Planning Your First Trip to Mexico? Your Guide to Mexico City and its Surroundings

For Cuisine Noir. July 2019.

From white sand beaches and Pacific blue waters in the west and ancient Mayan ruins in the east to traditional cuisine and tequila distilleries in the south, Mexico has a variety of landscapes and experiences to offer. However, it can be hard to decide where to begin and how to navigate this Spanish-speaking neighbor, and you will likely have to plan a few trips to see it all.

Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, is the largest metropolis in the country and often overlooked by tourists. Originally built by the Aztecs in 1325 A.D., it is the oldest capital in the Americas and one of the best places to learn about the country’s history, culture and food, while still having a big-city feel. There is a range of accommodations and more than 100 museums, art galleries, award-winning restaurants and performing art venues to choose from.

Most major airlines fly directly to Mexico City’s Juarez International airport, which receives thousands of business travelers each day. There’s no visa needed to enter Mexico (for visits up to 6 months) but you need to carry your passport.

Due to its high altitude, Mexico City enjoys pleasant summers and mild winters. Note that Mexico City sits about 7,382 feet above sea level, so you may want to drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol as you get acclimatized. Remember to bring a sweater even in the summer months.

Mexican City Skyline
Pictured: Mexican City Skyline | Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal
Stay in Fashionable Neighborhoods

It’s best to stay in one of the centrally located areas accessible by walking or taxi, to avoid traffic during peak hours.

La Condesa, with its largest city square, Zocalo, is lively from dawn to dusk. The streets are crowded with old-fashioned organ players, street vendors selling tacos and elotes (Mexican grilled corn) and businessmen and women chatting in bars after work. Local Mexicans also gather at Zocalo to eat dinner, listen to live music and dance the night away.

The Colonia Roma neighborhood was built by wealthy Mexicans who traveled to Europe in the 1800s. Here you will find French-inspired buildings, European cafes, bistros and gelato shops. Even if you are not staying in Roma, make sure to go for a visit or take a guided walking tour.

Savor One of the Biggest Art Scenes in the World

Art lovers can easily spend a week visiting more than150 museums dedicated to pre-Columbian, colonial and contemporary arts. The Anthropology and History Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Modern Art Museum, the San Ildefonso Museum and the Templo Mayor Museum, are some of the most popular ones. A must stop is at Frida Kahlo’s private home, Casa Azul, where you can see some of her paintings and personal belongings.

Enjoy Live Music and Dance

Watch a colorful Mexican folklore ballet at the Tiffany-designed stained glass Palacio De Bellas Artes, or head to Plaza Garibaldi, known for its mariachi musicians. It is hard to find a restaurant or bar that doesn’t have live music in Mexico City.

Take a Day Trip Outside the City

There are many historic and natural sites within driving distance of Mexico City that make for perfect day trips.

Canals of Xochimilco in Mexico City
Pictured: Canals of Xochimilco | Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal

Escape to the colorful towns of Puebla and Cholula, known for their beautiful Baroque-style old churches, busy craft markets and traditional restaurants.

You will find many Mexican families renting party boats, or trajineras, meandering through the canals of Xochimilco with food and music on board. This “Venice of Mexico,” a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, is about an hour’s drive from Mexico City. You can access it via taxi (about $20 round trip) if you want to avoid booking through a tour company.

Continue to Charming Colonial Towns

While there’s plenty to do in Mexico City, it is also a gateway to smaller towns in Mexico, where you can extend your stay.

Take a flight (1 hour) or road trip (6 hours) from Mexico City to Guadalajara, where you can hop on the Jose Cuervo Express, also known as the “tequila train.” This two-hour journey takes you through picturesque agave fields to the “Magic Town” of Tequila, also the birthplace of the spirit, where you can visit distilleries and enjoy tequila-based cocktails. Stay at luxurious hotel Solar de Las Animas, overlooking the main square for rooftop views of the town. You can watch traditional music and dance every evening as you smell the aroma of roasting agave molasses.

Jose Cuervo Express Train in Mexico City
Pictured: Jose Cuervo Express Train | Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal

Puerto Vallarta is a popular resort destination on the Pacific west coast. It is known for its white sand beaches, artsy neighborhoods, water sports and nightlife. From Guadalajara, take a flight (50 mins) or drive five hours to Puerto Vallarta, once named as The Friendliest City in the World.” It is a popular destination with domestic as well as international tourists.

Whether you choose to go to Mexico City for a week or a weekend, you will find that the city and the surrounding areas offer a wide variety of attractions for all interests.

~ Written for & published by Cuisine Noir Magazine. All rights reserved. 

Priscilla Russell – One of the First Black Women Air Traffic Controllers

Cuisine Noir Magazine. July 2019.

When we get on an airplane, we may acknowledge the flight attendants and the pilot, but very rarely do we think about the crew on the ground that enables a fleet of planes to crisscross the globe. Priscilla Russell is the first Black woman in the history of Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) to work as a frontline manager. In her recent novel, “In Control: On a Wing and a Prayer,” Russell gives a firsthand account of what it takes to work in air traffic control while inspiring other women of color to pursue careers in aviation.

“When I started, the only thing I knew about the FAA was that president Ronald Raegan had fired 11,345 striking air traffic controllers in 1981and banned them from federal service for life. Though it struck as breaking news as one of the most important events in late 21st century U.S. labor history, it also ended up changing the landscape of Air Traffic Control (ATC) as we know it. Because of the workers strike, there was mass recruiting, and for the first time, minorities and women were encouraged to apply,” recalls Russell. The compensation package offering of a $50,000 annual salary (which was a lot in the 1980s), made it a pretty attractive career choice to this Black teen who had grown up in a large, low-income family in Birmingham, Ala.

High Demands
Retired Air Traffic Controller Priscilla Russell
Photo credit: Priscilla Russell

In her book, Russell describes the high-pressure job of an air traffic controller. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, air traffic controllers’ primary concern is safety, but they also must direct aircraft efficiently to minimize delays. They manage the flow of aircraft into and out of the airport airspace, guide pilots during takeoff and landing and monitor aircraft as they travel through the skies.

“It was only when I went to work that I found out there was so much more than towers and planes involved.” Russell discovered this during her grueling exams and vigorous trainings that spanned two and a half years. There is a lot of information to learn in a short time, and senior officials weren’t very confident of her abilities. “They didn’t bother to learn my name thinking I won’t be there too long,” she recalls.

Russell had a steep learning curve to become a certified professional controller (CPC).

One needs to be good at math, 3-D imagination, cognition, problem-solving, taking standardized tests and thinking on your feet. “Believe it or not I made a lot of bad choices and my journeys is a testament that it doesn’t matter where you are in life, you can still turn your life around and achieve whatever you want,” says Russell.

Diversity in the Control Room

At the time, there was not much ethnic or gender diversity, and moving up the career ladder was rather difficult. When Russell arrived at ARTCC in Hampton, Ga., which is the busiest control center in the world, there had been only one Black female in training to be certified. Russell was the first Black woman in the history of Atlanta ARTCC selected as a front-line manager in 1994.

At 55, Russell is retired after working at the Federal Aviation Administration for more than 32 years and lives in the suburbs of Atlanta with her husband. She spends most of her time writing and spending time with her grandchildren.

“In Control: On a Wing and a Prayer,” is the first of a two-part series. In this book, Russell talks about how she set her mind to join the FAA academy as a young adult, overcame her drug addiction and worked tirelessly in her classes to become fully certified. She is working on her next book which she plans to release in December 2019, where she addresses her experiences with sexual harassment and on-the-job discrimination.

“In Control: On a Wing and a Prayer” is available on Amazon.

~ Written for Cuisine Noir Magazine. All rights reserved.

Your Guide to Visiting the Island of Malta

Cuisine Noir Magazine. June 2019.

If you have watched Gladiator, Game of Thrones or Troy, you will recognize the towering fortresses, medieval cities, rustic villages and rocky formations that make up the dramatic backdrops. A popular filming destination, Malta is an island country located in the Mediterranean between Europe and North Africa. Fishing boats on turquoise-blue waters, dry countryside landscapes, ornate palazzos, colorful balconies and Maltese Baroque architecture feel like a mix of Italy and Morocco.

Malta
Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal

Being at the crossroads of ancient trading routes, Malta has a rich history influenced by the Greeks, Romans, Normans, French, British, Arabs and Phoenicians.

Although Malta is a popular port of call for cruisers and day trippers from southern Italy, it is best to spend a few days soaking in the scenic rolling hills, isolated beaches, ancient towns and friendly locals.

Getting There

The easiest way to get to Malta is via Europe. Connect through Rome with a low-cost flight directly to Malta. Alternatively, combine a visit with Sicily, the Italian island known for its delicious cuisine, picturesque countryside and an active volcano. A ferry from Pozzallo arrives in Malta in less than 2 hours.

The people are friendly and everyone speaks English very well with Maltese (which sounds like Arabic) and Italian spoken widely on the island.

Getting Around

Although Malta has several islands, only three of them are inhabited. The airport is located on the main island, Malta, which is the point of arrival for most travelers. There are many resorts and boutique hotels on the island of Gozo, but Comino is mostly a nature reserve.

The easiest way to see the small country is by renting a car and driving. Be careful of narrow streets and traffic jams in the city centers. Public buses are budget-friendly and well networked.

Lodging 

The luxurious 5-star Phoenicia Hotel has guestrooms commanding glorious views of the Grand Harbor, cathedral and city. Maltese tiled floors, crystal chandeliers and lush gardens make this an ideal place to get a glimpse of the royalty that made Malta home. The Phoenicia has hosted a number of distinguished guests, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Jeffrey Hunter, Gérard Depardieu, Joaquin Phoenix and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

To be in the midst of activities, stay at Domus Zamittello, a restored 17th-century palazzo, located at the beginning of the bustling Republic Street inside the cultural capital city of Valletta. Grab a drink at the rooftop balcony overlooking an outdoor theater and watch the vibrant streets from the 16thcentury.

Dining

There is a wide range of culinary options in Malta, from family-run bakeries and food markets to upscale restaurants, and they are a lot less expensive than mainland Europe. Maltese cuisine, like it’s culture, draws on influences from the Mediterranean. Must-try dishes include Gozitan cheeselet, pastizzi, ftira sandwiches, stewed rabbit, and prinjolata. Meals are complemented by locally made wine, cheese, bread and olives.

Farm meal with wine in Malta
Photo credit: Suchata Rawal
Things To Do

With hiking spots, beaches, museums, cathedrals, cafes and festivals, Malta offers something for every kind of traveler. Must-see attractions include the UNESCO World Heritage sites —Hypogeum and the megalithic temples — that are some of the oldest in the world.

The ancient capital of Mdina, with its sandstone and marble buildings, is a delight for admirers of Arabic architecture.

One can easily spend an entire day in the current capital of Valletta, a World Heritage Site, soaking in the scenery from the Upper Barrakka Gardens, admiring the works of local artists at National Museum of Fine Arts, or simply strolling through the narrow streets filled with cafes and shops.

St John’s Co-Cathedral, built by the Order of St. John in the 16th century, is one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in the world, also located in Valletta.

A cruise to the Blue Lagoon or a small boat to the Blue Grotto is a relaxing way to spend the day. Enjoy some quiet time on the sandy beaches and swim in the clear blue waters.

Maltese people love to celebrate and villages often compete to see who has the biggest merrymaking. There are patron saint feasts held practically year-round with fireworks, music, parades and food.

With 300 days of sunshine and mild Mediterranean climate, you can visit Malta any time of the year. It’s location, history and mix of cultures make it a unique and exciting travel destination.

To plan your trip to Malta, visit www.mta.com.

~ Written for Cuisine Noir Magazine. June 2019.

Girls’ Getaway to America’s Oldest City, St. Augustine

Cuisine Noir Magazine. April 2019.

Best known as the oldest European settlement in the United States, the charming town of St. Augustine, Fla., is a well-kept secret. It’s rich history, Spanish-style architecture, European-style promenades and beautiful Florida bay, make it idyllic to treat your mom or escape with your girlfriends this spring or summer.

St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument in the plaza
Pictured: St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument | Photo credit: St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau

Getting to St Augustine is easy. Just fly into Jacksonville and take a 45-minute cab ride to the city. Once in St. Augustine, you don’t need to drive. The 144-block city filled with B&B’s, restaurants, museums, shops and homes, is accessible on foot and by the Red Train trolleys that stop at major attractions.

Stay at the family-run Bayfront Marin House Inn, a cozy home with porches and hammocks to relax and enjoy a view of the gardens and the bay. Mingle with the owners and other guests over a free cocktail hour offered every evening. Alternately, splurge at Casa Monica, a luxury hotel set in a Moorish Revival-style building built in 1888 in the heart of the historic district. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, stop by for a glass of chilled sangria and spicy Kessler calamari at the Mediterranean restaurant, Costa Brava. The Moroccan inspired interiors and artwork spread throughout Casa Monica are worth looking around.

The Birthplace of African-American History

St. Augustine is the birthplace of African-American history. Fort Mose (two miles north of St. Augustine) is the site of the first free African settlement legally sanctioned by the Spanish in what is now known as the United States in 1738.  It is also the headquarters of the first Black armed soldiers commanded by a Black officer, who actively engaged in military combat with English colonists from the Carolinas and Georgia. St. Augustine was one of the few places in Florida to enforce emancipation during the Civil War. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to St. Augustine and was arrested on the steps of the Monson Motel (now the Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront). It is believed that King’s arrest along with demonstrations he organized are what led to Senate passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

St. Augustine is also the longest European inhabited city in the United States where you will find descendants of its original European settlers still running establishments. As a result, excellent quality restaurants are serving international cuisine with a Florida twist. Taste the best Majorcan clam chowder at Catch 27, French escargot in white wine at Cafe Alcazar, Polish pierogis at Gaufre’s & Goods Inc, authentic Cuban sandwiches at La Herencia Café and fried green tomatoes at The Floridian Restaurant.

Fried Green Tomatoes at The Floridian Restaurant in St. Augustine, FL
Pictured: Fried Green Tomatoes at The Floridian Restaurant | Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal
Eat and Drink St. Augustine

Have a southern brunch of Mayport shrimp and grits on the porch of Preserved Restaurant, located in a Victorian home, once occupied by Thomas Jefferson’s great-granddaughter and ran by James Beard-nominated chef Brian Whittington. Head a block over to see the first stop (#101, 79 Bridge Street) on the ACCORD Freedom Trail in the Lincolnville neighborhood, which was settled by freed slaves and played a significant role in the Civil Rights movement.

Take a tour of Florida’s first distillery set in a former ice plant from 1917. Here you can learn about the process of making spirits and taste bourbon, gin, rum and vodka at the St. Augustine Distillery. Make sure to check out The Ice Plant, a cool bar upstairs known for its handcrafted cocktails and a breezy patio overlooking the city.

Guests at the Ice Plant in St. Augustine, FL
Pictured: Guests at the Ice Plant | Photo credit: St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau

Award-winning San Sebastian Winery, celebrated for their premium, sparking and dessert wines from muscadine grapes offers complimentary wine tasting tours. A great way to round up the afternoon is by learning how to make chocolate during a Whetstone Chocolate Factory tasting tour.

You may not find any “magic water” at the Ponce de Léon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, but it’s a good place to indulge in some history and nature. Stroll through the lush 15-acre park among majestic peacocks and stop at the open-air exhibits featuring Timucua civilization and the Spanish conquests.

Perhaps a better way to detox your mind and body is by spending time in a sensory deprivation floating tank at the St. Augustine Salt Spa. Inspired by the world-famous Polish Wieliczka Salt Mine, this is the first 5-star halotherapy (salt therapy) health resort in Florida featuring a salt cave made with imported Polish and Himalayan salt, infrared sauna and float tank therapies. Plan to spend approximately three hours to enjoy all the amenities.

The Lightner Museum, housed in the former Alcazar Hotel, has an eclectic collection of items including art from Africa. The interior of the hotel once had the world’s largest indoor swimming pool in 1888 and is now used for weddings and events.

African Art at the Lighter Museum
Pictured: African Art at the Lighter Museum | Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal

An entire weekend is not enough time to visit St. Augustine’s many museums, art galleries, and boutique shops. A guided tour of the Flagler College, former Hotel Ponce de León, known for its Spanish Renaissance architecture and a prestigious guest list, is a must. Tours are usually sold out so book in advance.

For more information for planning your trip to St. Augustine, go online to www.visitstaugustine.com and follow the city’s adventures on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.

~ Written for and published by Cuisine Noir Magazine.

Black African Businesses Emerge in Soweto

For Cuisine Noir. March 2019.

What to see and do in the birthplace of the South African Revolution

A 30-minute car ride from the urban sprawl of Johannesburg to the suburbs of Soweto makes you feel as if you have traveled to another country. The scenery changes from glass skyscrapers, planned roads, upscale boutiques and acclaimed restaurants to rows of colorful houses, children dancing behind fenced yards and piles of accumulated garbage.

Black African Businesses Emerge in Soweto
Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal

If you have heard of world leaders Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, you may already know that they both lived in Soweto, practically across the street from each other. Soweto, or the South Western Township, was created in the 1930s when Black Africans were forced away from the city to separate dwelling areas under the infamous “Urban Areas Act,” making Soweto the largest Black city in South Africa. Today, it is still the largest township located on the outskirts of Johannesburg, with a population of 1.5 million.

Eyes on the Future

My Uber driver is a Black African by the name of Doctor Siphamandla, who is in his mid-20s. He’s not a doctor as one may suspect. “My grandfather named me Doctor, perhaps because he had a bigger vision for me,” Siphamandla clarifies. He tells me that he was born and brought up in Soweto and loves everything about the place. “The people, the food, the nightlife—it’s a vibrant place!” I’m curious about the visit.

During our commute, I ask him what he thinks about the future of South Africa and he says he feels very confident. “I have not seen or experienced apartheid. I have only heard stories from my family. So, I cannot tell you what it felt like. All I know is we are too focused on the past, on Mandela, and have to move on.”

Born after 1994, Siphamandla falls under the category of “Free Born,” meaning those born in free South Africa. Once we arrive at our destination, I see how Soweto is moving on. There are international travelers —Whites, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics —all lined up to go inside the former home of Nelson Mandela, now a museum. It is a small one-story brick building with only two rooms, filled with original pieces of furniture, certificates and pictures. Everyone wants to take a photo in front of the house, raising their fists as Mandela did, to show their support towards his cause.

Across the street, restaurants and bars are serving Soweto beer and traditional braai. Souvenir shops on Vilakazi Street sell African crafts, colorful gowns, and bags with Mandela’s face on them. Many bankers, chefs and entrepreneurs have returned to Soweto to open modern cafes, jazz clubs and breweries. Nearby, Morara Wine and Spirits Emporium, Soweto’s first boutique wine and spirits shop, hosts book clubs and poetry gigs with more than100 South African wine labels.

Orlanda Stadium in Soweto, South Africa
Pictured: Orlando Stadium | Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal

The Orlando Stadium is home to the Orlando Pirates FC of the Premier Soccer League, one of the best teams in the country. In 2010, Soweto hosted the FIFA Soccer World Cup drawing the attention of more than a billion soccer spectators from all over the world.

Many travelers prefer to stay at the 4-star Soweto Hotel and Conference Center so they can enjoy nearby attractions, including Orlando Towers. The two disused cooling structures loom over the township offering a lift ride to a viewing platform, bungee jump, power swing, and internal swing.RELATED: Ntsiki Biyela Uncorked: South Africa’s First Black Female Winemaker Delivers

The Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum gives a stark perspective into Soweto’s recent past. During the Soweto Uprising of 1976, police opened fire on 10,000 students marching against the government’s policy to enforce education in Afrikaans rather than their native languages. Disease, hunger, civil unrest, and violent riots were a part of everyday life in Soweto until the country abolished apartheid had its first multiracial elections in 1994.

Reconciling the Past for a Promising Future

The next morning, I meet with Charles Ncube, my guide from Kgokare Tours, an all-Black-owned tour company. Ncube is one of the 12 tour guides featured in South African Tourism’s new ‘Meet Your South Africa’ campaign where locals show insights into their communities. He is in his 30s and speaks 11 languages. “When you live in Soweto, you have to speak to everybody in their own language,” he tells me, referring to how the shanty town was initially divided by different language groups, including, Sotho, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Zulu and Xhosa.

Typically, when you go to museums, you expect to see things that happened to generations before us. At the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, I realize how recent the history of South Africa is. “I remember having to walk through Black-Only marked staircases and going to Black-Only restrooms at the airport when I was a teenager,” Ncube, who is almost my age, tells me.

Tour guide Charles Ncube of Kgokare Tours in Soweto
Pictured: Tour guide Charles Ncube | Photo credit: Sucheta Rawal

One of the exhibits at the museum is about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), where witnesses of gross human rights violations during apartheid were invited to give statements about their experiences and face their persecutors. “It was in the middle of the night when some White men came to our house and took my mother. We never saw her again,” Ncube explains in one of the documentaries.

This year as South Africa celebrates 25 years of democracy, people like Ncube and Siphamandla have different experiences from the past, but the same hopes for the future. They both see tourism as a way to enhance their economic situation. They want to see more Black African entrepreneurs and transforming neighborhoods like Soweto.

~ Written for Cuisine Noir. March 2019

From The Bahamas to Toronto: Raquel Fox Talks Plans for a New Year and Cookbook

For Cuisine Noir. January 2019.

Bahamian celebrity chef, restaurateur, caterer, and teacher Raquel Fox just added author to her list of accomplishments with the completion of her first cookbook, “Dining in Paradise. ”  The collection of over 150 authentic island recipes is due out this March.

Fox’s earliest memory of being in the kitchen is when she was a 6-year-old sous chef to her grandmother, peeling root vegetables and husking corn. “Watching my grandmother’s love for food, bringing people together over celebratory meals and making them happy was magical for me to watch,” she says. As a child, she would witness fishmongers bring fresh seafood to her house on bicycles and her grandfather, a farmer, start with a seed to bring ingredients to her grandmother in the kitchen and then to her dining table. She realized the power of cooking early on and knew that’s what she wanted to incorporate in her life.

In the Bahamas, Fox attended an international school which exposed her to different cuisines. She had friends from all over the world whom she visited between high school and college. During these travels, she discovered the similarities between different cultures and started looking at her island closely.

Incorporating Cultural Influences into Bahamian Cuisine
Bahamian chef and cookbook author Raquel Fox

With Africa, Latin America, France, Spain, the Caribbean and England influencing The Bahamas diverse history, you’ll can find seafood conch salad with a lot of chili and lime, Johnnycake or Bahamian cornbread, fried whole fish and chicken, as well as a British style steamed puddings called guava duff (the national dish) on the same table. Seafood is a staple and Bahamian cooking incorporates lots of spices, rum and tropical fruits.

Fox and her husband opened a wine lounge in the Bahamas in 2009, which they eventually closed to move their family to Toronto, Canada, where they currently reside. She also hosted her own television show, “Island Hopping,” to educate people about Bahamian food.

After being in the culinary industry for 14 years, Fox went back to school to get a culinary degree from George Brown College in Toronto. “I tried to be modest at the time, but I wasn’t a beginner to cooking. Still, I learned a lot of techniques, culinary terms used at work, and even the proper way to hold a knife,” she adds. After graduation, Fox opened a catering business and started teaching at George Brown and various cooking schools. “What I enjoy most being a culinary instructor is that you meet wonderful people who are enthusiastic about learning and passionate about food. I tell stories of my childhood as I teach them how to cook, which is very entertaining,” Fox says about her favorite job thus far.

New Cookbook Celebrates Familly

In her cookbook, Fox shares many of her family’s recipes as well as stories from her childhood growing up. She pays homage to her grandma and her mother-in-law for teaching her how to entertain and bring families together over food. Readers can recreate her colorful platters around family, like people in The Bahamas do every Sunday. “Families from other islands would come over for a party in our backyard, older men made rhythmic sounds with a saw, scrub board and goatskin drum games, women danced and kids played hopscotch and hide-and-seek,” she writes in “Dining in Paradise.”  “The cookbook is my way of sharing my heritage, love and passion for Bahamian cuisine.”

Juggling so many hats can be challenging, but Fox’s passion for food and constant need to innovate energizes her. She advises doing something that brings you closer to your goal every day, even if it is a small step in the direction. “Get rid of the resolutions, be realistic and continue to grow in knowledge,” she suggests for the new year.

As for Fox, she hopes to spend more quality time with family, land a new television show, and make “Dining in Paradise” a bestseller in 2019.

“Dining in Paradise is available at independent bookstores in the U.S. and at Indigo bookstores across Canada, as well as available for pre-order on Amazon.  You can also visit her website at www.racquelscookbook.comand connect with her on Facebook.

~ Written for For Cuisine Noir in January 2019.

10 UNESCO Sites Every African-American Traveler Should Visit

For Cuisine Noir Magazine. October 2018. 

Are you curious about traveling to countries that are particularly known for their UNESCO designated sites? Lazare Eloundou Assomo, deputy director of the World Heritage Centre, provides some insight into how the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) works.  UNESCO seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world that is considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. These include monuments, habitats and natural formations that have aesthetic, archeological, scientific or anthropological value. All countries have sites of local or national interest, but sites selected for World Heritage listing are inscribed based on their merits as the best possible examples of cultural and natural heritage.

How did the UNESCO World Heritage list start?

The idea of creating an international movement for protecting heritage emerged after World War I. The 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage developed from the merging of two separate movements – the first focusing on the preservation of cultural sites and the other dealing with the conservation of nature.

How is a UNESCO site selected?

First, a country must pledge to protect its natural and cultural heritage by signing the World Heritage Convention and submitting a nomination for a site on its territory to be included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. A nominated property is independently evaluated by two advisory bodies mandated by the World Heritage Convention, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The committee of 21 representatives meets once a year to decide which sites will be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Some of the newest inscribed properties include the ancient city of Qalhat in OmanThimlick Ohinga settlement in Kenya and the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains in South Africa.

As history and culture play an important role in why people travel, here are 10 UNESCO Sites that every black person should visit at least once in their lifetime.

  1. Robben Island, South Africa

Used as a prison and hospital for socially unacceptable groups and later as a military base, this maximum-security prison located on an island near Cape Town imprisoned Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandel for 18 years.

  1. Lalibela, Ethiopia

Famous for its rock-cut monolithic churches, the town of Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities with11 churches built in the 12th and 13th centuries, a monastery and vernacular houses.

  1. Island of Gorée, Senegal

Located just off the coast of Dakar, close to Africa’s westernmost point, this island played an important role in slave trade in the Middle Ages.

  1. Medina of Fez, Morocco

The Medina is not only a visually stimulating cultural and spiritual center, it is also home to the oldest university in the world.

  1. Salvador Bahia, Brazil

The city was the original colonial capital and the first slave market in South America. It maintains many Afro-Brazilian traditions, religious rites, martial arts, food and dances.

  1. Old Havana, Cuba

The fortified characteristically Spanish town retains a mix of Baroque and Neoclassical monuments, private houses with wrought-iron gates and balconies.

  1. Pitons Management Area, St Lucia

With two volcanic spires, hot springs, a coral reef and wet forests, Gros Piton and Petit Piton make a spectacular backdrop to the western part of the island of St Lucia in the Caribbean.

  1. Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

This wildlife park stretching over 50,000 square kilometers is home to elephants, black rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes, hippos and crocodiles.

  1. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Sprays from the largest waterfall in the world formed by the Zambezi River can be seen from Zambia and Zimbabwe.

  1. Lamu Old Town, Kenya

The oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa features narrow streets with elaborately carved wooden doors, stone buildings, dhow boats and an annual Mualidi festival.

For more additional exploration of history, Moukala also recommends checking out some of the sites related to slavery to further understand the social and human impact around the world.

~ Written for Cuisine Noir Magazine