I just returned from a 10 day business trip to Roma and Rotterdam. Yeah. Sometimes even I can't believe my own luck. I handle insurance for a corporation and we join with others to buy certain types of insurance - that's called a captive. Our captive has board meetings twice a year, always outside of the US and 3 years ago they set the location as Roma. It was a smaller turnout with the downturned economy but my boss graciously allowed me to go and cancelled his spot. So, that's how I got to go to Roma for a business trip - I added on 3 days because you don't travel 10 hours in the plane and stay for 3 days... You just don't.
For some reason, over the past month various people felt it necessary to share their Italy gypsy horror stories which scared the socks off of me. My hubby doesn't like international travel so when I ran into my former neighbor, H two weeks before the trip, and I knew she had just gotten her passport, I offered an invitation and she accepted. And oh my gosh, did we ever laugh and talk the entire trip... til 2 and 3 am sometimes. We were neighbors for 18 years and her family was so good to my (single) self, always - including me on holidays when I didn't go home to NOLA. So, off we went, H and I on our Roma journey. After the first week, she stayed in London (to see her brother) while I went to Rotterdam for work - the scheduling worked out very well.
I wasn't quite prepared for the heat of Roma - it's just like Houston yet there we were expected to go trapsing around in it. Even the bus tour around the sights was exhausting since there was no a/c and scorching sun up top. We toured the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, which was totally amazing. We ate pasta and pizza and drank many cappacinos late in the evening. And talked.
The only unfortunately note is that I left my little Sony camera on the plane and just learned this morning that it hasn't been turned in, so half of my photos are gone. I don't know, maybe it will show up... I can always hope. When people do bad things, like not turn in lost property, do you ever wish bad things for them? I do. Don't they believe in karma?
The meetings went very well and we were treated like royalty. Every evening the dinner was spectacular, only to be exceeded by the next night's event. The ballroom of the Westin Excelsior was transformed with tromp loeil to Italian street scenes and a buffet that included a pig's head. I want to remember how sweet the canteloupe was in Italy. Monday night we had dinner at Piazza next door, Borghese at this restaurant. It was a fantastic evening, but unfortunately, very warm (while wearing elegant cocktail wear). And the final evening, topped it all when we had opera singers serenade us after a 7 course meal at the hotel. Unforgettable. I had never been in the room with an opera singer. They reach right in and touch your heart.
So anyway, Rome was interesting and hot and the food was very expensive. $7.50 for a Coke Light. But it was also amazing and fun and hot and I would go back, ... only during winter. I would have liked to go to Florence on the train, but you have to leave things to do for the next trip.
On Saturday we flew back through London (we flew British Airways) and Harriet stayed in London with her brother and I went on to Amsterdam and then Rotterdam by train. The weather was so nice and cool in Holland. I stayed twice at the Renaissance Hotel in Amsterdam and just loved it. BA delayed a bag so I had to wait around Sunday morning for it and the hotel staff was very helpful. I got a crappy iphone photo of the central train station in Amsterdam, which is an amazing site to see - bicycles in all directions. thousands of bicycles. everywhere. It is so cool how people of all ages use this mode of transportation.
Sunday I spent the afternoon with a colleague in den Hague (see, I can speak Dutch!) at Madurodam, which is a park with miniature replications of the various sights of Netherlands. With the economy, many folks are staying close to home so it was busy and the weather was sunny and cool. We then headed to the beach and had dinner, which was v. nice. Monday and Tuesday were meetings, which went very well. My Dutch colleagues are really good people and I am enjoying working with them more and more. Monday night I had an amazing dinner at the restaurant at Euromast, which is a needle that goes high above Rotterdam. The food was excellent and the views are expansive with a great look at the various canals of Rotterdam. It is within walking distance of our office with a gorgeous park next door. We had lunch both days at a restaurant in the park.
On Tuesday afternoon, I left to visit the northern part of Netherlands, the home of a colleague in the small village of Driehuis, which is just amazing. It is so green and peaceful and tranquil. I fell in love with it. It is near Ijmond and Velsen, which I visited earlier this decade when I worked for Reliant and we operated the power plant there. So funny how life evolves. Did I think that 10 years later I would be standing on the banks of that canal? Anyhoo, it is a magical town and I will have to go back and visit. We had a wonderful dinner overlooking a bluff, outside and by the last night of my trip, I was so done with food. Imagine that.
I'm over the jet lag and happy to be home, this weekend. It was a great trip and I have great memories and a few pictures.