At break of dawn
04:55 Alarm goes off. To avoid subconscious and ill-advised use of the snooze facility it has been placed far from the bed. It’s an ugly sound. I fall out of bed and snap it off. I head for the shower.
05:00 Invigorated following the full-on cascade-like downpour from our pizza-head shower, I consider the day ahead and pack the final bits and pieces – cables, power adapters, toothbrush and razor, medicine/toiletries and the rather too bulky William Boyd novel that I’ m reading (The New Confessions). The alarm cranks off again – I always set two alarm times when I’m on an early AM flight – wakening the Sleeping Beauty and, rather more implausibly – considering he’s downstairs – Gino, our 10 year old, permanently-starved Golden Retriever. He wants his breakfast and starts to bark.
05:10 I’m reversing out of the drive way and heading for Dublin Airport. It’s chilly for May – apparently there’s a polar breeze dominating our weather this week – but dawn is breaking beautifully. I think of Act 1 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet ” … The dawn in russet mantle clad, walks over the brow of yon high eastern hill”. The gentle, humble, unobtrusive sound of ex Fleet Fox drummer, J Tillman, is playing on the iPod as I cruise along the M50.
The early AM airport routine
05:35 I punch in my pre-paid code and the barrier rises at Quick Park. It’s all heads-down now as I navigate the habitual tension that grips me from the time I park my car until I’m seated in the Aer Lingus Executive Lounge.
05:55 The Lounge is not so busy this morning as I mix Alpen and Special K in a bowl which is really too small for two cereal portions. I get a good seat, a crisp new copy of the Irish Times and a fistful of Club Milks that I squirrel away surreptitiously for later consumption.
06:40 Boarding commences. Announcements are made concerning the order of play but that makes no difference to 40% of the passengers who are Italian and think orderly queuing is an ridiculous, hilarious invention of the Brits. The boarding staff is prepared, however, and sends anyone out of sequence to the back of the line.
07:15 We’re in the air and en route. This flight to Rome is a real bag of liquorice all sorts – Italian language students with their Invicta backpacks, young couples planning their weddings in the Eternal City, pensioners on pilgrimage, some random business guys in sharp suits. At the appropriate time I open my laptop and enjoy a full 2 hours of un-interrupted work, surely one of the joys of air travel?
10:50 We arrive slightly ahead of schedule and disembark to the awaiting shuttle bus. Rome is one of the few European airports where they still bus you to and from the plane. How often have I been squashed in the bus, sweltering, as the bus spends 10 mins awaiting the arrival of the final passenger? This time, however, there’s no delay and soon I’m greeting Michael Libotte who runs the Ovation office in Italy.
11:45 Patrizia and Daniele are in Ferrara running a last minute event – it was only confirmed last week (that’s how short lead times have become!) but the rest of the crew are in the office. May is incredibly busy for Ovation Italy with about 40% of 2012 revenue occurring in this month – and that doesn’t take into account site inspections and fam trip activities. Everyone is in great form, however, and intent of keeping the momentum up following a wonderfully successful but complex incentive last week in Portofino.
13:00 Lunch at Tarallucci & Vino, a small Osteria around the corner from our office. Michael is a regular and discusses his dining options with the waitress who sits table-side listening attentively and offering reassuring advice like a family GP with a great bedside manner. This is Italy, remember, and eating is never a random, perfunctory matter. I eat an amazing antipasto of local cheeses and charcuterie and a bowl of orecchiette with tomato, basil and garlic.
14:00 I spend the afternoon catching up with the team in Rome. What an eclectic, talented group! Between them they speak all of the European languages including Russian and Serbo-Croat and their experience spans the entire events spectrum including the airline sector. They are currently finalising details for a large event in Milano, grown in delegate numbers from the anticipated 800 to over 1400.
16:50 We eventually leave San Giovanni and head across Rome just before rush hour. Having lived in this city in the 80s I have a reasonable sense of its topography. Yet each time I’m here it seems to reveal something new, something completely unexpected, something that shakes you out of any faulty notion you might harbour of actually being “in the know”. Michael and I are heading to Gianicolo, one of the famous hills of Rome, where a new luxury hotel has recently opened, Gran Melia Roma at Villa Agrippina.
More to follow.
Padraic Gilligan is VP, Industry Relations at MCI, a globally integrated association, communication and event management company with 47 offices in 23 Countries. He also leads MCI’s Destination Services division “Ovation Global DMC” with Patrick Delaney. He can be contacted on [email protected] or on twitter at @Padraicino