Wednesday, 27 June 2007

So good they named it twice

I can't quite believe I'm here, to be honest. To be in Manhattan, 'on business' (my, that sounds grand, doesn't it - if only I had a ball-breaking deal to be concluded, or a seminar to give, my sense of professionalism would be through the roof by now), purely for the sake of meeting as many of the US team as possible so I can get a feel for the business and who I will be dealing with on a regular basis, and all of this generously funded by my new employers, and I know I am a lucky so-and-so.

I've been emailing and texting Ali shamelessly with new titbits which I know he will partly be seething with envy over and partly dead happy that I'm experiencing it. What a love :) My hotel is in Midtown Manhattan - Madison Avenue between E28th and E29th Street, the proverbial stone's throw from the Empire State Building. Our offices are a bit further downtown just off Madison Park and across the way from the Flatiron Building, and the building is one of those fabulous art deco grandiose structures with a huge marble lobby. It takes up a whole block apparently though we are on only one floor. Today I was taken to lunch here and all I can say on that is 'mmmm...'. I had a green salad with a beautiful soy dressing followed by pink tuna steak on potato and spring onion puree, tempura shiitake and a wasabi glaze. God my mouth is watering just thinking about it. And last night when I got to the hotel I took a trip to Macy's for some light shopping - nothing over the top, honest - but tonight I was out of the office too late to really benefit from any more retail therapy.

Now I'm sitting posting this in my room through the wonders of free wi-fi. I did think about going out and trying to find a nice dinner location, but a) it's 90 degrees out there with about 80% humidity b) I'm on my own c) I'm not hungry in the slightest and d) I'm actually more knackered than I was last night after a 7 hour flight. Bizarre. My boss gets into town tonight so hopefully tomorrow I may have a dinner companion and maybe even sneak out of the office at lunchtime to do some shopping. I have a shopping list generously provided by a certain someone so I have plenty of options. You'd think there was a birthday coming up or something.

BTW, US TV really is appalling. Embarrassingly I have just sat through a home makeover programme with an English presenter doing such a bad job that it makes Kirsty and Phil look like they deserve an OBE for services to television.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Photo album for our Tuscan trip

can be found here:

They are low resolution pics but give a flavour of our trip (though sadly not the real flavours of the foods and wine in smell-o-vision). Enjoy!

Friday, 22 June 2007

Warm and fuzzy

Well, here I am ensconced in new job world. Having worked in entertainment retail for 3 and a half years (my god, really that long??) I took the plunge earlier this year and went for a new job, which I started on Monday. Plenty of reasons, probably not too diplomatic to go into them all here... but 2 pretty important ones were work/life balance and the dreaded 'c' word*; and a desire to stretch myself a bit more, take myself out of the e-commerce comfort zone (those of you who know anything about my time at Virgin will know that it was rarely 'comfortable' but you know what I mean) and specialise a bit.

The new company ticks all those boxes and then some. Being in Maidenhead, I can leave the office at 5.30pm and amazingly be home just a scant hour later. Today, I was on a Leadership Development Course which was over by 4pm - and if the bloody trains and A34 had been running smoothly, I could have been home by 5pm. As it was I got into Didcot just as the heavens opened with a downpour of Biblical proportions, at about 5ish. Then the drive home was so sluggish, that the rain followed me all the way home. Grr. Anyway, I'm meant to be posting about how great my journey home is now!

Everyone at the office has been outstandingly welcoming and helpful - most have said how great it is that I have joined the team - and I get the overriding impression that most people love the company, believe in what they are doing, and believe that the company has their best interests at heart. On the course I've been on over the last few days, the volume of moaning has been minimal and the desire to grow and develop and inspire our teams as great leaders has been palpable. Add to this a spanking new laptop with actual wi-fi that works, a job that is challenging, interesting, moves me away from my comfort zone and where I am learning loads already , and it makes such a difference.

Oh, and did I mention the work trip to NYC next week - 4 whole days in Manhattan, staying on Madison Avenue, and the dollar is at $1.99 to the pound. Oooooohhhhhh. The only sad thing is that Ali won't be with me, as our first ever holiday together was a romantic break to the Big Apple. But I will be going with a list for B&H Photo Video so he will be there in spirit ;)

*commute, in case you're wondering

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Tuscan bliss

We came back from holiday on Thursday 7th - over a week ago - so I really ought to have updated the blog before now. However the task of capturing in words the absolute wonderfulness of our time in Italy seemed a little daunting - we crammed so much into our 8 days of walking and eating and drinking and soaking up the tradition and sunshine and countryside (plus a day either side spent 'enjoying' the delights of Ryanair's hospitality and the insides of 2 highly unattractive airports in the shape of Luton and Rome Ciampino).

We couldn't have asked for more from the holiday company we booked with - Inntravel. They sent us reams of paperwork before we left containing every scrap of info we could possibly have needed, and the organisation of each element, from the transfers to the hotels to the walking guides - was superb.

Our walking covered rolling fields of wheat dotted with poppies; olive groves; rows of vines; fascinating and beautiful medieval hill top towns; the occasional steep and rocky mule track; strada bianca (unsurfaced roads); coastal paths; shady woodland; a few streams and one river; and some scrambling, over rocks or through dense foliage to find our path.

We were really lucky in that we didn't have much road walking either. Overall we were stunned at the variety of the landscapes, the beauty of the environment we were walking in, and amazingly, the peace and quiet - bar a couple of spots (notably Saturnia with its hot thermal springs - apparently a magnet for northern European tourists in Speedos...) we hardly saw a soul as we walked along.

Our hotels were equally wonderful - from a family run organic agriturismo on our first 2 nights, where we were served wild boar, a speciality of the region, through to a comfy hotel in Capalbio where we ate out at a great restaurant in the evening; the Hotel Torre di Cala Piccola in Monte Argentario (pictured left) - with views, prosecco, cuisine and service to die for; and finally the Hotel Castello Monticello on Giglio Island. All were welcoming, and served delicious traditional Italian food, always accompanied by mouthwatering - and cheap - Tuscan wine.

At the end of the Tuscan part of the trip we headed back to Rome and stayed in the 'Franklin Feel the Sound' hotel - glitter ball in the bathroom, drum kit for bedside table, and Bang & Olufsen CD player on the wall. Pure nonsense!

In Rome we were lucky enough to hit upon a couple of great restaurants and a good bar; and visited the Coliseum and Palatine (good) and the Vatican (St. Peter's cathedral wonderful, Sistine Chapel HORRENDOUS as a tourist attraction. I can see that the frescos are just mind-blowing, especially since their restoration, but being herded into a small square room, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of shouting, camera wielding and generally completely disrespectful tourists, was not my idea of fun. The guards were completely ineffective at controlling the mob. Grrr).

I'll try and get a link up soon to more photos - Ali did take hundreds. They are mostly all fantastic - we were looking at them last night and feeling very wistful. We will definitely be going back to Tuscany - it was one of the best and most rewarding holidays we've ever had.