Sunday, December 03, 2006

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Peace on Earth and Enjoy Life!

Since last posting a lot happened, I went to Switzerland where afterwards I realised that I got shingles, the most awful and tiresome of sickness, still curing now the aftermath of this, treating the nerves that were badly affected, increasing the doses, slowly. However you know me, life is too short and you want to enjoy it. I have a whole lot on Switzerland to tell you and to show you but this might have to wait, I have an evening extravaganza at Lalique on Tuesday and more parties to come.

Do keep in touch and I look forward to seeing you on either side of Christmas. Best wishes to all,


07831 782 200

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Le Touquet

Le Touquet Paris-Plage Familiarisation Trip 6-8 September 2006

Click on the link above to view the pictures in this album. As the recipient, you can download, re-share and order prints and gifts containing these pictures. Please do not use the owner's pictures in an unexpected way. If you are having trouble seeing the View Album button above, copy and paste the link into your browser.

It all started in a cocktail party by the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce when John Pinniger from PrimeWord International and I discussed the idea of a familiarisation trip to Le Touquet. We stopped on the dates in our busy diaries of 6-8th September.
This was very much a VIP trip: John and Aurelie took us in charge at Shoreham Airport on Wednesday 6. This was a very effortless check in with the custom officer coming to greet us as we were having a glass of chardonnay on the ground where our plane was waiting only 10 meters away, we did not realised that the pilot who came and welcomed us had already placed the luggage on board. 30 minutes later we were greeted at Le Touquet Airport by the director himself, Jean-Jacques and the Director of Tourism Pascal Maillet-Contoz, they both were excellent hosts throughout our stay. To paraphrase the Relais and Chateaux 5 C’s Courtesy, Charm, Character, Calm and Cuisine were at the 'rendezvous'.

The Westminster Hotel were we stayed has the 1930’s style that is permeated throughout Le Touquet. Le Touquet was very much created then by an English group as a Leisure Resort and this is very much, what this is to this date. The town now own most of the facilities that the previous owner (Groupe Lucien Barriere) has sold them.
At the head of all this leisure to include, racing, yachting, archery, tennis and a very full agenda of activities every weekend throughout the year is Pascal Maillet-Contoz, director of tourism, sports and culture.

After a quick drop in of our luggage, we visited the Museum, once a residence of the American Ambassador in the 1930’s were there a few very good modern pictures to include Vasarely and some local painters and various temporary exhibitions.
Dinner at the Hotel was the start of culinary experience that were carried in every hotels that we visited, they were all creative, innovative and our taste buds were further charmed by the choice of wines, obviously no expenses spared in greeting us.

On Thursday, we visited the Palais de L’Europe that surprisingly can take up to 1200 people for conferences. In term of numbers, Pascal tells me that up to 50,000 attend the fireworks at the end of June; they must come from everywhere to include Paris that is 2 hours by train. With about 1200 hotel bedrooms, you realise that the many villas in town must be quite busy at the weekends. The Town Hall employs 600 people out of which Pascal employs 120. There is a serene atmosphere all over town and yet there are many activities.

We visited the Bristol Hotel and the Pol Hotel (a boutique hotel) located near the market bustling with food, drinks, and trinkets and went for lunch at the Holiday Inn Resort that is more in touch with Intercontinental service than Holiday Inn, perhaps a renaming is in progress. The Deputy Mayor and the hotel sales team joined us for lunch.
After lunch was our initiation to sand yachting, boy that was fun! I really enjoyed it as you can see from the many pictures contained in the album.
Dinner was at Mercure Grand Hotel that is undergoing a major refurbishment and if it all carries on as the restaurant was just finished it will then be a cross between Sanderson Hotel and Embargo Club in London… very trendy.
The evening after was spend visiting other venues such as Champagne Bars, other venues, discotheque and Casinos showing that there is more activities after dark.

On Friday we were treated to a fantastic tour of the area by helicopter and we learned afterwards that the same helicopter was used to take photographs of the ‘France vue du Ciel’ apparently a beautiful book. I have to see that on Amazon! Followed by lunch at the Manoir Hotel that is surrounded by Golf Courses.

I shall be back!

Do ask me if you require further information, best wishes, Jean-François.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

August 2006 and beyond

August 2006 and beyond

August is for catching up, changing and adding things to the website see the new travelling arrangement! ( Train, plane, boat, helicopter and limousines) Site visits for events coming up and the organising time.

If buyers are interested, please contact me about a familiarisation trip to Le Touquet in September and to Strasbourg in December.

In September:

I am looking forward to a night of revelry at Cliveden a luncheon at the House of Lords, a familiarisation trip to Switzerland, a reception at the Guildhall, several visit to Clarence House, many good speakers at the Rotary Club of London and to more reception at the IOD

In October:

I look forward to ACE 35th Anniversary, a visit by Crown Prince Philippe of Belgium in the Club, a house party in Brussels for the Rotary and the annual dinner for the Anglo-Belgian Society

In November:

The World Travel Market with its many parties, the Torch Kindling ceremony at Westminster Abbey, the Lord Mayor Show, my International Service Dinner, the Golden Bridge Awards, Thanksgiving in Brussels, Stanley Leverton Day and a concert in St Michael’s Chester Square.

July 2006

July 2006

After the Mas de Pierre where my parents joined us for a fantastic lunch we joined them in their house near Draguignan at Trans en Provence. With the exception of going to see my friends at the Bastide de Moustiers ( for an outstanding lunch and a site vite to an absolutely wonderful golf course at the Domaine de St Endreol, ( ) the month whiled away pretty fast. I am sorry that I didn’t manage to get to Juan Les Pins at the end for the Jazz Festival , I hear that BB King was outstanding.

I came back to London for the 16th July for the Cenotaph Ceremony. Belgium is the only country in the world who has this privilege and I am proud to be able to perpetuate this tradition dating from the friendship of Kings George V and Albert I. We will remember.

On the hottest day of the year, ever apparently, we held a reception at Marlborough House, house of the Commonwealth Secretariat that was preceded by a visit of the house and gardens.

Another trip to Wales to celebrate a 40th birthday and as I came back though this was just too hot to do anything but catching up on many project

Le Mas de Pierre

Le Mas de Pierre

At long last we arrived late on Friday in Nice airport where we were awaited and drove the twenty minutes to this oasis of calm. Warm welcome was given before being shown to our room. Le Mas de Pierre is everything a private house, a grand house, should be. You instantly feel at home. Seminar rooms are spacious and equipped with the latest equipement that is cleverly hidden away, this is a Relais & Chateau after all. As Winston Churchill said, “I am easily satisfied with the very best”.

enough said look at these pictures:

Le Mas de Pierre, one picture is from the Colombe d'Or, did I tell you that it was in St Paul de Vence?

Click on the link below to view the pictures in this album. As the recipient, you can download, re-share and order prints and gifts containing these pictures. Please do not use the owner's pictures in an unexpected way. If you are having trouble seeing the View Album button above, copy and paste the link below into your browser.

June 2006

Diaries – June 2006

I like the month of June! This is the month in which I was born! Coming back from Frankfurt I had to change my frame of mind, so how refreshing to be invited to the Royal Opera House, they were ‘modern’ pieces and remember the sceneries but must admit not much about the play…

On the Saturday my brother and his Rotary Club of Herstal arrived and I had organised the weekend for the 23 of them; after checking them in at the Gloucester millennium I took them to the East India Club in St James’s to give them a good look into clubs. The food, wines and service were really nice and we were made very much welcome a memorable evening.

On Sunday lunch we went to the Oxford & Cambridge Club and had a complete reversal… shan’t go there again. Sad as I had some very good time there in the past. After lunch we went to Greenwich by boat and some staff recognised me on the City Cruises Boat, they thought that I was still a senior manager of the company, had I known that … Greenwich and back took most of the afternoon and left the group to fend for themselves as I took my brother and sister in law back home from where they apparently came back elated and quite happy.

The Monday was normal day for the Rotary Club of London and so an official visit with exchange of flags took place and I rendered the official welcome to the Rotary Club of Herstal. Herstal is the birthplace of Charles I or Charlemagne and is well known for other facts.

On Tuesday, I went to a workshop on Spain in the morning to organise the visit of the Anglo-Spanish Society to Valencia in October, this I have just learned has been sadly cancelled. In the afternoon there was a tasting of wines from Luxembourg and in the evening a drink at the Anglo Belgian club before jetting off to the American embassy .
Thursday was the joint BLCC/Rotary Golf day at Royal Denham and fun was had by all and monies raised for our charities, I raised more on a single raffle for a box of chocolate then most of the auction prizes! You know how I can persuade people…
After a lovely weekend with friends in Wales this was back in full form for the Stella Artois Championship where once again I was asked to host the BLCC day, this went very well as we did this last year already. On Tuesday off to the Dulwhich Picture Gallery where a bank-client of mine had sponsored the Rembrandt exhibition, and was pleased to see that they hired one of my favourite caterers, Admirable Crichton. Wednesday seen the AGM of the Arts Club and Thursday I went to see the fantastic new venue Kew Palace… dine at the King’s table, literally, exclusive to J-F Dor Events along with all the Historical Royal Palaces…. Hampton Court, Tower of London, Kensington Palace and the Banqueting Hall. In the evening we sailed away with the Norwegians on the Thames for a joint effort between the Belgian-Luxembourg and Norwegian Chamber of Commerce. More party than networking and great fun!

On the 16th was the Red Cross Gala Ball at the Mansion House: the evening started with a dine around in various embassies and my friend an I were received by the Japanese Ambassador and his delightful wife who originally is from Ireland. Their hospitality and warmth was boundless and as the taxis were waiting we had to rush to the Mansion House where the second part of the evening was to be had, more food, drinks, champagne a lot of raffles, auctions and silent auction whom my friends participated in heartily.
There was also so much entertainment see for more details and so many friends to talk to that we only dance the very last 5 minutes before carriages… however we stayed in the new boutique hotel Theadneedles a very short stroll away.

Sunday the 18th was my birthday and with a few friends we had a private room at the Roof Garden’s Babylon restaurant, very good and we were the last to leave the restaurant! We went afterwards to Dennis Gilbert’s studio in Chelsea to admire his latest offering and had the privilege of seeing a room I had not seen before filled to the brink with pictures of all sizes and medium

The following Tuesday I went to Stratfield Saye home of the Duke of Wellington with the Anglo-Spanish Society before coming back to say goodbye to a dear friend of mine who has been promoted to New-York.
On Wednesday this was Ascot and went to two parties there and even rescued diplomats who lost themselves in the new configuration, this meant that I fleeted between the two parties and met people in between too, one of them another well know milliner and now sculptor, David Shilling. The Friday was International Widows Day for the Loomba Trust and I had secure for them the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s magnificent Locarno Suite. The conference was followed by a Bollywood concert in Trafalgar Square. There were some events over the weekend that I did not make!

Yvan Moseley had a concert on Tuesday in a delightful church just off the Chiswick roundabout but unfortunately arrived a little late but had the pleasure of meeting many friends and made new one.

Wednesday there was a reception in the Naval Club for the IOD , Thursday was dedicated to the Iraqi art collection but unfortunately my contact seem to have disappeared since then! I wish him well though. The Institute of Fundraising had its AGM in the evening at the Little Ship club and had to go quickly to the Christmas party of the BTO (yes you read right) at the Roof Garden.

The next day Richard and I flown to Nice for a treat… more a separate report.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

May 2006

May 2006

The month of may has been the most busy seeing me travelling to Belgium, Greece and Germany and although I was supposed to be in Dubai too I did not make it! I have this project that started early in the month for Iraqi art in London, there will an exhibition sometimes in the fall, if I can see the exhibits that (now August) have yet to see.
The Artist soiree at the Arts Club was a success and managed to get a table together of friends in support. I guess I had to rush to get changed as I only came back from Brussels a few hours before the start, monies raised were for the Arts Club Charitable Trust of which I am a trustee and a considerable amount was raised.
Had a lot of meetings for the Belgian clubs, societies and others and for the Red cross, for the first time the Belgian Ball was organised in May and could not make it as we went to Greece for the Eurovision. Richard and I had a great time and thanks to my contacts in Greece we rented an apartment in the centre very conveniently placed, both for the Olympic Stadium (where the concerts took place) and to the Euro village where all the fun was to be had. With full accreditations by the Greek Television, Richard as journalist and I as an interpreter, we have been backstage, in rehearsals and all the parties. I must say Anna Visi was really great and I very sorry that Kate Ryan did not go through, anyway we have a website for this period called and have a look to the many competitions we had if you are really interested, roll on Helsinki for

Had so many meeting with regard to various projects as I came back that the month seems to have vanished very quickly with the exception of a day too many in Frankfurt! See below my impression of IMEX.

Friday, July 28, 2006

April 2006

April 2006 came back from Wales in the afternoon of Monday thus could not attend the ACE council meeting. Met with Anita at the IOD on Tuesday to talk about developing the Ladies on Tour business, everything is ready for the Trip in June to the Lake District. Met afterward with Michael at the RTYC with regards to dinners for the Anglo-Belgian Society and the Rotary Club of London, stayed in for the first Tuesday drink of the Anglo-Belgian Club and took a cab to rush for the reception at the American Embassy, got a few good contacts. I met with John and Janice on the Wednesday at the IOD for the business plan of ACE, great ideas, let’s implement them! On Thursday, I went to the First Novel Awards organised by the Author’s Club to bring my support, I think that Anita actually invited me. Friday was catching up day; need to have some, don’t we?
On Saturday was the Strictly Ballroom Dancing at the Old Chelsea Town Hall (lovely room) organised by my associate Eugenie Absalom who has very good contacts with the Russian community ( actually I have some rather good one too!)
Monday 10th, I had a meeting of the International committee for the Rotary –of which I am the Chairman. On Tuesday, I had a meeting with Patrick for the Royal Belgian Benevolent Society -of which we are both Honorary Treasurer. I met Celine at the Arts Club with regard to the Mas de Pierre (I since been and will be on a separate entry, lovely!) before the Cercle Francais where Ann Kodicek gave us the most entertaining talk about Diaghilev and other people of his time. Easter was upon us and Selfridge’s did well out of me buying all the little rabbits, ducks and various other chocolates… we had friends staying for the weekend so prepared ourselves for this.
The Open BC network seems to be quite good and attended the IT Hall for an evening that went well on the Tuesday following and on the Wednesday attended a , for me, very boring conference on Euronext, good god people can waffle about! No contact there that I did not know some very very important people or assuring themselves to be.
A good party was organised at LLadro on Piccadilly for Valencia, I went there for the prospect of the Anglo-Spanish Society visit there in October, very nice people but most very invited by Lladro and I am not quite old enough to start collecting this piece that are amazingly expensive. Then Richard and I went to Sitges report of which is here below. (and am completing it too) As I came back from Barcelona, I went straight for Lunch _could not eat anything_ at the Rotary as I though that there was a council meeting afterwards, there wasn’t one! Had a meeting the following day for the Arts Club Charitable Trust where I championed a candidate for a grant and was pleased to have another of my candidate championed by someone else, so they both got something! One of them is Dunja Lavrova, mentioned before, I went after lunch to the New-York City Sales Mission where I got some great new contacts and then to CIRCA. On the 27th I was delighted meeting Patrick (another one) at the Loriner’s Luncheon in the Apothecaries Hall, there was a meeting of the GBA at the New Connaught Room in the evening, but I not quite sure that I attended! In fact, I must have felt quite tired after one of these City Luncheons…. To add to my predicament, I went again to the City the following day for the Bishopsgate Ward Club AGM and Luncheon at the Leather seller’s Hall and I had to meet my good friend Ricardo in the afternoon, I arrive with a good two hours late! Sorry again! I had to pleasure to see Ricardo ( he is our contact in Argentina) again on Saturday when we had a gathering of friends.

May to be updated after the weekend, catching up! Have a lovely weekend.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

March 2006

March 2006, on the 1st, I attended the first meeting related to the Rotary International 2013 Convention, this is very exiting as I can reveal that London is pre-selected to host this event where up to 60,000 will attend, the year after the Olympic. On the 2nd, I met various people from the London Development agency with regard to 2012 this was a presentation to businesses in the East End entitled ‘Olympics and your business’ I have made the best of it and came up with a lot of contact. On the 3rd was a meeting at GTA (Gulliver’s Travel Associates they actually own Octopus Travel and various other brands) with regard to taking care of the accommodations for 2013. On the 4th for a little more fun we went to Making your Mind Up with Terry Wogan and ended up in the Green Room with all the artists and their families throughout the show! I liked the wine and nibbles….
The following week I have attended various meetings, luncheon and dinners at my various clubs one noticeable was my City Managers Luncheon Club held a the Butcher’s Hall, always love to get there (meet every month) but don’t always have the time. Diana Armfield and Bernard Dunstan (both RA) were feted at the Arts Club on the same day.
I spoke to the Rotary Club of London (still have to frame this Speaker’s Certificate) on the 13th as Ambassador for Springboard about Hospitality as I was asked not to speak about charity, bit difficult but I obliged. The following day I went to Scotland and full report is found on this blog. I was supposed to attend upon my return from Inverness a Rotary evening and a St Patrick’s Reception at Claridge’s needless to say I was too tired to attend either. (apparently it was a bit chaotic at Claridge’s).

Over the weekend I met my friends from Lithuania and took on this very talented painter and was given a few etchings (very good see my other blog – Edita) to suss the market for her. Prepa

On the 21st I took the Anglo-Belgian Society to the Wallace Collection for a guided visit followed by tea and cakes, I know very civilised… it was and I will repeat this next year, very successful.
On the 22nd I attended Promo Marketing at the Barbican, France at Lord’s (Trade wine Fair) and a reception for the IOD at the new City Hub. On the 23rd There was a Rotary District Council a private view at Alexia Goethe’s Gallery and a dinner a the Savile fro my Whitefriars Club. The next day I went to Malta and this is also reported in this Blog with pictures. Coming back just in time on Monday for a meeting of the Rotary Club of London International Services Committee that I was chairing. ( had to skip lunch) Had another meeting for the 2013 project in the evening. The first meeting I attended of the Red Cross Ball Committee was also in March at the Residence of H.E. The Swiss Ambassador. Also attended STEPS at the RHH and a very good London Road show at the Westbury before taking to train to Wales on the 31st.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Diaries - December 2005 to February 2006

December 2005 Back from Barcelona, where I had a fab and educational time at the EIBTM, Friends from Paris visited over the weekend.
Michael Crawford came to talk at the Rotary and had to leave promptly to attend the council meeting of the Association of Conference and Events, in the evening Red or Dead had a party at the Kempinsky Courthouse Hotel with my good friend Tatiana H-S’s hats and other creation. “Le Tout Moscou” was there and we had a bit to much of Stolli-Bolli. Rasputin was indeed in jail but somehow manage to be with the models too, these monks, really!
The rest of the month, there were many events such a Mandarine Napoleon at the Sheraton Belgravia and the monthly drinks at the RABC, a party in the Middle Temple, Christmas parties for the Anglo-Spanish Society at Canning House, Danish Club at the Arts Club, Rotary, The Arts Club, RUKBA’s Carols service at St Michael’s Chester Square and the Press view of Tintin at the Barbican where we met the cast and even the widow of Herge.

We went away to Belgium for Christmas and going through Wales before returning to London for New Year Eve, which we spent at home!

January 2006 was spent actively organising a seminar in Scotland, a booking that came on the 23rd December for February 2006! In addition, a re launches party for a big bank that I cannot speak about.
There were many parties again, Happy Andalucía at the Meridien Piccadilly, parties at the Newly opened and abs fab Opera Gallery in Bond Street. I went to a pub lunch with my fellow of the Whitefriars’ Club in Fleet Street and took the Anglo-Belgian Society to see the Show Tintin at the Barbican, Brief weekend in Athens for the Exclusive Travel Show, that was really very good and might be here on the blog already. I attended also the Events Show where we has a stand with ACE , a reception at the Carlton Club with the IOD and a fantastic exhibition of Warhol at Hausser Wirth where I was either pleased or disappointed not to see me in any of the pictures… Had lunch at the Glazier’s Hall but was not overly impressed with the venue, blank canvas they say but the Hall looks more like a big basket ball arena or perhaps a big squash court. I went to Paris for the Bedouk Show and had a great time too.

In February there was much travelling too, back from Paris I went to Cardiff to see a client, Brussels for the EMIF and Edinburgh where I had the seminar for this big French Group. Notable dinners were for the Cercle Francais at the Arts Club, the Spanish Residence for the Anglo-Spanish Society (after a Civic Lunch at the Guildhall where I met Karl-Ludwig Rehse of H.M.The Queen’s Dress Makers fame- He was actually there with Philip Sommerville)

I have attended in between the Shows: Hotelympia, Confex and London Fabric

I co-organised an evening concert for Dunja Lavrova, a talented young violinist at the Mall Galleries, during which I received a phone call from the facilitator of the French Seminar in Edinburgh saying that as they were mostly ladies they did not particularly care for the visit of the distillery scheduled for the next day. Could I organise something else like a panoramic of the Town? Within an hour, I had confirmed the coaches and French Speaking Tour Guides to take them around Edinburg the following day. I do find a lot of contact under my hat!

The concert was a success if not financially and Dunja gained some exposure with an article in the Independent.

There was a reception hosted by The Prince of Wales Theatre for the IOD and if you would like to organise a reception, concert or conference in one of the Theatre in London please speak to me.

Finally there was also a reception held at the RABC for the Olympic Business Club, fostering business relationship between Belgium and UK business with a view of getting awarded contract for the 2012 game.

Speak to you soon, this will be updated after this weekend. Have a lovely weekend

Diary - November 2005

Some people have been very nice and asked why I was not sending much information lately; the answer is quite simple... I have been travelling about and please find below some excerpt of my diaries:

In November 2005, I was mostly in London except at the end when I went to Barcelona for EIBTM, during the month, I have attended and helped organise many events such as: The Torch Kindling Ceremony- A ceremony happening in Westminster Abbey repeated every year ever since the end of the second war- The Flame of the Unknown Soldier in Brussels was extinguished by the occupying forces - to symbolise the union of Belgium and United Kingdom, the then Ambassador organised to collect the flame from the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey and walk it to the Embassy from whence it travelled to Belgium and kindle the flame of the Unknown Soldier in Brussels on the 11th November of every year.
I attended also the Tatler’s Party at the Baglioni Hotel following the AGM of the Royal Anglo-Belgian Club, went to several private views at Alexia Goethe Gallery and the Halcyon, cruise the Thames with the Silver Sturgeon hosted by Laurent Perrier. Had a Ball in Marlow for several Charities, organised a dinner for the Belgian Tourist Office at the Beginning of the World Travel Market that I have also attended as a Meridian CLub Member,had a party for NYC at now defunct Pengelley's soon to be replace by someone else and on the same night went to Harvey Nichols for a splendid party hosted by the Spanish Tourist Office. Went on the the superb penthouse suite of the British American Tabacco building for lunch and attended a Gala Concert in Chelsea. I facilitated the Golden Bridge Awards held for the first time at theThe Golden Bridge is mainly award to Belgian Companies exporting in UK companies such as ECOVER and VLM have won in the past. This was a splendid occasion with many people (about 300-400) and several bands… the following day I had lunch with my associate from Spain from the bureau of Barcelona and Marbella to go on to the wonderful Bedford Lodge in the Royal Opera House.
The following week (yes, what is above was in a week) On Monday we had a Gala dinner in the wonderful Trinity House for the Bishopsgate Ward Club where I was delighted meeting Philip Sommerville of H.M. The Queen Hat Maker’s fame. On Tuesday morning, I had a meeting of the Trustees of the Arts Club Charitable Trust immediately followed by the AGM and Luncheon before taking the Eurostar to Brussels where I was hosting a ‘soiree’ for friends in their fabulous flat overlooking the Grand Place and Place Royale, all went well but was stuck in the lift for some time (They couldn’t even pass a straw to have some champagne in the cabin!) The following day I visited this great house a the Avenue Bergman that is going to be the new show rooms for Pierre Marcolini and Chanel (there are still two flats available see the other blog ). Had lunch with my nieces (AFIM) and a quick word with the DRM- Brussels Office. No time to spare as we quickly came back to London for a reception hosted by the IOD at the Botswana High Commission and somehow managed to go a drink at the Arts Club with some friends. On Thursday the Annual Dinner of the Anglo-Belgian Society was well attended and I organised this, as usual, at the Royal Anglo-Belgian Club in Knightsbridge. The following day I made a attempt at taking on board a new caterer but since he did not reciprocate the link have just dropped them, I wish them well though! A friend did organise an Art Quiz at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and this was really fun to be eating and drinking in the gallery surrounded by these masterpieces. (My team incidentally did not fare much) .

Did I mention that I have attended every Rotary Club of London Luncheon during this period? Every Monday Lunch – usually- at the Portman SAS Radisson. As I am the Chairman of the International Service Committee, I am quite busy on this front too. Speakers during the month were HE Baron T. de Gruben Ambassador of Belgium to the Court of St James, The RIBI President and Esther Rantzen who told us about the imminent merge of the Child Line with the NSPCC. In the evening I went to a private view of Rubens at the National gallery organised by the Belgium-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce.

Speak to you soon!

More about Belgium:

Saturday, June 24, 2006

IMEX 30 May - 1 June 2006

At first impression I have no idea why so many people prefer IMEX to EIBTM.
Frankfurt is dreary, empty and devoid of life after 9:30 p.m. All that was left was listening to a soul-less singer in the lobby/restaurant of the Arabella Sheraton 'Grand' Hotel where I was staying. - Supposedly 5 stars and part of the Luxury Collection. My room was large but had two single duvet on a large bed, push button that were used in bedsit in the 80's in guise of a flush I could go on but as the Lanesbourough is part of the Luxury Collection... There is really no comparison! A wonderful collection of vintage Rolls Royce in the entrance though made up for it, the kind of cars that if ever I was driving would like to drive.

The fair itself is not really as big as I was told, there was no parties organised for the hosted buyers except for one organised by Reeds Exhibitions on the night before the date printed on the invitation!

A sad mistake of the organiser was to have placed the first time ever presenting stand of Israel in the midst of all the Arabic countries, resulting in a literally empty stand for the two days of exhibition.

Perhaps it is the interminable corridors, perhaps it is the lack of smile or service, perhaps it is the bitter cold of a 31 May in Frankfurt or perhaps it is just dreary people.... Roll on Malta, Sitges, Athens and Sorrento!

Perhaps I think I need a little sun! I am off to the South of France!

In terms of contacts to be made, I have seen quite a few people that I missed at EIBTM, EMIF and others but quite frankly will not go back.

It was also surprising that none of the German convention bureaus did organise something to attract buyers after the show, it was my intention to discover this market but failed miserably in this respect.

Imex the essential worldwide exhibition for meeting and incentive travel in a city that has no appeal to organise either. I did share my thoughts on the plane back with a lady that turned out to be the PR of the show, I hope that I gave her some food for thoughts.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sitges Convention Bureau

Friday 21st to Monday 24th April.

Please look at the pictures below

I cannot believe that this is now July and am completing this entry now!
Shows that I was right and you do not yet what happened in May I have difficulty reading myself!
This weekend was so packed with good things!

We arrived at the airport of Heathrow terminal 2 and were met by Maria from the Sitges Convention Bureau. On arrival at Barcelona in the evening, there was no time for the wicked as after check in at the splendid Dolce Resort and Conference Destination ( Nadine Bernhard, International Sales Manager, and Tatiana Rizzo, Conference Sales Manager, greeted us for Dolce and we were whisked away to the Sea Front for a tour and Tapas meal at the Hotel La Nina. Very interesting, basic but adequate meeting facilities and fantastic sea views from the hotel rooms, although basic too, good comfort and amenities would classify this hotel as a good 3 stars. We came back to the Dolce Sitges very satisfied. On Saturday 22nd there was an official welcome at a good time-not too early, 9:30- by the General Manager Francisco José Jiménez, a very good video presentation was shown in the very high tech boardroom before we embarked at viewing the facilities. The breakfast I should mentioned was a gigantic buffet catering for every need, diet and whim, there is also a coffee bar in the conference center. The Dolce Sitges, although the same building, give the very clever impression that there are distinct area of business and leisure, the hotel rooms are at the furthest end with the Spa and other swimming pools.

We were taken after the visit to the IBAI Hotel where Iberico and other tapas and Cava was laid out as we arrive.( .A boutique hotel sporting the very expensive, unusual and quite frankly quite eccentric only horse hair made mattress, the bathrooms were notoriously bigger than the actual bathroom as they recreate the Spa into your own space. Not much for conference except a good cellar set up for seminars, this would be a very good and very unusual incentive venue.

Lunch was taken into a typical incentive venue: Almirall de la Font, where you can invite your guests and best client into your very own ‘Masia’, the property of a young entrepreneur Paul Christoforou you can see more on . Fabulous, eccentric throughout, I though that I was transported back to the Embargo off King’s Road when it was first opened. We spent a few very relaxing hour there as was to become the theme of weekend, relax.

Were we to top this afterwards? In a different way the Finca Mas Solers is amazingly big with the longest driveway ever, you are set. This is the place to go for any big group or conventions. An ex casino once owned by the Lucien Barriere Group, it displays some of the faded opulence the buildings once had and that comes to light on a evening, the gardens are magnificent and have a 1000 years old olive tree and an open air theatre just like the Tropicana in Havana. Most rooms are now refurbished; Sandra Lampe Del Arco and her director, a very eccentric French man that might have been called Henri but not so sure, greeted us on the day… He particularly enjoyed the cakes and tea laid out and so did we.

The Equestrian activity in the afternoon was good and thank you Ionna for being the strong one there. Ioanna had her own boots and caps and she is a very accomplished rider. She taught most of us and was looking after everyone, something that the stables should have done and were not quite prepared to receive so many people in one go. I would not recommend this and would have rather spend more time in the Dolce’s fantastic Spa, which we did as soon as back to alleviate the riding side effects.

In the evening, a surprise awaited us of gastronomically importance. You would understand if you met Miquel Matas i Arnalot President of the Grup Matas Arnalot. ( Miguel is a larger than life figure who has treated us together with his daughter Natalia who is director of two of his hotels the Maritime where we met and the Subur which is nearer to the nightspots that I understand their group also own – this is a family affair with many sisters, brothers, nephews and nieces. After a visit of the hotel, similar in feel to the La Nina but with the exception of a suite with great views and good value.

Cava and a few tapas were served before we sat in a walled panelled room of conquistador grandeur , there about 19 courses were being served, just small one you understand, before we were served the main course followed by ,cleverly, a very refreshing dessert. I do not have a copy of the menu and if anyone can remind me what we had please post this here. In any case a very memorable dinner, I remember foie gras (very popular in Spain) various fishes, meats and vegetables, dessert was noteworthy sublimely fresh it was a lime and basil ‘syllabub’ with a slightly creamy top. Despite the 20 or so courses we still found some courage to go for a drink in the ‘Sin Alley’ so called as all the bars are in and people go from bar to bar enjoying themselves nicely.

The following day, this was St Georges’ Day or in Spain San Jordi: San Jordi is both the St Valentine of Spain, lovers give each other books and roses, books for the men and roses for the ladies. We started the day by visiting the old town with a few museums and notably the Maricel Palace, the place to really impress your delegate. Built in 1910 to house the art collection of American Millionaire Charles Deering and still preserves the feel of a ‘living’ stately home. Pictures in the album. After a stroll on the seafront promenade we arrived at the San Jordi Book fair where we were all given a lovely hard back book on Sitges by Montse Amau, ‘Directora Area de Promoció
Economica, Comerc, Ocupacio i Turisme’ The Mayor came to join us and we had a lovely picture of the group taken together in front of the Town’s book stall promoting the area. Then it was for a tasting at Celler Can Pujol, a lovely wine shop selling fantastic wines and even producing some of their own; before going on to see the amazing human towers (not to be done at home). Neus Tejedor, Sales Manager of the Melia Sitges greeted us and offered a really nice paella for lunch with very good wines. Another stroll and we found ourselves in the sailing port where we were supposed to sail away the afternoon, apparently the forecast was not good at sea so we stayed on board the yacht sipping cava and eating strawberries and other fruits, hedonistic? Perhaps! That actually meant that we were able to come back to the Dolce Sitges and use their fantastic Spa once more. Evening was spend in the Hotel Antemare that is perfect for groups on budget, not far from town centre with some convenient rooms and a great glass caged lift for dramatic entrance for your presentation, you can actually place a car in it. Perhaps actually the one where we could go back as individuals, there are actually some rooms with sea views but this is two streets away from the sea front.

Sitges is really a lovely place, this was built originally for the Greats of Barcelona coming back from Cuba and having made their fortune build these colonial style villa on the sea front, a lot of them remained private and there is a lot of money around. A few were transformed in Hotels such as the Antemare and the Subur Maritime but had some addition not quite in keeping with the original buildings.

Dolce Sitges is fantastic and you will find the perfect service that Dolce offers in all their properties.

Sitges Picture Album

Please paste this in your browser for the album.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Knighthood Experience in MALTA

24TH -26TH March 2006

“Merhba” or welcome to the Maltese Islands was the letter awaiting us in our room at the Hilton. The Malta Tourism Authority together with Airmalta, various DMCs and and 5 stars hotels invited PCOs and various organisers to the ‘Knighthood experience’.

Marie Anne Barthet from the Malta Tourist Office was waiting for us at Gatwick Airport early on the Friday 24th and made us feel very welcomed. In the afternoon as soon as we arrived on the Island, the British contingent (of which I was) was taken to site visits to the Hotel Intercontinental and the Hilton where we stayed. We had barely enough time to get changed for the evening for the Official opening that was held in the conference center adjacent to the Hilton (and part of it) where a brass band welcomed the delegates before taking everyone up to the escalator to what looked like a giant basket ball arena, the lighting didn’t help to alleviate this feeling, however all buffet food and plenty of wines, the basket weaving, the little singers and the general ambience contibuted to a quite nice evening.

Saturday and Sunday seems to have passed so quickly as we were wisked away to through the Cottonera area for a 'Battle of the Nations' ( they were delegates from various countries and Italy won! Althought the British Team finished first) - Team Building - fact finding mission.

Lunch was at the Villa Bighi in a marquee overlooking the Grand Harbour and this was immediately followed by a Harbour cruise where some people came back to their childhood with the most incredible water filled balloon that I have seen (needless to say, I sought refuge inside as many others) we visited afterwards the not quite yet opened Meridien St Julians that has great amenities and the Radisson Sas Baypoint which has a great Ballroom. In the evening we went to the Palazzo Parisio a unique 19C palace in the ancien village of Naxar there we were greeted with really pumps and circumstances! see the pictures of the magnificent gardens
we were treated to dances after we were proclaimed by his most Eminent Highness The Prince Grand Master: members of the order of Melitensia ( Certificate were waiting in our hotel rooms) before being taken to a versailles like dining room for diner on the first floor and then to the cellar for coffee, liqueurs and dancing, a few did stay late!

On the Sunday there was a workshop with all the DMC's and various venues and in the afternoon we were taken to Gozo where we visited the Kempinsky San Lawrenz Hotel where massage and particularly Ayurvedic treatment are a premium ... the alternative was a Kart Building Activity that it seems everyone declined! In the evening we had champagne on the Spinola Quay amongst the Maltese Luzzu fishing boat (where some young gatecrashers tried to join us) the lights reflecting on the water was quite magical! we then had an Italian meal at the Allegro Andante restaurant and a few went to the Fuego Salsa Bar to while away the night.

Early departure on Monday morning seemed easy and everyone sported a smile wanting to come back to see the places that we missed like the Palace of the Mediterannee (the convention centre) and the area of Valetta that according to a DMC should have been shown as a must do in Malta. We will have to come back to this lovely destination.

Click on the link above to view the pictures in this album. As the recipient, you can download, re-share and order prints and gifts containing these pictures. Please do not use the owner's pictures in an unexpected way.

Thank you again to Marie Anne Barthet, Suzanne Dimech and Nadine Brincat to have organised such a lovely weekend.

For further information or recommendation please email me on and have a look at

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Highlands Familiarisation Trip

HighlandsFamiliarisation Trip 14-16th March 2006
Organised by Visit Scotland.

12 very happy Hosted Buyers including ACE Council Member Jean-François Dor were invited to participate to this very exclusive ‘Fam Trip’ to the Highlands, nine actually turned up! Little did they know what they would miss.

Michele Ashby was waiting for us at Heathrow with some surprised ‘goody bags’ that actually included our lunch of smoked salmon bagel and champagne, this was to set the pace for the following days. On arrival in Inverness we were greeted by Moira Unwin and Rebecca Steven from Visit Scotland Business Tourism and Lorna Hutchinson, our Blue Badge Guide. We were taken to Glemorrangie House where we had a lovely lunch of Smoked Salmon and Lamb and visited the House that is very confortable and very much an upmarket Bed and Breakfast with magnificent views of the sea . After coffee we departed to be suddenly hijacked by a highlander in full regalia, sword and shield included, and when aboard the coach told us all about Jacobites and more stories on Bonnie Prince Charlie and others, by the time he left us ‘ en route’ we were nearly at Ackergill Tower, there we were greeted by the whole staff in the manner reminiscing of the grand house akin to Howard’s End fame. Situated in the North East of Scotland the tower is just by the sea with its rugged edges. Sloe Gin and Malt Whisky served in the Gun Hall where Barbour Jackets and wellies bore our first name as we signed the visitors book, no keys here as was followed by our other venue called to mind of Switzerland some 30 years ago when people did not trouble to place their luggages in the consigne but merely left their luggages unattended on the platforms whilst you had lunch (incidentally, Michele is half Swiss). Once we were shown our rooms we were whisked away after tea to the local distillery – The Old Pulteney- where the genuine maritime malt is made. In the evening the dinner was served in the Grand Hall where table setting and callygraphed place name were found, we dine with Arlette, the owner, who had designed all the rooms of the tower and other cottages doted around the several thousands acres of land surrounding, Ian the very hands-on manager and his wife Sabine, the daughter of Arlette. Sabine told me the story of the most beautiful ghost in Scotland called Helen of Braemar or the Lady in Green, supposedly resident of the Tower, however not seen for many years. The story as gruesome as it is was that the wicked captain of ackergill in the 1500’s madly in love with Helen came to kill all the men on her wedding day and took her to the tower from whence she thrown herself. I did not see it but apparently there is a patch where no moss of grass ever grow on the spot. Another story was the feuding triangle of the Keith, Sinclair and Dunbar Families, The Dunbars acquired the Tower from the Keith and John and Arlette Bannister acquired it some 18 years ago from the descendants of the Dunbars whose belongings still fill the house including paintings and furnitures. As the house was left unattented for 30 years, other stories flourish of layers upons layers of mattress much like in another story of the princess and the pea… apparently they all ended in a giant bonfire on the beach, however everything else was there such as paintings, furniture in need of reuphosltery . Other features of Ackergill Tower are the Tree House fully equiped to take seminars for up to 20 people, coffee and whiskies on the beach after dinner around a bonfire, an amphibian tank experience, Wick Gof Club is nearby, a visit to the Opera House where a seminar can be had too, and lunch at the Bothie where Charlie entertained us on the squeezebox… This is really an ideal place for a week long seminar or conference for up to 20 or 25 people. Total tranquillity and knowledge of complete professionalism. Warmth and generosity was felt by the whole group. No one felt as being a stranger and everyone felt like being in a great house party, such was the welcome we experienced, we all departed with wanting to stay a little more as they were all waving farewell…

Fantabulosa or something of the like said Kenneth Williams in the rather sad dramatisation of his life earlier in the week, no sadness here at Skibo Castle, house of Andrew Carnegie, the world’s richest man at the turn of the last century, who is still being toasted by all guests at dinner as a tradition. Skibo Castle is the epicentre of the Carnegie Club well known for having held the wedding of Madonna and being the very exclusive club that this is. Check out the pictures of my room on under blog if you are not reading this there already (they are not in the order that originally was intended. The place is magical and still very much developping, all parts are being renovated and am told that the Victorian Swimming pool is about to have her turn. There is an 18 holes golf course where no tee off time is necessary, get on it and play whenever and wherever. Rooms are the size of football pitches with very deep bath tubs, four poster beds and wood pannels thoughout the castle, there also stories abound from the Managing Director Peter who is also very keen singer as shown to us on the evening after our truffled artichoke salad, sirloin steak and plum tarte Tatin served with Chateau Coutet (1er cru de Sauternes). The ambience was again very much of a house party.
The estate is huge and there is a flotillas of the latest Chauffered Range Rover to take you wherever you want on the estate like having lunch in the Club House overlooking the lake and mountain range or Clay shooting, Massages in the very modern Spa, Archery and more…. Just as we left we had the pleasure of a falconry display before being waved goodbye. (there not all the staff did so, after all there is about 300 staff at Skibo for a maximum at any one time of 80 guests)

When bidding farewell to our hosts I mentioned that time escaped me completely, we had packed so much in these two and a half days and yet felt very relaxed. Coming back to London though and catching up with urgent matter, I did not again realised the time and did not manage to go the Irish Party at Claridge’s… Ah well, another time!

Friday, March 17, 2006

My first posting! I have just come back from a most wonderful three days in the Highlands, Glennmorangie House, Ackergill Tower and Skibo Castle. More in next posting as I am finding out how this works and I will link this to my website.