Emma Elinor Lundin

Historian & journalist

Filtering by Tag: Past tense

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.  

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

That Santorini sunset

June 2009

I'm drinking the oddest, most overpriced Manhattan I've ever been served – on ice (not right) and with cucumber garnish (definitely not right) – but then it wasn't the cocktails that pulled us in: we came for the view.

Santorini – star of a thousand Greek tourist campaigns with its pretty white-washed villages clinging to the top of a long dead volcano, dramatic vistas across the flooded caldera and a conveniently located harbour for passing cruise ships – is perhaps not the most authentic of Greece's islands, but it is imposing, majestic and strangely beautiful, and it deserves every visit it gets.

We had a terrible time getting here, leaving Athens early in the morning to spend the day on a large car ferry that slowly made its way from the port of Piraeus across the Aegean, stopping off at a host of smaller islands (Patmos, Leros, Kos, Rhodes, Syros) before finally landing in Santorini eight hours later. The ferry was hot and uncomfortable; we were hungry and tired. But as we climbed into our transfer to Vedema, and the car started climbing the cliff wall on serpentine roads – leading to the village of Megalohori, a less exploited town than the more famous Fira and Oia, exhaustion turned into excitement. And now we are here: in a naff bar in Fira listening to music and laughter from the ships that are sailing past far down below us and the restaurants that surround us, and I can't help trying to capture the perfect sunset moment on film. Santorini may be a cliché – a destination so focused on tourism that it is getting harder and harder to find establishments that even pretend to cater to locals – but I have been charmed. And I think you would be too.

A cable car from Mexico to Canada

November 2011

Our expectations when we left downtown Palm Springs for a trip up the aerial tramway on the outskirts of the city were low. It wasn’t just that I had spent the before day unable to keep food down (cursing an oyster in Santa Barbara the previous night), but surely a cable car that promise to whisk passengers up from Mexican climate on the desert floor to a Canadian-style pine forest on top of a mountain in a matter of minutes is the sort of trap of a place that feeds on tourism naffness? How wrong we were.

Winding slowly up San Jacinto towards the station at the top, we marvelled at how close to the mountain we were travelling and the mesmerising views across the desert – from the wind farm that greets all visitors to Palm Springs all the way towards Joshua Tree in the distance.

Sure, once we arrived there was an obligatory photo shoot with a very uncool backdrop to take care of before we could exit the station and enter the San Jacinto State Park, but the lady at the counter really didn’t mind that we didn’t want a copy to send to our parents (which was her suggestion – maybe we looked particularly young that day?): as an entry to the peaceful walking trails outside, it was most certainly worth it. The mountain range is criss-crossed with hiking trails – it even includes a section of the Pacific Crest Scenic Trail, which runs from the length of the west coast from the Mexican to the Canadian borders – and the fact that we didn’t get very far (the blame again falls on that oyster) is just another reason to return.

P.S. Here’s another recommendation: make sure you listen Gram Parsons  – the unbeatable soundtrack to a Californian desert adventure – in the car as you drive up steep road that connects Palm Springs with the cable car station

Blackbirds in Florence: Travel and New Year resolutions

January 2010

Photo by 3Dperson

We had decided to go to Florence, although neither of us can now remember whose idea it was. What we do remember, however, was that it was January and cold – we had unwittingly arrived during giorni della merla, the last days of the month and, legend has it, the coldest of the year. With chilly winds blowing in from the north, tourists stay away and residents remain hiding in their warm houses, it was the epitome of a low season. We had the Uffizi to ourselves, cruising in from the street without a pre-booked time slot; we were able to wander the corridors of Museo San Marco – its medieval Dominican bleakness punctured by Fra Angelico’s colourful murals – undisturbed; and we got to see Masaccio’s Trinità in the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella with no other tourists in sight. And, apart from a few American foreign students, we seemed to be the only ones speaking English in bars and restaurants.

We stayed at Il Salviatino, an opulent and recently restored villa on a hill that marks the border where the city meets the countryside, and which only added to feeling that we had all of Florence to ourselves – during our three-night stay, we only bumped into other guests twice. I was there for Condé Nast Brides and we stayed in a suite with the best views possible: from the windows at the front we had a picture-perfect view of the Duomo, while the side windows gave us a glimpse of Tuscan countryside. On our last day – just before catching a taxi to the airport – we took a long walk along the road winding up the cypress-clad hill towards Fiesole and Maiano, walking so far that we worried we might never make it back in time for our flight to London (or perhaps we worried we didn’t want to make it back in time?). It was quite possibly the best way to start a new year.

All content and imagery © Emma Elinor Lundin 2010-2017