Emma Elinor Lundin

Historian & journalist

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