Arrived last night home from Rome (hey, that rhymes!). Didn't have time or access to blog and thought maybe I could live without it for a few days. Hope you didn't mind. It was such a whirling dervish of a trip, I only managed to bring the children the chocolate left over from my pillows in the hotel.
The trip to Rome itself was uneventful. Amazingly, I breezed through the checkout, had a Cesear salad and a glass of wine and boarded the plane. My seat was in the very last row and very cramped. When will British Airways sort out their leg and arm room? The lady next to me and I kept bumping each other. I was reunited with my luggage and caught a taxi into the city.
Taking taxis in Rome is always a bit of a death wish. The drivers seem to be bit like polo ponies. They have only two speeds. Stop on a dime in 2 seconds flat and go hell bent for leather. I had landed right at the peak of rush hour traffic so the journey was long and tedious. But driving through Rome is a mini architectural history lesson. On your right are some ruins, on your left the Coliseum. The sheer antiquity of the city is breath taking.Or it could have been that the man driving the scooter whilst talking on a mobile phone took my breath away.
The weather was pleasantly warm and the sky was blue. I stayed at the Westin Excelsior which is a spectacular hotel on Via Vittorio Veneto. After unpacking, I walked down the road a bit for my dinner. I was shocked by how many Americans were in Rome, more than in London! The hotel was right next to the American Embassy but that wasn't the reason since it was so late in the evening.
I've always said that you don't go to Rome for the food. If you want the best Italian food go to Florence. This trip did not change my mind and whilst the meals I had were OK they weren't what I call moaning meals: Food so good you can't speak you just moan. I had a meal at La Ninfa. The table was on a terrace and I ordered the chef's specials. The tomatoes in my starter were delicious. Not sure how the Italians do it but the tomatoes are always sweet and crispy. Not until my dessert of lemon sorbet arrived did I start to feel a chill in the air. A short walk back to my hotel and I fell into bed.
Microsoft had invited me to speak at a forum for Utility customers from Europe. The speakers and attendees hailed from all over the world: Saudi Arabia, Germany, Hong Kong, Romania, Spain, Italy, Jordan, UK, USA. I was honoured to have to privilege to learn and share my learnings with these leaders. I was not scheduled to speak until the very last of the second day so on the first day I was able to focus on what everyone else had to say.
At the end of the day's presentations, we met up in the lobby of the hotel for a quick bus tour of Rome on the way to Al Pompiere. We had a 4 course meal and lots of red wine. I enjoyed speaking to both Jon Arnold and Larry Cochrane, both of Microsoft. Wow, these guys are clever, interesting and funny! Not techy geeky bores like I imagined all Microsoft professionals (except sales people).
Back on the bus and we headed off to a private tour of the Galleria Borghese. It was late (after 11 pm) and a bit spooky walking into this private building stuffed to the gills with sculpture by Bernini and paintings by Caravaggio. This art is occasionally loaned out to museums around the world but here I was looking at art that most people only see pictures of in books. What an amazing experience.
We boarded the bus well after midnight for the short journey back to the hotel. I awoke the next morning for an 8 am start not quite feeling like I had a proper night's sleep. In fact I'm sure I didn't sleep. You see, I woke up after a few hours in a wild panic that I had slept straight through my presentation. When I realised it was only 4 am, I tried to get myself back to sleep but one cannot sleep with one eye open staring at a clock.
After a cup of coffee (or several) I settled in trying not to psyche myself out totally. During the morning's presentations I was having a hard time concentrating because my stomach was doing flip flops and I felt like I was going to be sick. I was wired with the microphone and tried to calm my breathing to prevent complete hyperventilation.
I started and felt the voice tremble and raise several octaves. Not good, as my voice already sounds like I'm 10 years old. I needed to lighten the atmosphere more for my sake than anyone else. So, instead of standing at the front lording over everyone, I walked down into between the tables and started pretending like I was just having a conversation with friends and colleagues, people I know and who know me and trust my judgement and expertise. I made a couple jokes. They laughed (at the jokes not me, I hope). And then I relaxed and the presentation just flowed right out of me. The discussion during and following was lively which I believe is a good sign. I made people think and I hope helped them make some decisions about their business.
I'm really passionate about my current role at work. I think what my team and I do is important to our business and important to our customers. I think there is a huge potential to use technology to an even greater advantage. I hope this came across to all the attendees at the conference. I enjoyed presenting in the end and all that worry was for naught.
I had a quick lunch, checked out of the hotel and bundled myself into a taxi for the return trip to the airport. The taxi driver cranked up the radio, rolled down all the windows, smoked a cigarette, talked on the telephone, and drove 80 mph down the motorway wildly gesticulating to whoever he was speaking to. I'm not sure but I think he was driving with his knees. I simply closed my eyes and let the wind blow my hair everywhere.
The plane was an hour late departing from Rome. I knew the Marc and the children were coming to pick me up at the airport and I was worried it would be well past their bed time. I rang Marc on my walk to customs and immigration who reported that Seb had just vomited and was not feeling well. I told him I would hurry as much as one can hurry when getting through immigration and picking up your suitcase.
As I entered the baggage hall, I noticed people were staring in my direction. I turned around to see what they were staring out and couldn't see anything. As I turned back facing front I promptly bumped into the man in front of me as he had stopped walking. I task my disgust and reluctantly apologised only to realise everyone was staring at him. Then it dawned on me. I had just literally run into Jude Law. I mumbled another apology and kicked myself for using up my camera battery taking pictures of the Alps from the plane. I was having visions becoming a member of the paparazzi and selling my pic to The News of the World for £100K. But then I realised, the opportunity had passed me by and I just wanted to hug and kiss my hubby and children. Besides he was short and very skinny. Too skinny. That man got nothing on my husband. I bet my 5 year old son could do a better job fighting off a mugger than the wee stick of a man. Oh my, but his face is the stuff of Greek myth! Especially his eyes!
I refocused on capturing my luggage off the carousel and came out of the hall to the sounds of my children screaming "Mummy" and running across the airport to me. Nothing better than that mate! Ain't no architecture, no art, no food, no applause, and no celebrity that can beat the love of my children so unbridled!
Enjoyed the trip but thrilled to be home!
So, whatcha y'all get up to whilst I was away?
Disclaimer: All these photos were taken whilst either lurching on a bus, taxi, or plane. You're lucky I got anything to show you at all!