We put Santa Fe in our review mirror and headed into the great expanse of the American West. We drove all day and into the night arriving under a blanket of darkness to Monument Valley where I reflected the next morning:
Sunrise over Monument Valley… I arrived in the night, black on black the monuments rose in a silhouette of stars. Sleeping monsters hiding in the dark. I felt small in the shadow of that mighty fame. As dawn emerged from beyond the endless horizon I became a weightless feather riding on the back of an eagle in the hallways of the valleys between, together waiting for the sun. They say Native Americans believed everything has a soul and as I look out on this vast and strange place I can’t help but feel these formations have memories and wisdom and are looking back at us just as we are of them. What do we have to say that could possibly compare to all that the monuments hold?….
At Monument Valley we stayed at The View. The rooms are nothing to write home about (life hack: I always travel with a scented candle to help elevate hotel rooms) but it was all about waking up to the sun rising from the balcony of your room with the most incredible view. If I ever find myself back at Monument Valley I would do an early morning or early evening horseback ride through the monuments to experience the nature up close since you are not allowed to venture off the designated road in your car. The below image of me looking out over Monument Valley is taken by the freestanding boulders to the left of the visitor’s center as you head toward the entrance to drive down into the valley.
We then continued west to Horseshoe Bend which is an easy pull-off the main road and requires no admission fees. It is a 10-15 minute hike to the bend (just FYI) and can be very crowded at sunset but still totally worth it.
The next morning I wanted to photograph Antelope Canyon which you must make a reservation for and is actually quite expensive. I opted for the photographer’s tour which was about two hours in total. Being that it was winter there only ended up being two of us with a guide who takes you through the canyon and points out some of the best photographic spots and helps clear people on other tours out of your frame. Some very important facts to know about this: the canyons are narrow and VERY crowded. There are multiple tour groups at a time and can be claustrophobic. However, if you are on the photographer’s tour you will have opportunities to shoot in empty spots as they occur with the help of your guide. Also very important to note, you must have a DSLR type camera (not just an iPhone or point and shoot) AND a tripod. They will not allow you to take the tour without these two elements nor let persons you are traveling with to accompany you if they do not also have their own gear. I personally think these rules are ridiculous but that is the way it is. I am so glad I did the tour and I’m happy with my shots, however, I would not do it again as the experience is stressful. I photographed Upper Canyon, Lower Canyon was closed, but from my understanding Upper Canyon is more photogenic. Additionally, if you want the famous light beams you must visit during summer and request that time slot.
Then it was off to the Grand Canyon. We stayed at the El Tovar Hotel right in the center of it all which was great for easy access to sunrise and sunset views. Being that it was winter and quite cold, the hotel’s lodge-like atmosphere with burning fireplaces felt cozy and the restaurant, which you will need reservations for, had organic seasonal options.
It has always been a dream of mine to do this road trip across America and I cherish these memories. There were long stretches of not much to see, there were at times never ending urban sprawl but then there was magic. As the time between now and then separates the highlights float to the top and it was really just a relaxing way to travel that slowly without a real plan and opening ourselves to discovery.
The road trip came about because I hadn’t been home in so long I had many places I needed to visit. The thought of overpaying during holiday season to fly from city to city for weeks in cramped airplanes with no personal space and being treated poorly was too distressful a thought. I’m so sick of people going through my luggage, patting me down, taking apart my camera bag, and fighting for overhead space. So I hatched this idea to just drive. From coast to coast, sea to shinning sea. The only problem was … highways terrify me. The only way I’d do it is in one of the safest cars on the road, a Volvo XC60. I know a lot about Volvos. I did a road trip through Sweden in the XC90 a couple of years ago. I shot a collection of Volvo’s over the decades for their 60th anniversary out in L.A. and Palm Springs and even on top of Griffith Observatory! But this was different, this was personal and with that, in our XC60, starting in Savannah, Georgia, we took off.
Review of the Volvo XC60 (this is not paid for, btw, I just love this brand / vehicle)
We came across all weather conditions on this journey from hot and sunny to 2 degrees and snowy. I always felt safe, first and foremost. The vehicle is quiet, and the sound system is so good. We listened to music, to audio books, to my favorite daily podcast. I can also say without hesitation because now I know after weeks of being in this vehicle, the seats are the most comfortable. I’ve been in a few cars since and nothing compares in comfort. The drive is smooth, you feel removed from the road and as passenger I greatly appreciate this. It has all the safety features from the cameras to little lights on the mirrors when a car is in your blind spot. It can assist you in parallel parking, it can drive assist for you down the highway which is amazing when you’re looking at a flat, straight 8 hour highway in western Kansas. It will stop you if you are about to run into something or someone. Seat warmers were life savers and the car in general heats up really quickly. OHHHH, but perhaps my favorite feature was the ability to pre-condition the car while it’s plugged in. Meaning, if my yoga class was at 5pm I could schedule the car to pre-heat while plugged into the house at 4:30pm so my ride to class in the snow was not freezing. Speaking of plugging in, being a hybrid we could charge it at home and at certain charging stations in museums, concert halls, and even grocery stores making the vehicle super green. The iPad sized display was beautiful and easy to use. The entire top of the car is a sunroof if you want. It was all just really awesome. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the journey so much in any other car… probably because I would be sure every eighteen-wheeler we passed (which was A LOT) was about to kill us. The Volvo protected us from the fear, the sounds, the size of things on the road that would typically give me anxiety. The car is also just so smart, it felt like its own little character as part of our trip.
Below are some of those highlights I mentioned earlier from discovering the American West.
One of the highlights of our Swedish trip was a stay at the Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live. This new and glittering glass tower is not typically the type of accommodation I go for but they really nailed it on the decor. Once you are inside, the wrap-around floor to ceiling views over the entire city of Malmö and her ports is breathtaking. We watched the sun set every evening into the ocean behind a magical dance of ever changing Swedish skies and mapped out the neighborhoods we wanted to discover on foot, just a short walk from the hotel.
One of the most fun features is the restaurant on the top floor created by New York City chef (who we shot for a Tiffany & Co. campaign!) Marcus Samuelsson who was born in Africa, raised in Sweden and now lives in Harlem. The food here at Kitchen & Table, like Marcus, is bright, eccentric and delicious. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, I would highly recommend a dinner here just to take in the views while you dine.
Plush velvet couches, insane bed lines, and fresh flowers in all the rooms made this hotel stay feel more like luxury apartment living than wayward traveler passing through. This really was the jewel of Malmö.
Above, wearing new pants by Swedish designer HOPE
One of the most rewarding parts of travel is when you get to partake in other culture’s traditions that differ from the ones you know from back home. Until preparing for this road trip around Sweden with Volvo I had never heard of Midsummer before. I would soon come to learn it is the 2nd most important holiday for the Swedes after Christmas.
So what is Midsummer?
Around mid June at the time of summer solstice, this celebration kicks off the summer season followed by a five-week annual holiday which is important in a culture with a short summer season. The day begins with the picking of flowers to adorn the maypole, the centerpiece of the celebration where people gather to sing and dance around with traditional songs. Everyone from men and women to boys and girls make flower crowns, and we even saw a few dogs with flower collars! The gatherings of community, friends and family proceed after the morning’s activities to a large banquet lunch traditionally of herring, boiled potatoes with toppings and a good amount of schnapps. Throughout the course of lunch a fun variety of midsummer songs are sung about always ending with a toast and another gulp of the fruity liquor. Toward the end of lunch the songs get quite a bit more racy as the drinking games progress all in good fun.
It was absolutely magical to be immersed into this cultural tradition with our host family Vibs and Robert Sohlberg who made us feel like one of their own and who happen to own the wonderful little down to earth inn on the water, Slussens Pensionat, where we stayed during Midsummer. This hotel is such a fun escape with live music on the water and an organic, sustainable restaurant worth a visit even if you are not staying the night.
Perhaps my favorite tradition for Midsummer is the final of the night. You pick 7 different types of flowers from the garden and place them under your pillow and as legend goes, you will dream of your one true love. Now that is something I would like to bring back home with me.
Tucked away on one of the 8,000 small islands off the west coast of Sweden is this charming and colorful hideaway on the sea, Ladfabriken Inn. Previously an old shipping warehouse, these two creative owners Marcel and Johan (Johan is a Creative Director at Reebok) transformed this old working structure into a living world of light, life and inspiration. Art, quirky collections from world travels in previous careers, and their two dogs make this B&B rich with stories to be shared over a glass of wine while watching the sun slip down below the sea.
We more than welcomed the perfectly prepared home cooked dinner Marcel served up with his colorful and clever table arrangements followed by a breakfast extravaganza that is not to be missed. I think, however, my favorite aspect to this unique place, is the exploding garden that wraps around the entire home. You are greeted by a wash of colors and smells the moment you pull off the main road, and it’s a wonderful welcome. Throughout the Inn, and next to your bedside, Marcel leaves traces of the outside garden with his beautiful flowers arrangements perfuming the entire home.
This is one of my favorite stays on our journey with Volvo around Sweden!
Just a quick drive out of Gothenburg, Sweden you will find this organic farm-to-table, historic 1700’s estate of Gunnebo House & Garden. It’s a perfectly quiet and secluded spot surrounded in beds of lettuce, fields of livestock, rows of flowers with a sweet little country restaurant serving traditional Swedish dishes with simple country ingredients mostly grown right there on the farm. It was a beautiful example of a balance of life and alluring look back into a piece of Sweden’s history….
While in Gothenburg, Sweden on our #volvooverseasdelivery road trip we stopped by the design studio of Swedish label Jumperfabriken to meet with the label’s owner and designer Elisabeth Synnes who created the feminine and timeless fashion brand inspired by old photo albums from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s “taking the best from the past to the future”. Her classic approach is meant to provide pieces to last you a lifetime and never go out of style. Mostly known for their ladylike dresses and cozy cardigans, it’s the warmth from the designer that really makes you feel at home in these Scandinavian pieces.
10 Questions with JUMPERFABRIKEN‘s owner and designer Elisabeth SynneS
If you could give advise to yourself when you started Jumperfabriken, what would it be?
ES: Be patient. To build a solid brand takes so much more time than one thinks. Continue reading “Jumperfabriken’s Design Studio”
We recently took a road trip around the southern part of Sweden in a new Volvo XC90 which we picked up directly from the factory just outside the city of Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast. Volvo has an overseas delivery program where when you order your car they will fly you to Sweden to pick it up and test drive it around the beautiful Scandinavian locations just as we did for a few weeks this past June. Once your journey is completed they will ship the car to you back home in the US. It’s a fun way explore a new country, get to know your car and make a ton of memories!
Our first stop on our #VolvoOverSeasDelivery was to Gothenburg, the gateway to West Sweden. This is what I loved: The people are so nice. The fresh seafood, especially the oysters, are amazing. The trams are not only beautiful with their blue lines rolling around the city but also very clean and easy to use. Gothenburg had a lovely balance of old architecture and cobblestone streets mixed with modern day conveniences.
- Atelier – One of my favorite restaurants ever. Think champagne, roses, etched glass, velvet couches, and incredible seasonal, locally sourced food. One of the best meals from the entire trip!
2. Dorsia – Amazing dining terrace with a great sophisticated social scene.
3. Gabriel – Inside the “Fish Church” of Gothenburg, perfectly fresh seafood lunch not to be missed.
4. Norda – Beautiful for dinner with a very lush dining room.
5. Brewer – Sourdough pizza joint and craft beer bar for something more casual
6. Taverna – Stunning courtyard for a cozy dinner or dine inside surrounded by galleries of cool modern art.
I feel so fortunate to get to experience such wonderful luxuries in life and a day with Ralph Lauren is always such a pleasure. To launch their new Automotive Eyewear Collection they opened up the doors to the Classic Car Club of Manhattan to send us on a road trip out of the city, up the Hudson River to test drive some seriously cool sunnies in Ralph Lauren style.
Since I own a little vintage convertible I decided to go modern lux… I found out the Bentley drives a little smoother than my 1982 Mercedes and you can actually hear the music on the stereo! We flew across the George Washington Bridge to my favorite local drive along the Palisades. I love that feeling when you turn off the bridge waving goodbye to Manhattan and becoming instantly enveloped in trees ans nature. We stopped for lunch a the Red Hat on the River, a converted factory building restaurant with water views and killer lobster rolls. It was a perfect way to spend a summer Friday- fast cars, fun friends and fashion.
An American Tradition
Roadside soda fountain~ Erving, Massachusetts