England, Sweden, Denmark (briefly), and Norway

The harbor, Bergen, Norway

The harbor, Bergen, Norway

On Thursday, April 9, I hopped the Metro and bus to Dulles Airport and onto a British Airways Airbus A380, the double-decked behemoth. What a beast! It was roughly twice as long as the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Even in deepest economy class (seat 70B), it was comfortable and remarkably quiet. I actually had an exit row aisle seat, which helped a lot. It was a way-quick flight to London Heathrow, pretty much sleepless, but relaxing. Landed at dawn, hopped on the express train to Paddington, and in less than 10 minutes’ walk was in a superbly located Airbnb and yakking happily with the four residents: host Stephanie, English-Colombian (mostly the latter); Stefan, Dutch-Mexican; Ruben, Dutch; and Maria, Colombian. All four were grad students, renting a quite fancy flat in a block of red-brick Victorian buildings on a quiet street north of the station. We had a cup of coffee and a good yak in the kitchen about their studies, my teaching, and more.

British Airways Airbus A380

British Airways Airbus A380

St. Mary's Terrace, my London Airbnb difs

St. Mary’s Terrace, my London Airbnb digs

I took a shower, put on a necktie, and headed south to Paddington Green and a bike from the wonderful bike-share service (formerly under Barclays Bank sponsorship, now flying the red-and-white Santander banner). For under $3 a day, you get access to bikes all over central London, no charge for the first 30 minutes. Headed east a mile to London Business School via a Tesco supermarket for breakfast provisions. Needed to stretch my legs a bit more, so circled Regent’s Park (about three miles), waving to the giraffes you could see from Outer Circle.

Giraffes

It was a sunny day, and I worked a bit in their courtyard, put my head down for 20 minutes (one of the security staff asked if I was okay!), and at 12:20 met my new LBS host Oded Koenigsberg. I’ve only met him twice, but have taken a real shine to him – way-smart, funny, articulate, practical. For example, he sends his three kids to state schools rather than private ones. I like him a lot. We grabbed a spicy Thai lunch at the adjacent pub the school owns, and from 2:15 to 3:45 it was my turn, stand and deliver to a class of 70 EMBA students from all over (LBS may be the most international place I teach). Talk went well, and the loud applause at the end was much appreciated (I was a little apprehensive about articulacy given lack of sleep, but the coffee helped a lot!).

Rode back to the flat, which was then quiet, took a short nap, changed clothes, and hopped on the #18 bus west on Harrow Road, to Caroline and Scott Sage’s house. They were around the corner at the Parlour gastropub, along with new daughter Eva Rose (six months old) and their part-time nanny. The ladies all peeled off, and Scott and I enjoyed some pints and a delicious dinner. Jessie, the head chef who Scott knows well, appeared a couple of times, once bringing a bowl of pigeon talons (needless to say, they source creatively). We walked back to the house, I visited briefly with Caroline, and headed back on the bus, plumb wore out.

Mural-HarrowRd

Harrow Road

EvaRose

Eva Rose Sage

Jessie, head chef at The Parlour, clowning with pigeon feet!

Queenies, small, tasty scallops

Queenies, small, tasty scallops

Slept really hard, up at six, did a bit of work, and at eight headed out. The plan was a full day on the shared bikes, exchanging them every 25 minutes or so, roaming across the perimeter of the hire stations (there are more than 10,000 bikes at over 700 stations). I had a bit of breakfast at a Pret a Manger near Regent’s Park, and started riding. It rained for about 15 minutes, prompting a return to Pret for another coffee, but it soon cleared. I needed a bit more breakfast, so grabbed two yogurts. While eating them along Park Road, I had the first Talking to Strangers moment of the trip. A woman about my age walked past with a whippet-like dog, and I said hello. She responded to be careful with my yogurt because her pooch might take a lick. We laughed, and I told her I already missed our two terriers. Daisy Belle, a rescue dog from Ireland and named for her owner’s Iowa-born grandmother, got to lick the empty tubs of yogurt. The woman, whose name I did not learn, was a Michigan, transplanted to London since 1969. It was a nice visit.

Daisy

Abbey Road Studios, where much great music has been made

Abbey Road Studios, where much great music has been made

Under blue skies, I headed east and north, through Camden Town. First sightseeing stop was the St. Pancras Old Church, a good place to finish my daily prayers. It has been a Christian place of worship since the 4th Century, and claims to be the oldest such site in London. I continued on, zigzagging to stations in Islington, Hackney, Bow. After tracking east, I turned south not far from the site of the 2012 Olympics, down to Canary Wharf, the glob of high-rises east of the city. Paused for a picnic lunch on a park bench (salmon salad sandwich, chips, yogurt), but rather than pursuing the original plan, to cross the Thames and heading across the southern perimeter of docking stations, I headed west, through Whitechapel and the City, then along the north bank of the river, past Trafalgar Square, and St. James Park to Grosvenor Square.

Gates and St. Pancras Old Church

Gates and St. Pancras Old Church

Redevelopment, Bow, London

Redevelopment, Bow, London

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf

Picnic venue, Canary Wharf

Picnic venue, Canary Wharf

It had been awhile since I saluted General Eisenhower, or at least a bronze of him in ordinary uniform that stands in front of the U.S. Embassy. On the back of the pedestal stands the first part of his Order of the Day for June 6, 1944:

Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Those words brought tears to my eyes, and joy at the triumph, hard won. I was less than joyful, however, at the fortifications that have turned our embassy into a virtual moated castle. As I have written in these pages, fear is not the image the United States should project. I think General Eisenhower would be dismayed.

I rode back to Paddington Green and parked the bike, sore in the saddle. Walked north to the flat, visited briefly with Stephanie, and took a quick nap. I wanted a pint, but in a historic pub; a little quick research online pointed me to the Star in the posh Belgravia neighborhood west of Victoria Station. I took the Tube there.

Not your ordinary bridge girder, Paddington Station

Not your ordinary bridge girder, Paddington Station

It was a good place, perfect for a pint, but I was hungry, and wanted to visit my friend Raj Dawood’s Hot Stuff curry place across the Thames in Lambeth. Consulting the bike-share app on my iPhone, I saw it would be easier, quicker, and cheaper to get another bike, so in no time I was sailing east and south, and soon tucking into a spicy vegetable karahi. It was not quite dark after dinner, so I rode back across to Sloane Square, then onto the Tube home. A total of 36 miles on the two-wheeler. Back at the flat, only Stefan was home, eating dinner. We yakked a bit, I showered, and was asleep before ten.

Raj and his head chef, Hot Stuff

Raj and his head chef, Hot Stuff

Still life, Hot Stuff

Still life, Hot Stuff

Up at 5:00, out the door, onto the 5:25 Heathrow Express and the 7:05 SAS flight to Stockholm (via the least organized, most bungling security screening I had encountered in years). I read the Sunday New York Times on my iPhone. I was sorry to read the obituary of Ivan Doig, a Montana native and superb chronicler, through many novels, of life in the American West. To honor his superb literature, I cued some music reminiscent of the region, including Basil Poledouris’ wonderful theme from Lonesome Dove. I missed the opportunity to make contact with Mr. Doig; my brother Jim learned of a personal connection to the family: the author grew up partly in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, where my Uncle Harold was the deputy sheriff.

Hopped on the 11:30 rocket north to Umeå and my 20th visit to Umeå University in 21 years. As we descended through cloud, I saw no signs of spring. Although I’ve visited many times, I always spot interesting new stuff, and as the bus to town rolled away from the terminal I noticed airport covered parking for bicycles. Totally Swedish!

Walked from Vasaplan west about a mile to my new digs. In previous years, when I taught for a week or more the school put me up at a rather plain place, the aptly-named OK Hotell. When we set the dates for the spring 2015 residence, I consulted Airbnb, and booked an entire studio apartment for way less than the OK. My host, Matilda, left the key, and I got in and got settled. Marcus, one of my student friends, had kindly dropped one of the bikes the business school provides to visitors at a nearby convenience store, where I fetched the key. As usually happens, the tires needed a lot of air, so I rode east to the bike store I’ve known for years, filled up, and headed back to the flat.

The view from my Airbnb flat

The view from my Airbnb flat

Matilda, actually Dr. Matilda, was at the flat to welcome me and point out a few things. She’s a psychiatrist at the big university hospital, and we had a nice, but brief visit (she returned a couple of hours later to deliver Pumpkin, a very furry cat who would be my companion – no extra charge!).  The OK provides breakfast, but obviously Airbnb does not, so I headed to the ICA Supermarket for provisions: seeded rolls, local cheese (Västerbottenost), yogurt, juice, milk, muesli, and, of course, herring. Ya gotta have herring at Swedish breakfast!

Pumpkin

Pumpkin

I intended to bike for the rest of the afternoon, but the clouds had turned to rain. I managed about 30 minutes, across the Umeå River to Bölesholmarna, a small island in the river, and a favorite place in all the world. But the trail was wet and quite muddy, so I headed back across the river on pavement, and west until I was sopped. Back to the flat, time for a nap and warm up (it was 39°), then, by formula, to the Bishops Arms, a cozy, English-style pub for a couple of beers and dinner (the barmaid described the weather as “Edgar Allan Poe-like,” quite well put).

That night, it turned out that I should have been the one to impose the extra charge for the cat. When I turned out the lights about 9:30, Pumpkin started meowing loudly, about every five to eight minutes. I texted Matilda at about 11, but her lack of response suggested that she, unlike me, was well asleep. The yammering continued, stopping only for about three hours, two to five. It was not a good night; I was cranky and baggy-eyed Monday morning. Luckily, I had no lectures that day. The good news was use of a whole kitchen and a great bath, so after some herring, cheese, and bread and a good wash, I headed east to the university, about two miles.

When Matilda got the message, she knew immediately that the cat was in heat, said she was going to give her some meds this afternoon, and that all would be calm down. I appreciated her forthright, very Swedish manner, and planned on getting a good night’s sleep. At school, I settled into a familiar study desk in a common area, and actually managed to get some work done. At five, I rode down the hill, changed clothes, and headed out for a ride. It was not raining, but the west wind was howling, gusting to about 40 mph. Rode across the river for a spicy dinner at a Thai restaurant, and settled in at home, looking forward to a good sleep.

Like clockwork, after the sun went down the meows began again. She wanted a man-cat! I texted Matilda, and told her that the whole situation was untenable. She really stepped up, booking and paying for a room in a new, hip-but-modest downtown hotel, the U&ME (a play on the city’s airport code, UME), and even insisted on driving me, or rather my suitcase, over to the hotel. I rode the school’s bicycle. Just another part of being on the road overseas, as I’ve been for 44 years now.

Tuesday morning, I was “up and at ’em,” as my father used to say. Spent a productive day, and from three to five delivered a seminar to the incoming officers of the student business association, HHUS. It was a small group, with lots of interaction. At five, I sped down the hill, changed clothes, zipped to the florist, then downriver to dinner with my friends Nils and Carolina Paulsson and their three boys, Johann, Petter, and Olle. The prospect of a home-cooked dinner (Carolina is an accomplished cook who won a Swedish cookbook competition) was huge, and I was drooling in anticipation. There was still a bit of snow on the riverside bike path, and I nearly crashed a block from their house, on two inches of slush.

Still winter: Tuesday morning, a bit of fresh snow

Still winter: Tuesday morning, a bit of fresh snow

The view upriver from the U&ME Hotel

The view upriver from the U&ME Hotel

 

The slushy bike track

The slushy bike track

TheBoys

Olle, Petter, and Johann

As I have written before, Nils is a way-cool, multitalented fellow, and the big news were plans for a summer cottage about 15 miles south, not far from the sea. Nils pointed out the window at some freshly planed boards; I was not surprised that the wood for the cottage came from the newly-bought land – he felled the timber and was preparing all the lumber himself. I am in awe of his skills. He is The Man!  Also new at the Paulssons: a German shorthaired pointer puppy, Egil.

Dinner was wonderful: chopped beef simmered in a cream sauce, boiled potatoes, cucumbers pickled in ättika (basically vinegar on steroids), salad. The meat came from nearby, they knew the farmer and almost knew the animal, a cross of the sturdy French breeds Charolais and Limousin. I wanted to yak with them a bit more, but really wanted to ride home before it got dark, so said goodbye about 8:20 and pedaled upriver.

Egil

Egil

Wednesday was the first really full day, a noontime seminar sponsored by tourism promotion groups from the city (Umeå) and county (Västerbotten), about 30 people. It went really well. Rode back up the hill to the university, grabbed a quick lunch, and delivered a two-hour lecture to an entrepreneurship class. Unlike the day before, there was zero interaction, which was a bit frustrating (Erik, the prof, explained the next day that it wasn’t “just me,” but an odd dynamic in the class). Had a nice bike ride around Bölesholmarna, a superb dinner of Arctic char at Lotta’s Krog and Pub, a Umeå fave.  Thursday it was rinse, repeat, a full day of lectures. High point was dinner at the Allstar sports bar, big-screen TVs showing the third game of the Swedish Hockey League finals – hockey night in Sweden. The defending champs, from the nearby small city (32,000) of Skellefteå, had a rough time against the Växjö Lakers. But it was still a lot of fun.

Better weather!

Better weather!

The sign reads "Dog Parking,"outside the ICA Supermarket in the Teg neighborhood

The sign reads “Dog Parking,”outside the ICA Supermarket in the Teg neighborhood

Hockey night in Sweden!

Hockey night in Sweden!

Old and new in downtown

Old and new in downtown

The new public library in Umeå, in the same building as my hotel

The new public library in Umeå, in the same building as my hotel

A nice surprise Friday: the dean of the business school, Lars Hassel, a swell guy, had returned early from an EU-sponsored visit to Baikal State University in Siberia (six time zones east). After an all-morning lecture on air cargo and a noontime seminar sponsored by HHUS, Lars and I headed for lunch and a good catch-up. I’ve met five or six deans at Umeå over the last two decades, and Lars has been at the top of the charts. Unhappily, his three-year term was up, and we yakked a lot about what would happen next. We drove back to school, I did a bit of work. It had finally cleared off and warmed up, so I changed clothes and took a last ride, on the path upriver. The late-afternoon light was superb. Grabbed a light dinner at Lotta’s and turned out the lights on a good week.

Up the river on Friday afternoon: still winter

Up the river on Friday afternoon: still winter

SpringComes-2

Poor Rudolph: reindeer burger, Lotta's

Poor Rudolph: reindeer burger, Lotta’s

I was up early and out the door, excited to be bound for Copenhagen, my first visit to the Danish capital in 39 years. Flew to Stockholm, then CPH, arriving about 11. Jumped on the Metro for a short ride into the city, and by noon was at my Airbnb digs in the Christianshavn neighborhood, a great central location. Met my host Jesper, changed clothes, chatted a bit (he was an old lefty, commenting “we must continue to fight imperialism!”). Walked a mile or so to Baiskeli, a bike rental service that donates all profits to various African development projects (basely is the Swahili word for, you guessed it, bicycle). I rented a jaunty, bright red bike, heavy but with superb gears and brakes.

Former Danish Sugar Factory, just down the street from my Airbnb

Former Danish Sugar Factory, just down the street from my Airbnb

Pile of bikes awaiting repair, then into the Baiskeli rental pool

Pile of bikes awaiting repair, then into the Baiskeli rental pool

Although it had been nearly four decades, I immediately felt oriented, remembering the basic layout of the center. First stop was town hall square, where I parked and headed for lunch. The place was teeming with locals and tourists. Refreshed, I jumped back on the bike and rode around the center awhile, then back across the harbor to Christianshavn, then up to see den lille havfrue, Hans Christian Andersen’s famous Little Mermaid rendered in bronze. It was time for a bit more sustenance, so I grabbed a Danish hot dog. The Danes know their wieners, and the relatively small country is one of the largest pork producers in the world. Headed across neighborhoods north of downtown, past the university, around pleasant small lakes.

Communiry bands and ensembles are a hallmark of Denmark; here a marching band parades through downtown

Community bands and ensembles are a hallmark of Denmark; here a marching band parades through downtown

Mermaid

Bronze of Hans Christian Andersen, Town Hall

Bronze of Hans Christian Andersen, Town Hall

I was struck by how much new building was underway in Copenhagen; as I often write, these social democracies don't seem to have trouble keeping the lights on.

I was struck by how much new building was underway in Copenhagen; as I often write, these social democracies don’t seem to have trouble keeping the lights on.

NewOld

The water is everywhere in Copenhagen

The water is everywhere in Copenhagen

Copper

Late lunch, Copenhagen: a fully-dressed røde pølser

Late lunch, Copenhagen: a fully-dressed røde pølser

Lighthouse

Danes love their red-and-white flag, here rendered in a harbor light

Contemporary sculpture, new office park north of downtown

Contemporary sculpture, new office park north of downtown

The issue of integration is front and center in Denmark; here, a poster from a conservative party

The issue of integration is front and center in Denmark; here, a poster from a conservative party

But what most caught my eye that afternoon were a set of about 10 quiet streets in the Østerbro neighborhood, lined with row houses that looked to be about 120-140 years old. Each street ran for about a quarter-mile, and halfway in every one of them narrowed to an area where kids could play safely, right in the street – there were sandboxes and small playgrounds, hopscotch squares painted on the pavement. That day I had already seen cool examples of Danish urban planning, but this was the zenith. Toward the end of my weaving back and forth, I paused and asked a fellow about my age about the neighborhood. It was a nice T-t-S exchange. The area is called “Potato Rows,” two stories why: one, from the air the streets look like a potato field; two, before the building, the place was a potato field. He told me that he had lived there three decades, that it was originally a working-class area, which meant, he said, that three families would live in each house, one per floor, 18 people. “Four people now,” he smiled, and we discussed the declining birthrate in Western Europe. I asked about prices, and he said the equivalent of $1 million. Not working class!

Potato Rows

Potato Rows

I continued on, back across the harbor, then returned the bike and ambled home, stopping for an ale at a friendly beer bar at the east end of Langebro. It was a mixed group, guys at the bar rolling dice from a cup, students yakking, a couple of bikers outside. Danes are a friendly lot: plenty of eye contact and plenty of smiles. Bartender curious about my home, what I was doing there, etc. I was sorry I was not staying longer.

Headed back to my room, where Jesper’s wife Mette invited me to have a hamburger cooked by her 10-year-old son and his friend (“Good to learn early,” I said). I washed my face and headed out again, right across the street to the a pub called the Cafe Rabes Have. You don’t find those places when you stay in a hotel. Hyggelig is the Danish word for “cozy,” and it was that. And friendly; I had a nice chat with the owners. And a Christianshavn Pale Ale, from the Amager Brewery, a few miles from where I was sitting. A patron got up and said “Sorry for the crazy people,” which began a brief T-t-S. Denmark is so different from Sweden. A few minutes later, a fellow asked where I was from. “Virginia,” I answered. “Interesting,” he said, “are you against Negroes and Homos?” I think he was baiting me, but I smiled and calmly replied, “Indeed not.”

In the cozy (hyggelig) Cafe Rabes Have

In the cozy (hyggelig) Cafe Rabes Have

Around the corner from my Airbnb

Around the corner from my Airbnb

DoorDetail

In the cozy (hyggelig) Cafe Rabes Have

In the cozy (hyggelig) Cafe Rabes Have

I walked a couple of blocks for a Thai meal at a simple takeaway restaurant, and at dusk headed home, admiring the mix of new walkup apartments and condos and older buildings, some from the 18th Century. As noted above the Danes totally get urban planning.

Was up well before six on Sunday morning, tiptoeing around the flat, and out the door to the Metro and a nonstop flight northwest 420 miles to Bergen, Norway, my last stop, headed to the Norwegian School of Economics, NHH, the most elite business school in the kingdom. Clear weather the whole flight, with awesome views, especially of the mountains in Norway and the dramatic approach over small fjords to Bergen. Hopped onto the airport bus to downtown, then north a few blocks to Bergen Cathedral and the 11 o’clock Lutheran service. It felt like Minnesota!

On approach to Bergen

On approach to Bergen

Fjord-2

Salmon "farm" south of Bergen; the city handles 70% of world wholesale trade in that popular fish

Salmon “farm” south of Bergen; the city handles 70% of world wholesale trade in that popular fish

Working the hymns in Norwegian, I got most of the vowels and consonants, but was only tripped up by the little O with the slash through it, this one: Ø. After church, in the best Lutheran tradition, there were coffee, cookies, and small cakes in the back of the sanctuary, and I visited briefly with a few people, one of whom help me pronounce the Ø. I practiced a few times, and the friendly young woman declared that I was on my way to learning Norwegian!

BergenDom

Bergen Cathedral

I then had one of the most wonderful Talking-to-Strangers moments in a long time. It almost didn’t happen. As I was walking out of the church, I heard a small voice ask “Are you from the States?”  It was Mary from Missoula, Montana, traveling around Scandinavia. One thing led to another, and I learned she was staying in hostels, and had been hostelling for years. I mentioned I had been on the board of AYH, the U.S. hostelling organization, and she said she had been an AYH trip leader from 1973 to 1992. Sure, we had friends in common from way back, including the late Bill Nelson, one of the greatest forces for understanding through travel that I ever met. The mention of his name brought a tear to my eye. He lives on!

A fellow Lutheran, Mary from Missoula

A fellow Lutheran, Mary from Missoula

After a good yak with Mary, I carried my suitcase up the hill, towing it when possible. Bergen is hilly, and my Airbnb digs at Tordenskjold gate 8 were 160 feet higher (I looked it up on Google Earth). But the trek was worth it, because greeting me was Mindor Nykrem, possibly the most welcoming and accommodating host in my 20+ stays with Airbnb. He showed me my bedroom (actually his teenage son’s room, rented during the two weeks the lad stays with his mother across town), a large and comfy place. I changed clothes, yakked with Mindor, and headed down the hill on his mountain bike (arranged in an earlier email exchange, totally cool). First stop was lunch at a 7-Eleven and an introduction to Norway the Expensive. Indeed, eating lunch in front of the shop, the image was that the entire country was like the affluent suburb, Edina, where I grew up – the whole nation is so wealthy.

Welcome to Norway: this pint of flavored milk was the equivalent of $3.70!

Welcome to Norway: this pint of flavored milk was the equivalent of $3.70!

Fortified, I rode around the harbor, Bergen was the westernmost outpost of the Hanseatic League, a commercial and common-defense confederation from the 13th to 17th centuries – sort of an old-days EU and NATO rolled together. Though technically not a member, like Hamburg, Bremen or Stockholm, Bergen was a foreign “trading post” of the league. The Hanseatic cities remain distinctive in outlook – early adapters of globalization, if you will. Not much landscape evidence (Bergen suffered a massive fire in 1476), but the vibe is there.

The tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl

The tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl

Gable

Old houses in the Hanseatic Quarter

Old houses in the Hanseatic Quarter

Seaside

Rode west several miles – and up a couple of serious hills (hooray for low gears on the bike) – to the NHH. It was a compact but ultramodern campus, with the most scenic setting of any of the 80 B-schools I’ve visited. Headed back to town, around the center, then back up the hill to Mindor’s house. Nap time, first in days, so tonic! Mindor recommended dinner at Pingvinen (the Penguin), a downtown gastropub, and it was great: a friendly vibe, comfortable older furnishings, an impressively large beer menu, and Norwegian home cooking. I had a microbrewed IPA, bowl of wild garlic and potato soup (the barman told me that the chef had picked the garlic himself, clearly one of the first plants to sprout up in spring), and a plate of plukkfisk, hearty fish stew topped with rustic bacon. A huge portion. Yum! Walked back up the hill, read a bit, and turned out the light.

NHH main building

NHH main building

Plukkfisk, yum!

Plukkfisk, yum!

I bounded out of the green house early on Monday morning, another sunny, lovely day. As usually happens when you leave an Airbnb place, I totally felt like a local, bounding down the hill to the harbor, and onto the #4 bus west to the NHH (the equivalent of $6.50 for 3 miles!). At 8:15, I met Tor Andreassen, a colleague I had not seen for many years, and we had a cup of coffee and a catch-up chat (he moved to NHH two years ago from a school in Oslo). Tor kindly provided an office for the morning, and I got a lot done. At noon, I met a handful of kids from Global Economic Perspectives, a student organization that was hosting a conference on leadership at the end of the afternoon. We had lunch, then did a bit of rehearsing. Had a nice yak with one of the other three speakers, Commander Roar Espevik of the Royal Norwegian Navy; it was a nice alternate perspective on defense matters.

A little museum-like collection of academic tools, NHH

A little museum-like collection of academic tools, NHH

The conference went well, with good questions from bright students. At seven we queued for sushi, and I had a good chat with a young Iranian in the line, and at table with students from Germany, Australia, Austria, and Peru. The best exchange was with two Chinese students, Masters’ candidates, who worked the previous two summers in souvenir shops in downtown Bergen. We were laughing about how cruise-ship tourists and others reacted when the clerk at the cash register was not blue-eyed and blonde! A marvelous vignette of globalization and further proof of the awesome influence of the jet airplane. After a quick beer downtown, I ambled up the hill and clocked out. A long day.

Your correspondent with two Chinese students at NHH

Your correspondent with two Chinese students at NHH

Up early Tuesday morning, back to school and a breakfast talk organized by another student group (there seemed to be a lot of them!), where I was joined by the CEO of the school, Nina Skage. Her talk, mine, and the questions all focused on career and finding a job. Like me, Nina had a lot of corporate experience (and she left Norway at 19 to study at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, which was a nice coincidence), and our advice was practical. I took an immediate liking to her no-nonsense style.

At 1:15, I delivered the last talk of the trip, on crisis management, to a third student group, CEMS, part of a mostly European B-school network. Turi, the organizer, set up a little light lunch afterward, in a corridor, and I chatted with some students, then hopped on the bus back to the center and up the hill to the green house. Mindor was cleaning the other guest room, and we yakked for a bit. I changed clothes and headed out of town on his bike, mostly along a pleasant bike path on a former railway line, south to Lagunen, about 17 miles round trip. Halfway out, it started raining lightly, and I stressed about getting soaked (the Norwegian cyclists all were wearing Gore-Tex!), but by the time I was back in Bergen, the sun was shining.

 

Study area, NHH

Study area, NHH

Mindor, a world-class Airbnb host

Mindor, a world-class Airbnb host

Mindor recommended a couple of places for the evening, beer at the Barista Bar, and dinner at a little Thai spot, both very close to home, so I ambled down the hill (sore knees! sore knees!) to the Barista. Mindor told me about the owner, Mai, and there she was, holding court from a corner of the eclectically decorated saloon. A large woman, heavily tattooed, with wild hair, plus a smile and a nice welcome when I mentioned I was lodging with Mindor. I sat on a stool in the front window, alternately watching the scene on Øvregatan and the inner bar, with lively varied music as the backdrop. Enjoyed a nice Norwegian microbrew, from the tiny Kinn brewery on an island an hour north. Headed a block east to Rabab Thai for a red curry with mixed seafood. I like Scandinavian cooking, but a refrain from a song I heard on Garrison Keillor’s radio show years ago bounced around in my head: “No jalapeños grow in Sweden,” nor in Norway. I asked the Thai waitress to hot it up, explaining that I was not Norwegian!

In the eclectic Barista Bar

In the eclectic Barista Bar

In "my" 'hood, Bergen

In my ‘hood, Bergen

Flowers

Slept hard. Did a bit of work before breakfast, and ay eight joined Mindor and a pleasant young fellow from Seoul for breakfast. A week before arriving, Mindor offered to serve breakfast for a bargain price of 50 kroner (about $6.50), so I ate with him two mornings, and it was a nice spread: homemade multigrain sourdough and flatbread, salami made from lamb (Mindor grew up on a small farm, and told a nice story about herding the flocks down from the mountains each September), cheese, juice, the wonderful “caviar” paste made from fish eggs (common in Sweden, too), and plenty of solid Norske coffee. It was a lovely, relaxed meal, we three exchanging mostly small talk. I was sorry to say goodbye to Mindor, easily the best Airbnb host I’ve had.

I walked down the hill, wheeling my suitcase down gentler slopes, and to the closest stop for the airport bus. While waiting for the 9:30 trip, a young Norwegian said “Hello, Rob.” He had been in the conference audience two days earlier and complimented me. It was a variant on T-t-S – he was not a complete stranger. We had a nice chat about his first year at NHH. I asked what he was doing this summer. He said he was working in his hometown, Kristiansand on the south coast, and he seemed reluctant to provide detail. But I’m good at evocation, and with a couple more questions he said he was going to be working with his hands. “Nothing wrong with honest labor,” I said, slapping his back. He seemed surprised. The bus pulled up and we said goodbye. I flew to Heathrow, and back to Washington, arriving at sundown. A great trip.

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Two Quick Trips, New York and Lubbock, Texas

The student union at Texas Tech University in morning light; the Tech campus has a lot of architectural cohesion, built around the original buildings done in the Spanish Renaissance style; this structure is a nice meld of that style and the new.

The student union at Texas Tech University in morning light; the Tech campus has a lot of architectural cohesion, built around the original buildings done in the Spanish Renaissance style; this structure is a nice meld of that style and the new.

It was out of character to be grounded for a month, but there was a lot going on in Washington: the start of a nice six-month consulting assignment, and a two-week “intensive learning experience” at Georgetown University’s business school, essentially a semester of work crammed into 12 days. I was repeating a course I first offered in 2014 on advertising campaign development. I made some changes to lighten it a bit, but it was still a ton of work for students and the prof. Lots of work, but lots of fun, too, for the 33 students and for me.

So I didn’t take wing again until Thursday, March 26, out the door way before sunrise, to the airport and onto the US Airways Shuttle to LaGuardia. Whoosh, that takeoff was fun – 49 years later, flight still thrills me. It was a day trip with two activities, to hear my old boss Bob Crandall give a speech to the Wings Club, a venerable aviation institution, then zip over to Brooklyn to meet my young friend and mentee Emily Sheppard.

Landed, hopped on the new Q70 express bus for the short ride to the subway at Jackson Heights, then into Manhattan. In no time I was ambling across the main concourse of Grand Central, one of the world’s truly remarkable transport hubs, gazing at the robin-egg blue ceiling decorated with constellations. Way cool!

Art on the New York subway -- an interpretation of my fellow riders

Art on the New York subway — an interpretation of my fellow riders

The club now meets in the Yale Club, a rather stuffy place. By noon I was hugging and shaking hands with old friends, including Mr. C., catching up with folks I had not seen in awhile. The JFK team of American Airlines kindly offered me a seat at their table, and I yakked with AA airport chief, Mike, and Beth, who heads customer service. After a big plate, Bob took to the lectern and delivered his customary great speech; at 78 he still is totally on. He made us all proud. He always did.

The event ran long, and I zipped out, across the street, and onto a downtown train, then east to York Street in the new-cool Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn. Down Jay Street to the Brooklyn Roasting Co., where Emily works. She’s the youngest child of my dear friend Jack Sheppard, who died way too early, in 1993. As noted some months ago, I had not seen her in more than two decades, so it’s been great to reconnect, and try to help a bright and eager young woman develop her career. We had a great chat, a fine cup of cappuccino, and I was back out the door, onto the F train to Queens, back to LGA, and home. Fun to be back on the road, if only for a day.

My young friend Emily

My young friend Emily

One of the perks of visiting Emily at work!

One of the perks of visiting Emily at work!

The railway used to run through and around Dumbo

The railway used to run through and around Dumbo

 

Jay Street, Dumbo, undergoing a lot of change

Jay Street, Dumbo, undergoing a lot of change

 

Two days later, on Saturday the 28th, Linda dropped me at the McLean Metro station, to the airport and onto a flight to DFW, then out to Lubbock to see Jack.  I knew we were in Texas when, before the DFW-Lubbock flight left the gate, the flight attendant asked the four of us sitting in the emergency-exit row to verbally confirm that we understood her instructions, and all four of us replied, “Yes, ma’am.”  Civility is good.  Landed at 4:30 in summer – clear and 82°. Ahhhhh! We zipped to his house to watch the NCAA basketball playoffs, then out to dinner at Bigham’s, an old-school barbecue place.

Was up early Sunday morning, pumped air in the tires of Jack’s mountain bike, and out for 20 miles around the huge Texas Tech University campus, one of the largest in the U.S. Back home, out the door for a burrito at Picante’s, a nearby Mexican place, then back to the “man cave” for more basketball. Seriously relaxing, and great to yak with our son. Dinner was at Chuy’s one of my fave Tex-Mex chains, then home to watch a movie on Jack’s new way-big-screen TV.

Out the door Monday morning on foot, backpack over shoulder, necktie and jacket, toward Texas Tech and a 10 AM lecture in the College of Media and Communication, now a regular stop. Jack zipped over from work to hear the 50-minute talk, first time he was in my class since Tokyo in 2007. It was great to have him there. We visited with some students after class, said goodbye to my host, Sun Lee, and motored out to the Ranch at Dove Tree, the treatment center where Jack works, for an early lunch.  He dropped me at the airport and I winged home.

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Teaching at the University of Minnesota, my alma mater

 

Interior detail, Northrop Auditorium, University of Minnesota

Interior detail, Northrop Auditorium, University of Minnesota

On Monday, February 16, Linda drove me to National Airport, and I flew to Chicago and then up to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Picked up a rental car and headed a few miles south to Eagan and lunch with longtime friend (and our accountant) Mark Miller. I hadn’t seen him for several years, and it was great to catch up, laughing a lot (he’s one of the most irreverent and funny people I know).
At 2:30 I headed into Minneapolis and to the University of Minnesota for a 5:45 lecture to MBA marketing students.

Friend-since-1963 Mark Miller

Friend-since-1963 Mark Miller

As often happens, as soon as I arrived on campus, memories flooded into my brain, random images in the mind’s eye, but all focused on this great public institution that has transformed so many lives, including mine. My dad, brother, and I walking to a Gopher basketball game on a cold winter night; heading to the library to write more pages for my dissertation; hustling across the Washington Avenue bridge as an undergraduate, then southeast across the main campus to hitchhike from school to work; and many more. After working my email, I ambled into Wilson Library and down to the Borchert Map Library, named for one of my true academic heroes, John R. Borchert. A black-and-white portrait of him hung by the entrance, and I studied his eyes, looking for the twinkle of insatiable curiosity that was one of his many endearing qualities. I was sorry he was gone (for near 15 years now) but glad I was able to count him as a friend and mentor.

One of the thousands of maps in the Borchert Map Library, in this case a late 19th Century map of Chaco Province, Argentina.  This library has always held fascination and the ability to travel vicariously

One of the thousands of maps in the Borchert Map Library, in this case a late 19th Century map of Chaco Province, Argentina. This library has always held fascination, offering the ability to travel vicariously.

After the lecture I made fast for a fave place, the Black Forest Inn, for beer and dinner with Rick Dow. We had a fine meal and a great catch-up across a lot of dimensions. At 9:30 I was plumb wore out, and drove south to my hosts Deb and Phil Ford in southwest Minneapolis. Yakked for an hour and clocked out.

Got up before seven, had a cup of coffee, and headed out, first to Starbucks for another jolt. I was in the shopping district I knew so well as a child, 50th and France (the major intersection). The retail landscape was, not surprisingly, totally remade. Gone were Clancy Drugs, the Edina Cafeteria, the Brown Derby tavern. But the Edina (movie) theatre was still there, including its wonderful Art Deco façade and sign, erected 1934. I walked around the corner and into the Edina Grill (the only restaurant remaining from my youth is the Dairy Queen!) to meet a high-school classmate. I might have said hello and a few words to Nancy Carlsen (now Engasser) at reunions through the years, but our conversation that morning was the first for 45+ years. So there was a lot to talk about. Like me, she worked in the airline business most of her adult life, as a flight attendant for Delta; she retired in 2005. Married in 1980, three high-achieving kids (two doctors and business owner), surgeon husband. A happy life. But what I did not know was that, like me, her family struggled financially in her high school and college years, and like me the solution was to work while she studied. We had a great catch up. Such a joy to reconnect!

The ice rink where I used to skate, 52nd and Arden, Edina

The ice rink where I used to skate, 52nd and Arden, Edina, Minnesota

Drove back to the university, around the East Bank campus, then parked and headed into the business school. At 12:30 I met that day’s host, Carlos Torelli, for lunch, then delivered a talk to his undergraduate honors seminar, a group of about 20 very bright youngsters. After the talk I drove south to see another longtime friend, Jane Alrick Swenson, one of Linda’s classmates at St. Olaf College. We had a great yak, and she invited me to stay for a classic Minnesota dinner, meat loaf, baked potatoes, salad. Her husband Mike, a large and funny presence, arrived about 5:30, and we had a swell meal and good chat. Jane departed for a concert, Mike and I finished dessert, and I drove back to Deb and Phil’s for a long chat.

Wednesday morning dawned at eight-below-zero. Whew! Drove south to breakfast with my nephew Evan, and at eight he arrived along with my sister Carroll. For a bunch of reasons we have been apart for about a dozen years, so I was quite surprised, slack-jawed really, when she said hello. There are differences, but she is kin, and we had a good breakfast, yakking about Evan’s getting-closer-to-launch career as a screenwriter, about times in the past, and more.

The view from Deb and Phil's kitchen window, Southwest High School

The 7:45 AM view from Deb and Phil’s kitchen window, Southwest High School

Next stop was the home of Dave and Jennifer Horton, the latter the artist who painted “Making Concessions,” a wonderful oil that I bought at the Minnesota State Fair almost a half-year earlier. As I’ve done for a number of years, I like to meet the artist, and they were kind to invite me to their home, show me her studio, and yak a bit. She’s got talent, and so does Dave, a woodworker, who showed me some wonderful Craftsman-style tables he make in his shop, including three from a cherry tree that was a casualty of a summer wind, rescued from a friend’s backyard.

Artist Jennifer Horton in her studio

Artist Jennifer Horton in her studio

Jennifer's great work, "Making Concessions" depicting a familiar scene from the Minnesota State Fair

Jennifer’s great work, “Making Concessions” depicting a familiar scene from the Minnesota State Fair

Headed north, back to the University of Minnesota for a quick meeting with a friend of Deb’s who wanted to pick my brain on networking, a fast lunch, a quick meeting with a U of M B-school prof who leads their executive education, and a bit of work. After that, I hopped on a bus across the Mississippi (the big river divides the campus, east bank and west), and ambled into the student union, then north along the historic quadrangle to Northrop Memorial Auditorium, recently and nicely renovated. More memories, in that case of my first visit to the hall, on a 1963 school trip to hear the then Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Stanisław Skrowaczewski.

At 5:45 it was time to stand and deliver, repeating my Monday talk to MBAs. Whooshed out of class at 7:20 and zipped across to dinner with hosts Deb and Phil at World Street Kitchen, one of dozens of great new restaurants in south Minneapolis. We had a nice meal and a great yak, and continued it at home. Before going to bed, Phil kindly wrapped the painting in brown paper.

Was up early again and to a third breakfast with friends or family, back to the Edina Grill (Tuesday’s venue) for a repast with Allen Wehr, who I had not seen for 45+ years. Allen was the leader of our YMCA youth group in 11th and 12th grade, and a fine mentor, in general and in two specifics. I reminded him of those two. First, he passed along copies of the industry magazine Air Transport World. Back then I thought he got them from his dad, and that was true, but his dad got them from no less than Donald W. Nyrop, then president of Northwest Airlines, who was a family friend. A nice link to a legend in the U.S. airline business.

I believe I’ve written briefly before about the second bit of help. Allen sold industrial equipment, and one of his clients was Braniff International Airways, which had a hangar at MSP, the northernmost point on their network. Allen asked the hangar manager if one of his young friends could come out and have a look, which led to a dozen or more visits on Friday nights in 1968 and 1969. Things were way different back then: the front door was unlocked, as was the door to the hangar floor. No one seemed worried about liability, and the manager – I wish I could remember his name – had only two instructions for me: be careful around heavy stuff and don’t touch anything in the cockpit! Yes sir. Those evenings in the hangar, with a British-made One-Eleven jet, a Boeing 727, and a big Boeing 707-320 (that each morning left MSP for Kansas City, Dallas, San Antonio, and Mexico City) were truly special, and I thanked Allen for the opportunities.

We had a wonderful yak for a couple of hours, covering a lot of topics: families, cars, trips to Europe – he toured the continent when he was in college, early 1960s, in an Austin-Healey. We both agreed that Germany was a splendid place, and he told about dear friends he has made there. Another fine reconnection.

I fueled up the car, dropped it, flew to Chicago and on to Washington, big painting under my arm. A fine visit to a place that will always be home.

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To Germany, England, and The Netherlands

Moving spring forward: fresh flowers in The Hague

Moving spring forward: fresh flowers in The Hague

At 10:55 on the last day of January, Linda dropped me at the Metro. I was headed to my first teaching stint in Europe, via an afternoon lecture to EMBA students at George Washington University. The classroom was not on campus, but a mile northwest at the Four Seasons Hotel. Posh! As is always the case, these older MBA students (my tablemate at lunch was nearly my age) were a talkative lot, and the presentation was a lot of fun. I hung out after class to yak with a few students, from Lebanon, Libya, and Oscar, an officer in the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Hopped back on the Metro to National Airport and flew US Airways to Charlotte, then onto a very nice Airbus A330 to Frankfurt. Out of the way, but a good fit for the day’s schedule.

Landed at 11, crossed the airport and hopped on the train north to Koblenz, headed to my first appearance at the private German business school WHU in five years. I hadn’t been along the Rhine since then, but it still looked familiar – I thought back to all the times I had traversed the valley, all the way back to my first trip to Europe in 1971. That prompted a musing about how many gigabytes of travel memories were stored in my head. Lots.

Deutsche Bahn ICE trains kissing in Frankurt

Deutsche Bahn ICE trains kissing in Frankurt

On the train, I cued German composers: Haydn, then Holst, then my Lutheran comrade, Bach. Then I played “Deutschlandleid,” the German national anthem; I often do that on arrival, to imagine the place in 1945, in ruins, people hungry, sick, homeless, and cold, then fast-forward to what the German people have accomplished in 70 years. As I always note when describing the Middle Rhine Valley it’s pretty close to a fairy-tale landscape, with the steep slopes rising from the water, impossibly tilted vineyards, castles atop the hills, and picturesque villages below. Way cool, even on a gloomy winter day. I recorded a video on my iPhone and queued it to send.

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, on a small island in the Rhine, was actually a sort of toll booth of old

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, on a small island in the Rhine, was actually a sort of toll booth of old

At Koblenz I hopped off the train and ambled east to my hotel, the charmless Mercure. Perhaps as counterweight to its anonymous and dull modernism (built 1986), on the walk I marveled at early 20th Century adornments on Markenbildschenweg and Mainzstrasse, and snapped some pictures of lovely architectural detail:

Detail-Koblenz

The view from my hotel room, Koblenz

The view from my hotel room, Koblenz

I ate a sandwich bought at the station, donned shorts and a tee, and pounded out 22 miles on the fitness bike in the basement gym. Took a shower, and just before dark headed out in light rain, north to the Deutsches Eck, literally the German Corner, where the Moselle River meets the Rhine, a national landmark dominated by an enormous bronze statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I erected 1897; a U.S. artillery shell damaged it in 1945, and in 1993 local benefactors paid to recreate the statue in 1993 (not everyone wanted to remember Willy I!). During the Cold War the corner became a monument to German unity, and since reunification, the flags of the 16 German states and the national banner fly, as do EU and U.S. flags. I had seen the Star-Spangled Banner there before, but never noticed the small plaque on the pole that reads “we remember 11 September 2001 and our friends in the USA.” “Friends forever,” I said, and ambled briskly, because the rain was getting heavier.

In ten minutes I was in the cozy confined of the Altes Brauhaus, since 1689, a long favorite for beer and dinner (it was a bit early, but I was hungry). I was able to ask for three beers and several plates of food all in German, which made me feel good. The place was much emptier than it usually is on weekdays, but the folks there, mainly older ones, were having fun.

Card players at the Altes Brauhaus

Card players at the Altes Brauhaus

Old City, Koblenz

Old City, Koblenz

I walked back to the hotel, read a bit, and fell asleep at nine. Woke up at 1:30 and switched on the Super Bowl, seeing both teams score touchdowns in the last two minutes of the first half, score tied at 14. I had zero interest in the halftime show, so set the iPhone timer for 30 minutes. I heard it signal me to get up, but I did not. At four I awoke, switched on the TV to see New England players dancing around, said ugh, and fell hard asleep.

Up early down to the gym, then breakfast, and out the door, walking a block to the bus stop and onto the #8 bus to Vallendar, a village across the Rhine that’s home to WHU. It was good to be back. At 9:15 I met my young friend Jochen Menges; we first met at St. Gallen when he was a Ph.D. student, I taught in classes at his first post, Cambridge, and last year he became chair of the leadership group at WHU. Delivered two lectures on leadership to big – and very engaged – classes of undergraduates. In between, a splendid lunch with Heidi Heidrun, who runs the MBA program at the school; she’s been a long friend, so it was good to reconnect after some years.

One of the repurposed buildings at WHU

One of the repurposed buildings at WHU

Jochen dropped me at the hotel and peeled off for Cologne Airport and a flight back to England (he hasn’t moved his family yet). I worked a bit, then ambled back to the Altes Brauhaus for a beer, and dinner at Mein Koblenz, a relatively new restaurant on Jesuitengasse, serving updated German comfort food, including the very best Himmel und Erde (heaven and earth) I’ve ever eaten. The dish, a regional specialty combines blood sausage, mashed potatoes, onions, and apples. Mein Koblenz served it sizzling in a metal pan, with a braised peach instead of an apple, and it was seriously good.

Himmel und Erde

Himmel und Erde

Late-18th Century Schloss, Koblenz; this was the former residence of residence of the last Archbishop and Elector of Trier, Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony

Late-18th Century Schloss, Koblenz; this was the former residence of residence of the last Archbishop and Elector of Trier, Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony

Back at the hotel I worked a bit more. Lights out at 10, but as usually now happens on the second night in Europe, I slept less well. No matter, still down to the gym at 6:15 for 15 miles on the fitness bike. Hopped on the train back to Frankfurt Airport and onto British Airways to London, arriving not at Heathrow, but at London City Airport, just east of the center. We approached from the east, pivoting around the new tall building nicknamed the Shard.

I hopped on the Docklands Light Railway, which provided great views of the rapidly changing East London landscape. A venerable English firm, Tate & Lyle, are still making golden syrup next to an open lot (likely a former factory site) next to a huge new housing project that fronted the north bank of the Thames. Tons of additional residential construction; demand seems limitless.

EastLondon

I changed trains, exchanged some leftover money for pounds and ambled north in Covent Garden to a big lunch at Masala Zone, a reliable Indian chain restaurant. I needed some spice, and I got it. Time to get to work, and I strode a few blocks east to the London School of Economics and a new host, Catherine Thomas, a young strategy professor. We had a quick brief before class, walked a block to a wonderful old lecture hall, and I delivered my talk on airline revenue management.

The Bridge of Aspiration, twirling high above Floral Street, a gift to the Royal Ballet School

The Bridge of Aspiration, twirling high above Floral Street, a gift to the Royal Ballet School

Puppets from the Indian state of Rajastan, Masala Zone

Puppets from the Indian state of Rajastan, Masala Zone

Lunch, Masala Zone, London

Lunch, Masala Zone, London

Splendid old-school classroom, London School of Economics

Splendid old-school classroom, London School of Economics

Nicely lit entrance to the old main building of the LSE

Nicely lit entrance to the old main building of the LSE

Next stop was the office of Stratajet, a start-up (I’ve helped modestly for a few years) that’s best described as the Uber of business aviation. Jonathan Nicol, a major in the British Army, is the brains behind it, and in no time I was shaking his hand and that of Paddington, his black Labrador. Said hello to Alex and some other staffers, and Jonathan and I headed across Oxford Street to a pub, The Spread Eagle, for a catch-up and a couple of pints. Things are taking off at Stratajet, pun intended, all good.

Last stop that day were my Airbnb digs, just north of the center in Kentish Town. I knew the neighborhood a bit from decades earlier. I chose the room for its three-minute proximity to a Tube station. Razvan, a young Romanian, welcomed me warmly. He was a tekkie, so the place was well wired, including a smart TV in my room. Yakked with Raz, ate a sandwich, and clocked out, because Wednesday would be another full day.

Up at 5:50, out the door, two Tube stops south to Euston Station, and onto the 7:13 train 50 miles north to Milton Keynes. It was clear and cold up there, with little wisps of snow on the ground. Hopped on the bus through town and north to Cranfield University, a relatively small and new school with a well-regarded focus on aviation: engineering, safety investigation, and management were all specialties. At 9:15, I met Keith Mason, director of the latter program. We grabbed a quick coffee and walked across campus (past the airfield and apron with a Boeing 737 and some other expensive hardware) for my first lecture there. Lots of good questions. I seldom teach in such specialized programs, so the queries were really well informed and way more nuanced than at “normal” B-schools.

Keith and I ate lunch with two young faculty and another visitor, yakking animatedly about the business in a way only T-Geeks could. Keith then drove me back to the Milton Keynes station, and I hopped on the train south to London, arriving 2:30. My next gig was at 6:30, but rather than heading to Airbnb I walked two blocks east to the British Library, a favorite and comfortable place to work. As it often is, the library was packed, but I squeezed in between students from China and Greece, and got to work. Very productive several hours.

At 6:30 I was at London Business School for the 11th time, keeping a long tradition alive by speaking with 30 members of the school’s Marketing Club. I delivered my “what American did after 9/11” talk, lots of good questions, and some painful memories. Peeled off at 8:15, east a couple miles to St. Pancras Station, not for a train but for a pint, just one, with two former MBA students from Cambridge, Tim and Fabio. We’ve stayed connected to several years, and it’s a joy to track their careers and young families.

Although Thursday was to be a relatively quieter day, opportunity to meet a new fellow arose the day before, and I was out the door at 8:15. First stop, McDonald’s for a large coffee and a nice T-t-S with the store manager, a friendly Greek guy who with a bit of encouragement discoursed on ancient Greek history. Whoa! Hopped onto the train a few miles to West Hampstead and a quick chat with a really interesting publisher. Worked the rest of the morning at a Pret a Manger near Trafalgar Square. Hewing to tradition stretching back nearly a decade, at noon I met my dear friend David Holmes for lunch at the Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall. As regular readers know, David was for many years a senior public servant in the UK Department of Transport (head of the transport policy unit, for example), followed by a stint at British Airways, where I met him 20 years back. We processed to the ornate Great Gallery, tucked into a splendid lunch of halibut and even better conversation. Lunch with David is a high point of every winter visit to London.

Cheery Greek manager, McDonalds, Kentish Town

Cheery Greek manager, McDonalds, Kentish Town

Next stop, and last classroom gig, was back to London Business School and a first appearance in Prof. Oded Koenigsberg’s MBA pricing class in late afternoon. While he did his hour I ambled a few blocks to buy two jars of Coleman’s English Mustard, my traditional souvenir (each time I spread it on a ham sandwich I think of good times across the water!). When class was finished, we zipped over to the LBS’ pub, The Windsor Castle (it was my 11th visit to the school, but I had never been there). I was pressed for time, but we had a quick pint and I peeled off for the Tube, riding east to Liverpool Street Station.

MBA pricing class, London Business School

MBA pricing class, London Business School

If you’re U.S.-bound, the UK airline departure tax, called an air passenger duty, now runs to $230, which really makes it more of a ransom; this traveler is on a campaign to avoid, not evade, the levy. I did it in May, returning home via Dublin, and this time Amsterdam made sense. As in May, I would reach Dutch shores via ship, which meant a short train ride from London to the Port of Harwich. Grabbed two sandwiches and two beers (a light dinner, given the large midday repast), and hopped on the 8:00 train.

The Stena Hollandica was a splendid, nearly-new ship that was fitted nearly to the standard of a cruise ship. Really nice. I found my cabin, unpacked a bit, and explored the vessel. Just before heaving anchor, on deck 12 I had a nice T-t-S chat – second of the day – with a fellow. He was English but grew up in the Netherlands and considered himself Dutch. Was back in England (his parents relocated after retirement) because his father died. As I usually do in such circumstances, I expressed condolences, and then immediately asked if he had a good life. Indeed, the man replied, and we carried on for 20 minutes or so as the ferry slipped out of the harbor.

The Stena Hollandica at Hoek van Holland

The Stena Hollandica at Hoek van Holland

My Thursday-night digs, inside cabin

My Thursday-night digs, inside cabin

I slept well, the ship pitching lightly in the North Sea. Up at 6:30, shower, tucked into a huge buffet breakfast (at €15, about $17, it was not cheap, so I really filled up!), and wheeled my bag off the boat and into the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a place I had not visited for nearly five years. The crossing “package” included the rail fares in both countries, even better a day ticket for unlimited travel on the Nederlandse Spoorwegen. I hopped on the 8:26 train toward Rotterdam. A few kilometers east of the port I spotted the first locks, evidence of the water engineering that has helped build the “Low Countries” for a millennium. Indeed, the need to manage water collectively (if you pump out your land, where do you dump it?) has shaped Dutch culture for centuries toward an enlightened sense of cooperation. There’s a lot to like about the nation.

Changing trains, I look across the platform, read the poster, and think to myself "Dutch is not all that different"

Changing trains, I look across the platform, read the poster, and think to myself “Dutch is not all that different”

Changed trains at Schiedam, and was in the center of The Hague by 9:35. Through 44 years of European travel, I had been to Holland a number of times, but never to the seat of government, and the urban fabric of The Hague was immediately interesting, a fascinating combination of boldly styled high-rise office buildings and traditional Dutch architecture. Walking out of the station, a fine little T-t-S with a woman walking two Welsh terriers. “Are they related,” I asked, and she replied they were half brothers. In no time the smaller of the two was chomping softly on my hand, and I was telling her how much I missed our terriers – but would be home the next day.

The new in The Hague

The new in The Hague

More new, but with a reminder of old

More new, but with a reminder of old

I was bound for the Mauritshuis, one of the greatest repositories of 17th Century Dutch painting, and was excited about the visit. But it was not easy. When I got to the museum, the outside guard said I could not bring my suitcase in, so I had to walk back to the train station, where the digitally-controlled lockers were down (something to be said for the old mechanical approach, I muttered, along with some profanity). I walked to a hotel nearby, offered to pay to leave the bag, but they said no. Time for charm and a bold approach, I reckoned, and stepped into a dry-cleaning shop. “Sure,” the Dutch owner said, “no problem,” just leave it in the corner. They didn’t want my Euros.

Mauritshuis

An hour later, I had downloaded the Mauritshuis app on my iPhone and was marveling at the wonderful art. More than 40 years ago, I read Kenneth Clark’s book Civilisation, a survey of art and life in the West, and the chapter on the Dutch Golden Age particularly caught my eye (I had visited the Netherlands a couple of years earlier, 1971, on my very first trip to Europe). The chapter title, “The Light of Experience,” was apt, because the painters of the period – Vermeer, Rembrandt, Hals, Steen, and others, captured light like no one else. Rubens’ painting “Old Woman and Boy with Candles” was the first one with magic light. The glow on their faces was remarkable.

Kindergarten teacher and puppet, introducing pupils to the Golden Age

Kindergarten teacher and puppet, introducing pupils to the Golden Age, Mauritshuis

The museum was busy but not crowded. A Kindergarten class sat in front of a Rubens and Brueghel collaboration, entertained by a docent or teacher with a puppet. I moved along, turned a corner and there she was, Vermeer’s “Girl with the Pearl Earring.” She was looking at me, and, I thought, sharing my delight that she is still with us, 350 years after Vermeer created her, through wars and trauma. She triggered tears, gladness that I could see her and that she has endured wars and lots of trouble:

Girl

LaughingBoy

Frans Hals’ “Laughing Boy,” ca. 1625

 

Opposite her in the same room was Vermeer’s famous urban landscape, described by the museum as the most famous cityscape of the Dutch Golden Age, “View of Delft.” I smiled when I saw it. In 2006, I had taken a photograph in exactly the same spot where he painted it, and the landscape was little changed. The next day, the photo vanished, as did the camera and the briefcase that held it, on a NS train from Rotterdam to Schiphol Airport. It was nice to see the original! Elsewhere in the museum were several works by Jan Steen, who depicted varied humanity in splendid ways. Jacob van Ruysdael’s “River View with Church and Ferry” was another reminder of Dutch skill in conquering the water. Coorte’s still life of apricots that literally glowed was further proof of these artists’ mastery of light. I could go on gushing, but you get the picture! Just a splendid place, and on my way out I thanked two older docents for the opportunity to visit.

This detail from van Ruysdael's painting is a perfect reflection of Dutch competence with the water: the ferry is not overloaded, merely well stocked!

This detail from van Ruysdael’s painting is a perfect reflection of Dutch competence with the water: the ferry is not overloaded, merely well stocked!

North gate of the Binnenhof

North gate of the Binnenhof

I left the museum, headed south through the adjacent Binnenhof, a complex of old government buildings and courtyards, then along a residential street and back to the station (pausing to pick up my suitcase giving thanks again). Grabbed a Starbucks and answered some emails, then hopped on the train north to Amsterdam. Walked a couple of miles from Lelylaan station to my Airbnb home on Balboastraat and met Deirdre, one of my hosts. She was an interesting young woman, just finishing her studies to be a midwife – most Dutch mothers give birth at home, a good thing. After a quick yak, I took a tonic 20-minute power nap. Ahhhhh!

The Mauritshuis

The Mauritshuis

Street scene, The Hague

Street scene, The Hague

Church inside the Binnenhof

Church inside the Binnenhof

The view from my Airbnb digs (note stocking feet at bottom!)

The view from my Airbnb digs (note stocking feet at bottom!)

At five I hopped on the nearby #13 tram and rode into the center. I had not been in the old city for almost 20 years, but I immediately recalled the geometry of canals and streets (well, okay, the map on my iPhone helped, too!). Wandered up and down the Singelgracht (canal), and at six met Jan Meurer, an ex-KLM executive and friend of Rick Dow, at Café Hoppe, one of the city’s many famous “brown cafes.” It was the end of the work week, and the place was hopping, but we found a place to sit down and get acquainted. Jan and I immediately hit it off. He suggested we have another drink in the very posh Hotel De L’Europ, followed by a light dinner and more chatter. We got to know each other very well in a few hours, and I really hope we see each other again.

The Singlegracht at dusk

The Singlegracht at dusk

One of the many gabled town houses for which Amsterdam is famous

One of the many gabled town houses for which Amsterdam is famous

A nice view of Dutch comfort: man and woman reading in the window in the late afternoon

A nice view of Dutch comfort: man and woman reading in the window in the late afternoon

The lively end-of-workweek scene at Cafe Hoppe

The lively end-of-workweek scene at Cafe Hoppe

Cafe Hoppe, since 1670

Cafe Hope, since 1670

Was up at 6:45 Saturday morning and out the door on a sturdy red Dutch one-speed bike, compliments of Yahav, Deirdre’s partner. It was still dark when I headed toward the center (only about two miles). I spent a couple of delightful hours cruising up and down canals, major and minor: Singelgracht and Prinsengracht and Brouwersgracht, past skinny bell-gabled houses, brown cafés, and houseboats that were more like houses. The pavement was a bit slick, so I treaded carefully, 12 miles more or less. The ride ended with breakfast at the Buongiorno espresso bar near my digs. Locked the bike securely, changed clothes, headed to the airport, and flew home on US Airways to Philadelphia and a hop down to D.C. A great trip!

Singel-2

The Oude Kerk, Old Church

The Oude Kerk, Old Church

My trusty steed

My trusty steed

Detail-1632

This painted stone plaque on a house on the Singelgracht reads “Two canvas bales [or bags],” and the French fleur-de-lis and English Tudor rose symbols may suggest trade, something in which the Dutch have long excelled.

A houseboat?  More like a house that happens to float!

A houseboat? More like a house that happens to float!

 

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Winter Travel: Kingston, Ontario, and Boston

 

Harbor, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, looking across to Canada's Royal Military College

Harbor, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, looking across to Canada’s Royal Military College

 

Travel in the New Year began on Friday, January 9, a short flight north to Syracuse. I was headed, for the second time, to the Queen’s (University) Marketing Association Conference QMAC. I landed a bit late, hopped in a rented Ford Focus, and in no time was zooming north on I-81, toward Kingston, Ontario, 120 miles away. Less than 50 miles later, flurries began. They thickened a bit, about the time I noticed an 18-wheeler in the left lane, and it appeared to be stopped. Yes, it was. Full brakes, and I’m headed toward a collision. Happily, the pickup in the right lane was able to slow down and move a bit to the right, and I missed the truck, which in fact was dead stopped, just behind an SUV. What were they thinking? A mile later, we were in full whiteout, a lake-effect squall. “Lake effect” means moisture-laden clouds from the nearby Great Lakes, in this case Ontario, dump huge amounts of snow quickly.

Storm-1

We crawled along at 8 to 12 mph for more than an hour. I checked the National Weather Service radar, and indeed it was a mini-storm, not more than 50 miles east-west and 15 or 20 north-south. Google Maps helpfully indicated that the red line of I-81 became amber a bit north and, sure enough, speed increased to 30, then 40, then the speed limit. It was nearly clear at Watertown.

I arrived at the conference venue just at the end of the reception, and we processed to dinner. I had been to QMAC once before, and enjoyed it. Seatmates at dinner were Dominic and Lindsey, interesting young Canadians, and there was plenty to talk about. After an interesting post-dinner panel discussion, which included WestJet’s senior marketing fellow, I headed to my Airbnb digs, a simple guestroom in a student rental house close to the Queen’s campus. Filip, a Queen’s student, was my affable host; we chatted a bit, and I hit the bed, on a cold night grateful for the old iron radiator adjacent.

Saturday dawned cold and clear. Tiptoed around the house, said goodbye to Filip, and headed back toward the hotel. Kingston is a wonderful small city with splendid 19th Century buildings, many built of gray limestone quarried nearby. I had a bit of time before breakfast, and no trip to Canada is complete without a visit to a Tim Horton’s coffee shop (even if they are now mostly U.S.-owned), so I parked at one a block from the hotel and headed in for a jolt.

What's special about this ordinary scene, people in line at Tim's? Well, everyone in the picture, every person, has health insurance provided by an enlightened government, in a nation that "gets it."

What’s special about this ordinary scene, people in line at Tim’s? Well, everyone in the picture, every person, has health insurance provided by an enlightened government, in a nation that “gets it.”

Canadian still life

Canadian still life

Waiting in line, I had the first Talking to Strangers moment of the new year, with a guy in a Montreal Canadiens cap. We were roughly halfway between Montreal and Toronto, so I asked him about the geographical divide between Habs (as the Canadiens are known) and Maple Leafs fans (as would exist in the United States, say, between partisans of the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers, or Chicago Black Hawks and Detroit Red Wings). Geographers like to know those things, but the fellow, good-natured, wasn’t sure. “It sorta depends,” he said, although he allowed that he was from Brockville, 50 miles closer to Montreal. We agreed the Habs were playing good hockey.

Winter scene outside Tim's

Winter scene outside Tim’s

At 8:45 I headed into the Holiday Inn, to breakfast, then onto a panel discussion, joining three young Canadians at least half my age. But experience is useful, and I lobbed in some views, and even a bit of provocation. After that, I listened to an outstanding ad guy, Ron Tite, who had the crowd spellbound. A bit past noon I hopped back in the Focus and started toward Syracuse. It was still clear, and the scenery around the 1000 Islands, where Lake Ontario empties into the St. Lawrence, was spectacular. Crossed a couple of high toll bridges, and the cloud began, then quickly another lake-effect storm. Happily, traffic was much lighter, and we could move at about 50 mph.

Another view of Kingston harbor

Another view of Kingston harbor

At the QMAC plenary

At the QMAC plenary

Unhappily, I needed to pee, and the sign “Rest Area | 2 Miles” beckoned. As soon as I took the exit ramp I realized I had erred: it had not been plowed, and about eight inches of snow had fallen. Momentum carried me even with the toilet building, and then I was stuck. Stuck. There were no other cars, and a few semis. I figured I’d be there a few hours, awaiting the plows, but luck appeared in the form of a friendly New York DoT employee driving an oversized snow blower that had a little cab. It was tiny and seemed underpowered, but he agreed to blow a 25-foot path in front of me, enough for one wheel to get traction. That worked, sort of, but got stuck again. So he plowed more, about 150 feet on a gentle downslope, and that was enough to get me back on the road (two days later I tracked down the regional NYDoT head and sent an email of praise).

Back into lake-effect snow

Back into lake-effect snow

Like the previous day, the storm ended quickly, back into blue sky, pedal to the medal. Stopped for gas in Central Square, New York, and the travails continued: the car inexplicably locked with the keys (and mobile phone) inside. The kindly store clerk looked up Budget’s number, handed me her phone, and a 50 minutes later I was sprung, the friendly fellow explaining that Fords self-lock “all the time.” I smiled and told him that might be good job security.

A former American Airlines colleague, Renee Foisy Kleiner, lives nearby, and we had a nice catch-up chat for an hour (it would have been longer without the lockout). Climbed on a US Airways Express Bombardier Dash 8, a solid little turboprop (hadn’t been on one for years), and flew south to Philadelphia, then home on a little jet, landing just before ten. I was plumb wore out, but despite the weather and the locks it was a good start to 2015 travel.

Three days later I got up way early, and flew to Boston for a day trip with my SmartKargo colleagues in Cambridge. Landed at 9:20, hopped on the T (public transit), the Silver Line bus through the tunnel and the subway north to Kendall Square. I always enjoy visiting their offices, which are right on the MIT campus, in a place that just hums with brainpower (the whole metropolis does). It was cold, but bright. At noon, we walked across the street to a cafeteria in the Sloan (business) School. All good.

MIT's Sloan School of Management and the River Charles from the SmartKargo office

MIT’s Sloan School of Management and the River Charles from the SmartKargo office

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One More Quick Trip!

 

Scroll down for a little of what powered flight makes possible . . .

Scroll down for examples of what powered flight makes possible

I thought that Europe was the last 2014 trip, but there was one more, an overnight to Dallas/Fort Worth for a 2015 planning meeting with consulting client SmartKargo. Up at 4:30 on Friday the 19th, east to National Airport, and a flight to Texas. The conventional wisdom, dispensed almost daily in the media, is that flying in an airliner is a terrible experience.   Dear readers, you won’t be surprised to read that I strongly disagree with this assessment – and not just because I’ve spent nearly my entire working life advancing the business of flight. So seat 14C became, for three hours, a superb place to work, to think, to reflect on a good year. To write a few paragraphs of the annual Britton holiday letter.

Flight3

Flight2

We landed a little after ten, and my SmartKargo colleague Jay Shelat picked me up. While waiting for him, I snapped a couple of “why I worked in the airline business” pictures: families reuniting. Those scenes brought a smile, as they always do. Jay and I stopped for a coffee and discussion, then headed to his house in nearby Southlake (when you’re working for a start-up, you’re happy to stay in someone’s home). Had a nice chat with Jay’s wife, Usha, who I had not seen since visiting them in Mumbai six years earlier. Their younger child, Priyanka, was 11 then, and at 17 she’s a young adult. At 1:30, SmartKargo CEO Milind Tavshikar arrived with wife Radhika and two pre-teen sons. Time for Indian lunch, yum, then we got on a couple of back-to-back phone conferences, followed by a few hours of thinking about 2015.

At 7:15, Jay, Milind, and I headed ten miles east to an Indian restaurant, where we met Mark and Dave, current and retired AA cargo execs, for a wonderful meal and informal discussion about the cargo business. Great to see old pals. Asleep by 10:30, up at 6, back to the airport and home for Christmas.

As the plane pushed back from gate C26, a nice “nonverbal T-t-S”: from my window seat,  caught the eye of the wing walker, the AA person responsible for safe ramp movement.   I waved and smiled.  He seemed surprised by the interaction; he returned the smile and waved vigorously, then saluted me with his flashlight.  I waved back: the salute, I thought, should go in the other direction, to another of all the people who make flying safe and reliable.

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The Last Teaching Trip of 2014: England, Germany, Ireland, back to England

Effective advertising for a store that translates as The King of the Bells; in a bike-happy town, you need a store like that!

Effective advertising for a store that translates as The King of the Bells; in a bike-happy town, Münster, Germany, you need a store like that!

 

Two days after Thanksgiving, as I have done for quite a few years, I headed to Europe for the last teaching of the year: 6 schools, 12 lectures, 10 days. Busy, but not frantic, with time to see some long friends. The JFK-London flight was way fast, affording only a little nap, then onto the Heathrow Express, which that morning was not. They were working on the tracks overnight, and our train got stuck halfway into town. It took about an hour to do what’s normally less than 20 minutes, and I was sort of in a hurry, headed to Scott and Caroline Sage’s house to see their newborn daughter Eva Rose, and deliver a lovely pink blanket that Linda knitted.

Winter sky, enroute to JFK, day 1

Winter sky, enroute to JFK, day 1

Changing trains on the Bakerloo Line at Queen’s Park was a rare occurrence, something like the opposite of a happy Talking to Strangers moment: a young fellow, drunk, high on dope, or both, began speaking to me rather obscenely, making lewd suggestions. I wanted to pop him, but did not. Woulda been nice to be younger and 50 pounds heavier. What a jerk.

I was holding Eva Rose by about 8:15 (and reminded of how small two-month-old babies are) and catching up with my longtime mentee Scott (Caroline was sleeping). We had a good yak about parenthood, business, Texas, stuff. Headed out about 10:15, onto a red double-decker, then the Central Line to St. Paul’s. Again hewing to tradition I rolled my suitcase into Wren’s awesome cathedral for the 11:30 Sung Eucharist service. The virgers and wandsmen were so welcoming: “Where are you in from?” one asked (I’ve always liked that syntax: two prepositions at the end!). Fellow worshipers were also friendly. Hymns and the homily inspired me, a great start to Advent. And, as always, I rejoiced as the organ notes soared upward, to the top of Wren’s magnificent dome.

Eva Rose

Eva Rose

Scott Sage and Eva Rose Sage

Scott Sage and Eva Rose Sage

Inspired, I rode the Tube to King’s Cross railway station, ate a sandwich on a station bench, and ambled onto the local train to Cambridge, for my 19th visit to that wonderful university town. A couple miles south of the station, I spotted a sculpted silver helix, a DNA model that marked a place where brainpower has ruled for more than 800 years. Hopped the bus into town (when the railway arrived in the 19th Century, the town fathers refused a station in the center), and walked to Sidney Sussex College, my Cambridge digs, where they kindly upgraded me to the Senior Guest Room, a big suite. Grabbed a short nap, and at 5:30 met a new scholar, Sidney’s geography fellow, David Beckingham; contacted less than two days earlier, David and I yakked about his research on the geography of alcohol and alcohol abuse, and a little about my former career as an academic geographer.

The chat was short, because at 5:55 I took a seat in the packed Sidney chapel for the Advent carol service, second worship of the day. Some carols were familiar, some melodies different, for example, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” At seven, I had to quietly sneak out; absolutely hate to behave that way, but I was due across town at 7:15, to meet my long friend John Crabtree, who had driven across the country just to hear my lecture the next day. To say I was deeply honored would be a huge understatement. Accompanying John at dinner at the (rather mediocre) Hotel du Vin was Jonathan Trevor, a Judge Business School lecturer in HR management and a quite interesting fellow (John had engaged him in some consulting projects). We had a good yak. But when the server asked “Would you fancy dessert?”, I replied that I would prefer a pillow. Plumb wore out, so the nine-hour sleep was most welcome.

I was sorry that I missed dinner at Sidney’s high table the night before, but it was good to be in the magnificent dining hall for breakfast Monday morning. Cromwell, who briefly studied at Sidney, was scowling at me from a framed portrait a few feet away, and I again reflected on how very fortunate I was to be in that college and at that university. Of all the schools I visit overseas, it’s my favorite.

At 9:30, I met my Judge marketing host Vincent Mak, and we walked a few blocks north and west to Magdalene (pronounced “maudlin”) College. Dr. Allegre Hadida, a Magdalene fellow and Judge lecturer, welcomed us. At ten, it was time to stand and deliver to 40 M.Phil. students. John Crabtree was there, and our mutual and good friend Andrew Manning Cox (regular readers will recall that we three have had some splendid outings on their canal boat in the Midlands) joined shortly thereafter. I had the gift of time, two hours to present an overview of airline marketing to a bright and engaged audience. At noon, we processed upstairs for a buffet lunch with 13 of the students and more conversation. Most were from overseas (only 9 of the 44 in the course were from Britain), including Korea, China, Germany, Turkey, Cyprus, and Singapore.

Allegre and Vincent walked me back to college, by way of the back of Magdalene, which abuts the River Cam. Took a short nap, worked a bit. It was dark by 4:15, and I was reminded of lyrics from “The Sidney Carol” from chapel the previous evening: “Each year it comes ‘round again/The aching chill/The ashen sky/The sunset bleeding through the fen/The freezing of our warm good will . . .”

At five, with 90 minutes of solid work completed, on the recommendation of David Beckingham I headed to a new pub near college, the curiously-named Champion of the Thames, a cozy and friendly little place on King Street. (The name began with a rower who won a sculling race in London before moving to Cambridge in 1860; he insisted that all mail be addressed to “The Champion of the River Thames, King Street, Cambridge”; when the house became a pub, the name stuck.)

ChampionPub

A few minutes later, Rosie arrived, and I walked over to say hello. Her master was somewhat surprised at a stranger greeting his dog, but Rosie, a Bedlington-Whippet mix, liked it when I stroked her chin and neck. I returned to my stool, past the bearded fellow facing the fire, who seemed made of stone. I smelled my hand, the light fragrance of hound, to me a lovely smell. Five minutes later, the publican set a metal water dish at the end of the bar, just below my feet. Rosie ambled over for more hugs.

I headed back to college to work a bit more, then toward dinner with Andrew. By long tradition, stopped into The Eagle pub on Bene’t Street, a place mentioned many times in these pages. At the bar I spotted a tap labeled Eagle DNA – their own brew, commemorating Watson and Crick, the Cambridge geniuses that first discovered the structure of the building blocks of life. Naturally, I ordered a pint, and sat down. Next to my table, a sign trumpeted 60 years of DNA research at and near the university, noting, among other things, that the entire sequence of the BRCA2 gene (grimly, the gene that causes early-onset breast cancer) had been laid along a cycle path.  Curious, I connected to the pub’s free wi-fi, Googled, and learned that the six-foot metal sculpture of the DNA helix I spotted by the railway tracks two days earlier anchors the BRCA sequence on the bikeway. Next visit, I gotta get a bike and see it. It was another reminder of the brainpower that courses through the town.

A special brew at The Eagle

A special brew at The Eagle

At eight, I met Andrew for a long, enjoyable dinner, ranging, as always, across a lot of topics. As the name suggests, the Cambridge Chop House was a meat place. Andrew tucked into an enormous steak, and I opted for pheasant, the first time I had eaten that bird in decades, and it was really delicious, roast nicely, moist, served with venison and mushroom stuffing, squash, and cabbage. Yum!

Slept hard again, up before seven, down to the dining hall for the heart-attack English breakfast, then over to the business school for a quick meeting with the (relatively) new director. From there to the train station, short ride to Stansted Airport and a flight across to Dortmund, Germany. Flying Ryanair is annoying, but it’s cheap, and mostly reliable – we arrived only 15 minutes late. I grabbed my checked bag and walked (via a small wrong-way detour) to the train station in the nearby town of Holzwickede.

The station was really just a platform, small shelter, and a ticket machine, and the latter refused to accept any of my debit or credit cards. So I hopped on the train, girded for a fight in “Gerglish” with the conductor. But none appeared. Arrived Münster at 5:22, just in time for a 6 PM lecture. It was my 14th visit there since 2003, but the street layout still confuses a Midwest guy accustomed to right angles and a grid. Smartphone map to the rescue, and I arrived in the classroom at 5:45, time to stand and deliver. It was a bit hard to read the student reaction, but the prof told me it was excellent. Hooray, more satisfied customers. My longtime host Manfred Krafft met me after class, and we motored across town to the Gasthaus Altes Leve, one of my favorite places in all the world. They’ve been cooking since 1607, so they know their stuff, and in early December they know their grünkohl, chopped kale cooked with potatoes and in this case served with a couple of tasty sausages. I had not seen Manfred for a couple of years, so it was good to catch up. He’s one of Germany’s brightest marketing profs, and always has lots to talk about.

After dinner, he kindly drove me to my Airbnb digs. For the second year in a row, I was staying with Svenja and her two cats, Findus and Momo. The building owners were expanding her apartment, and she now had a human roommate, Inge, friendly and welcoming. Sadly, Svenja was in the hospital (not serious, Inge assured me). Inge explained that the workmen arrived the next morning at eight, but that was no problem. I was in my pajamas and under an eiderdown (on a brand-new firm bed) by 10:15, plumb wore out.

Out the door the next morning, to a local bakery I recalled from the year before, for a sweet, star-shaped seasonal pastry, an Adventstern, and cup of strong coffee. If you were wondering whether I was going to rip off the Deutsche Bahn for my free 40-mile ride the day before, well of course not, so I walked back to the train station and told my story to a kindly woman in the ticket office. I handed her my credit card for the €16 fare, and she replied “impossible.” I protested, but she insisted that because the ticket machine did not accept my card and I could not find the conductor, the ride was on the DB. Okay, I tried.

Just before noon I walked back across town, along the Aa River that bisects the city, to the university’s Marketing Centrum. It was good to be back with old friends, Oliver Götz, Manfred’s assistant Malina, and a handful of doctoral students. We headed to lunch at an Italian place on the Aasee, a lovely small lake, for some good conversation. Back at the center, I did a bit of work, then headed out to purchase, by long tradition, a small wooden Christmas ornament (made in Germany, natürlich), and get a better look at the town. Back to the apartment, short nap, bit more work.

Prinzipalmarkt

Prinzipalmarkt

One of my favorite old signs, for the Stuhlmacher tavern on Prinzipalmarkt

One of my favorite old signs, for the Stuhlmacher tavern on Prinzipalmarkt

Frieze, Lamberti Church

Frieze of night watchman, Lamberti Church

Like the previous year, a young doctoral student, Christine Arden, picked me up (her sister, a graduate student in art history was along), and we walked a few blocks to an interesting venue, a small cooking school, akin to the “pop-up” restaurants that are becoming popular in the U.S. Soon nine marketing master’s students joined us for the annual fireside chat, the kaminabend, whence I present “ten pieces of advice for graduating students,” and informally discuss career and life matters. The group was friendly, but a bit less engaged than in previous years. Still, it was an interesting evening. The Münster visit was a bit too short, but it’s always good to be there.

Students at the Kaminabend

Students at the Kaminabend

Up early the next day, out the door, onto a bus, short ride to the train station, local train south to Hamm, then an ICE (express) east and south. Fifteen miles from my destination, Kassel, I looked up from reading the Times on my iPhone.  The land had become hilly. Green ridges were flecked with snow.  Plastic-wrapped hay bales looked like giant snowballs.  And I thought, as I often do, how blessed I am to have the gift of mobility.

Old and new on the UniKassel campus; the university is only 43 years old

Old and new on the UniKassel campus; the university is only 43 years old

At noon, I met my University of Kassel host and now good friend Patrick Rath, a doctoral student and manager of an EMBA program for Deutsche Post DHL. We hopped on a tram and rode to his office, worked a bit, then met one of his bosses, Prof. Wagner, for lunch and good chat. Next stop was Patrick’s nearby flat, to meet his partner Elli and three-year-old daughter Lotta. The tot was a little sick, but I managed to get her to smile. We enjoyed a cup of tea and lebkuchen, a traditional Christmas cookie.

Elli, Lotta, and Patrick

Elli, Lotta, and Patrick

The day was speeding past. I said goodbye, got back on a tram, and rode back toward the suburban train station to my Airbnb digs for the evening, a spotless room in Christoph Suda’s spotless apartment (hospital levels of cleanliness, for sure). Chatted briefly with my host, a grad student in political science who worked two jobs, in the university’s philosophy department and as a refrigerant technician. An ambitious fellow, emblematic of the German work ethic!

At five I headed back out, onto the streetcar again, and back to the uni. From six to eight I delivered a talk on leadership to a dozen business students, a nice group. They invited me to dinner, which was a nice surprise. First stop was a cup of traditional hot glühwein at a very nice Christmas market in the main square, then off to Lohmann, Kassel’s oldest kneipe, or pub. Eight of us had a wonderful time. The bar is famous for schnitzels, but I enjoyed one at lunch, so opted for herring and fried potatoes, another variant of German comfort food. We yakked around the table, but I spent a lot of time chatting with Thomas, a bright youngster (he asked some great questions in the session). Among other things, he told me about his walkabout the previous year to Australia, where he picked bananas in Queensland for six weeks for A$18 an hour (“I had to watch out for snakes and spiders”), and New Zealand, where he hitchhiked all over. He was amazed to learn that when I was his age, I also thumbed my way around NZ. It was a great evening, and I got home way past my bedtime.

Friday morning, Christoph’s girlfriend Katja had not yet left for work, and we had a nice chat over coffee. As I have written, Airbnb is awesome for the interaction with hosts, and Katja was typical. She grew up in East Germany, born one year before the Wall came down – it was fun to offer her my perspective on the Cold War, the GDR, their evil secret police, the Stasi. I said goodbye, and Katja twice said, “thanks for your business,” (and later wrote it in an email).

My Airbnb digs in Kassel

My Airbnb digs in Kassel; ordinary but that’s the point: Airbnb makes you feel local.

Paper plant and piles of recycled material, Fulda

Paper plant and piles of recycled material, Fulda

Walked a few blocks to the station, met Patrick, and jumped on the ICE to Frankfurt. I was hungry, so we had a late breakfast in the dining car, a fancy version of an Egg McMuffin, and a jolt of coffee. At Frankfurt, we changed to the little suburban train, riding west to Königstein, in the Taunus hills, headed to my fourth visit to the Siegfried Vögele Institute, the continuing-education center of Deutsche Post DHL. The building, as I have noted before, was for a few decades a psychiatric clinic, opened by Dr. Kohnstamm in 1905 and closed by the Nazis.

We walked to the institute, checked in, and ate lunch with ten students in the new EMBA class. I worked most of the afternoon, catching up, and managed both a 20-mile ride on a fitness bike and a tonic nap. At seven we ate Christmas goose, dumplings, and red cabbage; by formula, I then delivered an informal “dinner speech,” answered a lot of questions, and chatted informally. It was another nice evening.

Up early Saturday, quick breakfast and a taxi back to the station (I should have walked), back to Frankfurt, and onto the ICE, in a big first class seat, to Berlin. Did a bit of work, looked out the window, listened to the St. Olaf College Choir sing Christmas carols, all good. By formula and now six-year tradition, met Michael Beckmann and his son Niklas, now almost six, on Track 11 at Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof at 1:40. I needed a wi-fi hotspot, so we walked to Starbucks in the station, zipped some files to the USA, and grabbed a coffee.

After a short detour to an art gallery (to buy another little-angel Christmas ornament, oops, forgot Linda said to get one for each granddaughter), we jumped into the afternoon excursion (Michael always lines up something interesting to see), to the Archenhold-Sternwärte, a planetarium in Treptower Park in the southeast part of Berlin. I hadn’t been to such a museum for decades, and this one was small but interesting, with some storied history: in June 1915, Albert Einstein gave a lecture on his theory of relativity. Most impressive was a huge optical telescope built in 1896 with subscriptions from ordinary Berliners. It had a long shaft that looked a bit like an enormous cannon. Herr Archenhold, the namesake, supervised its construction, and it was the longest such device in the world; the Nazis exterminated his wife and daughter, and the plaque next to his portrait said only that he died in Berlin in 1939.

Nazi-era bunker, Berlin

Nazi-era bunker, Berlin

We had a good look around the place, watched a brief planetarium show, and departed. It was already dark, so we headed home to see Susan and daughter Annika, almost three. We had a nice dinner at home, a brief chat, and a good sleep.

 

Former East German watchtower in Treptower Park

Former East German watchtower in Treptower Park

The 1896 Archenhold telescope

The 1896 Archenhold telescope

A portrait of Friedrich Simon Archenhold (1861-1939) in the planetarium

A portrait of Friedrich Simon Archenhold (1861-1939) in the planetarium

An Einstein triptych: memorial plaque, kids' interpretations of the man, and the famous asymmetric clocks

An Einstein triptych: memorial plaque, kids’ interpretations of the man, and the famous asymmetric clocks

 

Sunday morning was slow, which was fine by me!   We had a leisurely breakfast of homemade bread with nice cheeses, meats, jams, and honey. At 11, Annika, Niklas, Michael, and I hopped into the Mercedes station wagon and motored south to Potsdam, residence of Prussian kings and the Kaiser until 1918. We wandered through a nice, less-commercial Christmas market in the center, had a light lunch and a glühwein, then wandered the huge grounds of the royal palaces. We intended to go inside one, the “new palace,” but the kids were getting cranky, so we walked a bit more, packed up, and drove home.

A tight squeeze; Michael's parallel-parking skills are second-to-none!

A tight squeeze; Michael’s parallel-parking skills are second-to-none!

In the Christmas Market, Potsdam

In the Christmas Market, Potsdam

Annika and Niklas with Christmas crepes

Annika and Niklas with Christmas crepes

Fancy shop window, Potsdam (candleholders were $250 each)

Fancy shop window, Potsdam (candleholders were $250 each)

Dutch-style house in the "Holland Quarter," Potsdam

Dutch-style house in the “Holland Quarter,” Potsdam

Detail, commercial house, Potsdam

Detail, commercial house, Potsdam

The New Chambers (1771-75), Sans Souci, Potsdam

The New Chambers (1771-75), Sans Souci, Potsdam

Chinese House, Sans Souci, Potsdam, built 1755-64 for Frederick the Great

Chinese House, Sans Souci, Potsdam, built 1755-64 for Frederick the Great

By tradition, dinner was at Zur Krummen Linde¸ a great restaurant we had visited every time I stayed with the family. They’ve been cooking since 1761. We had a great dinner: well-behaved kids, nice beer, goulash soup, and an entrée of tender boiled veal called tafelspitz (first time for me).

Bedtime at the Beckmanns: Annika with the blanket that Linda Britton knitted

Bedtime at the Beckmanns: Annika with the blanket that Linda Britton knitted

We were up at six on Monday, time to wish Annika a happy third birthday, watch her blow out the candles on her cake (to be eaten later) and open presents. An early party, because Susan, a physician, was headed into Berlin for some continuing education. Handily, her class was a mile from the Hauptbahnhof, so we rode in together. I hopped on the 8:32 ICE, no change of train all the way across the country to Karlsruhe, for my third visit to KIT, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Toward the end of the five hour ride, I had a nice T-t-S chat with a seatmate, artistic director of a summer festival in Ettlingen, a town not far from Karlsruhe.

Berlin continues to build; indeed, construction cranes were a common sight all across Germany

Berlin continues to build; indeed, construction cranes were a common sight all across Germany

We arrived right on time, which was good, because I was due for a tour of the Bundesverfassungsgericht, the German Constitutional Court, in 32 minutes. Waiting for the S1 train, I struck up a nice conversation with Mathias, a university student visiting his girlfriend and headed, the following week, for snowboarding in the Alps.

Mathias

Mathias

I have long admired the 1949 Basic Law (as their constitution is called in English), and in previous visits to Karlsruhe the court was closed for renovation. This time I arranged to join a tour. Unhappily, the tram was late, so I arrived at the gate out of breath and five minutes late. The first security guard spoke good English, and after a bit of verifying I was advanced to the building, where a polite guard said, “parking your luggage here in the corner.” There were no metal detectors, no X-ray machines, no frisking, no search.

The Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court

A nice souvenir: tiny copy of the 1949 German Basic Law

A nice souvenir: tiny copy of the 1949 German Basic Law

Another guard brought me to the chamber, up three flights of stairs, two at a time. The courtroom was essentially unchanged since the building opened in 1969 (I saw original photos). It was plain and simply furnished. But the best thing was it was open: glass walls on two sides, with a view of the pale-yellow Baden palace (1715) on one side and the city art museum on the other. Above the eight brown leather chairs for the justices was an enormous adler, the German eagle. It resembled a modern university lecture hall. The tour was in progress, and I joined a group of 40 law students from Munich, who were asking lots of questions.

After they finished and we walked downstairs to a small museum, I introduced myself to one of the tour leaders, and we had a nice T-t-S, me explaining my high regard for their constitution. We talked a bit about history, touching on their first constitution, written in the Weimar era; he noted that it contained “some holes” that enabled Hitler to take control of the government.

Walking back to the tram stop and on the train to the hotel, I mused about the openness of the court – no U.S.-style security paranoia, glass walls, and more. Regular readers know that I greatly admire Germany and the society they built from the ruins of two world wars. They may well have “outfreedomed” the United States. Consider this from an article in The New York Times in November: the chancellor, Mrs. Merkel, eats at a neighborhood Italian restaurant in Berlin, no black limo in front, no enormous security detail. Symbolic, perhaps, but I believe in symbols like that. More fundamentally, their Basic Law institutionalized social democracy, guaranteeing individuals the right to things like health care that we Americans still don’t have. There’s a lot to admire.

My home for the next two nights was a very agreeable Gasthaus zum Ochsen, in nearby Durlach. The inn’s restaurant was closed Mondays, but the kindly owner welcomed me, apologizing for the climb up two steep flights to the top floor of a house built in 1746. The room was huge and very comfortable.

Durlach-3

Window, Gasthaus zum Ochsen

Window, Gasthaus zum Ochsen

The trip was going way smoothly, so I was due for a self-inflicted bump, and there it was: I left my laptop power supply and European adapter on the train. Aieeeeeeeeee! But, as I have written many times in these pages, failure is about recovery, so after a bit of bad language I set off for the center of Durlach to find a new power adapter so I could keep my iPhone charged (the laptop battery icon indicated 70 minutes of charge, so the challenge would be to meter usage during the next four days). Although it was already dark, I could tell Durlach was an interesting, old place, with lots of curved streets, half-timbered houses, and more. After a few polite inquiries in English and German, I found an adapter at a lamp store, and was back in business, at least partially, practicing my finger typing on the iPhone.

Town hall gable and church spire, Durlach

Town hall gable and church spire, Durlach

Lutheran church and town hall, Durlach

Lutheran church and town hall, Durlach

Bakery window, Durlach

Bakery window, Durlach

On my first Karlsruhe visit two years earlier, I found a great brewpub called Der Vogel (the bird), and they had several locations, include Durlach, so I ambled back across town (I was getting to know the place well!), and sat down at the bar. The bartender spoke no English, but by this point my simple German was understood, so was able to ask for a Christmas beer, then a nice plate of veal kidneys, dumplings, and salad, all auf Deutsch. The place had wi-fi, so I caught up on email read the scores from U.S. football, and more.

Tuesday morning, it was time to stand and deliver, so I hopped on the tram and rode west to KIT. At eight, it was still dark, a reminder of short days in the northern latitudes. Ambling across campus, I noticed a statue of alumnus Karl Benz (1844-1929), generally regarded as inventor of the automobile. It’s a brainpower place, for sure. At 9:15 I met my host Martin Klarmann, then delivered back-to-back lectures. My energy and interactivity surprised quite a few of the students, accustomed to distance and formality (at the start of the first class, I even told the group of undergraduates that they should expect something different).

As we had done twice previously, lunch was with four of Martin’s doctoral and post-doc students, Verena, Sven, Fabian, and Sophie (the two former were new) at a great little Italian-run pizza and pasta joint I had visited two years earlier. I said goodbye, hopped the streetcar back to Durlach, snapped a few pictures, jumped on a consulting call in mid-afternoon.  By the time I finished, it was nearly dark. I headed out in the fading light, walking Durlach a bit more. Zipped into a cozy pub, the Kranz Musik- und Bierkneipe. It had a large black portrait of Che Guevara on the back wall, a stylized metal fish above the bar, and mixed American rock and roll on the Internet radio.

Durlach has lots of half-timbered houses

Durlach has lots of half-timbered houses

Street scene, Durlach

Street scene, Durlach

At 7:15, I met Martin for what turned out to be a caloric, three-hour dinner downstairs in the Zum Ochsen.  He’s a great conversationalist and “window” on Germany.  With that much time, we covered lots of topics, but most memorable was the story of his wife’s grandmother, born 1922 and still living, in Kassel.   Among other tales, her parents were solid Social Democrats, and she was unhappy that they wouldn’t let her join the girls’ side of the Hitler Youth. We agreed that she has seen a lot!

After breakfast Wednesday morning I walked to the Durlach train station and hopped on a regional train for Stuttgart, my first time in Germany’s sixth-largest city and the capital of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. Just as in the previous five German cities, construction cranes poked above a low-rise skyline, a reminder that in the world’s largest social democracy they don’t seem to have trouble growing their economy and providing a more equitable life for its people.

The area around the Stuttgart railway station is being redeveloped, amid great controversy over destruction of part of the historic building and other issues

The area around the Stuttgart railway station is being redeveloped, amid great controversy over destruction of part of the historic building and other issues

Commercial street, Stuttgart

Commercial street, Stuttgart

The center was flattened in 1944, and the commercial area was solely new buildings, rather soulless; it reminded me of Birmingham, another bombed city. The old city, Altstadt, has also been destroyed, but rebuilt. Especially notable was the (Lutheran) Stiftskirche, begun in the 10th Century, expanded sequentially in later centuries. It was rebuilt with a modern interior 1953-58, and again 1999-2003, with a new organ in 2004. There were some other interesting old buildings and palaces.   I was glad for a two-hour tour on foot.

Interior, Stiftskirche

Interior, Stiftskirche

Stiftskirche

Stiftskirche

Neues Schloss (New Palace)

Neues Schloss (New Palace)

Altes Schloss (Old Palace)

Altes Schloss (Old Palace)

There was lots more to see, but the main event, a tour of the enormous Daimler factory in nearby Sindelfingen, was next, so I hopped on a suburban train and rode 20 minutes southwest to Böblingen. From the train, you could see Stuttgart’s layout, sprawling across hills and ridges, which gave it immense texture. On arrival, I hopped on the free bus headed to the Mercedes Benz customer center. A couple about my age with a dog also boarded; I asked them in German if they were buying the dog a new car, “Ja wohl,” she replied happily.

Mercedes customers; woof!

Mercedes customers; woof, woof!

Daimler factory, Sindelfingen

Daimler factory, Sindelfingen

The tour began at 1:50, about 25 of us from a range of nations. First up was an inspiring short film that included a story I had heard twice on this trip: Karl’s wife, Berta Benz, took his invention and drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim with her kids – the first driver in the world was, in fact, a woman driver! Clearly, she had an excellent head for marketing.

We visited two parts of the vast plant where they build the posh E Series, first to a place where frame and underbody parts are joined. It was industrial ballet, with choreographed robots doing laser welding, gluing, and more. Industrial process has fascinated me since I was a child, and I’m still particularly interested in machine tools – the machines that make the machines. Almost all of them were German, from big companies like Bosch and many smaller ones. No doubt OSHA inspectors would be apoplectic: sparks were flying (one nearly hit me); we crossed moving conveyor belts; supply trucks and carts whizzed past.Wheel

Detail from a reproduction of Benz's first car

Detail from a reproduction of Benz’s first car

Part two was closer to final assembly. Here people did most of the work, with help from machines. Doors were hung, innards added. The sense of precision was palpable: bins of parts with hand-signed quality assurance slips; sensors on the line tracked gaps around the windows and doors, flagging them on a video screen as flaws that needed fine-tuning. The tour leader described just-in-time logistics, including a small fleet of helicopters in case a truck or train was delayed.

This was mass production, so different from the last plant tour, Boeing’s 737 factory in 2009, where there’s sort of an assembly line, but nothing like cranking out a few thousand cars in a day.

My fellow tourists were mostly agreeable, save for a half-dozen seriously annoying Russians, who cut in front of other tour members; strayed behind; texted on their mobiles when the leader expressly prohibited them; and at the end one snapped pictures with his phone.  The leader, not to be messed with, busted the offender, and we all waited while she watched him delete every one (and there were many). Deep sigh.

The tour ended a bit early, which allowed me to catch the 3:45 bus back to Böblingen station. The Mercedes restaurant was closed for renovation, so by four I was really hungry. At Böblingen station I grabbed a couple of nicely seeded bread rolls (hooray for German bakeries) to tide me over. At 5:30 I hopped on the ICE to Frankfurt Airport and immediately headed to the dining car for a fourth rolling meal and a final helping of grünkohl.  The greens were not as good as eight nights earlier at the Altes Leve in Münster, but that restaurant did not move at 150 mph like the ICE!

After a day off, it was time to get back to work. Flew to Dublin. The immigration officer asked if I had been to Ireland before. “Oh yes,” I said, and he replied “So they’ve told you about the weather?” Outside, it was howling. Fortunately, the hotel shuttle bus arrived quickly, checked in, and clocked out.

Slept really hard, up at 7:20, out the door on foot, 1.5 miles to the campus of Dublin City University, my fourth visit there.  Close to school, I had a nice chat with a woman walking her little white dog.  Stroked her chin (the dog’s!), and told her owner how much I missed the terriers.  Doo Doo Doo, as I say to them.

The university didn’t work me hard enough in 2013, but they did in ’14, four classes, two morning and two afternoon.  In between, we enjoyed a very nice group lunch at 1838, the faculty club named for the year the building went up.  My original (2007-08) host Naoimh O’Reilly was there, as were her friend Christine O’Meara, a former American Airlines Europe colleague who introduced us back then; Noel, an engineering prof I met a year earlier; Barry, a Ryanair captain and teacher in the school’s aviation management program; Col. Andy, a new faculty member, recently retired after 36 years in the Irish Air Force (didn’t even know they had one!); and Brian and Elizabeth, two managers from Stobart Air, a regional airline that does franchise flying for Aer Lingus and others.  Nearly all “flying people,” so there was plenty to talk about over a fine, three-course lunch.

At four, hoarse from a lot of speaking, I walked to a nearby convenience store, bought a chipcard for the Dublin Bus, walked three more blocks, and hopped on the #16 bus back to the hotel. Changed clothes, worked my email, and at 5:45 headed into town for a pint or two and some dinner.  First stop was J.W. Sweetman, purveyors of craft beer, right on the River Liffey.  Sipped a pint of their homemade pale ale, brought this journal up to date, and marveled again at my great good fortune to have, for all my adult life, the blessing of global mobility. Can’t say thanks too often for that gift.

Next stop was Mulligan’s, which surely must be the quintessential Irish pub, and possibly the liveliest drinking place I have ever visited – and I’ve been in a lot of bars! We first visited a year earlier with my former Aer Lingus chum Maurice Coleman; he was occupied that night, but I managed to have a good yak or two with various fellow tipplers. Mostly, though, it was fun to survey the scene from a vantage in the corner of one of the rooms. Everyone was having a grand time. I would have stayed longer, but was worn out. Grabbed a sandwich from a convenience store and headed back to the Crowne Plaza.

Mulligan's, take 1

Mulligan’s, take 1

Mulligan's, take 2

Mulligan’s, take 2

Spent a long time in the hotel dining room Friday morning, another heart-attack breakfast, which in Ireland meant black pudding in addition to eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes. So good. Hopped on the shuttle bus back to the airport. Had a bit of time, so ambled over to the airport church – of course Catholic Ireland would have a freestanding building on airport grounds, in that case the parish named Our Lady, Queen of Heaven. I had not visited since 2000, and it was a good place for daily prayers, and to admire a nice contemporary sculpture of Jesus’ mom, a few weeks before his birthday celebration.

Our Lady, Queen of Heaven

Our Lady, Queen of Heaven

At ten, I met Maurice for an all-too-short-but-better-than-nothing chat and coffee. We covered a lot of ground in 30 minutes: retiree pensions, children’s careers, the Irish economy, the manifold virtues of Mulligan’s. Said goodbye and joined a long queue for security screening, whence I noticed another electronics snafu: my iPhone appeared to have died. Blank screen, nothing. Good thing I was headed home the next day, but several key pieces of information needed that day were inside the device, including the phone number of my Airbnb host. Aieeeeeeeeee. On the flight to London, I jotted down all the stuff I had added to the phone since I last synced it to my laptop – appointments, contact names, and the like.

Departure board, Terminal 1, Dublin Airport; note the 10:10 flight!

Departure board, Terminal 1, Dublin Airport; note the 10:10 flight!

We landed at Stansted at one, literally minutes before a computer glitch caused London airspace to close. Without my GPS maps on the phone, I needed paper, and in the arrivals hall I found a free map of central London.  Even for a former geography professor, it felt a bit odd to go back to paper, but I found my Airbnb digs on the map, as well as the lecture venue a mile south. So I had my vectors. Ever thrifty, instead of the train into town I opted for the $5 EasyBus from Stansted, which turned out to be a minibus crammed with seats, captained by a Pole, and largely filled with an extended family from Spain. Happily, it was on time, and at three I was ambling west on Old Street toward my Airbnb digs.

Unhappily, the building directory didn’t list names, and I didn’t know 1) host Jonathan’s flat number, nor 2) his phone number.  By this point, my laptop had less than 8% battery, but it booted up long enough for me to find and jot down the number.  God bless the smokers outside the pub at the corner of Percival and St. John streets.  Explaining my predicament, one whipped out her mobile phone, tapped the number, and handed me the phone.  Jonathan answered immediately.  I was in! Unpacked a bit, put on a red necktie, and hopped bus #4 south a mile.

The 28th and final school of 2014 was Cass Business School at City University. I hadn’t been there since fall 2008, in fact as I told host Vince Mitchell, it was the day after Barack Obama was elected. From 4:45 to 6:00 I delivered a lecture to an EMBA class, stayed for 30 more minutes to answer questions, and said goodbye. I left the lecture venue, and walked two blocks to the Tube station at St. Paul’s.  On the south horizon was Wren’s dome; I smiled, for had come full circle in 12 days, back to a place where the trip began. Rode the Central Line west to the Apple Store on Regent Street; for the second time in just over four years I was a long way from home with a big problem. But the young fellow had the phone working in a minute. I didn’t know about the “hard reset,” but now I do!

Regent Street

Regent Street

Clearly, though, it had been a big crash, because the phone was 80% charged when it stopped, and it then showed 11%.  But it was working, and that was excellent. I hung out on the retail floor, charged it to 40%, worked my email, read some articles, and headed to dinner. I was tired, and considered finding a spot nearby, but I needed spice, and that meant Hot Stuff, a favorite Indian place across the river in Lambeth.

The owner, Raj Dawood, remembered me like an old friend. We yakked a bit, Coby the waiter brought a bottle opener for the beers I bought three blocks earlier, and all was well. They fixed me up a special plate (“give me some variety for £10,” I said, “and make sure to earn a profit!”). Raj knows I like it hot, and he delivered a zippy chicken karahi and palak paneer, cheese cooked in a thick spinach and garlic sauce. I ate it all but could not finish the special naan bread. Coby packed up the leftover bread to bring home for his family; “I don’t like to waste food,” he said, and I agreed emphatically.  My kind of person.

Still life: dinner at Hot Stuff

Still life: dinner at Hot Stuff

At 10:30, it was quiet in the flat.  I set out clothes for the flight home, and crashed hard. Up at 6:45, out the door, south on St. John Street, past a restaurant of the same name that I hadn’t visited in years.  Missed the turn onto Cowcross Street, passed the massive Smithfield (wholesale) Market, back onto the Tube and Heathrow Express, then the Silver Bird, home. And that was the end of travel for the year.

Windsor Castle, just after takeoff from Heathrow

Windsor Castle, just after takeoff from Heathrow

North Fork, Long Island, on approach to JFK

North Fork, Long Island, on approach to JFK

 

 

 

 

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