BLACK PARIS – UPCOMING NEXT YEAR APRIL 21-28, 2022. Covid-19 has dealt the travel industry blow after blow causing us to postpone various tours where we could. The song that comes to mind is: THAT’S LIFE – That’s what people say, you’re riding high in April, shot down in May…I’ve been up and down and over and out, and I know one thing, each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race….
We have limited space for next year so inbox me at email@example.com if you are interested. In the meantime, take a stroll with me through Black Paris. The following blog goes back a few years.
Today was my off day but some members in our week 3 tour spent the morning and afternoon with Ricki Stevenson of Black Paris Tours so of course, after Robin and I have spent 7 years taking guests 5 hrs by train from Paris to the Chateau in Sarlat, where Ms Baker raised her Rainbow Tribe, I was anxious and excited to see what her mansion was like –a mere 20 minutes from Paris.
We were picked up at the hotel at 10 am where we were joined by 6 of Ricki’s guests including the infamous Randy Garrett of the famed “Randy and Jays Barbeque ” which became “Randy’s Rib Joint” and both were tres popular Paris eating spots back in the day. Lord knows I spent many a night hanging out eating and drinking good at his place in the early 80’s. We had Hotlanta, Harlem, Miami, and of course our west coast aggregation in the house. A very cool group that was formed impromptu.
We had to hurry to the first stop because we needed to arrive before Mass began. We visited the black Madonna. It was an awesome experience to be there on this Palm Sunday. The chapel had already begun to fill up when we arrived. We were all solemn and respectful as some sat, some stood, some prayed and others snapped photos. Afterwards some got candles, palm leaves and received a blessing from the Priest.
Soon we were on our way to the Marche’ in Neuilly where shoppers had a great time browsing and buying. There were fresh meats, fish, fruits and vegetables on one side and on the other everything from beautiful cashmere sweaters to tiny leather skirts to shoes, beautiful, soft leather handbags and other lovely accessories.
Lunch would be 2 blocks away at a quaint Swiss-themed restaurant, Le Chalet. My choice was swordfish with steamed veggies while others had steak, fries and sipped red wine. Lunch conversations were animated amongst the newly formed acquaintances; mainly travel related including hearing Randy talk about his travels across the Sahara Desert and more recently Madagascar. Randy has been living in Paris since ’72. He has seen folks come and go in the Black Paris community and he’s always down for the talk. He is quite a colorful character.
After lunch we boarded our bus to Le Vesinet to visit Le Beau Chene, Josephine Baker’s Mansion. She was 19 when she arrived in Paris and by the time she was 23 she had purchased this magnificent mansion where she would entertain heads of state, President Charles de Gaulle and numerous celebrities and entertainers.
The current owner, Phillipe Beaudry, an engaging, soft spoken gentleman, met us inside the gates, gave us a tour of the grounds, passing what was once the stables, fountains and ponds, the open bandstand where bands and orchestras would perform for her guests, the aviary for her exotic birds, her greenhouse and the huge cage where she kept her pet Cheetah, Chiquita. Imagine this beautiful, rich, black woman strolling the boulevard with her pet cheetah.
Finally we entered the mansion which was built in 1891, and listened to Phillipe tell us what prompted him to purchase the mansion and commit to the very costly undertaking of renovating; first beginning with the electrical and water system, then replacing floors, bathroom fixtures, chandeliers, etc. we actually thought we would only see the library and a salon, however, we were treated to the viewing of at least 8 rooms including her bedroom and a bathroom with a 2.5 ft deep stainless steel bathtub —–incredible.
This was a most interesting and very full day; my day off, however, I was looking forward to a wonderful dinner at Le Speakeasy along with some Chicago blues. It was quite an enjoyable evening but I can’t stay anywhere very long so by 1130pm Kat St Thomas called it a night.