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Soulful Sundays: Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

Without a doubt, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s current role as the first lady of France has dwarfed her singing career. Until she married and her name became known internationally, few of us knew anything about her.

I confess, I didn’t put much stock in her singing ability. But a few weeks ago, I watched a documentary on Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy (Somebody Told Me About…Carla Bruni) and was forced to change my tune. I was taken by her voice, and impressed by the lyrics she’s written for herself and others.

Born Carla Gilberta Bruni Tedeschi on December 23, 1967 in Turin, Italy, Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy is an heiress to the fortune created by the CEAT tires company. According to Wikipedia, the family moved to France in the 1970s when Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy was 7 to escape the threat of kidnapping by terrorist groups who targeted the wealthy.

Following a successful career in modeling, Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy quit in 1997 to devote herself to her music. She has recorded three albums, Quelqu’un m’a dit (2003), No Promises (2007) which comprises poems by Yeats, Dickinson, Auden, Dorothy Parker, de la Mare, and Christina Rossetti set to music, and Comme si de rien n’était (2008). She’s recorded with Harry Connick, Jr., and in 2009 sang for Nelson Mandela’s birthday party at Radio City Music Hall.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, image from the Internet

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, image from the Internet

Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy’s been married to Nicholas Sarkozy since 2008. Last October, she gave birth to her second child, Giulia, in Paris.

In addition to her musical career, Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy’s also been involved in the movies — she played the museum guide in Woodie Allen’s film, Midnight in Paris – and humanitarian efforts. Her foundation, launched in 2009, promotes access to culture and knowledge for everyone.

Take a listen to Deranger les pierres.

Best of Travel 2011

Thanks to Michaela at Awe Inclusive for including me in Budget Travel Adventure’s Best of Travel 2011 and giving me an opportunity to look back on the best of my 2011 travel adventures.

Last year was another fabulous travel year for me. I visited London for the third time and Paris for the first time, though it was my second trip to France. So here’s my Best of Travel 2011 roundup —

Best Domestic Travel Destination: To me, Washington, DC is the best domestic travel destination because it has so much to offer. The National Mall, the White House, galleries and (free!) museums, theater (not as many as NYC but still good and good bargains), restaurants, festivals like the Folk Life Festival, the National Book Festival, etc. Whether you’re looking for history or entertainment, Washington DC is the best place to be and the best part? It’s compact – you can cover a lot of territory over a few days.

Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

Best Travel Experience: I’ve been fascinated by Stonehenge since I saw a documentary about it several years ago and added it to my Must See List. As soon as I decided on the dates for my UK trip, I booked a tour. The best part was that the group was small enough so that we weren’t tripping over each other. We could go into the circle and get up close (but not touch) the monument. The tour also took us through the bucolic English countryside and Bath, a very historical and picturesque town.

Inside the circle, Stonehenge

Inside the circle at Stonehenge

Best International Destination: My best international destination for 2011 was, without question, Paris.  I love Paris – it’s all of the things we’ve heard, and more — romantic, picturesque, fashionable, etc., and though I felt a bit intimidated by the stories I’ve heard about Parisians looking down their noses at people dressed in jeans, I never felt out of place or slighted. In fact, I met quite a number of friendly Parisians. One night, I got talking to a waiter and when he found out where I was staying and that I was traveling alone — it was nearly 10 p.m. when I finished dinner — he called one of the waitresses who was taking the same train and told me to wait for her so we could travel together. Although I could have found my way back to the hotel on my own, I was very touched by his kindness.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower at night

Worst Travel Experience: My worst travel experience in 2011 happened before I even left my destination. I turned up at the airport to board my flight on Spirit Airlines and got a huge surprise. I owed $93 in baggage fees! I was so furious at myself for not paying attention to the fine print — I know better (or should) — that I forgot that I wanted to buy a few gifts in the duty free shop. The worst part is that on the return leg, I couldn’t figure out how to pre-pay and ended up paying again. Suddenly, the deal that I thought I had worked out to be one of the most expensive New York/Montego Bay tickets I’ve ever bought.

Most Embarrassing Travel Experience: Last year, my travel was embarrassment-free but 2010 wasn’t. I started to feel sick the day I was scheduled to return to the US from Johannesburg, South Africa. My body felt weak and I began to sweat. I didn’t know what was wrong – I didn’t think it was a cold but by the time I got on the flight, I was sneezing. I was so petrified of coughing that before I finished a cough drop, I’d pop another one. I felt awful. I still think of the people I know I passed my cold on to. Thanks goodness, it was a night flight so (hopefully) my no one remembers my face! The best part was, I was traveling with two friends who were also coming down with colds so I didn’t infect the people on either side of me. The worst part is, our row probably passed our colds on to everyone in coach.

Best Local Destination: Since I relocated from New York City to Jamaica last year, I’m going to take the liberty to name two best local destinations. In New York, the best location destination is Coney Island. It’s a place where you’ll find everyone – toddlers, young adults, couples, singles, grandparents – and there’s a variety of activities for everyone, from the hot dog eating contest over the July 4th weekend to summertime fireworks displays to roller coaster rides.

My best travel location in Jamaica is Treasure Beach. It’s laid back, it’s funky, it’s fun. It’s just a charming location that I’ve written about several times.

Treasure Beach boats

Treasure Beach boats

Best Travel Lesson: When I visited Paris last year, it was the first time that I traveled on my own to a place to a place where I didn’t know a soul and no one was meeting me when I arrived. Thank goodness, I know some French so I didn’t feel completely at sea. Interestingly enough, I was very excited the morning I left for Paris — it’s probably the most excited I’d been in a while about a trip. It turned out to be a very liberating experience and surprisingly, made me feel very grown up.

Now, I get the pleasure of inviting the following 5 bloggers to write about their Best of Travel 2011.

Travel Photo Thursday: Trident Castle

Round one of the bends on the road that meanders into Port Antonio, a compact seaside town on Jamaica’s northeastern coast, and come face to face with Trident Castle, an imposing white structure that makes you feel as if the turn you just took had deposited you in some European country, not a Caribbean island.

Trident Castle sits at the mouth of Turtle Crawle Harbor on a promontory known as Pegg Point. The secluded bay was used to “corral” turtles in pens after their capture. It also provided protection to buccaneer (pirate) ships that used to ply the region’s waters during the 16th and 18th centuries.

Trident Castle, Portland, Jamaica

Trident Castle, Portland, Jamaica

Now owned by Jamaican billionaire, Michael Lee Chin, Trident Castle was designed and built as a private residence for German Baroness Elizabeth Siglindy Stephan von Thyssen by hotelier and architect, Earl Levy. It boasts 8 bedrooms with full baths, a ballroom, banquet hall, two living rooms, terraces, courtyard, Romanesque pool, private chapel and helicopter pad and sits on 7 acres. A chapel, which is located in the middle of a park, can seat up to 25 people.  Construction began in 1979 and lasted about ten years.

Trident Castle operates as a rental property for the well heeled and can accommodate up to 16 guests whether for weddings or other special occasions. It offers an array of amenities and activities including a private beach, two tennis courts, croquet, snorkeling, water sports and deep-sea fishing.

Celebrities such as the late John F. Kennedy, Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp, Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, Kate Moss and Tom Cruise have been guests of Trident Castle.

Rental rates start at about $7,500 per night during winter season, and $4,500 per night during summer season. During the winter season, a minimum of 7-night stay required, 5 during summer. Rates include food, bar, gratuities, full use of the Trident Hotel nearby and, for guests staying 7 days, ground transfers.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!

Soulful Sundays: Don Drummond

Ska trombonist and composer, Don Drummond, was one of the original members of the Jamaican Ska band, The Skatalites. He was educated at Alpha Boys School where he also taught. Drummond began his musical career with the Eric Dean’s All-Stars.

A household name in Jamaica in the 60s, pianist George Shearing rated him one of the world’s top five

Don Drummond, image from Wikipedia

Don Drummond, image from Wikipedia

trombone players. By 1965, Drummond had over 200 songs to his credit.

He suffered mental problems and in 1965, was convicted of killing Marguerita Mahfood, his longtime girlfriend, and confined to Kingston’s Bellevue Hospital, a mental institution.

In 1967, his adaptation of The Guns of Navarone hit the UK Top 10.

Drummond died in May, 1969, four years after being sent to Bellevue. He was just 37 years old.

Here are Man in the Street, which reached the Top 10 in the UK in 1965, and Jungle Reggae.