Emma Elinor Lundin

Historian & journalist

A postcard from Stockholm II

May 2015

It's been two and a half years since I was here last, for that month-long research trip in 2012. Stockholm was covered in a thick blanket of snow, the sun set just after 2pm and I didn't dare walk down the icy steps to the communal laundrette. This time, it's May: sunny, warm and windy. I'm back for a final stint in the archives and libraries (the library of the Swedish parliament, pictured, is a recent discovery; home to the parliamentary annuals that form the basis for my gender-balance statistics) before I submit my PhD thesis in the summer. I walk everywhere, and spend my days editing, updating and reshaping the final draft - a 100,000 tome. Two days in; 12 to go. 

A postcard from Kastrup, Copenhagen Airport

April 2014

Easter week ended on Sunday, with a departure to London from Malmö via Copenhagen Airport. As a regular passenger on that particular route, I advise you not to pass passport control before picking up a pastry and cup of coffee at one of the two Lagkagehuset cafés in the terminal on your way: I'll have a tryksnegl and a lille latte, tak.  

LA Sunrise

November 2011

It's early morning in LA. A very early morning in LA, and I don't think I should be awake yet. In fact, I know I shouldn't be.

We got here late last night, and it was past 2am before we arrived at the hotel. 2am GMT; the lobby clock was just after 8pm, though the girl who checked us in took enough pity on our tired faces that it is the one thing I clearly remember about the hotel that first night. I suppose we had some food. I suppose it was – as tradition dictates – room service. I suppose I had learned my lesson from New York so vow not to drink any alcohol at all so that I wouldn't add another day's worth of jetlag with each glass of wine. I'm pretty sure that I decided that it was a good idea to stay up as late as we possibly could – till 11pm even – before falling asleep to the sound of the TV at 10.30 sharp. I'm pretty sure that I would have mentioned – at least once – how comfortable the beds are at Thompson Hotels.

None of the above stopped me from waking up way too early. It's just past 5am when I wake up the first time, and it's still dark outside. After spending the next hour pretending to be asleep (a trick I learned from my mother, who claims that it's almost as good as actually being asleep), I spot some rays of sunshine falling through the uncovered window in the living area or the room. We are on the 13th floor, and the view from that window is one of the prettiest I have seen: pale pastels, a dewy fog lifting from the low-storey houses towards Downtown's silvery skyline on the horizon.

It's too early and I shouldn't be awake, but this sunrise is one I don't mind getting up for.  

Postcard from the Western Cape

February 2012

I am a week into my three-week stay in Cape Town, where I spend my days rifling through papers in an archive, looking for evidence so support (or derail) my thesis. T, who came out for the first week with me, is heading home tomorrow so today is our last chance for adventure. The weather forecast is stuck on thunder, and rain has been falling throughout the day. But just when it seems like it's never going to stop, it does just that. We're somewhere on the N2 between Hermanus and Cape Town when the heavy grey clouds make way for the sun, which turns the spotlight on the beauty of the ochre-tinted landscape. This really is a spectacular corner of the world.

Norfolk: A light-year from London

September 2011

It is an early autumn day and we are on the boardwalk that carries visitors to Holkham beach. The walk – across sand-covered land and through a pine forest – is long, so the beach tends to be fairly abandoned in less than excellent weather, making the sight of its golden sand and sliver of sea near the horizon all the more magnificent. When we finally get there, the tide is low and the shore feels like it is miles away, but that doesn't matter: the pale blue sky weaves an arch over our heads, and the sun – still strong enough to bathe the landscape in dazzling light – just about manages to spread some warmth as we tread through the sand.

For a county so close to the noises and stresses of London, Norfolk is surprisingly calm and peaceful: we are just a three-hour drive away from the city, but arriving here you would be forgiven for assuming that you had travelled much farther. Maybe it is because of Norfolk's unique landscape: dominated by country lanes, fields and marshland into which the North Sea spreads its tentacles every time the tide comes in, this is a low-lying province where the eye can see for miles. Norfolk and neighbouring Suffolk were governed by Danes in the early 11<sup>th</sup> century and it is easy to imagine that they felt right at home here: there is something very Nordic about this place. Standing on the beach in Holkham, we have turned our backs on England: looking straight towards the horizon, the nearest land to us is Norway, miles and miles across the water.

We stayed the night in Holt, a small Georgian market town a few miles inland and the perfect base for a Norfolk break: small, pretty and charming, it is home to antique stores, food shops and Simon Finch – one of the finest antiquarian bookshops in the country, where creaky stairs, uneven floorboards and a ghost only add to the atmosphere (“mind your head,” reads a note on the stairs, “I can only deal with one headless figure wandering around the building groaning”). Right now, we ought to be making our way back to town for dinner, but our Holkham walk has left us too hungry to wait. Instead, we stop in Wells-next-the-Sea to pick up fish and chips from French's on the quayside, which overlooks the marsh harbour. The water is miles away here too – it takes almost half an hour to walk along the sea wall promenade that leads from the harbour onto the beach – and all we can see from here are fishing boats on dry land waiting for the tide to come and sweep them up.

We reach Holt as the sun is setting, and decide to walk around the shops in the heart of town before settling down for a pint of Woodforde's Wherry – a local ale – in the excellent King's Head pub on the high street. Our holiday has only just begun, but London already seems a light-year away.

See all my Norfolk photos here

Vamizi, Mozambique: On the edge of a continent: 10 Jan 2013

September 2010

We lost our mobile signals the moment we stepped out of the single-prop plane that had taken us from Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania across the border to Mozambique, but as we stood on the broken-up tarmac on Vamizi's landing strip, our adventure had just begun.

A large island just off the northern coast, Vamizi's main lodge and villas lie a 45-minute journey across the tropical forest in four-by-four Land Rovers, which takes guests past villages built and inhabited by refugees from the civil war that ended in 1992. It's not always the most comfortable of road-trips, but it gives great insight into life on the island and helps further the impression that you are nearing the edge of a vast continent.

Mozambique's infrastructure – or the lack of it – makes it an unlikely destination for the unadventurous, and Vamizi's charm lies in its isolation and strong conservationist philosophy. The 13 wooden villas that line the beach on the shores of the Indian Ocean are as sustainable as possible: they don't have bathtubs or air-conditioning, although the large marbled showers and the open-air walls that let the breeze through make both redundant. And while there are swimming pools in the recently built large private villas, we spent all our time in the clear turquoise sea instead. Framed by the finest white-sand powder imaginable, the beach is one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen.

No one is going to tell you off if you want to spend all day relaxing on the porch of your villa, but there is plenty to do if you prefer to keep busy – yoga classes, kayaking, deep-sea fishing, whale-watching, snorkelling and diving (the untouched reef around nearby Neptune's Arm is considered one of the best dive-sites in the world) are arranged over informal pre-dinner drinks at the main lodge as evening falls – but even the laziest of visitors can spot some of the island's wildlife from the comfort of their sun-lounger, as the bush behind the villas is home to both Samango monkeys and countless indigenous birds.

Returning to the tarmac and the plane that would bring us back to Dar a week later, where our mobiles started beeping with the sound of incoming messages, we realised that we had just experienced the greatest luxury an urbanite could ever dream of: complete peace and quiet of the kind that is worth going back for.

This story was first published in Sphere's summer issue of 2012

A postcard from Anne Ditmeyer: Prêt-a-Voyager

Anne S. Ditmeyer is an American designer / editor + author of the excellent Prêt à Voyager. Based in Paris, she teaches regular classes on Skillshare. This is her postcard from Baltimore.

May 2010

I lived in Baltimore for 5 years and the Kinetic Sculpture Race run by the amazing American Visionary Art Museum [AVAM] quickly became one of my favorite days of the year. Baltimore already is a pretty quirky city (see: John Waters 'Pink Flamingos' or 'Hairspray'), so this man-powered race around the city only seems fitting. The race to mediocrity happens the first Saturday in May each year. I say mediocrity, because in fact, the winner of the race is the vehicle – which is all powered by bikes and human power – is the one that finishes in the middle. With so much pressure in the world to be the best, this race celebrates good humor instead. During the course of the 15 mile race there are certain tasks each vehicle must complete, which include going in the water (Baltimore Harbor), through mud and sand. It's an exhausting day, but the costumes each sculptural vehicle and crew wear keep spirits up. (That's Fifi the pink poodle in the photo, one of AVAM's featured vehicles). 

When I lived in Baltimore my role in the race was a "Kinetic Sheriff." Translation: I wore a fun blue wig, plastic police gear and handed out tickets. Why yes, if you didn't have a sock monkey on board, I would give you a ticket for sure. However, in this race, there are also bribes so often I'd look aside if the bribe was good enough (for instance, a mango lasse made with a hand crank blender!). Yes, this race is the epitome of creativity. And don't worry, there was a trophy for "Best Bribe" as well. Details don't go un-noticed.

This 'postcard' is particularly memorable because it was from the first Kinetic Sculpture Race after I moved to Paris. On a bit of a whim I booked a ticket to Baltimore with a couple weeks notice, and I didn't tell anyone (except my parents, and the intern that I knew at the museum). At the time, I knew most of the staff at the museum, and of key importance, my best friend. No one had any idea I was there, and the day before the race, knowing full well they'd be putting together finishing touches, I walked up and saw my best friend hot gluing tchotchkes on trophies. Then she screamed when she saw me. It was the best surprise ever, on the best day ever. Spontaneous travel has its perks. 

For more on the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race click here, or visit the American Visionary Art Museum. Stay tuned May 4, 2013 for the 15th annual race where "Green is the New Pink."

P.S. Anne has featured me in her Boarding Pass series on Prêt-a-Voyager - read it here

All content and imagery © Emma Elinor Lundin 2010-2017