Growing up Francis ricocheted around the East Coast: summers on Long Island and the Jersey shore, boarding school in Connecticut (Westminster) and college in Vermont (Middlebury). Then after a decade in Britain, attaining a postgraduate degree in Scotland (University of Edinburgh) and teaching in England (University of London Institute of Education), the magnet that is New York City drew him back.
Francis’ Take on New York City: The logic of the street grid above 14th St.; the chaos of the streets below 14th St. I walk to work and back. The city when it snows. Theater, of course. Goya’s “Manuel Osorio de Zuñiga” in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Morgan Library & Museum. The Frick Collection.
Most memorable travel experience: My favorite trips are unscripted, with no set itinerary. I hitchhiked from Amsterdam to Istanbul, following my thumb wherever it took me. Or booking a flight from London to Cairo on the spur of the moment, and spending a summer in the Middle East: Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel and, once again, Istanbul. I make it a point never to travel with a camera. Fiddling with f-stops spoils moments like these: Dawn on a bluff overlooking the vast expanse of the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Karnak by moonlight. The ruins of Palmyra rising from the desert. Walking through the Sik and the first glimpse of the ancient city of Petra. Other fun excursions: Disney World and California wine country.
Last notable trip: Driving from Denver to New York. Pedal to the metal on Route 70, stumbling upon the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home (Kansas), and the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum (Missouri). And to complete the unexpected presidential grand tour, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. But before that last stop, a detour to Niagara Falls because how could I not?
Place you always return to visit: Weekend retreats in the Hudson River Valley, just 80 miles north of NYC, keep this urbanite sane.