Playing in the Slot Canyons of the American Southwest: Private Luxury Tour of Arizona’s Antelope Canyon

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Looking up in Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is the most famous (and most photographed) slot canyon in the American Southwest. And there is good reason why. It’s virtually impossible to take a bad picture in this amazingly beautiful area. February is a great time to visit the amazing slot canyons located along the Utah-Arizona border. The mild winter meant the weather was pleasant. As an added bonus, while Antelope Canyon is always popular, it’s significantly less busy during winter months.

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Dillon, our guide, gave us a visual demonstration of how the canyons were formed

Antelope Canyon is actually two different canyons. Upper Antelope Canyon is the most popular and colorful with curvy walls that reach 120 feet high. Lower Antelope Canyon is narrower and less user-friendly (and I did not visit it on this tour).

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Climbing out of Rattlesnake Canyon on a ladder

The three slot canyons I toured were Upper Antelope, Side Canyon, and Rattlesnake Canyon. Different outfitters have access to different slot canyons, so who you book with will determine which slot canyons you get to visit.

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The heart of Upper Antelope Canyon

The canyon’s uniquely smooth and colorful sandstone was formed over millions of years exposed flash floods, water erosion, and wind. The resulting walls are smooth and curvy, with variations in texture and color.

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Dust and shaft of light in Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is located within the Navajo Nation land about 10 miles southeast of Page, Arizona. Upper Antelope, Side Canyon, and Rattlesnake Canyon are also located along the same Antelope Canyon wash and they are hidden gems of the area.

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color and curves in a slot canyon

Of the three slot canyons I visited, Rattlesnake Canyon might have been my favorite, simply because it involved ladders and very few other people. It was not as accessible for travelers who aren’t as mobile.

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Sandstone walls of the slot canyons

Our private three slot canyon tour was arranged by the staff of the Amangiri, where we were staying for this trip. Our guide was Dillon, and he was excellent. He also knew the best photo spots.

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Blue coat and red canyon walls

Many photographers like to visit Antelope Canyon during June, July, and August when the light beams are at their strongest. This is also the season for peak heat in the area, with average daily high temperatures of over 90 degrees. If it’s cloudy, you won’t see the light beams.

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Upper Antelope Canyon is amazing

All visitors to the area (especially photographers)  should be aware that the area is very dusty. And tour leaders will often stir up dust to make the light beams more photogenic.

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The parking lot outside Antelope Canyon

Different tour providers use different types of vehicles to bring visitors into Antelope Canyon. Most used converted pick up trucks. I was glad that our tour was in a comfortable dust-free Suburban.

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Lines of rock and and blue puffer coat

Our private luxury Three Canyon tour for two people was  arranged by the Amangiri. It took about 3 1/2 hours door to door and cost $725 + 10% service charge. Not cheap, but it was totally worth it if you want to see the slot canyons in comfort and minimize crowds.

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Not a bad angle in this slot canyon

If you’re looking for things to do in the American Southwest, I highly recommend taking a tour of the slot canyons. As much as I liked exploring Upper Antelope Canyon, it was hard to beat having Side Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon almost all to ourselves.

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Selfie with ladder in Rattlesnake Canyon

Pro tip: wear hiking boots when exploring the slot canyons of the southwest. You might be able to get away with everyday shoes in Upper Antelope Canyon, the terrain can be challenging and you’ll be better off in appropriate footwear.

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Our ride to Antelope Canyon

While the Amangiri is located just over the border in Utah, they arranged our Three Slot Canyon tour. It was highly memorable experience and well worth the price.

Amangiri

1 Kayenta Rd, Canyon Point, UT 84741, USA

The closest airport is Page, Arizona.

Exploring Germany: Private Street Art Tour of Berlin

 

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Jadore Tong’s Elephant Playing with a Balloon mural

If you’re a fan of street art, Berlin is a must-see destination. Even if you consider all painting on the side of a building, graffiti, exploring Berlin might make you stop and look a little closer. The city is an ever-changing gallery filled with large scale murals by world-renowned artists as well as random graffiti tags. I recently visited Berlin, and took a fantastic private street art tour called Writing on the Walls to see some of the best known works in world of street art.

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Our tour guide, William

A good tour guide can make all the difference and our tour guide, William, was excellent. In addition to showing us some of the city’s urban art highlights, he gave us context for each work. Berlin once was as a city divided by communism, and political street art was a form of expression and protest. Since the Berlin wall came down in 1989, the city has remained one of the best cities in the world for street art.

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The colorful alley of Hackescher Markt

In addition to seeing well known works on buildings and exploring street art rich neighborhoods like Kreuzberg, we also visited Urban Nation, the museum for urban contemporary art, which opened in 2017. It’s a really great space that features works by some of the best known street artists in the world.

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Left: I want to revisit this alley when the weather is better Right: Anne Frank mural in Berlin

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Photographing street art in Berlin

A necessary stop on any tour of Berlin is the Berlin Wall Museum and Eastside Gallery, a former stretch of the Berlin Wall which as been transformed into the which the largest open air gallery in the world.

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Section of the Berlin Wall help visitors get a sense of what the city felt like before it came down

Berlin has a rich history and dynamic present. It’s a city with buzzy vibe that feels like things are happening here. And street art is part of that vibe.

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Meat mural that depicts the history of Berlin

One of the most interesting stops on the tour was the meat mural by Marcus Haas that depicts the history of Berlin as a divided city from 1961-1989. It’s really smart when you take the time to look at it for a few minutes.

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Street art has long been an expression of political protest

Another perk of this private street art tour was being able to escape the miserable January weather in the comfort of our own van. Private transportation is also included.

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The bathrooms at Urban Nation encourage guests to create their own street art

I’ve never felt compelled to photograph a bathroom until I visited the one at Urban Nation, where visitors are allowed to write on the walls and contribute to the street art scene themselves.

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The stairs at Urban Nation

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Some of the works currently on display at Urban Nation

Urban Nation does a really good job of making art feel accessible. There is no snobby vibe.

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Nick Walker’s Marge Simpson-inspired work at Urban Nation

 

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street art on the side of the Mecure Hotel in Berlin by  Interbrigadas

Some of the city’s best known works were commissioned, which shows just how intrinsically linked Berlin is to it’s street art. The mural on the side of the Mercure Hotel by Interbrigadas is a great example of this.

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The Cosmonaut by Victor Ash 

If you’re looking for things to do in Berlin, the Berlin Graffiti & Street Art Tour: Writing on the Walls is great option. It’s a great alternative culture tour and feels very of-the-moment. The itinerary for this tour changes with the street art scene.

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Magazine of Street Art in Berlin

Berlin Experiences

Our guide was William

tel: +49 1762 9913011

email: info@berlinexperiences.com

Exploring France: Paris during Men’s Fashion Week

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Sleeping bags on the runway at the Thom Browne NY show

Attending a show in Paris for Fashion Week was never something I thought I’d have a chance to experience. So when my friend, architect and designer Tim Campbell invited me to be his guest at the Thom Browne NY show, I immediately booked a ticket to France.

Video of the Thom Browne Paris Fashion Week show

What surprised me was how much I enjoyed the experience. The Thom Browne NY Fall/Winter 2018 show took place in the heart of Saint Germain at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. The gorgeous courtyard was set up with a floor of faux snow and bare Aspen trees set around a row of cots. Gray down blankets with the designer’s distinctive red, white and blue signature stripe were waiting in chairs to help attendees ward off the January cold.

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A runway look at Thom Brown NY’s #tbfw18 show

The show felt like a brief and beautiful piece of performance art. Male models wore long braids, gray hats and the vibe felt like a mystical apre-ski fairytale. The coats were beautiful and made with a range of fabrics including performance down to knits to black lace. The accessories were theatrical and fun. There were man muffs! There were puffy gators paired with shorts!

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A beautifully tailored coat at the Thom Browne NY show

While the models walked the runway to hauntingly beautiful music, I got kind of caught up in the theater of it all and could barely focus on the clothes.

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Gorgeous outerwear over a classically tailored gray suit

To see more looks from the show, check out Thom Brown’s instagram feed.

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Models all tucked in at the end of the Thom Browne NY show

After each model showed their final look, they returned to the runway in gray long johns and tucked themselves into bed by unrolling the sleeping bags on the cots revealing the adorable gray Thom Browne suits quilted on them.

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Model all tucked in at Thom Browne

After the show, the audience was allowed to photograph the models in their designer cots. Up close the sleep shades and details like the occasional teddy bear had me totally charmed.

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Photographing after the show

The amount of work it must take a designer to do multiple shows a year blows my mind. While I didn’t have a lot of expectations going in, I came away with an appreciation of the art of the runway show. Beyond the challenge of designing multiple collections, the ephemeral beauty of the runway presentation really left me impressed.

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Guy in Gucci photographing the show

Fashion week people watching was seriously next level. Watching the crowd proved quite entertaining.

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Personal Thom Browne comforters for the guests 

While I often skip picking up swag at industry events, I definitely love my Thom Browne down throw blanket!

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Backstage with Lucas Langellier and Tim Campbell  

Suffice it to say, the place was full of sharp dressed men and women. If you’re coming to Paris for Fashion Week, you better bring your style A-game.

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Tim Campbell being photographed outside the show

Fun fact: Thom Browne wrote the foreword to Tim Campbell’s book, Intentional Beauty. You can follow Tim on instagram at Studio Tim Campbell.

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Tim Campbell with designer Thom Browne

My first fashion week blew me away. I found the whole experience fun and enchanting. Much thanks to Tim Campbell for inviting me to join him as his guest.

If you want to see more of  Thom Browne’s work, visit his website: https://www.thombrowne.com/us/

Exploring Northern California: Redwood National and State Parks

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Light rays streaming through the Avenue of the Giants

Northern California has so much of the Golden State’s beauty. There are stunning beaches as well as some of the most magnificent, mature and tallest coastal redwood trees in the world. If you’re into natural beauty, and enjoy a good forest hike Redwood National Park is great place to spend a few days.

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Sunset view in along the coast in the Del Norte section of Redwood National Park

And visiting in the winter means mild weather and virtually no crowds.

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Even the stumps are impressive at Redwood National Park

The trees are so tall they are challenging to photograph!

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A fallen log the the Boy Scout Tree Trail 

Redwood National Park consists of three California state parks–  Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. If you’re visiting the area, it’s also worth visiting The Avenue of the Giants, a scenic 31 mile drive through the old growth forest of  Humboldt Redwoods State Park off the 101 Freeway.

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Looking up at some redwoods

There are a lot of great hikes in the area.  The easy 1. 4 mile Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Loop hike  is relatively flat but a nice place to start and gives you a sense of the park. My favorite hike was the moderately difficult 2.8mile Boy Scout Tree Trail Hike, where we only passed one other pair of hikers in early December.

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Dwarfed by trees

We flew into the Arcata Eureka airport (ACV) in Humboldt County, rented an SUV and drove up the coast to the Jedediah Smith Information Center to plan our days. SUVs are recommended as not all the roads in the parks are paved.

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Trees of Mystery

Forest hikes aren’t all Redwood National Park has to offer. The Del Norte section of the park includes some spectacular west coast scenery, sandy and almost empty beaches and fabulous moody sunsets. I visited Redwood National Park with my friend Zan in December and enjoyed the area’s extremely chill vibe.

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Looking up the trunks of giant redwoods

In addition to the Redwood Coast’s National Park, there are some fun other tourist attractions including the Trees of Mystery in Klamath.

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A humorous sign on the Redwood Coast

If you’re planning a visit, Crescent City can make a great base to explore the northern parts of the park. It’s also a good place to grab a bite to eat.

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Hiking the Boy Scout Tree Trail (photo credit: Zan Aufderheide)

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Giant Redwoods have shallow roots

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Left: Zan is little compared to the giant sequoia tree stumps Right: Pine needles make the trails springy 

45% of all remaining Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are in the area that stretches through Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

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A quiet moment on the Boy Scout Tree Trail

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Zan enjoying the pleasant climate in the Jedediah Smith section of the park

Roosevelt elk and sea lions can also be found in the park.

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Heart shaped stump in Prarie Creek Redwoods state Park

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Moss on the trunk of a giant redwood

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Enjoying the beach in Redwood National Park

If you want to #findyourpark in Northern California, check out Redwood National Park.

 

Redwood National Park

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

and don’t miss the scenic Avenue of the Giants drive through  Humboldt Redwoods State Park

 

Crescent City Visitors Center

1111 Second Street, Crescent City, Calif. (Corner of 2nd and K Streets)

Hours of Operation.

Summer: Open daily, 9 am to 5 pm.

Winter: Open 9am to 4pm. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Closed: New Years day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Phone707-465-7306.

Jedediah Smith Visitor’s Center

US Highway 199 at Hiouchi, Calif.

Hours of Operation

Summer: Open daily, 9 am to 5 pm

Winter: Subject to staffing.

Phone 707-458-3496.

Exploring Northern California: Trinidad State Beach

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Sunset among the rock pools at Trinidad State Beach

There are many beloved beaches in California so it’s hard to say there any single one is best. The best known beaches stretch from Big Sur south to San Diego. But Northern California has some lesser known gems. Discovering the stunning beauty of Trinidad State Beach in Humboldt County last month was quite a surprise.

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Sunset stroll on Trinidad Beach

Located almost 400 miles north of San Francisco, Trinidad State Beach is closer to Oregon than the Bay Area. It’s the mix of the Pacific Northwest geography  and soft golden sand that makes it quite magical.

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Sea stacks on Trinidad State Beach

Located on a cove in the small city of Trinidad (population approximate 400), Trinidad State Beach is the gateway city to the California Coastal National Monument. I stumbled across it during a trip to Redwood National Park. It is also one of California’s smallest incorporated cities.

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Low tide + Sunset

Trinidad State Beach has soft sand, coastal bluffs, sea stacks, and waves strong enough to entice surfers.

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Pretty from every angle

The best time to visit is sunset, when the tide is low enough to walk your dog and enjoy stroll along on the sand.

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Enjoying the sunset view 

The secluded location of Trinidad State Beach means it’s never that busy. Visiting in December, the weather was pleasant enough to hike along both Trinidad Head as well as along the coast.

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Scenery like this is usually reserved for beaches in Oregon and Washington

The tiny town of Trinidad is rather charming. The Trinidad Bay Eatery and Gallery is a great local spot to stop for a breakfast burrito and cup of coffee before exploring the area or venturing to Redwood National Park.

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Rocks + horizon

The historic Trinidad Head Lighthouse was located here until it was moved on January 10th, 2018.

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low tide views 

Visiting during low tide allows you to explore behind the rocks and get views of Trinidad Head.

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Sun about to dip below the horizon

If you want to stay in the area, I can recommend the charming View Crest Lodge, where I stayed for two nights. The cabins are cute with modern amenities and located just a few miles from the beach on Patrick’s Point Road. Patches of the road are rough, and it’s not lit after dark so an SUV is recommended.

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Random amazing view #12 on Trinidad State Beach

If you’re looking for the best beaches in California or things to do in Humboldt County, Trinidad State Beach is definitely worth checking out. It’s as gorgeous as better known beaches in Big Sur and significantly less crowded. My friend, Patrick McGowen, who grew up near the area, told me it’s his favorite beach and turned me on to the area.

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This view reminded me of Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock

The scenery reminded me of what you find at Ruby Beach (located in Olympic National Park) or Oregon’s famed Cannon Beach.
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Sunset and sea stacks on Trinidad State Beach

Trinidad State Beach

Getting there: Trinidad State Beach is located 19 miles north of Eureka, CA just off Highway 101. From north- or southbound 101, take the Trinidad exit (Exit 728). Turn west on Main St and proceed to Stagecoach Rd. Turn right; the park entrance is about 200 feet north on the left. There is another entrance about 1/2 mile north on Stagecoach Rd, also on the left.

Trinidad Bay Eatery & Gallery

607 Parker St
Trinidad, California 95570

View Crest Lodge

3415 Patricks Point Drive. Trinidad, CA
(707) 677-3393
Rates from  $95

 

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