Sunday, February 06, 2011

An implant, VID of the week, on the road again: to Barcelona and Stockholm, good news for Yoigo, CV plagiarism and the revolution continues in the Middle East.

Me in my new black and white striped dress which I bought at Zara in Barcelona this week.  Love it!
Hi again everyone, this lovely sunny morning in Madrid. The cold seems to have retreated and we can expect temperatures of 18ºc at midday. That’s in sharp contrast to the cold in Stockholm this week, but more about that later.

I hope you have had a good week. Mine has been exciting although the start was not the best. On Monday I had an implant put in my mouth. As I lay on the dentist’s chair, I almost asked Dr. Garralda (the best dentist in the world by the way) to take a picture of the scene but it would have been ugly of course.

What made the session more palatable was having received an email from the Dukan diet team just before to inform me I was their VID (very important Dukanian) of the week. I had sent in my story but did not expect to get it published. After all millions, yes, literally millions of people are on this diet and my story is just a drop in the ocean. So imagine my surprise and pleasure when I saw my story featured on their front page. In the email the content team told me my story was a pleasure to edit as it contained lots of information and great pictures. I hope you think so too. This week I broke my diet completely because of my travels (you will understand why when you read about the meals!) and this morning my scales were not happy with me. I had put on 700 grammes. I’m not very pleased with myself but no worries I will lose that very soon I can assure you.

Me on the front page of the Dukan diet page, imagine!
The same day of the implant I had to go to Barcelona in the afternoon so I was not in a great state. I took the AVE (High speed train) with Bea from my events agency QuintaEsencia at 16h which arrived at the Sants train station in Barcelona at 18.45. From there we took a taxi to our hotel, one of my favourites in this city, called the 1898. It is the old Philippines tobacco company building in the colonial style which I love and is located on the Rambla, the most famous street in the city. The rooms are all decorated with black and white or green and white or red and white stripes; mine being the latter. You can see the view from my room of the Rambla here.

The view from my room at the 1898 hotel of La Rambla
The purpose of our visit was to visit many locations to choose them for events for our participation in the up and coming Mobile World Congress starting on 14th February. We had to find a place for lunch for our bloggers, a place for a private party and more importantly a place, near the fair, for our press conference, as the press always complain our locations are too far out. That evening we went to many, the first being a place called Tickets, patronised by the world’s most famed Chef and restaurant owner, Ferran Adriá. Unfortunately Tickets is not yet ready for opening. Even so we knocked on the door and it was opened and we got talking to the owner, a major restaurant owner in Barcelona and business partner of Ferran Adriá. He was rather taken with Bea and told her she looked like Julian Moore. We walked absolutely everywhere and in the end I was quite exhausted. Bea wanted to take me somewhere ultra modern for dinner but in the end I took her to one of my favourites in Barcelona, El Merendero de la Mari where we enjoyed a marvellous plate of rice. As you can understand I had to eat something soft because of the implant. You can see the amazing dish we shared here.

The wonderful rice dish Bea and I enjoyed at El Merendero de la Mari in Barcelona this week.
The whole of Tuesday was spent searching for more locations. In the end we picked X’Op de Dor for the blogger lunch and Brown 33, for the press conference, an amazing café on Paseo de Gracia. For the private party I remembered the girls’ Austrian friend they met on the Nokia NGage Team building event in Finland some years ago, who lives in Barcelona and owns a small bar called Leounge. So we decided to call Julia and go and see it. You know what? It was just perfect for our event so we decided there and then to hire it. Julia will be hosting us that night which will be great. It’s such a pity the girls won’t be coming with me this year, as they have done in the past.

We had actually finished by lunchtime so, on our way out of one of the last locations we visited, we happened by Zara in Puerta de Angel, Barcelona’s most commercial street. Remember I had been to Zara last week in Madrid with the family but hadn’t been able to try anything on? Well this was my chance for shopping this week. I had seen 2 lovely dresses, both black and white but one with horizontal stripes and the other with spots. I tried them on and they were both great on me. I didn’t only buy the dressesI,  also invested in a pair of probably the most beautiful red shoes I have ever seen. They have kitten heels which are apparently now in fashion and are the only kind of heels I can bear to wear. So I walked out of Zara with a great bag of new clothes, once again.

The black and white spotted dress I bought at Zara in Barcelona this week.
The beautiful red shoes I bought at Zara this week in Barcelona.
For lunch we went to another of my favourite places in Barcelona, Neichel near the Barcelona Football Stadium. I love this place and have got to know the owners over the years; a lady from León, like my husband, who married a French chef, Mr. Neichel. The place is really cosy with a terrace and swimming pool outside and the food is divine. They give you lots of little delicious starters and with your coffee they give you a plate of sweet delicacies. For me they were forbidden fruit but no way was I going to leave them behind so I brought them back for my Father who has a very sweet tooth and no problems with his weight. I have only inherited his sweet tooth I’m afraid. My weight problems I inherited from my Mother.  That's called "murphey's law".

Me outside the Niechel restaurant in Barcelona.  Notice the lovely lemon tree behind me.
We took the 16.30 AVE home and arrived at Atocha train station just after19h. Soon I was home and in time for the only family dinner of the week. My darling girls had realised that and made sure we ate together that night.

No sooner had I come back from Barcelona than I was off again the next day, to Stockholm again. The management team from Yoigo was invited to the TeliaSonera Mobility team management meeting on Thursday and Friday where the management teams from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were also attending. We took the only direct flight that Iberia and Finnair operate which leaves at 10 in the morning and gets you to Stockholm Arlanda airport at around 14h. For me it meant getting up at 06.15 in the morning so my day was going to be very long and tiring. It is cramped in tourist class and the flight is long and boring. I spent most of it reading Sarah’s Key which is riveting and helped fight the boredom, something I cannot stand.

Once in Stockholm, where the weather was cold but tolerable with a temperature of around 0ºc Degrees, warmer than on my last trip, we took a taxi to the hotel where the Kick Off meeting was taking place. I would have preferred to be in the city centre, but the Marriott Courtyard hotel, a brand new modern hotel nicely designed but with no character whatsoever, was located on the outskirts. The view from my room was disappointing and in sharp contrast to Barcelona. I think they were either building a new office block or flats. Either way the view was very uninspiring. The architecture of the hotel was uninspiring too as you can see in the photo below.

The Marriott Courtyard hotel where we stayed in Stockholm this week.
The rooms were big and very much in the Swedish modern style, lots of wood and glass and tiled bathrooms, and of course very warm. This is a picture I got from the hotel website but actually my room was identical to it. Now you can see where I spent 2 nights this week, not bad at all. But if I could choose I would stay with the more romantic and stylish 1898. Wouldn’t you?

One of the rooms at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Stockholm.  Mine was identical.
The plan though for the afternoon and evening was very exciting, at least parts of it. We took a taxi to the TeliaSonera offices for the Spanish management team to see; some of whom had never been there. I, of course, have been quite a few times and know lots of familiar faces. It was good to see my ex Nokia boss, Thomas, who is now head of External Relations, as well as Bengt, Cecilia, Eva, Lars Ake and Andreas and of course Ove.

From here we walked towards our next destination and stopped in some Telia mobile phone shops. To tell you the truth I would have far preferred to take a look at women’s clothes at Lindex but there was no chance, specially travelling with so many men. The only other woman in our group, Cristina, felt likewise. Our next destination was a Stockholm tourist hit, the Ice Bar I had actually visited on my last trip here. However I was game to go again as I think the place is fantastic. Here is a picture of the 9 of us in our thermal ponchos (designed to keep us warm and not to let off body heat that may melt the ice either) ready to go in.

The group photo at the Ice Bar in Stockholm, such a fun place to go to.
You can only have vodka as the place is owned by the Swedish vodka company, Absolut. I didn’t mind as I actually like vodka (remember my Russian blood?) but there was no vodka and orange to be had. Instead I had it with mango which was delicious. You cannot spend more than 15 minutes in the ice bar because of the cold, so soon we were outside again and off to our next destination, the Stockholm City Hall.

Stockholm City Hall
Here we had a table reserved at the marvellous restaurant inside called Stadshus Kallaren. It is at the Stockholm City Hall that the Nobel Banquet takes place every year and here we were served the Nobel menu for 2010 using the same cutlery, gold rimmed glasses and white and gold china as at the banquet.

My dinner place at the Nobel meal at the City Hall, identical to the Nobel banquets.
It was amazing to think that I was going to eat the same menu as the Nobel Literature Laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa this year. I had imagined a copious dinner of many courses, but luckily it was just 3 and they were delicious, especially the dessert and wines. You can see what the menu consisted of in the picture below.

The dinner we had at the City Hall, the very same menu as at the 2010 Nobel Banquet.
The evening didn’t end there as we had one last date that night. We were to meet the expats who had worked at Yoigo and had now returned to TeliaSonera. So we took a taxi back to the Marriott Courtyard hotel where we were to meet up at the bar with Ake, Robert, Cecilia, Karin, Anna, Arne and Viktoria. You can see the group photo here. It was great to meet them all again, although some were missing, like Mika, unfortunately.

We had drinks with the Ex Yoigo expats at the bar of the hotel. It was great to see them again.
I was exhausted after a very long day so went back to my room, hopefully unnoticed. I was to be up again the next morning early again too, at around 6.30 because Thursday 4th February was a big day for the company. The management team unfortunately was to coincide with the group’s results for Q4 and the full year 2010. So why was this important you may ask? Well, we had known for a while, but it was only on 4th February that TeliaSonera was going to announce publically that Yoigo had reached breakeven. This is what I posted at around 07.30 that morning on Facebook: “Today is a historic day for Yoigo. In TeliaSonera's year end results they have announced that Yoigo reached Ebitda breakeven, in just under 4 years, the fastest operator to do so with the lowest funding ever. Congratulations Yoigo!!!!!”. The day was going to be busy for me too. I had a conference call at 8am with the TeliaSonera HQ and then had to coordinate with my PR Agency back home, Ketchum, the communication on this in Spain. We had to issue a Spanish press release to the media and also send an internal release to the staff. On top of that I had to find out what the Group CEO was going to add to the news at the 09.30 press conference. He had only words of praise for Yoigo and it was our day I can tell you. We had reached breakeven and well over 2 million customers. He said that we had done a fantastic job and that had deserved the right to play the second half of the game, i.e. to continue to grow. And grow we will, I have no doubt at all. We are going to build on our success, not just rest on our laurels. Many people doubted that Yoigo would ever be successful and there was much criticism both in Sweden and in Spain. But you know what? We always knew we would deliver what we set out to do. Was it easy? It may look easy but it was damned difficult and it’s true we have done an amazing job. It was also said at the press conference that Yoigo was no longer on the TeliaSonera selling list, which was music to my ears and also for the Spanish market. Well wasn’t that good news? It was published in all the media in Spain and I followed the news on my mobile phone throughout the kick-off. However my job didn’t end in the morning. I was on the alert all day, adding to my tiredness, as we had 4 interviews scheduled with Spanish media later in the day and you always have to be on your toes when dealing with journalists.

Yoigo made history this week by reaching break even in just under 4 years!
Finally I was able to go back to my room and change for the evening’s dinner at around 18h, some 12 hours after I had got up. And wow was I tired. However I had the kick off dinner ahead of me and had to be ready for mingling at 18.30 and dinner at 19.30, in the same room I should add as the day’s conference. By the way I wore my new black and white spotted dress for the first time that evening and felt a thousand dollars. I felt a little cooped up though as I hadn’t left the hotel premises since the night before and wasn’t going to do so until the next day at noon. So no walks for me during this stay I’m afraid.

The conference facilitators were very organised and communicated with us via sms internet links; very technological I must say. I got a message to tell me which my table for was for that night and also a picture of who my partner would be, a Finn with an unpronounceable name and who liked skiing and fishing, the 2 activities I’m not particularly interested in. However when I got to Table One, I was met by Rolf, a very likeable Norwegian who had me for a partner in his sms message. To his left was Soren from Denmark who spoke perfect English as he was brought up in England. Also on the table were Ingrid, Carl, Tiit, Indre and my partner Juha. I must say we had a whale of a time; so many nationalities and some great personalities too. The entertainment was good also. A Swedish woman singer accompanied by a woman pianist sang with a superb voice but she also imitated famous singers. So there she was suddenly singing like Barbara Streisand and in the next breath like Montserrat Caballé! The highlight of the evening came from the Swedish business unit though. A semi professional team of the most diverse members sang and danced on stage about their business unit in Swedish. I didn’t understand any of it but thoroughly enjoyed their show. I think we will be following suit sometime in Yoigo as the performance was hilarious and made a huge impact. I’m not sure I want to be in the group though as I have absolutely no rhythm.

Members of the Swedish business unit performing at the Kick Off dinner this week.
There were drinks after dinner, but again I crept away as I needed to sleep after such a long and stressful day. On Friday I was up early, as always, because I just can’t sleep past a certain time, so went to have breakfast early too. I was joined by Anna, the communications head, someone I get on with very well and we tried to make a shopping date for Barcelona. I doubt she will make though or will she? Will you Anna???

The conference was to continue until midday but I was more interested in reading the headlines of the coverage on Yoigo’s results than listening to the speakers. That was probably very rude of me but then again the content of the second day didn’t have much in it for me and the coverage was much more important for me. Believe it or not, lunch was at 11.45, in sharp contrast to lunch time in Spain which generally starts from 14h. And then in the blink of an eye the whole conference was over, at least for us from Spain and we had to take a taxi to the airport at 12.30 to catch the only direct flight to Madrid which leaves just before 15.

As we were leaving it was snowing and I couldn't resist taking this snapshot to remember it.

It was snowing in Stockholm when we left.

Everything went smoothly at Arlanda airport as it usually does and there was plenty of time for shopping. Here I had a bit of a field day. So what did I get? Well, the usual plus some more. I bought lots of Swedish and Finnish chocolate for my Father, a prawn salad for dinner at home (just love the Swedish prawn sandwiches and salads), smoked salmon and more cloudberry and lingonberry jam for my Father. The “plus some more” refers to a unique handbag I bought and which I had seen on my last trip. I saw someone at the conference with it and that was probably what spurred me on to buy it. The bag is from the “Spring Deer Collection” by the Swedish brand Ceannis and is made of fake fur and I love it. It’s just unique. You can see a photo of it I got from their website. I wonder whether you like it?
The wonderful fake fur Ceannis bag I bought on Friday at Stockholm's Arlanda airport.
Again the flight was boring and cramped but relieved somewhat by my book. I also slept on and off and played patience on my Samsung Galaxy Tab, anything to while away the time of this long flight. We arrived at around 7pm and I was home by about 8pm. The girls were out beginning their weekend social life so I was just greeted by my Father, Eladio and of course Norah. The prawn salad for dinner was as good as expected.

And so the next day, Saturday, I finally woke up in my own bed, the best in the world with its 1.80cm memory foam mattress. I actually spent Saturday morning working to catch up on any lost work in the week. In one of the mails in my inbox there was a CV from someone called Nuria who wanted to work in communications in Yoigo. I knew I couldn’t take anyone on as I am a one woman show and don’t need any assistance which I outsource from my PR and events agency. In any case I took a look at the CV out of curiosity. When I started to read and saw the format I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was nearly identical in form and a lot of the text to my very own CV. This girl had obviously copied mine, nearly literally. I just cannot get over the fact that she had the audacity to send it to me and to ask me for a job. It was sheer plagiarism and I still don’t know where she got it from as my CV is certainly not available on the web as it is in my word document. Needless to say I wrote to her, caustically commenting the similarity and telling her that the communications function was a one woman show and that I was never going to hire anyone.  I wonder what she will answer. Bit of a cheek don’t you think?

But I also had time to relax and finally go on our blessed walk, so good for my body and soul. In the evening Eladio and I went to the cinema to see The King’s Speech which is nominated for an Oscar, the story of which is right up my street. The mistake was seeing it in Spanish – no good – but I won’t be able to see it in English until the video comes out. I liked it but found the role of George VI, the current Queen’s Father, just a little too negative, cross and tense. You wished he would relax sometimes but then again his problem, the stuttering, hampered his whole life. I can’t wait to see the film again in English.

The King's Speech, a great film but not to watched in any other language than English.

And today is Sunday, another quiet day to relax after my hectic week of travels. Today we are going, all the family, yes, My Father, the girls, Eladio and I, to lunch at José Antonio and Dolores’ house to celebrate Juan’s and my birthday which is actually next Tuesday. I’m really looking forward to it as I love our family get-togethers which are far and few between these days unfortunately.

As I come to the end of this week’s blog, I must once again mention that the unrest in the Middle East continues. The Egyptians have taken to the streets demonstrating for democracy and calling for the 80 odd year old Mubarak who has been in power for decades to resign. They have taken a hold of the main square and the unrest has been much similar to that of Tunisia just before. The whole world is watching to see if Mubarak will finally leave now, as other Arab countries begin similar protests. There is a real revolution happening in the Middle East and I am watching it with delight but at the same time with a worry that in some places the Islamist fundamentalists may take over the current dictatorships. Both are bad but the former is more frightening. Will we ever see democracy in the Middle East? The protesters want it and so do I.

There is a real revolution going on in Egypt and the whole world is watching to see whether Mubarak will resign.
And on that note, I leave you for this week. The week coming up for me will be hectic with lots and lots of work but then again work has never frightened me. I will not be travelling until the following week and look forward to celebrating my 54th birthday on Tuesday 8th February with my lovely family. I already know what my present is; a night for the whole family at a Parador at the end of February. Aren’t I lucky?

Hope you have a great week,

Cheers my friends/Masha
PS here is the full collection of my photos of Barcelona and Stockholm.

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