For all that was lost in the years of the pandemic, one luxury many of us gained was time. There was an invitation to notice more in our surroundings because for months, those surroundings didn’t change. As we’ve merged back into the fast lane, one can feel a desire to move through the world with increased consciousness and curiosity. Perhaps in part for this reason, the trend of slow travel is on the rise, with voyagers choosing trains and boats over planes, opting to enjoy the journey rather than dash to the destination.
When it comes to embracing the moment while travelling, the road trip is the incomparable course of action. As the miles roll by, the terrain changes slowly. The city fades into the background, the air tastes fresher, and the freedom of captaining one’s own passage inspires a leisurely calm.
It’s a timely moment for the launch of Bentley Extraordinary Journeys, a new travel offering from the legendary British car company, which puts you in the driver’s seat for automotive journeys around the world. The series launched last month with an expedition across Scandinavia, which was elegantly tinged with a focus on architecture and design.
After landing at Arlanda Airport, we were chauffeured to Stockholm’s Östermalm district for a night at Ett Hem, Swedish for “a home.” Consisting of three early 20th-century townhouses surrounding a central courtyard, Ett Hem feels like the stylish residence of a fabulous friend. The interiors, designed by Ilse Crawford, house an eclectic mix of handmade furniture, art, and antiques, making each suite unique. If you wander into the kitchen at any time, you won’t be handed a menu. Instead you’ll be asked what you’re in the mood for, and the chef will prepare something marvelous that somehow specifically satiates your craving.
Following breakfast, we were invited to choose between six new Bentley models for the first leg of our journey. I slid behind the wheel of a Flying Spur Hybrid Mulliner and wove through streets exiting Stockholm, heading south for lunch at a nature house on Lake Vättern. The naturhaus concept, which places a conventional home inside a greenhouse, was devised by the late Swedish eco-architect Bengt Warne and prioritizes harmony with nature. To minimize climate impact, a recycling water system hydrates the plants with the home’s waste water, producing flowers and a plethora of fruit and vegetables. Engrossed in the glass house’s surroundings, we were treated to a delicious spread that included crayfish from the lake and other ingredients from the house and local area.
For our journey into the Swedish woods, I drove the GT Speed, which ended up being my favorite of the Bentley lineup, not least because my co-pilot mentioned the massage function in the seats. At Trakt Forest Hotel, we checked into our suites, five treehouses raised above the ground, silent sanctuaries nestled in the heart of the forest. Dinner was held in an open-air tented space amidst the trees, where we watched chef Niklas Ekstedt and his team prepare our meal over an open fire.
The next morning, we set out for Wanås Konst, a historic family estate with a sculpture park containing a permanent collection of over 70 site-specific artworks. After lunch at the estate’s restaurant, which featured ingredients from its organic farm, we took in works by Jenny Holzer, Yoko Ono, and Antony Gormley, immersed in the lush landscape.
The last leg of our journey took us across the Øresund Bridge, Europe’s longest road and rail crossing, which connects Sweden and Denmark. We checked in at Copenhagen’s Nimb Hotel in the Tivoli Gardens, the old-world amusement park that inspired Walt Disney to create his own. Dinner was at the offices of Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group, where we were given a tour of impressive past and present projects, and a particularly interesting concept for a future structure on the moon. Chef Christian Puglisi crafted a beautiful meal, which was followed by a nightcap at the hotel.
Over a glass of The Macallan Rare Cask, I chatted with Bentley’s head of design collaborations, Chris Cooke, about the company’s racing history and how, unlike other luxury automobiles in which you may opt for the back seat, a Bentley demands to be driven. Firing up the ignition of an unparalleled experience that merges responsive handling with aesthetic delight, you may wonder why you ever fussed about airline status.
Road trippers, start your engines.
Photography by Tom Kahler.