Category Archives: Travel

An early start in Chicago, and a Frank Lloyd Wright tour of Madison

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It was a schoolboy error: I forgot to switch off my mobile when I went to bed. A colleague called me shortly after 9am UK time, and once I’m awake enough to answer the phone, that’s generally it.

Which is why I found myself out & about, on the freezing winter streets of Chicago, at around 5am, with my meeting not until 11am.

There was one huge upside, though: I got to see The Bean, perhaps my favourite piece of sculpture in the world (though the Fulcrum comes a close second) utterly deserted. There was me and one very cold-looking, very bored-looking security guard – and that was it. No-one else there at all. It was magical.

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Of course, the one downside of having the place to myself was that the usual photo opportunities are missing. Fortunately I had the chance to return again at lunchtime.

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I have friends in Madison,so hopped on a bus to spend the weekend with them. I’m a great fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, and Madison was his home town, so I was hopeful that I might get to see the Holy Trinity Church and perhaps one or two other FLW buildings.

Little did I understand Gene & Kitty’s idea of hospitality: they pretty much devoted the entire weekend to taking me to see every FLW building within a 50-mile radius. Kitty’s architectural expertise meant that it truly was a guided tour.

We started with that amazing church:

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It was locked when we arrived, but Gene knocked on the door and someone emerged. It’s amazing how well the words “This is Ben and he’s come all the way from London to see the church” can work, and within seconds we were inside. 🙂

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Then toured various homes with the giveaway cantilevered roofs. I was disappointed to discovered that they haven’t held up that well, many requiring remedial work and/or support.

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Another of his more famous buildings is Monona Terrace, right on the shore of Lake Monona (or Ice-rink Monona as it was at the time).

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Who else could make the entrance to the Gents look beautiful?

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We even drove out to his home, though we couldn’t get very far into the grounds:

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March 2008

An afternoon in the Kremlin

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I like to think I’m reasonably skilled at making things happen, and have something of a reputation as someone who can get permission for things that wouldn’t normally be allowed. I must confess, though, that in Moscow I met my match.

The USSR may have been no more, but in 2005 at least, the Soviet mentality was alive and well. Almost everything you asked for, the answer was Nyet …

Continue reading An afternoon in the Kremlin

Concorde: The most expensive, and best value, dinner I’ve ever had

I’d always considered Concorde to be something truly special. A passenger aircraft conceived in the 1950s, designed & built in the 1960s and which still flew higher and faster than any other airliner in her final year of operation in 2003.

But mostly it was the sheer, timeless beauty of her. An aircraft which first took to the skies in 1969 and yet which still looks futuristic even after she’s been retired.

I was fortunate enough to fly on her six months before her retirement – the realisation of a childhood dream, and every bit as good as I’d imagined. Sadly, nobody will ever again have the same opportunity …

Continue reading Concorde: The most expensive, and best value, dinner I’ve ever had