I had two extraordinary experiences in St. Petersburg with @vikingcruises, who value the arts as I do. The second, seeing the Russian Ballet perform Swan Lake in Catherine the Great’s private theater, I can’t share photos of because we weren’t allowed to take any. Photos wouldn’t do it justice anyway! The first though, seeing the city’s Impressionist Collection at a recently restored building in the @hermitage_museum collection — one that has a superb view of the Winter Palace, shown in the first photo — I can not recommend highly enough. I’ve been to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, visited all the paintings by Impressionists that I can find in Paris as well as our museums in the United States. I was still BLOWN AWAY by the art I saw in St. Petersburg. Room after room after room is dedicated to Gauguin, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, Matisse, Monet, Manet; and there were significant works by Bonnard, Denis, Picasso, Kandinsky, Rodin — that I’d never seen before or only seen in books. You could go back every day for a week and not be able to fully appreciate every single painting, so extensive was the collection. I did try though! Like the little girl in the second photo, I found myself separate from the group at times, content in solitary wonder at the depth of the talent on display in the beautiful works of art before me; a reminder that childlike wonder is always worth taking the time for. 🇷🇺 #MyVikingStory#VikingCruises#hermitage_museum#stpetersburgrussia
I had long ago heard that Helsinki is a 'city of architecture' and one of the youngest capitals in Europe, with a founding date in December 1550. It was really known first for Neoclassical architecture. Later it became the largest concentration of Jugendstil buildings and National Romanticism in the world. From restaurants to department stores to apartment buildings, you can see these styles all over. A love of beautiful architecture continued with the people of Finland as Art Deco and names such as Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto helped put the country’s modern architecture on the map as well. I was so impressed by all of this because I love architecture but I also enjoyed seeing the wonderful network of trams that criss cross the city featuring older and newer cars in green and yellow. Helsinki seems like such an easy city to navigate in a way that de-emphasizes the need for a car. Later I read that Helsinki was founded by King Gustavus Vasa of Sweden, which the land we now know as Finland was part of for many centuries. Vasa intended it to be an important trading post in southern Finland, and a competitor to Tallinn which we will visit after St. Petersburg. The last thing I loved about Helsinki, was seeing my mother’s maiden name on street signs all over the city. Between Sweden and Finland, I see almost every aspect of the culture I grew up with displayed in some form or another. I can’t wait to return to both countries for longer so that I can better understand my heritage — but for now I am grateful to have finally stood on these shores thanks to @vikingcruises 🇫🇮 #MyVikingStory#vikingcruises#helsinkifindland
Stockholm is situated on 14 islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea and the archipelago of a further 30,000 islands begins. It is the largest archipelago in Sweden, and the second-largest archipelago in the Baltic Sea, which is the region we are exploring on this hosted ‘Viking Homelands’ itinerary with @vikingcruises I could not wait to be on deck for the sailing out, as we departed Sweden bound for Helsinki, Finland! Being on the water in any kind of boat from kayak to sailboat to small ship — makes me as giddy as a kid. The light was constantly changing as huge cloud banks rolled over the islands, cabins and boats we passed. Every time a white sailboat came into view I took a dozen photos. I loved the way they shined like pearls against the cobalt and jade of the scenery. I was so glad we departed during the day and not at night. To miss one of the most beautiful parts of Sweden would have been sad. And now that I know you can rent some of the cabins on the islands, I want to return and do that next, spending more time learning about the culture and heritage of my mother’s family! 🇸🇪 #MyVikingStory#vikingcruises
Would you believe this is Stockholm, Sweden? I honesty didn’t expect it to be this colorful during my hosted visit with @vikingcruises... . But I found myself, after the included port tour, wandering the Old Town known as Gamla Stan. The light was that perfect mix of late afternoon / nearly golden hour, which made the warm paint colors of the buildings glow as if lit from within. Long shadows and pools of bright light highlighted tourist couples stopping to check maps and old men walking dogs or carrying a paper. I found myself turning down the streets that were more empty in search of details that would inspire me. In the boutique windows were Swedish flags, Dala Horses in blue and red and white, cozy looking textiles, hand painted pottery and every few blocks the perfect place to sit for a while, enjoying Fika. The Swedish coffee break is an important part of culture that you might equate with the Brits gathering at pubs to catch up or Americans doing Happy Hour at a bar where we claim it’s to talk but can never quite hear each other 😂 I found myself wishing Fika was a thing back in LA and realized with the people I love most it probably could be. It’s an everyday occurrence in Sweden, just gathering at a cozy place over coffee or tea with maybe a snack or a pastry, a sound level that allows you to hear each other and a long enough time to properly catch up and just enjoy each other’s company. You can also enjoy Fika alone! It’s not just a coffee break but a time to slow down enough to appreciate the good things in life. . Sounds good, right? I think it sounds like something my life could use a lot more of! 🇸🇪 #myvikingstory#vikingcruises
First stop on my tour of the Baltic, hosted by @vikingcruises, is the city of Stockholm. To say I was excited to visit this city is a vast understatement. My mother’s family is Scandinavian and she went to college in Sweden so I’ve grown up with the traditions and motifs of this part of the world. I couldn’t wait to see them for myself and recognize a part of my heritage in the place it came from. 24 hours wasn’t enough to experience it all, or even come close, but it was more than enough time to fall in love with the city, people and culture of Sweden. . Stockholm is situated on 14 islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea and the archipelago of a further 30,000 islands begins. Water is a constant presence, as are bikes and boats. So basically all my favorite modes of transportation. During the included tour, we drove and then I walked around at least 1/2 a dozen islands. One used be the site of a prison that is now a boutique hotel, another has the elegant City Hall made of brick where the Nobel Prize banquet is held every year - named for Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel and then there’s the Old Town aka Gamla Stan which felt reminiscent of Italy because of the warm building colors aglow in the afternoon sun. More on that in my next post... . This is one time where a single post for a single location just won’t do! 🇸🇪 #MyVikingStory#visitswedenus#visitstockholm#sonyalpha
Very excited to head back to Europe (how I’ve missed it!) for my third partnership with @vikingcruises. Usually my mum accompanies me on these journeys which have been river cruises the two times previous. This time, I’m experiencing an ocean itinerary on the Viking Star beginning in Stockholm! . I took this photo on my last journey with Viking, the Danube Waltz in December, the day we woke up in Linz, Austria. We departed the ship and drove through the snow-covered Austrian mountains to cross the border into the Czech Republic where a magical town full of storybook moments was waiting on the other side of the bus ride! No one photo can capture the complexity of this place which was designated @unesco#WorldHeritage in 1992. Since I couldn’t get enough of the angles and places to capture, I lost track of our guides and only caught part of the history but I did manage to catch that Český Krumlov is in the South Bohemia region. The Vltava River bisects the town which is dominated by its 13th-century castle sitting above on a sort of bluff. Gothic, Renaissance and baroque elements are all found in the castle and in the town. The castle has a 27 acre garden and an original 17th-century baroque theater with stringed puppets intact. I was enthralled with the panoramic views of the old town and river from the castle but eventually I made my way down and into the Old Town where we had a sublime lunch and a few pints of the local beer. . One of my favorite things about Viking is how much you are in control of your time off-ship and how much is customizable. I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like to be on an ocean voyage. #MyVikingStory#ČeskýKrumlov#CzechRepublic#visitcz#visitczechrepublic#unescoworldheritagesite#sonya7rii#sonyalpha
This morning I was reminded by @borderfreetravels that it was exactly a year ago we were arriving for an assignment exploring California’s 8 rural regions. We spent most of the month driving, hiking, kayaking, biking, dune “buggying,” white water rafting and hot air ballooning across the state from top to bottom and back up again. At the time she lived on Nantucket and I still lived in NYC. Through the experiences we had while visitors, we both found a deep desire to be residents not just visitors. And while she ended up moving to Mexico, here I am a year later living in Los Angeles with @dante.vincent. . As I’ve said before, life is never as perfect as it looks on Instagram. Especially my life. And the assignment wasn’t always easy either. We packed A LOT into our 3 weeks and the pace was difficult BUT when I look back now I can’t remember anything but joy. And gratefulness. . And now a commitment to helping others fall as deeply in love with the state of California as I have. What questions can I answer for you? How can I help you discover this state?
Last week I did a poll in my Stories asking if you’d ever want to travel with me and if you would, where would you want to go... . I was surprised by the response, which was good, and the types of places chosen. It seems most of you who answered prefer European countries. There wasn’t a lot of representation of South America or Asia. . In a way that’s great because I’m always dreaming of Europe (heading back this week, in fact!) — and if I ever led a tour, I’d probably start with what I know best. But I’m curious for those who didn’t get to weigh in via Stories: if I led tours, where should I take you? What would you be interested in learning? When would you like to go? . 📸 Self portrait made possible by my gifted @vanguardworld tripod and the Sony a7R II that I bought. Bag, also gifted, by @boundarysupply.
There’s a line in the New York Times Bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, saying “It’s the Joshua Tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.” . When I remembered that, I realized it’s probably part of the reason I love the park and these unusual yuccas. The trees are like a metaphor for our lives. In Instagram posts life can look so good. In only sound bites, our day to day can seem so wonderful. But it isn’t always. Often life is H A R D and the struggles we share we don’t talk about enough. But that’s also what makes life beautiful. The struggle. Without pain we wouldn’t know pleasure and without darkness we wouldn’t appreciate the light. ✨
Did you know that Joshua Tree is more than just Joshua Trees? One of my favorite places in the park is Cholla Cactus Garden. You can see them in the foreground and on the far side of the road. Like something from a world created in Star Wars or a Marvel movie, these cactus look like ombré sentinels guarding a mysterious desert secret. One minute the scenery is pretty barren and the trees have mostly disappeared, the next minute these cactus are clustered so thickly on both sides of the road, it feels like an unexplainable event. I’ve put more photos of them in my latest blog post all about what to do and not to do when you visit! Meaning we made some mistakes, so learn from ours 😝😂 It was the 102nd Birthday of the National Park Service when we visited this weekend but Joshua Tree itself is much “newer.” FDR created it as a national monument in 1936 but it only became a national park in 1994. And if it weren’t for a policy that dictates parks can’t be named for people, it might have actually been named for Minerva Hoyt, a South Pasadena socialite who really loved the park and lobbied for 20 years to make sure it was protected. The famous “trees” that give the park its name are actually Yucca brevifolia; but the popular name that’s become engrained with an area that inspires so many, as well as the strange trees that populate only this area of the Mojave and Colorado/Sonoran deserts, was actually given by Mormon settlers who felt the trees reminded them of the biblical character of Joshua, raising his hands in prayer. They’re losing ground to climate change and encroaching development, with a range that’s receded by more than 90 percent since measurement began. So the thought I’ll leave you with for this post is the one I always encourage when you’re out enjoying nature: think about being a good steward of these places so future generations can enjoy them as we do. Have respect for the strange and beautiful environment. Pack out your trash, don’t litter, never deface rocks or natural elements... Take only pictures, leave only foot prints 👣 😉🙏🏼💛
Have you ever been to Joshua Tree? Or wanted to go? . This weekend @dante.vincent & I finally drove out there from Los Angeles. After many near-misses over the course of my life, it was fun to finally see the National Park I’ve dreamed of visiting since I first heard the U2 album of the same name. It’s one of those places that lived on the top of my bucket list and just never left; even when places with far more star power or wow factor entered my consciousness. Speaking of stars, one of the reasons we spontaneously decided to make the drive out there this weekend, was to practice astro photography by capturing the Milky Way over the unusual boulders and Joshua Trees that punctuate the park. Owing to the last minute nature of our decision to visit, we of course forgot to check on the status of the moon and since it was nearly full, it was way too bright to capture the Milky Way. Instead we had fun hiking around during the day, driving the long stretches of winding road and marveling at all the animals and reptiles that call the park home. It’s such a true escape from the city with little to no cell signal and a wide open sky untarnished by skyscrapers and apartment blocks. More on the history of the park and what the heck Joshua Trees are in my next post... . Self shot portrait of us made possible by our gifted @vanguardworld tripod and my Sony a7RII.
The sun was hot and high overhead. A surprising heat wave for Northern England. We were tired but happy. And we were slowly walking through Manchester, just headed back to our hotel, when I’m pretty sure @jchongstudio and I both noticed this spot at the same time. I’m always drawn to corridors, repeating lines and architectural moments that provide the opportunity for an #alanament. It was nice to be with other photographers who had a penchant for the same and a model like Jade who could give the scene a human element... . Find out what else I discovered in Manchester and Liverpool via the link in my profile or in Stories. There are now three posts total on my site plus Travel Mindset so if you’re planning to visit this underrated area of Great Britain you should now have lots of extra inspiration to help you plan. And if you check out my fellow traveler’s sites you can find out even more. I’ve tagged them in this post! 🇬🇧 #lovegreatbritain#itallstartsinmanchester