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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This New Scalp Care Line Is Exactly What Your Wash Days Need
This post is in partnership with SheaMoisture.
When it comes to healthy hair care, there are a few things that will help you achieve healthy strands: a healthy hair care regime, hydration, consistent treatments, and scalp care. While scalp care is one of the most neglected practices, it is also one of the most important. Why? Because it helps promote healthy hair growth, clear hair follicles, and remove build-up.
When it comes to creating a healthy scalp routine, it helps to know exactly what you’re up against so you know how to specifically treat it. Two of the most common concerns are dandruff and dry scalp. It can be tough to decipher which is which, but here’s a quick breakdown: dry scalp is caused by a lack of moisture in the skin, while dandruff is caused by an excess of oil and yeast buildup on the scalp. Knowing that both of these are big concerns, SheaMoisture released two separate product lines to address both issues: the Scalp Moisture collection and the Anti-Dandruff collection.
Needless to say, if you tend to experience dandruff then I’d recommend you try the Anti-Dandruff collection. However, my biggest concern has always been dry scalp. A lack of moisture on the scalp can be caused by several factors like weather, age, and hair products to name a few. I’ve noticed that when I use certain gels or skip out on a deep scalp cleanse, my roots feel itchy and dry nonstop, which is uncomfortable.
The only way to relieve the discomfort is to properly wash and moisturize my roots, so I tried the Scalp Moisture collection and this is what I thought.
Krissy Lewis for xoNecole
First, What’s In The Collection?
The Scalp Moisture collection is a four-product line that includes a pre-wash masque, a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, and a moisturizing scalp cream. Each product uses moisturizing and strengthening ingredients like aloe butter and vitamin B3 as active ingredients to provide eight times the moisture. Together, aloe butter and vitamin B3 work to restore dry and brittle hair, as well as add relief to the scalp.
Now, let’s break down each product…
Krissy Lewis for xoNecole
Scalp Moisture Pre-Wash Masque
The SheaMoisture Scalp Moisture Pre-Wash Masque may actually be the all-star of the collection. Using this deep conditioning masque is one of the best ways to target your dry scalp, restore hydration, and nourish your strands before shampooing.
I started by completely saturating my hair and scalp with water, then making small sections to apply the masque directly to the root. For my girls who have experience with relaxers and perms, it helps to apply the masque to your roots just like you would do with a relaxer. This way you can make sure you’ve covered as much of your scalp as possible while minimizing any breakage.
Pro tip: you can also use a color application brush to make this step easier.
After I completely covered my scalp, I massaged the product into my roots, used any excess on my strands, then left the masque in for 30 minutes. I was shocked by how moisturizing and clarifying my scalp and hair felt. One of the things that I love about the masque is the slip and how much softer it made my hair. While this is marketed as a scalp care product, it can completely transform your hair from dry and parched to completely hydrated.
In my opinion, the downside of this masque is that the quantity is too small for my liking. Truth be told, naturals go through deep conditioners faster than any other product (especially when it’s this good.) So SheaMoisture, if you’re reading this, we’d love a bigger jar.
Krissy Lewis for xoNecole
Scalp Moisture Shampoo
The SheaMoisture Scalp Moisture Shampoo is a gentle cleanser packed with the same moisture as the masque. The pearl-colored shampoo is lightweight with a serum-like consistency and a light and clean scent. The smell is pleasant, subtle, and not overbearing. When I applied the shampoo, I noticed immediately that it foams and lathers up very quickly, so less is more.
After applying the shampoo, I parted my hair and started at the roots to target as much of my scalp as possible. I recommend really taking the time to work the product and massage your scalp as much as possible.
Pro tip: using a scalp massager makes it easier and it feels amazing.
Once you start to massage your hair you’ll feel the product start to work. There’s a tingling sensation that might catch you off guard if you’re not used to it, but it’s not nearly as strong as other scalp products I’ve tried. I know some may not appreciate the sensation, but I loved it! My scalp felt clean, light, and breathable.
Krissy Lewis for xoNecole
Scalp Moisture Conditioner
Like the shampoo, the SheaMoisture Scalp Moisture Conditioner shares that pearly color and serum-like feel. It applies very easily while softening and moisturizing your hair. When I applied it to my hand, it gave my hands a lotion-like feel, which speaks volumes about its hydration capabilities. I also loved that the conditioner comes with a pump, instead of having to squeeze the product out – to me, it makes application easier.
I typically apply my conditioner to the ends first but because this is a scalp care product I started at the root and worked my way down to my ends. I did leave the conditioner in for ten minutes, although the bottle recommends leaving it in for three. The conditioner also provides that same breathable feel to your scalp. I honestly loved the relief.
Krissy Lewis for xoNecole
Scalp Moisture Cream
The SheaMoisture Scalp Moisture Cream is more of a daily relief product for your roots rather than your overall hair. It’s great for providing moisture and immediate relief to a dry and itchy scalp. Just like most of the collection, it gives a light and breathable feel – without the tingle. The applicator bottle targets specific parts of your scalp and makes applying easier.
Pro tip: I typically just squeeze the bottle to wherever I need the relief and use the tip to massage it into my scalp so it doesn’t mess up the hairstyle.
Overall, SheaMoisture’s scalp care line lives up to its claims – it moisturizes, strengthens, and provides immediate scalp relief. I definitely recommend trying the Scalp Moisture collection for an affordable way to treat itchy and dry scalp.
Featured image by Krissy Lewis for xoNecole
DC Young Fly Pays Tribute To His Longtime Partner Jacky Oh After Her Sudden Death: 'You Are The Greatest Mother I Know'
Actor, comedian, and Wild 'N' Out star John "DC Young Fly" Whitfield mourned the loss of his longtime partner and the mother of his three children, Jacklyn "Jacky Oh" Smith, with a heartfelt tribute.
For context, Smith --who rose to fame as a model and participated in the hit comedy game show Wild 'N' Out for five seasons-- tragically passed away on May 31 at the age of 32 in Miami, Florida. Although Smith's official cause of death has yet to be determined, TMZ reported that the entrepreneur was in town to undergo a cosmetic procedure known as a "mommy makeover."
As the news about Smith's passing was officially confirmed by family and on Wild 'N' Out's social media pages, a magnitude of people, from fans to the couple's close friends and colleagues such as B.Simone, Jessie Woo, Vena "Pretty Vee" Excell, Lauren "Lolo" Wood, Odell Beckham Jr., Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley, and so many others offered their condolences while honoring the mother of three.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Warner Bros
Two days after Smith's death, Whitfield released a public statement to People magazine thanking everyone for their "well-wishes" and asking for "privacy during this difficult time."
The following week on June 8, Whitfield paid tribute to Smith by sharing a post on Instagram that featured various photos and videos of the pair and their children, daughters Nova Whitfield,6, Nala Whitefield,2, and a son, who was born in July 2022, named Prince Whitfield.
In addition to the upload, Whitfield revealed that he waited a while to post this because he wanted the tragic event "to be a dream." The 31-year-old would add that as the days go by following Smith's passing, he's "reminded of" the reality that she's no longer here, and he wanted to make sure to commemorate her in a "proper manner." Further into the post, Whitfield praised Smith for being the "greatest mother" and human being.
"I wasn't in no rush to post this because I wanted it to be a dream so bad, but every hour, I'm reminded of reality, so I wanna make sure I applaud you in the proper manner,” he said. “You are the GREATEST MOTHER I KNOW your soul was beautiful. You always wanted the best for others, and I admired how our family love each other!!! Never had to worry about our kids loving each other cause you were on top of Dat!!!"
Whitfield would disclose that although he may not understand Smith's untimely passing, however, because he and their family are "God-fearing" people and "grounded by the spirit," they aren't questioning "the higher power" but rather rolling "with the punches," while holding on to their faith during this tragedy.
The Almost Christmas star went on to say that the pair's "strong" children will constantly be reminded of how great of a person Smith was, "especially a great mother."
Whitfield would wrap up the upload by mentioning how much he loved Smith and that, even though everyone is hurting right now, they would be okay because God covers them.
"The QUEEN of my children will always have a spot in my heart and the paradise (You gon get me for Dat but it's true). LOVE YOU FOREVER. Just know we going harder than ever, and GOD is in control, and he got us covered," he stated.
In light of Smith's death, xoNecole takes a look back at her relationship with Whitfield and the love they shared over the years.
DC Young Fly and Jacky Oh's Relationship History
Whitfield and Smith met in 2015 in a hotel lobby while working together at Wild 'N' Out.
At the time, Whitfield became a recurring cast member during the show's seventh season while Smith was one of the Wild 'N' Out girls. Whitfield and Smith would become an item shortly after the season seven taping of Wild 'N' Out wrapped.
In 2016, after dating for a year and a half, the couple welcomed their oldest daughter Nova. In addition to expanding their family, Smith and Whitfield would give fans a closer look into their lives through social media and the model's YouTube page, which instantly became a hit.
Smith and Whitfield would ultimately become couple goals because people enjoyed their honesty, interactions with each other, and their family life.
Jacky Oh On What Makes Her Relationship With DC Young Fly Work
In a 2017 interview with DJ Smallz Eyes, Smith shared that her relationship with Whitfield works reasonably well because they aren't afraid to have an open line of communication and are willing to address any situation head-on.
"I think communication, I know it sounds really cliche, but just communicate with each other. I think getting things off of your chest in a nice, calm way. You don't always have to be confrontational with the person. But letting a person know how you feel about something so they don't carry on doing it for the next three, four, five months, years later on down the line."
Smith added that another factor that plays a part in the couple's relationship being so successful is her selectively picking her battles and choosing to address the situation in a timely manner.
Jacky Oh On The Pair's Humble Beginnings As A Couple
In 2019, during a Q&A session on Smith's YouTube page, the couple opened up about their humble beginnings as they addressed the wild rumors that she was using Whitfield for financial reasons.
While responding to the remarks, Smith clarified that when she met Whitfield, he didn't have money "like that."
"He had no money. It's not like he didn't have any money because he was broke, but he didn't have no money like that," she said.
Following Smith's comments, Whitfield jumped in and said he was "up" $40,000 and still living with family members with the occasional "hotel" stays, to which she interjected and corrected the comedian by saying that the pair were staying at "motels" early on in their relationship.
"We didn't stay at hotels, get it right. We stayed at motels. Talking about hotels, hotels are nice," she stated. "We stayed at motels that the bed stunk... You know I really like love him. Like it was dirty."
Whitfield would add that although they stayed at motels several times, Smith "thugged it out" with him because she loved him. Smith also shared that due to Whitfield rarely being home due to his profession, the couple slept on his sister's couch and his niece's room.
But as Smith and Whitfield's careers took off respectively within the entertainment industry and the beauty world, with the star launching her eyelash and lip gloss brand J Nova Collection, they would ultimately settle down and purchase a home.
Years later, in addition to their professional success, Smith and Whitfield's family would expand even more following the birth of their second daughter Nala Whitfield in 2020 and their son Prince Whitfield last July.
Although it is reported that the couple never married after eight years together, their love seemed stronger than ever, especially following Smith's Mother's Day post back in May, which featured images of the couple and their family.
All of us at xoNecole would like to send our condolences to everyone affected by this tragedy. Rest In Peace, Ms. Jacky Oh!
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Feature image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images