Beginning from the Beginning: Swedish Heritage in Illinois

Krista Westerlund is our spiritual + historical correspondent. This missive is from her travels to the midwest —and back in time— to trace her Swedish family’s journey in America.

Little Sweden

Little Sweden in America. All images via KW.

I have been really, really remiss about writing about my travel experiences lately. I have traveled a lot and thought about writing about it, but the pen has not gone to paper or rather the finger has not gone to key. I’ve been to a lot of different kinds of places and also, I have spent my fair share of time in my sleepy little patch of routine daily life dreaming about places farther afield and the world beyond my window.

A while ago, I talked about how travel is not a competition. Well, for me, it still isn’t. There are plenty of other people out there who travel far more frequently than I do and who can tick off far more boxes on their bucket lists. Yes, there are places that I’d like to see and certain goals when it comes to travel that I would like to accomplish, but ultimately I don’t travel that way. I am fairly ordinary and on an ordinary budget in life. What I have, and I wouldn’t presume to say that I have far more of it than others – but I do definitely have it, is curiosity. Continue reading

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Hop a plane, it’s the New York Times’ 46 Places to Go in 2013

Rio as ring of fire, via

Rio as ring of fire. via

It’s an east-coast jetsetter’s favorite time of year — when the Grey Lady releases her randomly-numbered roundup of trending places to travel. This year, the NYTimes has given you 46 places to check out in the next twelve months, which should more than fill your calendar. And your beat-the-crowds journey would take to you to such varied locales as Jackson Hole, Singapore and the Falkland Islands. Unexpected mentions: Changbaishan. The Adirondacks (?) Anyway, if my math is correct, you could cover it in a little more than a trip a week. Better get packing…

What do you think of this year’s list? How many places have you already hit?

Time Travel with Paris 3D

History buffs who love exploring the French capital will geek out over this new project, Paris 3D, from Dassault Systèmes. With a click of your mouse, you can wander through any moment in the city’s 2000 year history, from the Roman conquest in 52 BC up through the construction of the Bastille and the Eiffel Tower. Travel/history nerds like myself can get lost in this comprehensive Paris via browser or iPad app. Bon voyage…

Bon Voyage Beats: Tablethotels.com’s Tunes

You’re probably well aware of Tablet‘s well-curated selection of swanky stays around the globe — but did you know their impeccable taste extends to sound? Yes, when they’re not providing you with great deals and special extras on your unforgettable hotel experiences, they’re culling down the best of the latest in tunes and building a playlist for your travels. Tablet Tunes is built monthly on 8tracks, and volume 27 is out now.

What do you listen to when you’re on the road?

Welcome back; go away.

Well fB+L has returned from a month of les vacances. But are we the only ones who are not quite ready to leave the summer behind? Bask in that feeling and enjoy this timelapse edition of What I Did On My Summer Vacation…

EuroLapse from David Kosmos Smith on Vimeo.

In spite of the weather, this is London’s time to shine.

Krista Westerlund is our spiritual + historical correspondent. This dispatch examines and arrives from the present center of the world’s attention: London.

Standard bustle in Trafalgar Square. all images © KW.

Ah, London. City of contrasts and competing visions. It is difficult to discuss such an iconic city with so much variety, so much grandeur, and so much touristic appeal because there are simply so many ways that you can enjoy visiting it. There are as many Londons as there are people who visit or live in the city. The tremendous diversity is the beating heart of London‘s urban charm. This year London is experiencing a unity and pride that has probably not been felt in decades. 2012 is a year that is synonymous with London. Andy Murray may not have won at Wimbledon this summer but Britishness has not been so lauded in years and never before in this fashion. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Summer Olympics games are aligning to make this summer a celebration of the city.

London has been riddled with social unrest, class tensions, and the legacy of its imperial history as a center of global commercial and political power. Various societal malaises have plagued the city, many of which don’t require mentioning because they have dominated headlines. London has been through a lot of bleak times. There has been a sense of an identity crisis in the city as it struggled to cohere its substantial history with the change brought about by fundamental shifts in the global geopolitical order. Economic and societal woes have been in lock-step with London for many decades as it faced a decline in global significance and, at the same time, a rise in cosmopolitanism. Regularly spending time in the city over the years, I could not help but be swayed by its charm because no matter how difficult things get, it remains a vibrant, fascinating and transformative place. In 2012, London is palpably different though. Some may consider events like those that London is hosting this summer to be trivial. They may think that money spent on things like concerts, sporting events and parades should be suspended when the world is in such economic upheaval, but they are like lights in the storm. They are moments that make life worth living and London excels at those. That is perhaps how the city has been able to retain its magnetism in spite of the difficulties that have beset it at various times in both recent and more distant history.

The rafters of Covent Garden.

As the eyes of the world turn to London, the city correspondingly comes together. The city that emerges after this summer’s festivities are over will still face serious challenges. However, it will do so with more identity and more confidence. There will be more union in that Jack at least as far as the metropolis is concerned. So of course, I suggest that you go to London in 2012, but then again, I suggest that you go there at any time. You didn’t have to attend the actual Jubilee events nor do you need to watch the Olympics in person (congrats to those who are though) in order to get into the spirit of London this year. Visiting a pub (or your nearest imitation if you really can’t make it), raising a glass, and toasting with those near and dear to you is as quintessentially British as anything and, alcohol aside, it is the warm communal spirit of merrymaking and connecting with others that is essence of London. That is the reason that the city endures through all of its incarnations and tribulations. It touches upon the profound social nature of people, which is why it so excels at hosting events like those of this summer.

Go on then, and celebrate London wherever you are. Cheers.

Let the games begin.

 

“Today I’m in the Yellowstone Park, and I wish I were dead.”

The author in his natural habitat. Watch the account of his journey here. all media via.

So begins Rudyard “Mowgli” Kipling’s epic tale of the worst-roadtrip-ever, as told by PBS’s The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (a Ken Burns joint). In 1889, the British author/cranky traveller took the “grand tour” of Yellowstone Park, paying about $150 for the privilege of only barely enjoying this freshly minted national wonder. “The park is just a howling wilderness,” he whines, and goes on to complain generally about the poor cuisine (tinned beef and beer), his gum-snapping Chicagoan companions, and a wealth of other annoyances. You may never love Kipling as much as you will after watching this clip. Or you can read a section of his immensely entertaining takedown here.

What’s the worst trip you’ve ever taken?