"So what shall we do now?"

“So what shall we do now?” said Dave, as our project meeting ended a mere eight hours before our flight back to London. The options of sitting in the hotel, or the airport, for that length of time were instantly ruled out. Sitting in a bar for that long was ruled out too, although not quite as quickly (or unanimously) as the previous ideas. Finally, we agreed to hop on the Aero Express, the train from Sheremetyevo Airport to Moscow, to spend the afternoon as tourists.

Given that neither Dave and I speak Russian beyond the standard phrases of “hello”, “thank you” and “may I have two glasses of the finest Russian beer, please, Sir”, we were left with the international language of signing and grunting when faced with a ticket agent who spoke nothing other than her mother tongue. But, we managed to get tickets and seats on the right train and thirty minutes later were in Moscow at Belarusskaya Station, where we needed to change to the Metro to go to Teatralnya, the nearest station to Red Square. If there is a Metro system with worse signage than in Moscow, I’d hate to see it – as far as we could tell, there is one name sign in each station so you have to count your way along the network.

Emerging unscathed, and triumphantly in the right place, we turned into Red Square – the Kremlin and Lenin’s Tomb on one side (funny story about that: one of the shapers from the US working on our project north of town was asked last summer if he wanted to see Lenin’s Tomb – his response was of wonder that one of the Beatles should be buried in Russia!). Anyway, Kremlin/Lenin on the right side and the biggest department store you can ever imagine on the other side. Capitalism strikes the heart of Socialist world!

Despite the bitter cold, we had a good wander around, even taking time to go inside St Basil’s Cathedral (which is the multi-spired church at the end of the Square) – don’t bother. A fairly ordinary, over-priced lunch was had in a bar just off the Square and then, after a little shopping for Dave, back on the train(s) to the airport.


That would look good in your house Dave!

Travel Stories – Madrid

Wednesday evening in Madrid. What to do? The first rule of traveling is never to eat in the hotel – if you eat there, all you ever see is airport, golf course and hotel. So, taxi to Plaza Mayor. Stroll around for several hours. Stop in several bars. The great thing about Spain is that if you order a beer, you get a small plate of olives, or salad, or vegetables, meat or fish. In Italy it would be called Antipasti. In Spain, it’s tapas or, for the really hungry, ‘raciones’. So, you can wander, stop at a bar, have a drink and something to nibble on; then wander off again, only to repeat the process when you find another bar that looks interesting. Hours later, it’s time to go back to the hotel, not having sat down to a meal, but having eaten more than enough. And having seen a lot of a beautiful city. Perfect.

  • Palacio Real, Madrid - at dusk
  • Beer and olives, Madrid.

Santiago – Cape Verde Islands

A trip to a new project is always something to look forward to, especially if it’s located somewhere new. So, last week’s visit to Cape Verde islands was one I had been looking forward to for a while.

We’ve been invited by a developer there to design the golf courses to be included in a huge development on Santiago. With a land area in excess of 3000Ha, there’s plenty of space. More importantly, the development team want to achieve a resort development that is inclusive – no guard gates/fences/exclusions here – the land is part of the local economy and community now; the brief is that it should remain so after we’ve all left. With a design team including master planners, economic planners and environmental consultants, we spent several days on site trying to get a feel for the land, and the island as a whole, in order that when the planning starts we can give the resort some authenticity. The last thing any of us want is yet another themed, Disney-esque, plastic resort.

Getting a feel for the island included visiting Praia, the main town, as well as eating out at some of the local restaurants. All serve really good, simple, food with local fish and meat high on the menu. The beer (Strela) is local too. And not bad at all. The wine is better than good and the local population very friendly.

While the islands have great history (the first European settlement outside Europe, the first ‘African’ town to have a paved street, the centre for west African slave trading to the new world), they are incredibly undeveloped and ‘native’ (in the best sense of the word). So, there’s an added responsibility to make sure that whatever we do is appropriate.

On the last evening, we went to the top of the mountain. The day had become quite cloudy at sea level, so it was quite a sight as we climbed through the cloud to view the top, which is the view in the image.

  • On the last evening, we went to the top of the mountain. The day had become quite cloudy at sea level, so it was quite a sight as we climbed through the cloud to view the top

International Travel – Part 1

Anapa, Russia April 28-30 2008

The Pain
– Heathrow Terminal 5 at 10pm.

– Security control

– Trying to get some sleep in 14C

– Arriving in Moscow at 5am (2am UK time)

– Russian immigration control

– 7 hour lay-over

– Soviet Tupalev aircraft

– 14 hours to get from A to B

– Meetings until midnight

– Security control

– 11 hours to get from B to A

– UK Immigration control

– Heathrow Terminal 5 at 11pm

The Joys
– Heathrow Terminal 5 (the building is stunning, just don’t check any bags in) Russian Military hats that are bigger than TV satellite dishes Finding a site that actually might exceed the client’s hopes.