Sunday, June 10, 2012

A special present and a party, wonderful Copenhagen, home again, a family weekend and a sporting Sunday.

10th June 2012

A special present and a party, wonderful Copenhagen, home again, a family weekend and a sporting Sunday.

Me in the Tivoli Gardens on Thursday this week.

 Hi again everyone, this sunny morning in June.

It is quiet.  I am writing from the kitchen whilst the men read the papers, the dogs are lying in the garden and Olivia is asleep upstairs, as is my niece Alicia who came to stay this weekend.  As to the whereabouts of Susana I can only imagine she is asleep at her new flat.  The house will come alive at midday when I expect everyone for lunch.  Meanwhile I can use this quiet time to write my blog.

The week has been good, with lots to tell, especially my trip to Wonderful Copenhagen.  So let me start from the beginning as always.

Monday saw me at a small village in the mountains of Madrid, to site inspect the main square “plaza mayor” of Hoyo de Manzanares as the location for our splendid summer party to take place at the end of this month.  I commented to Bea and Cris from my events agency, QuintaEsencia, over a cup of coffee across the road from the Plaza afterwards that it was the perfect place.  We are planning to hold a typical Spanish fiesta there for our employees, that promises to be different and a lot of fun.

The Plaza Mayor in Hoyo de Manzanares

On Tuesday I went into the office for the weekly management team meeting but first went past reception to pick up a parcel that had arrived from Motorola.  I was curious to know what they had sent me, Motorola being the company I worked for first in the telecoms sector, from 1990 to 1999 when mobile phones were just taking off.  Lo and behold it was their latest smartphone, sent to me personally by their new General Manager.  In a way I was tickled pink and very pleased to receive this unexpected present, it being the first Motorola phone I had in my hands for many years.  But it came too late.  If they had sent me one just after I left or even later I maybe would have used it.  But I’ve gone past both my Motorola phone phase as I have my Nokia phone phase. Right now my favourite brand is Samsung which probably doesn’t surprise you.  Even so, I felt very appreciative of the gesture. 

The present from Motorola, a lovely gesture

Later I was to receive an invitation to a joint Motorola Yoigo press lunch to be held next week on the announcement of this new terminal which will be part of our portfolio.  That will be one funny occasion for me, having been Motorola’s communications manager and now the communications manager for Yoigo.  I can only imagine it will be curious too for the press, many of whom have known me in both roles and of course in the same role at Nokia.  But, more about that next week.

That same night, Yoigo held a party to celebrate our new tariffs.  The event was my responsibility and thanks to my great agency, everything went really well, the best thing being the atmosphere we created. 

The atmosphere we created at the Yoigo party on Tuesday was electric to say the least

It was held on the roof terrace of a fashionable market, Mercado de San Antón right in the centre of town.  We had invited press and bloggers as well as staff and partners.  The latter included the mobile manufacturers and thus Tuesday night for me felt like a reunion of my Motorola colleagues and my ex Nokia colleagues, especially the latter.  It was great being together for the first time since we left; César from Samsung, Isidro from Sony Mobile, Eduardo from Blackberry and Mikel still at Nokia.  Here is a picture of that happy moment.

Tuesday was a true reunion with my ex Nokia colleagues, Mikel, Isidro, César and Edu

It was also nice to have the girls work with me that night, as they have been doing in many of my events over the years, since they were about 16.  We didn’t get home until very late, nearly 3 in the morning and despite sticking to the Dukan diet and having absolutely no alcohol, I had a splitting headache.  I think they can sometimes be provoked by stress.  A colleague of mine observed that I was not my normal self at the party and I think he is probably right.  It all boils down to being tense and worried that everything is going ok, so I never really enjoy my own parties.  However, this was one was very special.

My beautiful girls at the party on Tuesday night

You can see the photos of the event here on Flickr.  The Photographer, by the way was new and very good.

On Wednesday I was up bright and early as I had to catch the flight to Copenhagen.  I was going for a team meeting on Thursday but had the late afternoon and evening free to meet our dear friends Pernille and Thomas and their delightful daughters Julia and Alberte aged 10 and 7.

I had coverage problems in Denmark throughout my stay as well as visa issues, as taxis only use swipe cards and mine is a chip card.  Also I was only able to use one of my cards at a cash point.  The disadvantage of Denmark of course is that it doesn’t have the euro.  However the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.  I have been to Denmark many times, my first visit there being in 1974 on my famous inter rail trip which you will have read about in my last post and the last one being 7 years ago, just before I left Nokia.  The Danes are considered the “Latins” of Scandinavia and are definitely more outgoing than their Nordic neighbours.  The city is a walking fairy tale city with beautiful buildings although this time the city seemed to be undergoing a very big upheaval, with lots of renovation going on.  

My hotel, the Clarion Collection Mayfair, well praised on Trip Advisor, was very central; a stone’s throw from the train station and the world famous Tivoli Gardens.

My hotel in Copenhagen was not in the best area of the town

 It is however in the wrong district, Vesterbro which turned out to be the red light district with a sex show club bang opposite the old hotel.  Frankly that was rather off putting and next time I will be more careful in the choice of my hotel.  On the plus side it was clean and comfortable and the staff was very accommodating. 

This was the club across the road from my hotel!

Thomas picked me up just past 5.30 and drove me to their lovely home some 40km away by the sea near a delightful village called Hellebaekvej.  And there was my Danish princess Pernille now aged 40 but still looking 20, the age she was when she came to Spain to be our au pair, with her arms wide open to embrace me.  Behind her, waiting patiently with smiles on their little faces were her own little princesses Julia and Alberte and I swept them up in my arms and they felt like family.

Pernille, Julia and little Alberte

These wonderful people live in a fairy tale like big wooden house in huge grounds filled with colour because of the blooming rhododendrons.  The house I knew would be wonderful inside because of Pernille and Thomas’ great taste.  The whole ground floor is one big open space including the spotless kitchen and dining room.  After I had given my presents of wine and ham and smarties in a sleeping beauty container and green linen scarf to Pernille, they showed me their home and garden and I took endless pictures.

Thomas and Pernille's lovely house outside Copenhagen

Then we sat down to a simple but delicious Danish dinner made of cooked salmon, salad and boiled potatoes.  Dessert was local strawberries which couldn’t have tasted better.  Julia is learning English so I practiced a bit with her whilst little Alberte looked on, the only word she knew being “yes” and which she used a lot. Then these perfect little girls went upstairs to bed with no trouble whatsoever and we continued round the table catching up on our news. 

Julia and Alberte sitting down to dinner

Soon it was time to go as I had to get back to my hotel and Thomas had to work and of course they had to go to bed early as they start their morning at 6am, every day.  

Thomas stayed behind to catch up with his work, whilst Pernille drove me home.  We said our goodbyes on the terrace of their lawn where we had a quick photo session before leaving.  I just wonder when I will see them again.  I hope it is soon.

With my darling Pernille

On Thursday I was up early again and this time off to the Telia headquarters in Copenhagen for our team meeting.  My colleagues from the other Scandinavian and Baltic countries were all there before me, having arrived that morning as Copenhagen is much nearer their homes than mine.  We had a good day together going over all the PR projects we are working on, only stopping for lunch at the nearby Bizarro café.  We finished at around 5 and all made our ways by taxi to our hotels in the centre.  We were to meet again outside the main gates of the Tivoli Gardens just a while later.  I got there earlier, after walking down the famous Stroget pedestrian thoroughfare, the main tourist street in Copenhagen. 

Stroget in Copenhagen

I was eager to take a picture of myseslf outside the Tivoli gates to compare with the one I have of myself there aged 17 in 1974 on my Inter rail trip.  I actually think I look better today, nearly 40 years on.  Don’t you?

Outside the Tivoli Gardens June7th 2012

Outside the Tivoli Gardens in 1974, what a difference from above.

We had a meal at a typical Danish restaurant called Groeften.  My first course was wonderful fresh Danish shrimps.  Just take a look as they are mouth watering.

The wonderful fresh and pealed Danish shrimps which I had for dinner on Thursday night

After dinner we wandered outside to explore the beautiful gardens which were teeming with people on this cool summer night.  First we stopped to take a group photo outside perhaps one of the Tivoli’s most famous buildings, a sort of splendid white Moorish palace.

With my colleagues in the Tivoli Gardens

I snapped my camera everywhere I looked as there was always something interesting to catch my eye.  I have maybe been to the Tivoli Gardens some 5 or 6 times but each time I go it feels like the first and I enjoy the thrill of the place as if I were a kid.  The picture illustrating this week’s post is of me by one of the lakes against the backdrop of one of the countless numbers of pogoda style buildings.  I would have loved to go on one of the attractions but none of my companions were willing so we parted and went to bed early, always a good idea when travelling.  That night again I had a terrible headache and it could well have been for the two glasses of red Italian wine.  Oh well.

The next day, Friday, my plane wasn’t leaving until 15.45 so I had plenty of time to further explore the city and maybe do some shopping.  But first I had a meeting at 08.30 at my hotel with Maria from the Swedish Thule Group, based in nearby Malmo, a company that makes sports gear and transport equipment.  I had been asked by a colleague of hers, Claes,  to meet her to give her a sort of pep talk on how the company should embark on social media.  I think they thought I was some sort of expert, but really I see social media as just another channel for communication, albeit a new one and one that opens up a dialogue with your target market.  

Afterwards I was to meet my sweet Lithuanian colleague, Indre, who would be joining me for a walk around Copenhagen.  We walked up Stroget towards Nyhavn, that lovely street with pretty colourful houses by a canal that makes you feel you are in Amsterdam. 

With my Lithuanian colleague Indre in Nyhavn

The sheer number of bicycles gives you that same feeling too.  We stopped in some of the shops but didn’t buy anything and when we reached Nyhavn it began to pour with rain.  I had a rain hood but poor Indre had nothing.  We had no option but to walk back in the rain.  We parted at one of the department stores for Indre to escape the rain and I made my way back. I did stop at a little shop to make my only purchase in Stroget, a typical Danish striped long sleeved t-shirt in pink and black and I love it.

I arrived early at the airport, in order to have time for a nice lunch at the seafood bar (crab meat salad yummy) and to buy some Danish food at the Fine Food store to take home.  Here I indulged in Danish bacon, biscuits and jam for my Father, honey for Eladio and the finest smoked salmon I have ever tasted as well as some smoked mackerel and more shrimps which made a lovely dinner when I got home.

I was home just past 21h and happy to join Eladio and my Father for dinner and give them my impressions of the trip.  It was great also to come back to good weather and a warm temperature after the rain in Copenhagen and made me appreciate even more the climate of the country I live in.  I wasn’t to see the girls until the next day as Olivia and Alicia stayed overnight at Suzy’s flat.

On Saturday I was up early to go the hairdressers and then food shopping with Ivanka. Lunch on Saturday was our first barbecue of the year.  Here you can see Eladio in his bbq outfit grilling the steak, lamb chops and sausages.   Both girls, Alicia and the girls’ friend Juli joined us, so it turned out to be a wonderful lunch together.

Eladio preparing the first bbq of the season yesterday

The afternoon was spent lazily by the pool.  Here is a great photo of Alicia sunbathing with Elsa lying adoringly next to her. 

Alicia and Elsa by the pool yesterday

Later both my daughters had parties to attend, so Alicia stayed with us.  Eladio and I went on our evening walk with the dogs and were joined by Alicia afterwards where we sat relaxing again by the pool, enjoying Nora and Elsa’s company.

And today is Sunday, so I am back where I started.  We woke up to the news that Spain has requested a bailout for its banks with a loan of up to 100 bn euros from the Euro Zone funds.  Apparently this move, which will help the struggling banks has won broad support the world around.  I’m not so sure myself.  From what I read in the papers today, depending on their political stance, this seems to be a face saving option.  But I suppose the outcome remains to be seen.

The news has come on a day when sports will be in the minds of most people. Sporting victories are so often seen as an antidote for the crisis.  Thus there are big hopes for Nadal who will playing Djokovic in the final of the French Open today at 15h.  If he wins it will be his 7th win, a major feat.  If the Serb wins, he will be one of the first tennis players to win all the grand slams. 

There's a lot at stake in today's final of the French Tennis Open

Spaniards will be hoping too that Fernando Alonso will bring them joy at the Canadian Grand Prix.  He is leading the championship and today is in the 3rd  pole position, so hopes are high.  However, it is football which is in most people’s minds today as Spain with its “Roja” tema will be making its debut in the Euro Cup in Poland playing against the very challenging Italians.  The other countries in their group are the Republic of Ireland and Croatia, Italy being, by far the more difficult of Spain’s opponents.  And tomorrow England will play France, an equally exciting and challenging match.  Spain is the favourite as it won the last Euro Cup and of course the World Cup in South Africa last year, but of course that doesn’t mean to say they will win.  In fact no team has ever won the Euro Cup two times in a row. Germany, who beat Portugal yesterday are also keen favourites.  By next Sunday most of the countries will be in their places and we will know their chances better for the final.  Meanwhile we have three full weeks of football ahead which my Father and Eladio will be the ones who enjoy most in this house.

Before I leave you, a a special mention goes here to Sandra too, whose birthday it is today.  I very much look forward to a belated celebration when we meet next weekend in France.  Of course this week too would have been my own Mother's birthday, on 7th June while I was in Copenhagen. 
My Mother and I in the 70's, one of the very few if only photos of me with her and my eyes are closed.  However I think I look very happy and comfortable to be with her.

No doubt my Father would have been remembering her too as we do always, everyday of our lives.  How could we ever forget?

Meanwhile, I wish you all a very happy Sunday and a great week ahead. 

Cheers till next time

 PS You can see the full collection of my photos of the trip to Copenhagen here.

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