MARSEILLE, FRANCE –  A port city in southern France,  the oldest city in France and the 3rd largest. Prepare to be seduced by this vibrant city.  No, It doesn’t fit one’s idea of  the French Riviera nor Provence.  It’s actually untouristy, semi-seedy, gritty and grimy to some but to me it’s AWESOME and I love it.  The restaurants are serving up super fresh  seafood straight from the fishmongers at the Vieux Port (old port) It’s history goes back to ancient  Greek times. Marseille challenges you to find its charm.  It only has a few noteworthy sights, one being Notre Dame de la Garde.  Here the city is the museum,  the streets are its paintings and the happy-go-lucky residents offer the ambiance. If unique is what you seek, then this is for you.   It’s proximity to North Africa means there are a huge number of North African immigrants living in Marseille plus immigrants from other Mediterranean countries which all combine to be one very diverse  melting pot.  You will certainly  see an  African influence even in some of the architecture.

Sister Ricki Stevenson of Black Paris Tours has launched her Black Marseille Tour so it’s a possibility it may be included.  This will definitely be an intimate group, already with a growing list so consider this an FYI.

Now for those of you that love to follow my blogs and live your travels vicariously through me because you know you do not plan to venture across the pond nor to any of my exotic destinations; I’ve got the Kat’s Meow for you on the local tip.  Spend some time in Las Vegas at a very fashionable 4 bdrm  home away from home, just minutes from the strip, fully equipped gourmet style kitchen; prepare anything from gumbo to Thanksgiving dinner. It  also has a lovely pool and jacuzzi.  $275/night.  Here’s the link. If interested, email or call Kat for this hook-up. rivoli98@yahoo.com  925 732 3606

Here is the link to check it out plus you can check the calendar for availabilty.


Champagne Memories

I just love it when our travelers venture out and explore on their own on their leisure days.  Dana Terry and her lovely mother, Ms Thelma took a day trip to the champagne region on our last day;  a mere 1 hr scenic ride from Paris.  Her pictures took me back to the 90s when I would take several trips to visit Moët, Veuve Cliquot, Mumms and others.  Me, being the champagne queen back then,  my champagne of choice was Veuve Clicquot.

While they were enjoying champagne in the countryside, others in the group were busy getting in their last minute shopping.  It’s been a great trip. I for one have no sad stories to tell, God kept the planes in the skies both ways, we were protected from all forms of hurt, harm and dangers seen and unseen.  For this I am most grateful to the Most High One.  In travel hiccups surface from time to time, we learn to take them in stride and keep on keeping on.

There may be 1 room left for this tour next April.  There has been talk about Dubai so it just may happen November 2018.    Stay tuned for Asia in less than 2 weeks.  Until then, Peace and Blessings

Do Your Thing…Whatever It Is


Make New Friends at Paradis du Fruit

As our tours wind down,  folks begin to find things to do on their own and I love it!   Saturday and Sunday while I was in Marseille, the others were in London and Amsterdam. You know what they say, “What happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam”  so I don’t even ask these days.  I just know a grand safe and sane time was had by all.

Back in Paris, Samantha and Dana were enjoying birthdays — some at Paradis du Fruit; beautiful edible fruit creations and good food as well.  We had a reception at the hotel for author  Jake Lamar, a dear friend who stops by to talk about life as a black man living in Paris as well as answer questions about any of the 6 novels he has written.  Several brought their English versions from home to be autographed. His story of his journey from the Bronx, to Harvard, to Time Magazine to Paris is fascinating.

Our musee’ this year was Musee’ Dapper, an African Museum with an interesting exhibit and a great gift shop of which our group found so many nice souvenirs to purchase.

French Dinner was at Les Trublions in the Latin Quarter. The food never disappoints.  The chef outdid himself with the lemon pie in a glass,  a deconstructed lemon pie that was to die for.  My guests for the evening were dear friends, Paris residents Monique Wells of Discover Paris Tours and her husband, Tom Reeves author of “Dining Out in Paris”. Pick up a copy before heading to this city so you will be in the know of do’s and dont’s in restaurants here plus a list of restaurants he has reviewed.   Monique is doing a fantastic job with her Wells Foundation and Friends of Beauford Delaney, a black American artist from Knoxville, TN, long time Paris resident now deceased whose work is finally getting recognition.

Tonight was West African cuisine and Limousines.  We had 4 stretch limos….with handsome black French chauffeurs—– always a sight to behold in this city; they meander their way in a caravan through the city of light as the occupants sip champagne and take photos with the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower in the back drop.  This is always a heavy night for me praying that all goes well.  After dinner and after my photo op with my loyal driver of 5 years, Faheem; I say au revoir, hop into an Uber and call it a night.  In the morning, I plan to treat myself to BREAKFAST IN AMERICA.  I’m getting homesick, and a little tired; after arriving home Thursday; 12 days later I leave for Tokyo, Bangkok and Vietnam. Stay tuned!

An Exciting Day in Marseille


My train to the south of France was departing from Gare de Lyon while those in the group headed to London and Amsterdam would be going north and leaving from Gare de Nord.  My sister/friend, Toni Hill of Los Angeles   and Team mate, Dedie B would be joining me on this adventure. The first time I visited was in 1991 coming back from visiting friends in Portofino on the Italian Riviera returning to Paris.  Growing up I had heard my dad repeatedly say he was an MP in the Army and in Marseille he directed traffic at the intersection of La Canebiere and rue de Rhone. I was determined then to take a picture and take it back to him in Oakland.  Of course, he was blown away and could not get over the fact that I remembered that small detail from my childhood.

The second experience here if you remember was back in September when our cruise ship docked for the day.  15 of us participated in the launch of  the Black Marseille Tour.  It was most delightful and quite enlightening and left me literally hungering to return.  Our 3 hour ride on the fast speed TGV was smooth and enjoyable. The check in at our hotel, La Residence de Vieux Port was 3pm so we decided to go to the restaurant I had been dreaming about since September: TOINOU, specializing in seafood since 1956. I ordered the Grande Planche, a huge cooked platter for 2 filled with, mussels, clams, razor clams, crab legs, prawns, and shrimp resting on this buttery parsley and garlic sauce. Dedie B had mussels gratinee, crab soup and then the chorizo and mussels. Toni had a platter of chilled jumbo prawns and shrimp.  Yes, we were 3 very stuffed and happy travelers.

All over town there were Marche’s (outdoor markets) and we browsed and stopped at several.  We had already determined that at some point we would ride La Roue (the wheel) Ferris wheel to us.  As we made our way back to our hotel , I spotted the carousel, purchased 3 tickets and we all hopped on.  Oh what fun and a wonderful feeling to be young-at-heart.

We didn’t leave the hotel for dinner until 10pm as most eat late in Europe anyway but we were too late for the restaurant with the Bouillabaisse of which I had my heart set on.  But our  plan B. worked out just fine.  We all enjoyed Le Petit Pernod.

This Sunday morning I gave God thanks as  I opened my eyes with a very clear view  of Notre Dame La Garde as she sits high atop Marseille overlooking this fair city.  Today is a brand new day.; One we have never seen before nor will we ever see again.  Today, before we head back to Paris, we just may take a drive along the Corniche to the picturesque 8th district of Marseille. It’s been a very relaxing time here in Marseille.





This night turned out to be fantastic. Planning a year in advance we never know who or what we are going to end up with for this night as most clubs here dont announce their calendar until 2 months prior. Our aim is to always provide  a soulful evening for our participants at a venue conducive to what our mission is about  and with so many variables to deal with including dates, times, and logistics, it’s not always an easy task.

We had reserved the 2nd set at one of the oldest jazz clubs here, DUC DES LOMBARDS.  When we arrived at the club the line was pretty long. Team mate Dedie B stepped inside to announce our arrival and was told to create a new line in the VIP LINE on the opposite side of the building and we would be the first to enter. Oh, that’s what’s up!! Our reserved seating in this very intimate setting was right near the stage. Yes, favor for the KATTRAX group.  Our artist, 40 something  Natalia King is a very unique talent that  I had only come  to know via YouTube weeks earlier. She is of Caribbean descent from Brooklyn who struck out for Paris some years earlier and began singing in the metro and parks.  Now at this stage in her life with a couple albums to her credit, she is definitely a shining star.

Were we in for a treat! Before showtime the waitress took drink and food orders. Included was champagne, champagne cocktails, wine, and for teetotalers such as myself; a few non alcoholic beverages like my choice:  Fruity Jam which was Cranberry juice, orange juice,  guava, sugar cane syrup and lime juice.  Another was the Carrie Nation – orange juice, green ginger, vanilla syrup and lime juice.  You remember who Carrie was, right?  In the 1800s she waged a war against alcohol, busting up saloons with her ax of which she was jailed for.  This was after her first husband’s alcoholic tendencies landed them in the poor house.

Ms King took to the stage with her guitar accompanied by a keyboardist, drummer and contrebass player.  She did a cover of Billie Holiday’s “Dont Explain” — in spite of her man’s cheating ways, lipstick stains, pain he had taken her through; she just wanted that no good ***** to come back home;  no explanations needed.  She did  Nina Simone’s “I Put a Spell on You”,  and several of her own original tunes.  We loved them all, especially, “Sista” from the Color Purple and then she rounded out the evening with the entire audience doing the background repeatedly singing “night and day” for Ray Charles’,  “The Night Time is the Right Time.”  Wow!!! What a night!

After the show, our  private bus picked us up and delivered us to our hotel.  It was late and most had a very early start for London or Amsterdam. It’s their free time Saturday and Sunday and my days off.  What would Kat be doing?  This time, taking the fast train to Marseille (mar say). Stay tuned!

Back in Gay Par-ee and Lovin’ It


There are 25 in the group hailing from St Louis, Atlanta, Minnesota, New Orleans, Detroit, Los Angeles, Panama City, and the Bay Area. I’m meeting most for the first time and a lovely group they are. I was on hand to meet and greet as they all rolled in to our Four Star hotel near the Champs Elysees.  This has been our host hotel for the past 8 years.  The staff has the best customer service you could imagine and they always make our groups feel right at home.

Dinner was at Babylone Bis, a French West Indian restaurant, a place I have frequented since the early 90s.  I was delighted to see my most current picture with the owner, Chris  had been moved to the wall of fame, next to the likes of past patrons, Snoop and Akon. Also,  I might add that  the food never disappoints in this very lively spot.  I highly and always recommend the grille’ poulet (gri yeah poo lay) grilled chicken.  You’ve never tasted anything better with the 2 wonderful sauces that accompany that 1/2 chicken.  Remember very little English is spoken  but they will work with you and don’t bother reading the menu because what they call some dishes is entirely different from what we know, i.e,  boudain and gumbo — not the same.  You can’t go wrong with the chicken or the whole grilled fish  – grille’ poisson (gri yeah pwa sone).

We had an early start with Ricki Stevenson’s Black Paris Tour, of which KATTRAX does by private bus with her wonderful most informative tour.  They group learned about Alexandre Dumas,  black man and  author of Three Muskateers, The Count of Monte Cristo plus over 200 other books but they didnt teach us that in school. His father was known as the black devil and one of Napoleon’s greatest generals. Then there was the 3rd Dumas, the grandson who was a playwright in his own right and Giuseppe Verdi write the opera, La Traviata based on Dumas’ book.  They saw the ” Broken Chains” sculpture near the Dumas circle which depicts the emancipation of slavery.  Those that didn’t know learned that there was an awesome documentary done on Hannibal in the UK and of course,  folks in America were up in arms that he was shown as a black man. The Brits response to that was,  “How absurd is that”?  He was a black man and a very, very black man indeed”.

After a visit to the Catholic Church where the Black Madonna is located; the group Enjoyed a delightful lunch was at the quaint Le Chalet in Neuilly sur Seine.  Tonight we enjoy a soulful sista at the famed nightclub, Ducs du Lombard.  Stay tuned!