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

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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.

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

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