I Heart North Beach, San Francisco

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It’s been over a week since my last post and I have a really, really good excuse. I spent the past week attending the 2012 Book Passage Travel Writers and Travel Photographers Conference in Corte Madera, California. The event is a gathering of the “crème de la crème” in the world of travel writing and photography – all under one roof to teach some 80+ participants who are ready to soak up the knowledge through four days of networking, morning sessions, luncheons, intensive afternoon workshops, and evening “conversations” with travel personalities and authors of note. All of the faculty – from Pauline Frommer to NatGeo photographer Robert Holmes – available and ready for endless questions from us budding travel writers, authors, photographers and creative souls.

I’ll share more about Book Passage soon, as my brain is still absorbing it all (and the title may well be “I Heart Book Passage”) but I want to start by saying: I left my heart in North Beach, San Francisco.

I had signed up for a pre-conference Travel Writing Intensive field class with Don George, who happens to be National Geographic Traveler’s Editor at Large, not to mention an amazing author and established travel journalist, co-founder of the conference and super nice human being all around. Led by Don, we experienced “a day in the life of a travel writer” and the chosen area was North Beach, an Italian neighborhood in San Francisco, filled with sidewalk cafés, pastry shops, amazing bookstores and all sorts of ethnic restaurants. So eclectic and so me!

Between sips of macchiato and bites of cannoli, I found it hard to concentrate after lunch and write those few paragraphs for class, to be critiqued at the end of the day. The breeze of hilly North Beach, the chatter of people walking by, the glorious 80-degree sun shining on colorful murals and even the handsome Italianesque man who followed me around and asked me to sit with him while I was “on assignment” scoping out a local bar, all conspired against me… I just didn’t want to head back to the ferry and end this fabulous day. And I dreaded returning to the oppressively humid, concrete jungle of Washington DC.

As the Grand Dame of travel writing Georgia Hesse said at the opening of the conference, gushing with advice from her decades as a travel writer and editor: “Sitting at a sidewalk café is never a waste of time.”

Now I just need to move to a place that has them.



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Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning, Ethiopian-American travel writer, photographer and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize, Moon Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic (October 2016). Her work focuses on Caribbean culture and adventure, and has been published in AFAR, CNN Travel, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, and Every Day With Rachael Ray, among many others. Lily is also the 2016 recipient of the Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism for her Caribbean coverage, from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Lily calls herself a “culture-holic”–she speaks four languages fluently and has lived in Cote d’Ivoire, England, Jamaica, Belize, the Dominican Republic and traveled to some 30+ countries around the world. Last but not least, she is a former corporate attorney who ditched her Washington DC office for the road in 2009 to pursue her dream of becoming a storyteller. Lily holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish (summa cum laude) from the University of Maryland at College Park, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law.

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  1. Lavinia Pisani 14 August, 2012 at 8:37 PM #

    Hi Lily.
    I am glad you are having a nice time in North Beach with an Italian breeze. =) Looking forward to read you article about the Book Passage conference. I am still processing it as well. Best wishes. Lavinia =)

  2. Lebawit Lily Girma 14 August, 2012 at 9:25 PM #

    Hi Lavinia! Haha, yes anything with Italy in it! :=)
    It was really great to meet you at Book Passage, what an experience! It’s a lot to process. I’m looking forward to seeing your blog as well and staying in touch!

  3. Don George 15 August, 2012 at 4:44 PM #

    Lily! Thanks for the very nice words and great post! We’re waiting for you to move here! Coffee in North Beach — just tell Lavinia and me when! It was really great meeting you at BP. All best, –Don

  4. Lebawit Lily Girma 15 August, 2012 at 5:09 PM #

    Aah Don, I really AM thinking about it! One of these days I may well send you both that email for a coffee rendez-vous! :=)

    Thanks so much for your note , I’m still giddy from Book Passage! It was fantastic to meet you as well; I learned so much from you and all the amazing faculty. Thanks for all you do, you are one rock star of a host!

  5. Don George 18 August, 2012 at 3:04 AM #

    Lily! Thank you so much for your very kind words! We’re waiting for you for that cafe rendezvous!! Take care and may our paths cross very soon, Don

  6. Monica 27 August, 2012 at 7:36 PM #

    Ah, Caffe Greco. At the INSISTENT urging of the audience, i did an impromptu poetry reading there–my first. I was on vacation. I would never do that at home in New York! lol

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