Sunday, December 20, 2015

When the Wright Thing Happens

The David and Gladys Wright Home

I suppose most architects of my generation have their "Frank Lloyd Wright" story.

As for me, I have two.

The First:
When I was young my grandmother took me on annual visits to San Francisco at Christmastime.  She just said we'd be going to the "City". The trip always included a stop to see the three-story Christmas tree in the very elegant "City of Paris" department store. It is now a Neiman Marcus store and has suffered from a tragic Philip Johnson "renovation".

We'd go on to the (now defunct) Podesta Baldocchi florist shop with its annual display of lavishly decorated Christmas trees. This is the florist shop that Jimmy Stewart stumbles into from an alley in Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 movie Vertigo. Our final stop was Swedish meatballs in an upstairs Scandinavian cafe on Maiden Lane.

On one of those trips (when I was about six or seven) I was intrigued by a shop with a simple brick facade on Maiden Lane.  To enter it you walked into a curving brass and glass tube that projected into the store. In those days the shop was Helga Howie's Boutique.

The Helga Howie (VC Morris) Shop on Maiden Lane

The Entry (With a View Into the Boutique)

I walked into the entry and was transfixed at the space inside. Without even going through the entry door I felt its interior soar in an upward curving spiral capped by a fantastic luminous ceiling of white half spheres of glass. 

That space (along with Kevin Roche's spectacular Oakland Museum) confirmed my desire to become an architect.

The Second:
In 1976 my parents decided to take a trip across the US in celebration of the American Bicentennial. Along the way we planned a stop in Chicago to visit the neighborhoods mom grew up in.

I was excited as the stops would allow me to visit Oak Park, La Grange and Riverside and experience various examples of Wright's early "Prairie Style" architecture.

While driving around mom's old neighborhood, she told me about a wealthy matron that rolled up in a chauffeur driven limousine one day to her elementary school. The woman's regal arrival and amazing fur coat (at the height of the depression) made for a lasting impression on my mom.

The women turned out to be Mrs. Peter Kroehler (of the Kroehler furniture company). She came into Mom's classroom and "selected" a few little girls to play with her visiting grandaughter. It was right out of a Shirley Temple movie.

At the appointed time a limo came for mom for her play date. Upon arrival at the Kroehler house she joined the other girls playing in what she described as a "huge, dark and very modern" house. Mom remembered a separate playhouse with stained glass panels. She also remembered servants delivering snacks of peeled grapes.

As she told me her story we toured various Chicago area Wright buildings. Then, I set out to see the Avery Coonley house in Riverside.

As we approached the Coonley house mom's eyes got huge. This was the very house she had visited as a child. So, as we stood on the sidewalk looking at it, Mom gave me a room by room tour based on her recall of a visit when she was about 9 years old.

After a little research I verified that the Coonley's sold their 9000 square foot Wright designed residence to Peter Kroehler in 1921.

Now all these years later I live in Phoenix and find myself surrounded by numerous examples of Wright's work.  Here, we have the Arizona Biltmore (the world's only remaining Wright inspired hotel), the soaring First Congregational Church on Seventh Avenue, Taliesan West, ASU's Gammage Auditorium, the (nearly football field long) Price House in Paradise Valley and the circular linear residence Wright designed (at the age of 84) for his son David in what is now Phoenix's Arcadia neighborhood.

David and his wife Gladys lived in the house until they passed away after living more than a century.  

Since 2012 the house has been a source of controversy after a developer bought it and floated various options to subdivide the property and possibly tear down the house. 

Efforts to save the house were mounted immediately.

Simultaneously Arcadia neighbors (afraid preservation would result in a noisy tourist attraction), loudly and aggressively fought preservation efforts.

Finally benefactors emerged with the energy, patience and resources to restore the home.

So far they have made great strides rebuilding the house, securing its historic designation and establishing a foundation that will assure its preservation.
And tonight a long time friend, who now works there as a docent, invited me to come and experience it.

What a joy!

The David and Gladys Wright Home Today

The Living Room With its Brilliant Carpet

The Compact and Circular Kitchen

Space for a Steinway

And Views Every Direction 
(Including Camelback)

When I visited the Rooftop Terrace 
I Was Rewarded With A Spectacular Arizona Sunset 

The David and Gladys Wright House is truly an Arizona treasure. An icon Phoenicians and visitors will be able to celebrate and enjoy for generations to come.

Always quotable, Wright's own words sum it up best.


Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Saturday, November 28, 2015


James Deering's Fantasy Estate and Gardens

OK I admit it. I'm not a fan of Miami. 

The times I've visited it, I found it intensely hot and dirty. Just felt generally kinda icky.

The fact that it is filled with young, incredibly beautiful, fit, zero body fat residents (that make Roadboy feel old and fat) also tends to work against it.....

Last week, however, while attending an architectural conference downtown in Brickell, I came up with a few hours for some personal sightseeing.

Since I've always wanted to visit Vizcaya, the timing was perfect. After a few days working amid downtown's traffic and highrises Vizcaya represented everything I found myself craving. It is lush, beautiful, uncrowded and quiet.

From downtown Vizcaya is a short drive (or just a few Metrorail stops) away. And, if you drive, and space is available in its on-site lots, parking at Vizcaya is currently free.

View of Biscayne Bay From Vizcaya's Barge
(Arguably The Most Beautiful Breakwater Structure Ever Built) 
Vizcaya, now a museum and park, was conceived as a spectacular winter residence by James Deering a wealthy Chicago industrialist. 

James Deering
(Painted by Deering's Friend / Houseguest: John Singer Sargent)

James Deering (1859-1925)
Mr. Deering was heir to the Deering Harvester Corporation (founded by his father William Deering).

Deering was a Chicago socialite who had a passion for collecting art and antiquities. He was also a conservationist and philanthropist. Deering traveled extensively and (besides Vizcaya) maintained residences in Chicago, Evanston, New York City and Paris.

Deering never married and died of pernicious anemia in 1925 while aboard the steamship City of Paris.

Professional Career
After one year at Northwestern and one year at MIT, at the age of 21, James Deering became treasurer of Deering Harvester.

In 1902 JP Morgan purchased both Deering Harvester and McCormick Reaper and "Morganized" them into a new (monopoly) mega-company International Harvester. Deering became a vice-president in the new corporation. By 1909, at age 50, Deering retired from day-to-day operations at International Harvester.

Creating Vizcaya
A year after retiring (in 1910), at the age of 51, Deering turned his attention to a new project, planning an epic winter estate in South Florida. To accomplish the task he enlisted Paul Chalfin (an artist and designer who was busy creating the interiors to Deering's Chicago home).

Deering and Chalfin then began extensive travels to Europe to gain inspiration and acquire antiquities for the new Miami estate.

In 1912 Deering added 30 year old F. Burrall Hoffman to serve as the architect of the house. He also began purchasing land in the Coconut Grove section of Miami. His initial purchase was 130 acres of virgin mangroves and hammocks fronting Biscayne Bay, just north of his brother Charles' estate. After a second land purchase of 50 additional acres the estate encompassed 180 acres.

In 1914 construction on the house began. Also in 1914 Deering retained Diego Suarez (a Columbian landscape architect he had met in Italy) to create Vizcaya's elaborate gardens.

The Overall Vizcaya Site
(Note how the plan essentially results in the huge house "fronting" on three sides)

With planning and construction teams now in full swing, the house was completed and ready for occupancy by Christmas of 1916.

From this point on Vizcaya became a "must see" stop on the celebrity circuit of the era. Deering's winters at Vizcaya became enriched by a parade of artists, movie stars and dignitaries.

The design of the house and estate is exquisitely composed. The villa is one of the few estates of its day to front directly on Biscayne Bay. This meant it would always be particularly vulnerable to hurricanes. To offset the hurricane risk the house is built of concrete, is elevated above the bay and is protected by a large ornamental breakwater in the shape of a huge stone barge. Hence, the east face and terrace is front door to visitors arriving by boat. The west facade and terrace serve as front door to visitors arriving by land. The South facade and terrace faces the estate's magnificent gardens.

Sadly, photography inside the home is prohibited, so my photos where limited to the grounds and the (now) enclosed interior courtyard.

Vizcaya's East Facade and Terrace Facing Biscayne Bay

As you leave the East Terrace you confront Vizcaya's main character defining element, its amazing "barge". The barge serves as a landmark for visitors arriving by water (including Deering who frequently arrived on his yacht Nepenthe). And, during Deering's time the barge was heavily planted and contained a gazebo for meals or tea. The hurricane of 1926 destroyed the gazebo and planting. They have never been replaced.

The Vizcaya Barge
(A truly spectacular breakwater)

 Part of the Interior Courtyard
(Deering was fond of projecting Hollywood movies in the courtyard)

Originally the house surrounded an open courtyard which allowed for the convection of natural breezes and airflow, throughout the house. To preserve the house, the courtyard has been covered with an elaborate skylight. This has enabled the house to be fully air conditioned. 

Even Little Details Like These Wall Mounted Courtyard Curtain Tie-backs 
Were Meticulously Designed

Looking Up In the South Wing's Spiral Staircase

The South "Garden" Facade and Terrace
Complete With A Playful Frog Garden Sculpture 

Construction of the extensive grounds continued on for 9 years with delays in part due to labor and material shortages caused by World War 1.

I found it stunning that at times the shear size of this project resulted in the employment of 10% of the population of Miami.

A View to The Fountain Garden

Although I came to see the house, I found myself spending more time enjoying Vizcaya's Gardens. Deering was fascinated by European gardens and some note that the design of the gardens evoke a sort of a traditional European garden style executed with tropical plant materials.

Deering opened Vizcaya's gardens to Miami's residents on Sundays. Lore has it that Deering would discretely watch his guests and take great pleasure in witnessing their enjoyment of the gardens.

Central Garden

A Large Reptilian Houseguest

Vizcaya is a Cherished Backdrop for Quinceanera Photos 

A Sample of the Extensive Garden Sculptures

In The Gardens 

Don't miss the north side of the villa as it is the most private and intimate side of the estate. Below the north terrace is a cafe, gift shop and elaborate grotto where one might plunge into the indoor outdoor swimming pool that extends beyond this facade. The North facade also faces into the Orchidarium. Another favorite spot of modern photographers.   

The Orchid Garden is Perfect backdrop For Celebratory Photos

As you tour the house carefully note some of its subtle details.

Despite the lack of air conditioning and fully subjected to Florida heat, the kitchen was built upstairs (at bedroom level). This results in all food for major meals being transported to the dining room downstairs via a dumbwaiter.

The house featured a built-in vacuum system and a modern annunciator system allowing Deering and his guests the ability to summons staff around the clock.

When Deering was in residence the house required a staff of 16-18 with another staff of 25 to maintain the gardens.

Some house staff lived in bedrooms in the west towers (not on the tour). Bedrooms in the east towers offered privacy and spectacular bay views and were coveted by Deering's guests.

A village of secondary structures with some staff housing, repair shops and barns to keep the estate pristine and raise animals for the kitchen was built near Miami Blvd.

Other features worthy of note include the built-in pipe organ downstairs (surrounded by a spliced antique mural), a very early residential elevator and direct-dial telephone room.

One quirk of the design are the concealed doors from one guest bedroom (allowing private movement to Deerings private balcony and master suite). I'd be very interested to see the gender represented in the guest roster for that bedroom.

Also note how the big tub in his master bathroom has two sets of gold handles. One tap was for fresh water, the other was for salt water. His shaving stand has the most spectacular view imaginable.

The history of Vizcaya is not without trials and tribulations. Deering entrusted the design and management of the project to his friend Chalfin who, although very talented, was not an architect.

Apparently, over the years Chalfin "forgot" that fact, and started taking credit as the architect. The true architect ignored it initially. Then after a noteworthy magazine article credited the architecture to Chalfin, Hoffman finally took legal action to correct that.

Although the gardens remained under construction until 1921, the landscape architect Suarez was released in 1917. After which Chalfin took credit for the garden design as well. 

Upon Deering's death in 1925, the estate was deeded to his brother Charles, eventually passing on to Deering's two nieces.

Just a year after Deering's death Vizcaya was devastated by the hurricane of 1926. His nieces worked hard to restore and keep the estate maintained, but eventually sold much of the estate including the southern lagoon property to the Catholic Diocese (for a hospital in 1945).

Even after hurricane's, the Great Depression and World War's, Vizcaya was kept as intact as possible (including many of the original furnishings) until it was sold in 1955 to Dade County for a largely symbolic payment.

Vizcaya is a true one-of-a-kind.

Similar to Hearst's "Castle" in California, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC and all of the estates in Newport RI, it provides insight into the lifestyle of America's pre-depression over-the-top rich.

Putting such estates into perspective, Vizcaya was built at a time when many Americans were unemployed and monopolistic corporate greed was encouraging the rapid dehumanization of industrial working conditions. Where Pinkerton thugs were employed by Ford to work over any employee caught whispering about unionization.

Where child labor was standard and one in five steel workers would die in a workplace "injury". It was when William Jennings Bryan rose to champion the worker only to be defeated in his presidential bid by JP Morgan's willingness to buy the presidential election for McKinley. It was when Upton Sinclair shocked the nation by chronicling the desperate conditions of Chicago's meat packing industry and when factory doors were used to lock staff in factories, resulted in terrible deaths during warehouse fires.

It was an era when America's wealthy could spend millions on a winter home like Vizcaya, yet a typical American family's monthly income was less than $100.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Road Warriors Take Another Jab

American and Marriott News

Those of us who travel a lot have all been speculating how long it would take (after the US Airways/American computer systems merged) for the "New American" to screw their frequent fliers.

Most of us assumed it would occur early in 2016. But we were wrong.

Today American defined how it will gut its frequent flier program.

Yes the points American sold you yesterday are to be devalued tomorrow.

This just confirms that with the airline mergers now complete we continue to see steady declines in service as fares continue to increase.

Luckily for me I can do more and more skype and travel less and less.

To add even more salt to the wound, the three big American "legacy" carriers have now joined forces to use political pressure to seal off America's airline markets to foreign carriers.

You see it is easier to prevent competition than to actually compete against it. Especially when the competition they face offers superior service delivered in fleets of clean comfortable aircraft.

Now the hotel industry is taking a page from the airline industry with the biggest hoteliers starting to devour each other.

Yet, if the airline mergers tell us anything it is that mergers have only been good for the growing monster, never the customer. 

So yesterday's Marriott / Starwood merger is likely the opening shot of a whole new hotel based merger mania. 

My guess it will lead to higher hotel prices with corresponding declines in quality and service.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

Resist Fear

More Parisian Heartache

As I sit in the Denver airport waiting for my flight home I am witness to our media blazing with images and updates describing horrific attacks upon the citizens and visitors of Paris.

And, as usual frightened alarmists are going berzerk in the blog-o-sphere calling for immediate and massive western attacks upon anyone that looks or acts differently than they do.

I'm quite sure that the French economy (which is heavily dependent upon tourism) will suffer. And the collateral damage will be economic hardship on innocent Parisians.

Everyone that reads my blog knows I solidly believe that the world becomes a more dangerous place in direct proportion to our descent into isolationism.

I just returned from Paris and Normandy and would have zero reservation about returning again.

We only truly live our lives when we lean into, and overcome, our fears. 

So, if you had planned your "trip of a lifetime" to Paris, Go!

Your life will vastly richer for it.

Symbols of Heroism and Resiliency 

As for me the most dangerous places I frequent are the city streets (filled with reckless, gun toting and distracted drivers) in my hometown of Phoenix.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015

More Adventures in Flight

Montana, Illinois, Colorado, Arizona and California
All in 10 days....
When architects get busy, they get very busy. 

When they slow down, they immediately start to worry. 

Then they get busy again and remember wistfully how nice it was when things were a little slower.

In our firm when things get busy it means we travel a lot. When I'm really busy I try to do the impossible and work on my flights.

Today on my flight from Phoenix to Chicago I was hoping to get some work done and scored a nice exit row seat with legroom and enough room to actually open my laptop.

Then my seatmate arrived. 

Lets just say the seat did not accommodate her well.  She was way too big for the tiny airplane seat and she groaned pitifully trying to squeeze into it. 

Luckily for me exit row seats are pylons (to accommodate the tray table), so you can't lift an armrest and expand onto your neighbor.  For this I offer my sincerest gratitude.

Then as the plane began to move she started a prolonged asthma attack. It was only her second time flying so there was some major anxiety going on.

Enter the flight attendants. 

It was a large 321 aircraft and every seat was filled. Yet, they came and checked on her constantly. They brought lots of water, cold compresses and some soothing words.

Real pros. 

I didn't get any work done, but I did get to watch an amazing Phoenix based flight crew. One that American Airlines can be very proud of.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Morphing Some More

The Only Way to Fly

A lifetime ago I lived in Alaska and flew on two airlines all the time; Alaska Airlines and Western Airlines. 

Western's advertising featured a kinda fat bird reclining on the top of the plane with a glass of champagne chortling the byline "Western Airlines, the onnnnly way to fly".

Although I was kinda broke in those days I bit when Western advertised a special where you got a lifetime membership to their exceuiive lounge, extra frequent flier miles and a companion pass. 

I was planning a trip to Hawaii (as does everyone in Alaska). So the deal sort of resulted in a free membership.

Of course less than a year later Western was purchased by Delta. 

Amazingly Delta honored the lifetime club membership (which I still use). And, since Delta does not sell lifetime memberships, I get a few sideways looks now and then when I check in.

I then moved to San Jose and wound up flying American a lot (since San Jose was a mini-hub for American at the time).

Aside from the warm crock of nuts in first, I never really liked American. Staff seemed patronizing, I disliked its mercilous CEO (Crandell) and having to change planes at DFW. I am not a fan of DFW airport.

Then I moved to Phoenix and flew Southwest alot. So much that I scored the 100 segment free companion pass award year after year.

But one day a flight came along where the best routing was on America West. I moped. AWA was so mediocre. And, despite living in Phoenix, I had been religiously avoiding AWA for years.

But, when I got to the airport, the AWA ticket person noticed all my premium tags from Delta, Southwest, American etc. On the spot she upgraded me to first and awarded me a trial elite status. 

Since Southwest was getting more and more of the kinda drunk tatoo and trailer trash in tank tops crowd flying it, I slowly migrated to AWA and have remained loyal even through the US Airways thing. This week alone I flew 2 RT's on some of US Airways last flights.

So the morph is complete and I'm back flying American.

The morph did net Roadboy immediate 2 Million Miler Lifetime Platinum status, so I will reserve judgement. 

And, I am once again getting warm crocks of nuts and Diet Dr. Pepper (smile). But damn I've also had to endure three lousy connection, crap flights through Dallas in the last month.

Seems like a slow motion ride having to wait 2 more years to watch American slowly do to Phoenix what US Airways did to Pittsburgh.

Hope I'm wrong.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

You Need A Room Mate

WiFi Everywhere!

Just a quickie. I just received a note from one of my favorite hotel chains; Spain's Room Mate.

Now, when you check into any Room Mate hotel in Spain, you'll be issued a portable WiMate modem (allowing unlimited mobile WiFi anywhere nationwide). Soon the service will be offered at all Room Mate properties worldwide.

For those that have never heard of Room Mate do look into them. They offer truly distinctive properties throughout Spain. They also have additional properties in Italy, Holland and Turkey.

Here, across the Atlantic, Room Mate has expanded with properties in New York City, Miami (2) and Mexico City.

Every Room Mate hotel is unique and offers truly exceptional customer service.

I experienced an example of that exceptional customer service at the Room Mate Leo in Granada. I left my travel folio (with my passport) in the cab that delivered me from the airport. Once I realized what had happened the desk staff worked literally all night to make sure it was returned saving my vacation.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Your Future Hotel

Citizen's Unite!

I've been interested in trying out some of the new concept hotels emerging lately. So this summer, while visiting the Milan Expo, I tried Marriott's new Moxie. And, then upon return to Paris CDG, tried the Citizen M.

The Moxie was a bit of a disappointment. It is just a cutesy Marriott double take on the Sheraton Aloft. Small rooms complete with a big graphic of a couple jumping on a bed wearing motorcycle helmets and little else. The rooms lack phones, drawers, safes and closets. All in all, without some enhancements Moxie is not a brand I'll seek out again.

The Citizen M was a different story.

Citizen M is a new little hotel that makes a very serious attempt to re-imagine a perfect overnight space for a solo traveler.

It hits the concept out of the park.

When you enter don't go looking for a reception desk. You check yourself in at a little stand-up merry-go-round of computers. It could use a big sign saying "hey check yourself in here!" I walked right past it thinking it was just a bunch of self-serve guest access computers. But a kind staff member tapped me and said they'd love to help me check-in.

The computer takes you step-by-step through check-in calling up your reservation, confirming your e-mail (for the check out paperwork), how to make your room keys (which have little straps to become luggage tags).

The place feels secure (the elevator requires your room key to activate). 

Like Moxie, the room is small. In fact, it is really small. The king sized bed hits the walls on three sides (pity the maids who have to make the beds each day).

Hallway Carpeting is an Aerial Map of Paris
(Note: The "Business Citizen" portrayed at the end of the hallway)

The Lav/Frig. Unit is on the Left
The Obscure Glass Shower / Toilet Pod is on the Right

The Bed
(Note: Two adults sleeping here = the adult by the window must climb over the other for a nocturnal visit to the loo)

Next you learn to use your room controller. Everything in the room is controlled by a smartpad: activating drapes, entertainment options, lighting, wake-up alerts and heating / cooling. It even has "Moods". For example if you select "romantic" the drapes adjust, lights dim etc. If you program a wake up, it asks for how aggressive you want the wake up to be. I put in "gentle" and a very nice voice came on in the morning gently counting from 25 all the way back to 1.

The toilet and generously sized shower (with a huge rainshower head) are in a glass pod.

There is a small alcove to hang clothes, but again no drawers. There is a phone and a nice large room safe. The room was tomb quiet, the bed was great and all the techno worked.

There are lots of movies and all are free (including the naughty ones).

The place has a sense of humor, it is immaculate, and is a short easy walk from CDG's Terminal 3 Roissypole. And it is priced right.

I wish Citizen M well and hope see many more worldwide.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Expo 2015 - A Party in Milano!

Feeding the Planet
Energy for Life

109 years after hosting its first Fiero (Worlds Fair) in 1906, and with an expected attendance of about 20,000,000 visitors and over 140 participating countries, Milan's International Exposition Expo 2015 is something of a miracle. With the theme of providing dialogue and potential answers to how to assure sustainability, health and sufficiency in the World's food supply, this fair hit all the right chords.

It was a way to learn about food, taste foods from around the world and discover agri-food and gastronomic traditions around the world.

In this seemingly fractured world any forum that encourages the sharing of ideas seems slightly miraculous. 

Strangely when I mentioned I was going to the 2015 World's Fair almost no one I talked to in the US was even aware that an exposition (anticipating 20,000,000 people) was even going on.....

When I awakened in my hotel near Malpensa airport I could see snow capped Alps, yet enjoyed a 82° day for my visit to the fair.

Entering One of the Security Portals

As with any festival in the world getting to the fair involved a lengthy security check. No Problem-o, I like knowing that they care about our safety.

I had no clue how successful the event has been and had to carefully choose which pavilions I wanted to see. The almost 8-story Italy Pavilion at some point in the day had 4-hour waits to enter. I went later and still waited 1-1/2 hours. And, yes, it was totally worth it.

Crysanthmums - Symbol of China

 Coping With A Long Wait

 Inside the China Pavilion Were Fields of Ever Changing LED Light

A Nearly 1-1/2 Mile Promenade 
Offering Shady Access to Most Major Pavilions 
(This Photo was Taken at Approximately the Midpoint) 

 Inside the Spanish Pavilion  
Its Theme Presentation Projected on Plates

One of the best corporate pavilions was COOP's Supermarket of the Future. Inside all the products were available for purchase. Fruits and veggies were being stacked and replenished by robotic arms and above any product you reached for was an interactive display providing nutrition, recipes, handling information and pricing for the item you were touching. 

Inside the Supermercato!

I bought sandwiches, fruit, a tall beer, nuts and some fruit snacks (along with a COOP shopping bag). Grand total? 9 E.

Israel's Field's For Life 
Vertical Farming

Many thanks to the James Beard Foundation, Walgreens, Pepsi and all the other participants for footing the entire bill for an American Pavilion: American Food 2.0. Since the 1980's the US has boycotted national participation in International Expositions. 

The 3 story building offered insight into agricultural research being undertaken in the US, was staffed by college students in sharp blue blazers. 

On the rooftop there was a cafe and winebar all covered by the world's largest array of Hitachi color changing solar panels. Exiting the pavilion you entered a courtyard filled with an array of food trucks allowing one to sample the diversity of American cuisine.

If you are wondering why there hasn't been a worlds Fair in the US for more than 3 decades, it is because the US Congress hasn't paid its dues to the Bureau of International Expositions. Hence, the US is ineligible to host a World's Fair. Just another reason to love congress.
American Food 2.0


The entry to the Russian pavilion was a tour de force of mirrors. Inside there were interactive displays explaining Russia's vast array of crops by region, a variety of cooking demonstrations, descriptors of its reserves of fresh water (the largest reserves remaining on our planet) and a tribute to Russian food researchers and botanists.
 The Qatar Pavilion had Touchscreen Menu's Describing  Regional Cuisines

Chile's Pavilion 
An Architectural Masterwork

Architect Cristian Underraga created an exceptional National pavilion for Chile. Sadly my photo's do NOT do it justice. The wood lattice bridgelike structure simply floats over 4 immense steel supports. The space below contains a cafe and large commercial space offering Chilean wines and (mainly) food related products.

Below Chile's Pavilion

Somewhere just past its midpoint the main promenade is bisected with another pedestrian street which provides access to the Italian National pavilion and the fair's iconic "Tree of Life" structure.  At the other end of the cross street is the fair's huge open air amphitheater.

The Tree of Life

I was hell bent not to leave Expo without seeing its signature pavilion (Italy) so as the sun set I waited in (the now 1 - 1/2 hour) line to get it. The birds nest designed building is 8-stories of superb Venetian plasterwork. All smooth as a baby's butt.

The "Birds Nest" Italy Pavillion 
(On the Left)

Inside the Italy Pavilion

The Italy Pavilion was a celebration of Italian food giants in agriculture, cooking and culture. I particularly liked all its immersive mirror rooms, visually showcasing Italian scenery and its architecture. The  "A World Without Italy" section was fascinating as well.

Immersive Italy 
(Inside the Italian Pavilion)

Pinksie the Whale at Night
(The Waterstone Pavilion)

Time ran out before the fair did. In reality seeing the entire fair would have taken many days. So I missed some spectacular pavilions (like the UAE's etc.)

For anyone keeping track, the next international Expo will be in 2017 in Azana Kazakhstan followed by the United Arab Emirates in 2020!

Roadboys Travels © 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mont. St. Michel

An Apparition in the Salt Marsh

Day 8 - Mont St. Michel, A Return to Paris and a Flight to Milano 
We left St. Malo early after bidding adieu to Sigrid and Adelle our two wonderful bicycle guides. We then boarded a coach for our drive back to Paris including a visit Mont St. Michel. We went to Mont St. Michel early in the am as it tends to become overrun by tourists as the day progresses.

Mont. St. Michel is a special place. And, aside from the Eiffel Tower, the palace and gardens of Versailles and the cathedral of Notre Dame, this is perhaps the next most photographed site in France  Straddling the border between Brittany and Normandy (officially in Normandy), it is a little village and Abbey built to cling to what was a pointy little island rock outcropping in the middle of some tidal marshes.

It is a pilgrimage site for many Catholics and a mess of tourists. So many tourists in fact that the 40 monks left at the Abbey lead a fairly reclusive life observing vows of silence and poverty.

What housing there was on the island has now mostly been converted to B&B's and little Inns. My big caution to potential visitors is that there has been no upgrades for barrier-free accommodations. There are no elevators or ramps.

Mont St. Michel at Daybreak

A Staircase Up the Mont.
(This Island is An Accessibility Nightmare)

Surprisingly the Island Hosts a Small Cemetery

Casting its Famous Shadow As the Tides Return

The Tallest Spire is Crowned With St. Michel
(A Major Magnet for Lightening Strikes)

A Replica of the St. Michel Statue

The Walkers Wheel

Toward the end of the tour we came upon the Walker's Wheel. Here up to 6 men would climb inside the big wheel (like a squirrel wheel). Here they'd walk to furnish the power to hoist supplies up an inclined train running up the side of the hill.

Also from here we had a brilliant view of the new approach road that replaced the ancient causeway serving the island for centuries. The new road is elevated with open structure below allowing the tidal action to flow by. This has helped clean the salt marsh by preventing excess silt build up on one side of the road.

The New Elevated Approach Road

The Abbey in Bright Afternoon Light

We concluded our tour with a quick lunch and then rejoined our coach for the trip to Paris CDG  airport where most of the cyclists would fly from in the morning.

As for me I flew on to Milan for a quick visit to Milano's Expo 2015!
More about that in my next post!

Roadboy's Travels © 2015