Friday, March 15, 2013

36 Hours of Bubblin' in Dublin

Jay-Z sure knows how to make a city sound exciting and Dublin didn't let me know. I had a two day stint in the home of Guinness and had a good time, even if the skies were gray (cues Method Man).

Jet-lag and meetings left limited time for sightseeing so I did most of my touring at night which turned out to be pretty cool. I went down to Temple Bar for dinner and drinks and heard about The Boxty House from one of Rachel Ray's specials on The Food Network. I soon realized how much pride the Irish have in potatoes...and drinking. Boxty pancakes and other fried potato delicacies were fantastic! Paired w/ arugula and an Irish Ginger Beer my meal started off wonderfully. I ended up sitting with an American father-daughter pair that were visiting Ireland to choose a veterinary school and enjoyed a delicious trio of stews and my favorite a fluffy slice of Bailey's cheesecake with blackberry compote.

I checked out grafitti and other pubs in Temple Bar and hailed a taxi to see the sights. The Irish are a warm bunch,  hearing the words "lad" and "mate" often made me smile. I liked my driver so much that I paid him to take me around and get photos which turned out wonderfully. He showed me where U2 met, where Bono got his name (a hearing aid shop), and also the neighborhood an Irish Soul Band made famous in the 1991 film "The Commitments". He then proceeded to tell me that the Irish are the blacks of Europe, Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland, and North Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin - hence the soul band I guess lol. After a long session of hop out, take a photo, hop in - I was exhausted and headed back to the hotel.

The next day I decided to spend my final hours in Dublin at the Guinness Experience which was actually pretty cool! I am a spirits, ciders, lambic kind of girl but learning the process was dope and the smell was pleasantly aromatic. The constant "taste experiences" were a nice touch. My favorite was a small booth where they paired different stouts with yummy apps like smoked salmon, dark chocolate, and roasted vegetables. After I learned all I could about the importance of hops, yeast, and fresh water I headed to the Gravity Bar for an awesome 360 view of Dublin and my very own fresh pint of the good stuff.

I'd def suggest a stay in Dublin during your next trip to Northern Europe - be sure to hit some places I missed, including the famous Copperface Jacks, Europe's busiest club open and packed 7 days a week.

Ciao for now!


Dublin from the Gravity Bar
Approaching the Guinness Storehouse

Beware of Imitations!

The Dublin Concert Hall

Pubs on Pubs on Pubs

St. Patrick's Cathedral - the largest church in Ireland

Trinity College (Older than the USA)

Entryway to Temple Bar

I'm a fan of concentrated places to imbibe

Electric Culture Graffiti

Dublin Lights

Yummy Bailey's Cheesecake
Boxty Potato Pancakes
The Perfect Pint

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Started from the Bottom": Top Ideas for Travelling the Bottom of WEF's Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report

Name this beach scene. I'll offer some hints: It's not in the Caribbean, you can get $5 lobster, and the music nearby will have you on your feet in no time. Give up? It's Tokeh Beach in Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa most known for being mentioned in Kanye Wests' Diamonds song and for any discussion on child rebel soldiers.

I just read the World Economic Forum's 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report and the findings are telling if not altogether surprising. Guinea, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Chad, Haiti round out the bottom 5 of an 140 country list of places to vacay. The report doesn't tell me something new but it does present both problems and opportunity.

The problems are both real i.e. lack of infrastructure, past political or environmental unrest, undeveloped services sector, as well as perceived i.e. lack of knowledge about amenities, the safari or "aid" complex surrounding Africa and also countries of its diaspora, and a complete series of purposeful media misinformation on the actual pace of development.  Not far off from the bottom 5 are some of Africa's economic powerhouses Nigeria and Ghana, and even South Africa the longstanding "gem" of the continent is fairly low on the list, not even breaking the top 20.

As you read in my last post, Lagos as a place to relax, unwind, and enjoy life should be on the top of anyone's must do travel list - but you wouldn't know it if you asked your colleagues who have labeled it a danger zone. Freetown, while lacking in 5 star resorts, is not lacking in charm and sheer beauty. For anyone who has ever been to "Old School" you know that Freetown is also not lacking in the realm of laughter and entertainment. The list goes on, my good friend just visited Gabon and his pics at sunset were unbelievable.

Tourism is an important indicator of a country's progress on the world stage and as nations grapple with important issues like roads, energy, and food security they should not leave this important industry sans financial support and professional know-how. I encourage entrepreneurs on the continent and in the diaspora to use the knowledge shared in this report as an income generating opportunity. What does tourism market development look like, how can your business develop the fledgling but much needed tourism industry, and how can promotion of these lower placed destinations be done differently?

I've got ideas and plans and am open to collaboration. In the meantime check out these shots from around the web highlighting some things to do in the bottom 10. Ciao for now!

Hit the slopes in Lesotho

Explore the maizes of Maritunia

Deep sea dive in Madagascar

Soar the sand dunes in Chad

Volcanos in Burundi
Architecture walk in Yemen?

Soak up the sun in northern Haiti

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My week in Lagos aka Las Gidi aka the time of my life!

Ocean Front High Rises on Banana Island
I was in Lagos, Nigeria last week for Social Media Week. It was the first African city to host the event and I had to be there to check out the action. I moderated a panel with the prince and princess of Lagos aka Luvvie over at Awesomely Luvvie and Tiwaworks, international man of mystery and founder of the Atlanta Greek Picnic. My sorors, Afripolitans, and dear friends Maadie and Tahira rounded out the bunch for what ended up being an EPIC week. As Tahira kept saying, after visiting Lagos, I understand my Nigerian friends on a whole other level! Lagos is a clash of everything you thought you knew about Africa and everything you would least expect. It's luxury at the highest level and people living on a dollar a day, they even have a section in their newspaper, The Guardian, called a day in the life of $1 per day where they feature an interview with an actual person - crazy! Imagine the NY Times featuring a weekly piece called life on a WIC check, too much.

I arrived on Sunday on a Delta flight (sidebar: if you don't go to Africa bc you think it's too expensive, you can get a Delta or Arik Air flight to Lagos for under $800 RT) and wasn't sure what the night would bring. But I was in Las Gidi and there is something going on seven days a week. We headed out to a party at Elegushi Beach, the nicest beach in the city, and rocked out until about 3AM. Mind you when we left some people were just arriving. There was a strip of clubs with indoor/outdoor space, it was pouring down rain outside and that didn't stop anyone from getting their entire lives on the dance floor. It was definitely a great "welcome to Lagos" night.

Monday was gametime, our panel "Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age" was sold out and we gave tips on social media for business to a packed room at the Porsche Center. Check out the livestream if you need some tips, get it while it's free. The energy of the young entrepreneurs in the room was so live you could touch it. You had locals and expats who were hungry to grow their businesses and contribute to Lagos' success on the world stage. That evening, the Afripolitans hosted a "landing reception" at the Sheraton Four Points Lagos". Our rooftop shindig was a sight to see, you think the Brits and Parisians have fashion on lock, visit Lagos. Men and women were putting on for their city! I wish I was going back for Arise Fashion Week this month.

Other than our panel, my highlight of Social Media Week, was meeting Lemi Ghariouku the man behind Fela Kuti's album art. The Showcase presented by 37th State and Eclipse Productions in some ways captured the essence of Lagos. It was held in a mansion, on Victoria Island, and was all about fashion, film, and culture. The people were beautiful and the Patron sponsorship, froyo sundaes, and kettle corn definitely added a nice touch. (Sidenote: The amount of free liquor I was offered daily in Lagos made me hate my Lent choice of no hard liquor). Mr. Ghariouku is the Nigerian Harry Belafonte, all at once all artistic and talented but DEEPer than rap music. It was an honor to hear him speak about his experience, thoughts, and connecting Africa to blacks in the diaspora around the world.

Life outside of Social Media Week was way too much for one blog post but I'll say this, if you're looking for a place to vacation - the beaches, nightlife, and history in this city will only leave you wishing you'd spent two weeks there instead of one. If you're smart - you'll also look to Lagos as an investment opportunity. Depending on your funds - Eko Atlantic a new development project is poised to be the Dubai of Africa. Get in while you can, Bill Clinton visited the project while I was in town. If you go, you must visit Banana Island (similar to Star Island in Miami Beach), I'd suggest staying at the Radisson Blu (we had lunch with the architect, she's 30 and amazing!), def hit up a few markets, check out Club 111, the 14th St Guesthouse for 24 hour chinese food, and take a day trip to Badagry to see Lagos' history as a slave trading point.

Check out my week in pictures below.
Lemi Ghariouku and his amazing self!

Checking out the infinity pool @ the Raddison Blu

                                                                                Boats and Yachts...This is Africa!

Suya!!! Delicious Street Meat!

The Girl in the Orange Top has moves I can't event begin to start doing!
Tahira Chopping her Money!

First Night Out W/ The Fellas!

SMW Lagos Tees

Getting it all from our panel on entrepreneurship

A packed house at the Porsche Center
An opportunity to meet Obi and his beautiful wife!

Afripolitans Event was a HUGE success!

Yes thats Solange and Beyonce in KFS
Rollerblading in Las Gidi

I thought I'd arrived in Zamunda lol

I hope that women on the continent never lose the ability to do THIS! #skills