Travelbug: Summer Romance

This blog sometimes moonlights as a travel blog-come-photo album (and I’ve learned that these have actually helped ya’ll plan actual trips of your own!). It offers me an opportunity to share travel wisdom and document my trips so that I can show my uncle that I’m still enjoying (relatively) single life when he asks me where my husband is (it actually worked BTW, he begrudgingly had to admit that I was having a great time being an unmarried heathen when I showed him the pictures). OK let’s go!

A European Summer postponed is not a European Summer denied:

A couple of things happened that pushed this trip around broke it and put it together again. Namely the giant global pandemic.

1. The Where: I went to Barcelona (Spain), Nice (France), Monaco, Cinque Terre, Florence, the Isle of Capri, Pompei and Rome (Italy) and ended in Algarve, Portugal (for longer than I expected) for the Afronation festival. It all came together nicely 🙂

2. The How: I was actually supposed to go in June 2020 (laugh/cry with me). I’d booked the Contiki trip in December 2019 and it was heavily focused on the Italian Riviera, the French Riviera, the South of France all connected by train. We all know what happened next and suffice it to say when the Pandemic dust had settled, that (perfect) trip no longer existed. Thankfully my credit carried over and I was able to redirect it towards another trip (this one :-)). Contiki is a travel company that curates trip packages (transport, accommodation and experiences) for young people aged 18-35. It’s not what it used to be (more on that later) but it’s like a sample menu: it’s an excellent way to taste-test locations if it’s your first time and I can’t stress enough the unexpected value of not having to coordinate every detail of your Itenerary yourself when you’re alone and trying something new. They also have experiences you wouldn’t otherwise get and you know exactly what you want to see/skip if you ever return to that country again. They factor in unscheduled time. A great deal for the solo girl: the safety of group travel, decreased logistical fatigue with just enough independence included. It’s also a great way to meet people your age from all walks of life.

3. The Why: I love European Summers and was overdue for a trip out of the country (we all were). It’s become clear to me that whenever I go I have to pass by my girl italy and do something new there (this time was the gorgeous Italian Riviera). I also needed a brief Do-over of Rome (the last time I was there in 2014, all the water features and cultural landmarks were undergoing renovations and let’s just say the Trevi Fountain was Neptune/Posiedon ft Scaffolding) so a girl had to try it again. I’m not drawn to Paris. It feels inevitable, like one day my path will lead me there during the course of another European trip and I will make the obligatory tourist stops to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre but I wouldn’t necessarily plan a trip to leave my house just to see them. I am however obsessed with the South of France, they seem like my best bet at finding friendly French people. This revised trip didn’t have as much South of France as I would’ve liked but choices were made and I’ll be back (The Cote D’Azur didn’t see me and the small towns deserve their moment).

Let’s skip to the fun part

Vacation face

I kept a travel journal on this trip. It was, at times, incredibly hard to do but I made a point of writing a recap with my thoughts and feelings every chance I got. I aimed for daily and landed somewhere closer to every second/third day. I knew from experience that it goes by quickly and memories bleed into each other if not documented in real time. The “what do I do today” answer was a combination of prior research (Tik Tok, vlogs, blogs, Pinterest, friends) and night-before Google.


I landed a day before my Contiki officially started in order to maximise the beautiful city. I spoke all the Spanish I’ve ever known. I called a friend. I downloaded th e most common phrases I could find and practices in the airport bathroom while I cleaned up. My first tests was buying my sll access 48 hour metro pass. Then it was away we go!

It was by far the hardest Itenerary to put together. There were so many recommendations and I only had 24 hours (word to the wise, Barcelona deserves a weekend trip minimum). I decided that the non-negotiable was the Gaudi-designed cathedral La Sagrada Familia. Its wild (and busy). You will not get a ticket/tour at the door. Book in advanced and its one of the rare times a guided tour is required for maximal enjoyment (I booked via GetYourGuide 2 days ahead). I then decided to use what remained of that day to see as many of the genius Gaudi’s works as possible and eat great food. The fact that I befriended a fellow African (Egypt represent) outside a pretty church and spent the rest of the day laughing through the city with him was a bonus accident (interlude: we met outside of a church, I was peering around because I was looking for a Gaudi piece that I’d been warned was down a nonedescript alley. He passed me then doubled back and said “I don’t know what you’re looking for please go inside the church it’s so beautiful”. I obliged and, whispering he asked me where I’m from. We got a kick out of representing the 2 extreme poles of the African continent: north and south. He asked if he could keep me company exploring the city. As proof that neither of us were human traffickers/creeps we prayed together. The rule was to pray for safety and offer thanksgiving for a serendipitous meeting. We then took turns kneeling and saying the prayer -out loud- in our respective mother tongues and then set off through the city. Such a pity we didn’t fall in love but it was beautiful nonetheless.). The La Boqueria market was so cool. I loved this leg of the trip.

Highlights: the cathedral. Its still under construction and it is still the most gobsmackingly gorgeous marriage of art, architecture and religious fervour I’ve ever seen (and dear readers, I’m Catholic and I’ve been to Rome). The thought and meticulous detail, the feats of engineering. I became an instant Gaudi stan that day. Also lovely: La Rambla (a main arterial road that through the shopping district). On it, I found the LaBouqueria food market and ate and ate and ate some more. Later that evening, by the docks, I had fancy tapas and sangria at randomly selected restaurant that was also delightfully serenaded by a family band.

A family that sings together…

Lowlights: Uber. It technically exists but in the morning I tried to catch a simple ride to the Contiki meeting point in town and was rejected by no less than 10 drivers. I started 2 hours early and, 3 hours later, was almost left behind by the Contiki bus. It was a stressful start. To a much more stressful day.

NICE, France via Cote d’Azure

The first day of Contiki was wild (understatement). We actually nearly died (story for in-person retelling only) but the side effects were cool: namely, unusually long deep conversations in the sun while we waited for a replacement bus and driver. I also found the one other Black girl on the tour. All of which culminated in dancing the night away on tables, acutely aware of our mortality. The next day day in Nice was one of my favourite days: I looked fantastic and my ankle brace was doing its job (an ankle injury wasn’t the first going to be the end of me). It was warm but overcast (gently humid, my skin loved that), it rained but gently and I danced in it. I found a castle, a food Market, a vintage market, a Waterfall, that Nice sign, some friendly French people (person) and some culinary delights. I felt like I said was on a magical adventure in a charming vintage painting. The humid air was quiet and the scenery was serene and beautiful. I obviously ate the first watermelon I laid my eyes on and couldn’t stop giggling while while standing in tge mist generated by the waterfall that had no i business being on that castle hill. That evening we went to the Monte Carlo in Monaco (beautiful gowns): I won some money. It was just brief enough for us regular Joes. That section of the world is probably best experienced with obscene amounts of money.

Highlights: not dying. And fabulous conversation. The decompressing table dancing was also pretty awesome (minus having to politely shove brazenly drunk teenagers) and that whole entire solo day wandering the city in the gentle rain (necessitating the purchase of my super-chic French bulldog umbrella).


My absolute favourite day. Imagine making me love Italy more¿ The Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 gorgeous colourful fishing villages connected by a monorail. They’re similar, but each village has a distinct strength. if you’re only here for a day, I recommned seeing 2 (3 max). My personal favourite day. Superlative. Highlights: these are all beautiful seaside towns. I had the best gelato I’ve ever tasted and basically grazed all day on local fresh fish, snacks and treats. I found a gorgeous view and had the most relaxing floating swim of my life in what I can only describe as a giant tide pool but with actual sea. While floating, I looked up at the clear blue sky and wondered “is this my life?” and how had I gotten so lucky. I tried Anchovies, the bread of the region and ny first aperol spritz (apparently it originates this region). I bumped into a travel blogger who took the loveliest pictures of me with my own camera (he rolled his eyes when I tried to show him how to use it). I also sweat my ass off climbing a million stairs searching for a restaurant that had the best view (but was booked out weeks in advanced). Silver lining: I got the most postcard perfect view of my whole entire life because I’d finally figured out how to adjust my camera focus and lens.

While chatting to a local on the train, He said unsee no circumstances am I to miss seeing Puglia (he made a convincing and impressive list of arguments) on my next trip to Italy. I said: say less. Are you listening Future Me?


I don’t know what to say: I was disappointed by this day. Florence was the absolute highlight of my last trip to Italy and we spent a grand total of approximately 4 unstructured hours here (as opposed to my previous 3.5 days). Give Florence at least 2 full days of your time for the magic to capture you or skip it entirely is my official opinion. Florence must never be experienced in a rush. The evening was, meh: some people don’t pass the vibe check. I did learn that farming is a very lucrative profession in Australia. Highlights: uhm, Florence is one of my favourite places on earth. I got some beautiful pictures of the artworks in the museums at least. With a real camera this time.


The land of lemons. Think Amalfi Coast but chilled, full of fragrant lemon trees and interspersed with farmland. We went to a century-old family farm and everything we ate was traditionally made and/or grown (including homemade mozzarella). I felt like I’d died and gone to my personal heaven. A gorgeous evening was marred by a sprinkle of racism at the end because we can’t always have nice things.

Lowlights: The fun thing about travelling in the group is that you might be travelling with children. Or immature humans who’ve never left their home towns. For every open-minded well-travelled group member, there were about 9 small-minded idiots. Suffice it to say this dice-roll is why I am never giving Contiki my money again.


I don’t know where I thought we were going (I mean, you say boat ride I say “yeah!” but my jaw dropped when we rounded the last turn and saw those iconic rock formations. We literally swam just beyond them surrounded by luxury yachts (redundant?). We got there from Sorrento via a giant ferry and to the actual Isle of Capri via speedboat. I hope some of that expensive seawater rubbed off on me. The rest of the day was great: A blur of espresso, aperol spritz, gelato, trams, being flirted with by restaurant owners (being an unfocused hun, I did not have the foresight to seal this bag, I could be Mrs fancy restaurant by now had I seen the bigger picture). We were feeling fancy. I would recommned walking down around and eating where the spirit moves you. We tried to find a rose garden. It was a cute day.

POMPEI (Mt Versuvius), Italy

It was hot as hell and hard to focus at times but the tour was quite interesting. The site is incredible and gives a peak into the day-to-day life in a booming ancient metropolis preserved by disaster. I did not feel comfortable taking pictures of the human remains encased in cast: they were people and they died. I bowed my head and kept it pushing. A good pitstop en route to Rome. It’s always trippy walking around in ancient history in full technicolor 4k UHD.

ROME, Italy

I recommend everyone visit a big city twice. Once to get the tourist monkey off your back and a second time to truly enjoy it. It was absolutely delightful returning with absolutely no pressure to see anything I didn’t want to. I passed the Spanish steps with minimal stress, made a point to do the Trevi Fountain properly and instead bought strolled the summer sales, asked the friendly shoe shop owner where to eat dinner and prayed in a casual cathedral, (there’s an ornate cathedral on every other corner). I took pictures of random gorgeous unnamed statues. Romance found me everywhere. Highlights: eating my recommended pasta slightly buzzed at twilight in the shadow of the colosseum. Being serenaded with a gorgeous live rendition of Amy Winehouse songs while sipping my wine. Trying on gorgeous Italian leather and suede shoes like I was in a movie shopping montage (with the help of one if the most beautiful Black women I’ve ever seen in real life). Being told I had “good vibes” when I wandered into the Doc Martens store. I’m glad I got my Roman do-over. The Trevi fountain +ACTUAL running water = is actually gorgeous.

Yeyi, i flew hle

ALGARVE, Portugal

The logistics were a massive deterrent. Getting from Lisbon to Algarve is wild. There’s a train (book your tickets far in advanced kids) and buses (which I ended up taking) but I’m never doing that again. My advice: Hire a car and make peace with driving on the wrong side of the road 😂. Uber and surcharges will show you flames. Otherwise please don’t visit Portugal and not make a weekend trip to that little gorgeous corner of the world. Highlights: the caves (book a boat ride), the beaches and the architecture. I called Portugal the land of beautiful tiled walls (even the street name cards were gorgeous). The festival suffered from identical transport logistics which took their toll (it took hours to get transport to travel less than 20km away): I’d argue that it was worth it to see that many gorgeous Black people of the African diaspora in one place. The vibes were immaculate. The food was OK (just above average).

Highlights: the boat ride to the caves off the coast. The beautiful quiet seaside town that felt surreal. Our fabulously brusque and efficient Air BnB host.

Afronation is where I reunited with my #GallavanterInChief Chiko. We went to the festival and admired the view of all the gorgeous children of the diaspora. The vibes, the fashion, the cheekbones! I literally couldn’t predict which accents would come out when people opened their mouths. The actual festival was on a beach and dancing saved each day. The Amapiano stage made us so proud. I really appreciated that the African acts were the headliners and the American acts where in the supporting role. I’m sure the people of Algarve where shook by all Black and Brown people were wandering about.

LISBON, Portugal

I missed my flight home (short story: train schedules screwed me) and, following a dramatic airport dash that would’ve made Usain Bolt proud (lugging my head giant suitcase up stairwells, through customs and to the furthest possible gate), I left the airport bruised but not defeated. I had to either part with R30k for a one way flight or book into a hotel and wait 48 hours for the next reasonable connecting flight out. I got a Lisbon Pass (that got me near unlimited transport and museum access, highly recommend) and called upon my credit card. I took some suggestions from friends and the metro +trams to see the sights. I almost forgot the Portuguese were OG Colonisers until I saw that humongous (admittedly stunning) statue. My motto was “Eat drink and be merry”. I got a map, sampled cherries, ate pasteis de nata, stopped by the harbour via an architectural marvel (the MAAT), visited the food market, The Jeronhimos monastery and and made sure to get to the airport 4 hours early to avoid another expensive (but fun!) layover. I landed in Cape Town (because of course) where my new umbrella was considered a weapon and concluded 24 hours of straight travelling. Phew.

I am always open to sharing details about what to do when asked. This post is long already.


I like to do as much legwork as possible in advanced so that I can spend my actual time and energy being present in the moment, leaving room for spontaneity and magic. Examples: I plan outfits and outfit variations for each location (to maximise aesthetics, opportunities to sleep in and to minimise packing and decision fatigue). I assigned potential outfits for each day based on what the general Itenerary said. That means that the “what am I gonna wear/how am I gonna style it/all of my clothing is on the floor” moment happened in the comfort of my home, long before I boarded a flight. Of course I was aware that I could (and would) change my mind, that that weather was whatever and that I’d probably mix components and repeat pieces. But the heavy lifting, decision-wise, was done. I had structure and I loved it. At each location, I Googled highlights, consulted travel blogs for inspiration (and pose ideas) and placed the locations on my Google maps the night before to get a realistic feel for distance between spots and do-ability. It helped define non-negotiables, the rough order of events and transport options. I will say this is just a formula: I wandered around Nice on foot without GPS and somehow managed to find all the great spots by going “hhhm, that looks nice let me go there” and realised only at the end of the day that I’d accidentally hit all the highlight spots. These 2 tips embody my ultimate travel wisdom: Give yourself a loosely structured framework to work with and then allow room magic. In unsexy news: I always keep condoms on hand and visit my pharmacy to stock up on analgesia, anti-emetics, anti-diarrhoeals, lozenges, multivitamins and gaviscon etc as backups which I decant into a small clear packet. The last thing you want is to try and and figure out how to get these in a foreign country in an emergency. I also check adapters and plugs beforehand. This is especially important if you’re travelling to multiple countries.

The packing results 😁

Nitty gritty travel tips to save your weary soul:

That Shengen Visa: My lord, I don’t know if it was the bottleneck of cabin-fever stricken South Africans finally getting the chance to leave the country in the post-pandemic loosening of travel restrictions or what but that thing was hard to acquire logistically the consulates are in Pretoria, the booking systems was faulty or fully booked, the documents required were plenty. It’s almost as if the visa process is a relic reminding us of the face that Europe is trying to keep us out. I’d recommend going to the visa website of the country you’re costing and printing out the document checklist. NB: Vaccines (COVID and Yellow fever), letter from your employer, travel insurance, accommodation/Itenerary and flights as well as your standard ID documents, payslips, passport photos, bank statements and payslips. I advise you print multiple copies of everything (including the blank visa visa application form because you WILL make a silly handwritten mistake on your first go) and keep the spares in a folder in your car. If you keep in mind the fact that your goal is to prove that you have no intention of staying in Europe indefinitely, that you are gainfully employed/can afford the trip, know exactly where you are going and have something to return to.

When it comes to Europe; You’re going to need a travel agent you can believe in. However small their role might seem, no matter how organised, independent and fabulous you think you are: consult an agent. Someone who knows the most up to date information, who can advise you on what’s worth your while and can help with providing dummy flight tickets (where you get the flight ticket for a small fee before committing to the full cost of the actual flight). My secret weapon was Conrad Coetzee from Flight centre (, he is the Beyoncé of travel agents. I do not say this lightly. Please tell him I sent you (this is NOT an ad). He is efficient and excellent at his job. He created Itenerary changes at a moments notice when I was at the visa office, he was on the line with me at 11pm when I was running through Lisbon Airport trying not to miss my flight. He was there the next morning. I cannot stress this enough: He is the Beyoncé of what he does.

Money: money is a conduit. The Rand is weak and I’m not a luxury blog so we’re mostly budget hun’s over here. I always make the choice upfront about where my money is going: experiences. I choose decent accommodation but luxury flights and hotels don’t provide a great return on investment for my travel goals. That being said, you work hard you saved hard and you’re in freaking Europe so please treat yourself: some things are truly once in a lifetime experiences. Budget and be smart but Don’t allow frugality steal from your joy. Sometimes what you save materially is very expensive psychologically. Where you can, pay for convenience and peace. It may be expensive upfront but totally worth it overall. Talk to your bank and travel agent re: currency, cash vs credit card fees etc.

European public transport: the mark of good public transport isn’t whether the general workforce use it but whether the rich opt for it out of convenience. The public transport systems are wold class. Get that full day/72 hour/1 week unlimited pass. It always works out cheaper even if you don’t use it as much. The convenience and peace of mind alone is worth it. You get to hop on and off, get lost and switch directions without stress. Download the relevant map onto your phone so you can access it offline and plot your courses. Most also have accompanying apps and 9/10 popular locations maps include public transit-specific directions.

Language: Yoh, I’m not going to lie I was seeing flames. I usually try to learn good common polite phrases everytime I travel (I also usually carry a phrasebook). But the similarity of the romance languages combined with the rapidity of transitions had me frazzled. Just as I got comfortable with Spanish (si), I was in France (oui) then the greeting and thank yous started swirling in my head and I learned something fascinating about the way language is stored in my brain: I have my home language folder (SeSotho), an English folder and an Everything else folder. That is: IsiXhosa is stored in the same place in my brain as Spanish. When I blanked on Spanish/French/Italian/Portuguese, an Nguni language (IsiXhosa/isiZulu) came out of my mouth. I was legit thanking those European ladies with ngiyabonga. It was wild. Check this out:
Buenos dias (Spanish).
Bom dia (Portuguese)
Bongiourno (Italian)
Bonjour (French)

Documenting: I find the balance of documenting and experiencing a funny one. I assure you you will absolutely regret not having gorgeous pictures of the moments you enjoyed but Instagram cannot be your North star (unless that’s your job of course). You have to pick your battles. Personally, I very intentionally ‘get the shot’ and then fight tooth and nail to be present and ensure that I have an experience to remember. Because the photo, to me, is supposed to be a gateway to unlocking the memory. I’m friendly, and had to get comfortable carrying my camera. The pep talk was: you came all this way, its what you brought it [the camera] for and you’re Black and have stars in your eyes, they already know you’re a tourist honey. Commit.

Standard: be friendly and polite but keep your wits about you. I travelled with a back up phone in case I was pick pocketed ir my phone fell into a fountain. I Kept certified copies of my travel documents in my bag and on Google Drive. I checked in with friends and family on a strict 48 hourly basis. And I enjoyed myself 😊.

Special shout out to the MVPs of this trip: my trusty hat, my gorgeous camera, those phrase books and my ankle brace (“without their support none of this could’ve happened … “).

Anyway, I hope this helps you find the courage to book that trip or saves you some trouble when you do. If all else fails, I hope you enjoyed the pretty pictures and got to live vicariously through them.


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