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 writer, photographer, and blogger specializing in the Caribbean region. Her work is regularly published in major travel publications, including AFAR, CNN, Delta Sky, and Lonely Planet, among others. A self-professed "culture-holic," Lily left her native Ethiopia at age one, fast developing a passion for the expat life. In 2008, she ditched her US corporate law career for the road and created Sunshine and Stilettos— a travel photography blog showcasing authentic ways to experience the Caribbean, through culture and nature. Lily has since partnered with multiple travel brands and tourism boards, and also authors major print guidebooks on three Caribbean destinations, including Belize, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.

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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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