer and cleaner) — or you do all three, it appears that your olfactory input will be oh so very glad that you did (also check out “8 Natural Aphrodisiac Scents, Where They Go & How To Make Them Last”).
6. Listen to Some of Your Favorite “Sex Nostalgia” MusicGiphy
Not too long ago, I was having a conversation with some people about throwback R&B songs that talked about sex yet weren’t as graphic as a lot of the current tunes are. Two that immediately came to my mind were Usher’s “Nice & Slow” and Intro’s “Come Inside” (especially the extended version, lawd.)
Anyway, there is scientific evidence to support that not only does music increase creativity and trigger past memories, but it can also reduce anxiety, increase endurance and put you into a better mood. And don’t all of these things help to set the stage for an impressive round or two? Shoot, I even read an article on Well+Good’s site (here) that said if you really want your sex playlist to be effective, lust-heavy music should come first, absolute faves should be in the middle, and cuddle music should come last (you know, during afterplay).
So…where’s your sex music mix at?
7. Cultivate a Sex Prep Self-Care RoutineGiphy
When you do things that make you feel calm, relaxed, and sexy, it’s so much easier to get into the mood for sex. Not to mention the fact that the cleaner you are, the more comfortable you will feel. That’s why, you should start off with a sensual bath (check out “Did You Know There's A Right & A Wrong Way To Take A Bath?”) or shower (check out “How To Turn Your Showers Into A Tranquil DIY Spa”) with the help of a DIY vaginal wash (check out “Love On Yourself With These 7 All-Natural DIY Vaginal Washes”).
Then “seal your skin” by applying an aphrodisiac essential oil with a sex-stimulating carrier oil (check out “So, Here Are The Carrier Oils That Will Take Your Sex Life To A Whole 'Nother Level”), so that it feels soft and extra moisturized for longer. Personally, I’m a huge fan of fresh rose petals, whether it’s for making homemade rose water or for rolling around on the bed in them (they are soft, fragrant, and a proven aphrodisiac as well).
Also, don’t forget to bring a flavored lubricant, lip gloss, and even body oil (if you’d like) into the mix. An Etsy merchant by the name of Diamond Kutt Kisses has a great all-natural oil blend called Edible Yoni Oil that comes in flavors like Panty Snatcher, Pina Cum Latte, and 1 Night Stand. Choose one bottle or several by going here. Oh, and don’t forget to put your (or his) favorite scent in your hair — it’s a tip that many forget goes a REALLY long way.
8. Touch Each Other’s Sexual Pressure PointsGiphy
When you get a chance, click on “Feelin' On These Pressure Points Will Give You The Best Sex Of Your Life,” read it all the way through, and then send it over to your partner. The reality is there are parts of our body, ones that are outside of the obvious, that can help to get (and keep) us in the mood once they are stimulated too.
Take your calves and feet, for example. Rubbing on your calves well before sex transpires can reduce the chances of experiencing a Charley horse, and since your feet are loaded with nerve endings, massaging them can help to soothe body organs and reduce stress levels. And the best thing is you can touch on these yourself during your lunch break and/or with your partner’s help after dinner. You will get amazing results either way.
9. Get into Some Orgasmic BreathingGiphy
It was close to this time last year that Teen Vogue published an article entitled, “Hands Free Orgasm? It's Totally Possible Through Orgasmic Breathing.” I’m sharing it because some of you who lean more into the more skeptical (or is it cynical?) side of things might want some proof regarding what I’m about to say — and here it is: the reality is that a lot of people struggle with climaxing and it’s not really due to having a lower level of arousal or being in the “wrong” sex position; it’s all about not breathing correctly. And the truth of the matter is that orgasmic breathing can effectively help to resolve that.
At the end of the day, orgasmic breathing is about slowing down, de-stressing, and focusing on you and your partner’s body. For example, if you intentionally inhale for a count of four and then exhale for the same count, it can bring more oxygen into your body, increase blood circulation (including to your genital region) and remove energy blockages that could be making getting into sexual sync with your partner difficult.
While we’re on this topic, something else that could help you out is orgasmic meditation. No need to look on another site for deets on that. I penned a piece a while back on it here.
10. Have a Kissing ContestGiphy
Damn, I wish I could remember where I heard what I’m about to say, but some movie or television show said that the reason why sex can oftentimes seem more intimate for women (even when it’s casual) than for men is because it’s more vulnerable for someone to put their finger into your mouth than for you to put your finger into theirs (I’m sure you catch the sex comparison here). Interesting, right? Well, maybe that’s why kissing (especially tongue kissing) is such a turn-on for both people (well, most people; also check out “Umm, What's Up With These People Who Hate Kissing?”) because tongues are going into each other’s mouths simultaneously.
Not only that, but because lips are reportedly 200 times more sensitive than even our fingertips are, it’s really difficult to kiss for a long time and not want things to go further. So, if you’re still struggling to get into the mood, have an unofficial contest to see how long you and your partner can kiss — tongue ‘n all — each other. Bet some moods will shift after that, chile.
11. Drink a Sex-Themed Cocktail (or a Couple of Mocktails)Giphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “8 Summer-Themed Alcoholic Drinks That Can Boost Your Libido.” Believe it or not, there are ingredients in certain kinds of alcohol that can “get you there”…if you let ‘em.
Although red wine is gonna probably be your best bet due to how the antioxidants are able to affect your system as far as increasing blood flow and heightening sensitivity in your genitalia region, beer increases phytoestrogen levels (which can balance hormones for women and make me want to get extra close), champagne increases blood flow and increases arousal and tequila can bring health to your gut, strengthen your immunity and reduce pain levels. So, why not turn up a bit with a cocktail, glass, or shot?
And what if alcohol isn’t really your thing? Mocktails have their own perks considering the fact that certain fruits are aphrodisiacs. Some include watermelon (whose nickname is “natural Viagra”), strawberries (thanks to their high amount of antioxidants), and peaches (due to the vitamin C that helps to keep your blood vessels dilated and your hormone levels balanced). So, do your body good with a Watermelon Mocktail (recipe here), a virgin Strawberry Mojito, or a Sparkling Peace Sunrise (recipe here). See how those are able to stimulate you too.
12. Take a Nap Together. Spooning. Naked.Giphy
There are plenty of health experts who will vouch for the fact that some people struggle with achieving an orgasm because they are too fatigued to do so. And since, reportedly, 1 in 3 people say that they don’t feel like they get enough rest, well, you do the math.
Something that can help is a nap. Even taking a power nap of 30 minutes (those particular kinds aren’t supposed to last any longer than that) can make you more alert, put you into a better mood, and improve your concentration levels. And shoot, if you’re able to convince your partner to take a nap with you and get into the spoon position while doing it, that can trigger feel-good hormones as well as make you feel safer and closer to your partner.
And if the two of you do it naked, not only does that make it easier to transition into sex after waking up, but you significantly increase your chances of getting an orgasm out of the deal since spooning is a great position to be penetrated by his penis and he also stimulates your clitoris with his finger. Wheee-wheee.
If you’re not starting to get into the mood after reading all of this, I don’t know what to tell you, sis. Other than: Rinse. Repeat. Report back. (If you build it...eventually you will cum!)
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Featured image by Giphy