Kat’s Kibbles and Bits

First giving thanks to God for taking us safely to the Motherland, the “Year of Return” and bringing us safely home.  .  It’s been 400 years.  The trip was an emotionally charged experience. It was a 7 night stay but we did and saw more than most and we kept it moving at the same time.  Imagine;  3 countries, ”unfreakinbelieveable” 2 border crossings by vehicle… and we stayed in the BEST HOTELS each country could possibly offer. Yes, KATTRAX did the damn thing.  The only rough spot was upon our return to AMERIKA. Snowed in and sleepless in New York with delays and cancelled flights but precious memories.  At any rate, thank God we all made it safely to our respective homes -east coast,  west coast, south coast, and the mid west. Yes,  there  will be another Ghana tour next year in March and space is filling up already.

Stay tuned to the website kattraxonline.com for additional information.  Stay tuned to the blogsite KatStThomas.wordpress.com for last minute “Specials and Discounts”.

Also on the 2020 KATTRAX KALENDAR will be:

January – New Years In Dubai

February – Antarctica

March – Ghana

April –  The Maldive Islands

May – Black Paris

June – TBA

July – North Sea Jazz Fest & Iceland

August – TBA

September – South Africa

October – TBA

November – TBA

December – TBA



The Dahomey Kingdom & Ouidah

Today was another very educational and emotionally charged day.  A one hour drive from our hotel in Cotonou  lies Ouidah (wee dah) the voodoo capital of the world.  Benin is the only country in the world that recognizes it as an official religion.  Ouidah is known  for its central role in the Slave trade during the 17th, 18th and 19th  centuries during which time nearly 1 million individuals boarded onto ships from the beach and were transported across the Atlantic.

Our first stop was the Temple of the Pythons, where a few of us held one. Yes, I know, kind of creepy.   We later learned about the Dahomey Amazons. The Dahomey Kingdom was located in Southern Benin  which is where Ouidah is now. The Dahomey Amazons — the only documented all-female official front line arms military unit in modern history. They fought off the French and kicked ass at every turn. One of their mottos was “If soldiers go to war they should conquer or die”.

We traveled the 4 kilometers by bus down the “Slave Road”. The very same road thousands of men and women walked shackled and chained in the night leaving behind their villages, their families and their freedom.  There is now a statue instead of the Tree of Oblivion where rituals took place to disorient, erase their memory and remove their spirit. The entire ordeal actually took place in 5 stages, finally ending at the beach where the monument now stands, “ La  Porte de Non Retour” – The Door of No Return. The concrete and bronze arch is a memorial to the enslaved Africans who were taken from the Slave Port of Ouidah to the Americas.

Again, it was a very full day, a couple hours rest and we were on our way to our farewell dinner and another opportunity to chat and chop it up with our fellow travelers   Tomorrow evening we will be on our way to the airport.  It’s been an awesome travel experience and I hope you enjoyed the ride. Next month will be our annual Stroll Through  Black Paris Tour.  I may not blog about it because you all should be tired of hearing about that one but Vietnam is in April and a definite one to blog about.


Togo to Benin

It was a 3 hour drive which included another border crossing. Again, I had to get off the bus and accompany our Guide to the Immigration Police to have all of our passports stamped. It’s a very lengthy process but again All was in order and we were on our way.     After checking in to our hotel, we had a nice buffet lunch and then we were en route to visit GANVIE (the village on the water) commonly known as the “Venice of West Africa “ where over 30,000 people live on stilts.  As we made our way,  we passed tons of motor bikes zipping in and out of traffic. There are over 250,000 moto taxi drivers or “Zem” in Benin.    It was about a 30 minute ride to get to the jetty where the group boarded 2 motorized canoes to take us 8 km to the village.  We passed women and children paddling their canoes as they went about their daily business of survival.  Ganvie is a 300 year old village that began as a place of refuge to be protected from warring tribes who would capture and sell to the slave traders.  We passed churches, a beauty shop, a couple of bars, a community center, a high school, and water stations where they go to fill their water buckets.  We made a stop at Auberge Carrefour Ganvie Chez M, a souvenir shop and our shoppers quickly went to work making their purchases. Ms “no shopper” ( that would be me) was a little envious after seeing some of the very unique items they picked up.

Upon our return to the hotel, I invited the group to my suite for sips and bites; a few bottles of red and white, and some music.  It turned out to be a beautiful time for bonding and professional sisters exchanging thoughts and ideas on work and family life.  KATTRAX is more than a tour business.  It’s a family and our travels become a reunion of sorts when folks can go back as far as 10 years recognizing and remembering when they traveled together to other parts of the world. I cannot tell you how much I love to hear some of the stories that date back to 1998 when my young travelers were turning it up in Paris.  Yvonne Smith McIntyre  was on hand to tell those stories.   Wow!  and now they are still traveling with me.

Today, we visit OUIDAH, the cradle of African Traditional Religion.  Stay tuned…..


The Journey Continues

It was a 4 hour bus ride for us traveling from Accra, Ghana to Lomé, Togo but nothing compared to the sometimes 700 miles our ancestors journeyed by foot. Those that know me well, know if it’s more than 2 hours drop me off at the nearest airport but in this case, I thugged it out.  We had two more countries to cross borders of which we had to have in our possession a Visa for each.  When we reached the border between Ghana and Togo, we all had to get off the bus and physically wait in line in the heat  to present our documents to the authorities.  After crossing, our Ghana guide, Elvis said goodbye, we kept our same driver, Francis and met our new French speaking Guide, Alex.  Now in Togo, I as the leader had to present myself with Alex inside the Togolese Immigration Office.  What a time consuming ordeal but thank God, we were all in compliance, no hassles, no hang ups.  School was out and tons of Togolese school children rushed over the border from Ghana.  They prefer to learn English in Ghana in order to further their school work.  Being here gave me an opportunity to use my 6 years of scooby-doo French.  I am currently studying Arabic and it seems so much easier. Perhaps it’s because in another life I’m told I was of Egyptian royalty, possibly a Queen in the 17th century.

It was getting late, so our schedule was thrown off.  We saw what we could see before checking in to our Hotel 2 Fevrier.  The purpose for the Lomé  stop to overnight was merely to break up the long bus ride.  Remember we still have to reach Benin, also French speaking and with the same currency used in Togo (CFA). Ghana used Cedi (GHS).  Before we crossed over, our designated money- changer, Innocent, (yes that’s his name) came on the bus and handled the business.  Yes, more love for the group.

The population of Togo is about 8 million and 50% practice voodoo. No, we would only be here a hot minute.  Our hotel is the only 5 star hotel in Lome’ and it is quite lovely. My suite was on the 26th floor equipped with a washer, dryer, stove, microwave, full size fridge, dishwasher…..all quite lovely but only for 1 night.

My party folks made their way to the top floor where there was live music and then a DJ doing his thing.  They partied. I understand they showed these folks what they were working with on the dance floor and were told these folks ain’t never seen nothin like it at this hotel.   I missed it.  I needed to relax and get my inspiration from somewhere to bring you this blog.   It’s now 6am and I’m just waking up with some inspiration to complete this blog.

After breakfast….on the road again headed to Ganvie, the village on the water, commonly referred to as the Venice of West Africa.

Say My Name, Say My Name

After breakfast we had a 2 hour drive ahead of us. We would be the honored guests at the Torgorme (tor gor may) Village for a naming ceremony.  Upon our arrival, there was dancing, drumming and singing,  It was quite a welcome.  The Chief began the ceremony with libations and prayer, giving thanks for our group safely  returning “home” to Africa and to their village. Each one in the group was called up and given their African name (based on the day of the week they were born), their local name and the meaning.  They were presented with a bracelet and a beautiful hand made pot with both names inscribed upon it.

They saved my turn for last.  The Village Chief and the Queen Mother personally presented mine.  Incidentally, this was the second time in 2 days where I was one on one interacting with a Chief and a Queen Mother.  I was honored beyond words. My African name is  Akosya (a female born on Sunday) and my last name, Sevram meaning “God bless me”.  There was more dancing and  drumming and we were  also given a demonstration by their best pottery maker on how the pots are made.

Before saying our goodbyes;   on behalf of the group, I thanked the Chief, Queen Mother and the villagers for their warm and most welcoming hospitality.  As we departed, we blessed the Village with donations.  Gail Kelly, a resident of Griffin, Georgia; saw a need and will make 100 of her pillowcase dresses for next year. I guess I will be the designated courier when I return.  Today at the village, Gail discovered that the University of Georgia is a sponsor of this Village. What a coincidence! This Village experience made us all feel so at home and one we won’t soon forget.

Our lunch reservation was a 45 minute drive from the village in Akosombo at the lovely  SENCHI HOTEL AND RESORT situated in one of the most beautiful locations in Ghana, on the banks of the famous VOLTA RIVER in the Eastern region.

Our guide, Elvis, made the return drive fun.  He made himself Chief Examiner and quizzed each of us on what our new names are and the meaning.  Mostly everyone did a great job. Here, yet another  guide (like all my guides)  wrapped around the groups fingers.  They talked him into stopping at the ACCRA MALL so they could pay a visit to the fabric store.  Picture me shaking my head.  Okay, so I gave in to that but then somebody wanted to stop off and purchase chocolates……REALLY???? FOR REAL??? FOR REAL FOR REAL???  No y’all, not tonight!  Try that tomorrow after we check out and begin our 3 hour drive to TOGO.  Some of the party people would be hitting one of Accra’s nightclubs tonight and I cannot wait to hear about it.

Tomorrow….the journey continues.


A Painful Tale of Two Castles

We knew this would be a very long day that would begin at 7am.  The drive alone from Accra to the Elmina Castle would be 3 1/2 hours.  After Elmina we would see Cape Coast Castle.   As we drove over the fairly decent highway, we saw the daily life of Ghanians happening  with school children going to school and men and women  setting up shop and selling their wares.  We drove through a congested place called Big Town with tons of people up and down the roads.

So that it’s clear to you, please understand that both of these horrible places used to hold, punish captives before boarding the slave ships have a “Door of No Return; essentially the very last place they would be before being shipped off to the Americas and the Caribbean.  Elmina was built by the Portuguese and Cape Coast was built by the Swedes and was later taken over by the British.  There is no way I can recreate the experience for you but I will try.  Remember, they were captives first before becoming slaves.  The pain our ancestors felt so long ago can still be felt today by you and I.  We were actually inside the dungeons for only minutes.  We were 22 deep and it was tight but some of these cramped areas would hold over a hundred chained and shackled together by 5. Imagine 3 or more months waiting for the ships to come from England, being subjected to everybody’s bodily wastes.  Over 30,000 were traded every year in Elmina until slave trading was abolished.  The more robust and seemingly fit would be traded. The weaker would be designated as domestics to clean the cells daily.  The captors would pit tribes against each other; thus “divide and conquer”  and another cliche’ of only the “ strong survive”.  #1 to survive the dungeons, and #2 to survive the lengthy, arduous journey to the Americas.

While all this human misery and abuse was going on, above the dungeons there was a church and the Europeans were having religious services.  I had to ask myself, “What God were these people serving”.  There was even a peep hole so they could look down into the dungeons. I won’t say there was a stench but there was definitely a distinct odor about the place.

Cape Coast Castle is about 15 minutes from Elmina.  Cape Coast is where President Obama and Michelle visited and there is a placque commemorating their visit.  There were 5 rooms that housed 1,000  male captives crammed together, urinating, defecating and sleeping in the same place. Those that died were thrown in the ocean. The female dungeons held 300 at a time. Some were sexually assaulted by the Europeans. If they became pregnant they were freed. If they were found to be pregnant while on the slave ship, they were thrown overboard.  Then there was the “Condemned Cell”. Men who attempted to escape or attack the Europeans were beaten and sent there and locked behind 2 doors without light, ventilation, food or water. They stayed there in chains and shackles and the bodies were left until the last man died then all thrown into the ocean.

The bright spot in today’s events was the Coconut Grove Beach Resort where we had lunch with a lovely ocean view to enjoy.  While there I was introduced to the Queen Mother of the Elmina area and a Chief who personally invited me to come back in July.  Unfortunately I had to decline the invitation but assured them both that I would return next year; possibly in March.

Tomorrow we go to Torgorme, a beautiful village on the lower course of the Volta River.  We will participate in a naming ceremony, where we will be given a traditional African name.







It’s been an incredible journey thus far and it’s only been day 2.  2019 is the “Year of Return” to Ghana as it marks 400 years of the slave trade. Actor Boris Kudjoe of Ghanaian descent stormed Ghana with 40 celebrities to enjoy the rich culture and heritage of this country. Tour Guide   Kat St Thomas, that would be me; stormed Ghana with 21 KATTRAX celebrities  to not only enjoy the rich culture but to learn as well as be reminded of those that fought to make this country what it is today,

My subject, “Forward Ever, Backward Never” was a quote of Ghana’s 1st Prime Minister and President, Kwame Nkrumah.  After clearing Immigration and Customs, we were met by our guide, Elvis.  Again, I’ve been so blessed to have such a knowledgeable guide who is clearly passionate about what he does.  Once settled on our very nice and spacious air conditioned bus; he immediately began to tell us of the horror our ancestors faced being captives, then eventually smeared with Shea butter and branded with a sizzling branding iron and how the only ones that knew water to shower off the urine, feces, menses were the women that faced being raped by their captors.    Yes, tears welled up in his eyes and we felt his pain.  It was quite sobering to hear such an account.  As we rode in silence to our hotel, we intently paid attention to the narrative.  We drove past a statue called the BIG SIX. They were 6 leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention; the leading political party in the British Colony of the Gold Coast. They were detained by the Colonial authorities in 1948 following  disturbances that led to the killing of 3  WW II veterans.  They are pictured on Ghana’s currency.

As we arrived at the hotel, drummers and dancers welcomed us and then we were taken to a meeting room and given a brief orientation.  We felt the love.  They even arranged for a banker to come to us to exchange our U.S. dollars for GHS Cedis.  Who gets that kind of treatment?   The hotel is 5 star and  WOW – with out words!

The next morning after breakfast was our city tour.  The first stop was the W.E.B. Dubois Center for Pan African Culture where Dr. Dubois (an academic and civil rights champion) spent two years working on a Pan African encyclopedia under the invitation of Kwame Nkrumah.  We had a guided tour through the center and saw the FBI file they had on him because he was suspected of having communist ties.  We  also stopped by the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and visited his resting place.

Quite a  full day, a short time to chill at the hotel and then reservations at one of the hottest clubs in town, +233 ( Ghana’s area code). It was an outdoor setting, the weather was perfect, and the jazz was on point. They feature some of the best musicians in Accra.  A sister, Sandra Houston, joined the band on stage. She is sensational, belting out jazz standards like “How High the Moon” and some Anita Baker tunes, “Been So Long” and “Good Enough”.  A dear friend from JOBURG, by way of Pittsburgh a Gemologist, Brenda Joyce, who was invited to South Africa years ago by Nelson Mandela to teach  cutting and polishing diamonds now a citizen of Ghana met us at the club.  She too, a vocalist in her own right, joined the band on stage. Brenda was instrumental in connecting our Gail Kelly with a rep from an orphanage to present 30 childrens dresses she made from pillow cases.  It’s been a fantastic time and I’m feeling and lovin’ the vibe.

Tomorrow will be an emotionally charged day as we make our way to the infamous Forts, Castles and Slave Dungeons of Ghana.