Palacio del Negralejo – Madrid

Last Month (June), I spent a couple of days in Madrid for work. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to explore very much but on our last night we went to Palacio del Negralejo for a networking dinner. Sadly, a lot of my pictures were deleted but here are a couple and check out Tripadvisor for more.

Snapchat-8788561368842715117
Venue Forecourt
IMG_20160629_204407
Outdoor bar area

 

The venue was gorgeous, an excellent event and wedding venue. It was the epitome of Old Spanish elegance. Lovely scattered buildings, lots of greenery, a beautiful view and great décor. As it was a lovely evening they had us outside with a tapas buffet, Basque cuisine and barbecues. It was a great selection of food, all of which was average to good.

The ambience and entertainment heightened the experience for me. There was constant background music from the moment we arrived with people scattered on the roof tops playing guitars and gently singing.

After a couple of hours the stage lit up and we had flamingo dancers and various bands. It was a lovely evening and I would highly recommend this place for a romantic dinner, corporate event or wedding.

Advertisements

Madrid – NH Collection Madrid Eurobuilding Review

I was invited along to a business trip in Madrid to check out a few hotels and we were booked into the NH Eurobuilding Hotel for 2 nights.

The hotel is roughly a half an hour journey from the airport and has good transport links. It is about a 10 minute car journey into the city centre and it is right next to Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.

From the outside, the hotel looks ok but once you go in it’s very lovely; modern decor, lots of stunning chandeliers and overall it has a lovely clean feel to it.

Snapchat-3478043836880922931

Snapchat-7418956238573591564

Snapchat-9091524286660050967

The rooms are nice, very big and decorated in all whites and chrome, which makes it seem even roomier. Large windows, but unfortunately not a great view of anything due to the location. The bed was very comfortable and the room comes equipped with full tea and coffee facilities and a stocked mini bar.

The bathroom was nice too, spacious with a huge shower. The wardrobe is within the bathroom, which leaves more space in the bedroom which I thought was a nice touch.

IMG_20160628_175550
Bathroom
IMG_20160628_175556
Wardrobe within the 1st section of the bathroom
IMG_20160628_180109
Shower with heated towel rail
IMG_20160628_175809
Desk
IMG_20160628_175625
Bedroom with under bed lighting

IMG_20160628_175612IMG_20160628_175559

As I was there on business I was able to check out the conference facilities which were in keeping with the rest of the hotel; neutral decor, very airy with lots of windows. The only let down was the low ceilings, but I think that’s quite typical of Madrid.

The biggest let down for me was the service. The hotel is large, sleeping 412 maximum, but they didn’t seem prepared to deal with it. We were a large group; around 200 of us, plus the hotel’s other guests meant that it was almost full (if not completely sold out). On my first night, I spent an hour waiting for an iron, which made me late to an appointment. I met up with some colleagues later who told me they had the exact same issue, among others. On my last night, before departing for the airport, we waited 20 minutes to be served a glass of champagne in a nearly empty bar. It was very disappointing.

In addition, either they don’t have enough lifts or the ones they do have are incredibly slow because on average it took me 10 minutes to catch a lift and another 10 to actually get to the lobby from the 13th floor; this was very very frustrating.

~ Where are your favourite places to stay in Madrid? ~

Amsterdam

There’s just something about Amsterdam.

P1010430P1010432

After countless (and I mean countless) trips to Amsterdam I finally decided to take a few snaps of my 2nd favourite place!

The architecture, the vibe. The art. The freedom. I mean taking an early afternoon stroll along the canal and casually seeing a man sitting on the floor sketching the view right next to sex workers in their windows. Open for business.

P1010438
Red Light District during the day

P1010441P1010446

And of course the marijuana (weed, ganja, grass, pot…whatever you want to call it, Amsterdam has it all – mostly -). Their rules are quite different to the UK’s so keep an eye out for the signs. In coffeeshops it is legal to smoke weed, but cigarettes are only allowed in designated areas. It is unusual to see weed and alcohol sold in the same place. You can consume both but often you would have to buy your weed somewhere else and go to a bar or pub to smoke it. There are a few places that do both http://www.hightimes.com/read/4-amsterdam-bars-you-can-drink-smoke-weed.

Coffeeshops are essentially bars but for smoking. There’s such a variety, from multi-storey ones with music and comfortable seating (like my favourite Prix d’Ami) to little nondescript ones such as Voyagers Hotel Coffeeshop opposite Central Station. Most Coffeeshops insist you buy from them (food and drinks) as you don’t have to buy weed from them so they have to make their money somehow!

P1010447

P1010448Snapchat-1218209127727602819Snapchat-8702025772878996735

P1010471
Dam Square

P1010456

P1010465
Main High Road

P1010468

The last time I went to Amsterdam we found a festival (Encore Festival), which was one of the best times I’ve ever had! So we did a bit of research and found out that they have a weekly club night on a Saturday at Melkweg, a 15-minute drive from Dam Square. Highly recommended if you like hip hop, rnb, bashment etc.

 

Snapchat-7475250605991820323
Excuse the poor quality..it was raining!

 

Unfortunately, it’s getting more and more expensive to go to Dam but there are still a few hotel gems if you can find them and of course, AirBnB has many options. One of my favourite places to stay when I go is the STAR Houseboat http://www.myhouseboatamsterdam.com/, great location, friendly hosts and clean, roomy boat.

~ Where are your favourite places to stay in Dam? ~

Kuala Lumpur

Last year I spent 24 hours in KL, Malaysia on a venue finding mission. It was awesome to see Malaysia for the first time, even if it was just a quick trip!

The contrast to Singapore (where I was hosting an event when I was asked to make the quick trip over to KL) is astonishing. Where Singapore is clean, ordered and perfectly put together, KL is unapologetically messy (in the nicest possible way). I loved it and can’t wait to head back over there!

I flew Malaysian Airlines (on the anniversary of the MH370 missing plane saga…eek!) which was lovely and quick! I then took a cab into the city centre where I was staying (Doubletree by Hilton).

Most of my time was spent venue hunting but I managed to steal an hour or two to meet up with a colleague and have a look around! I went to see the Petronas Towers (the tallest twin towers in the world) as well as a few shopping malls and a lovely food market!

IMG_20150305_195619
Arriving into KL
20150306_155056
Petronas Towers
20150305_180320
Doubletree by Hilton pool
2015-03-05
Gridlock

The traffic on the way back was something special! After the trip to the airport I have a new found respect for the UK’s road rules!

 

Berlin in 48 Hours

My first trip of the year and first time in Germany!

Last week (31st Jan) I decided that I was bored and must leave the country! As it was the last day of Jan there were still a couple of deals out, so after a quick scan of Expedia, Lastminute.com and SkyScanner, I booked one night in Mitte, Berlin for my mum and I for £164 each for the following weekend through Expedia. Expedia and Lastminute.com were the exact same price for the same hotel and flight, so I went with Expedia out of preference. Make sure you shop around!

Fast forward to the 6th Feb and we arrived in Berlin at midday. Having never been to Berlin before, I booked the cheapest option and quickly realised that was a mistake. Berlin Schönefeld Airport (SXF) is a good hour away from Mitte (the place to be apparently), whereas Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL) was half an hour away. I’m not sure what the difference is between the two in terms of availability and price of flights, but it’s definitely worth checking out!

Anyway, it was cheap and easy to get to our hotel from the airport (€3 each – compare that to a trip from Gatwick Airport to Oxford Circus and understand how much we’re being ripped off!)

We were booked into the Mercure Berlin City, which was a 20 minute walk from the main area of restaurants, bars, shops and sights. It wasn’t a bad walk though and it was easy enough to jump in a cab or on a tram if we had wished.

The hotel was lovely; clean, great service and excellent transport links! The room was quite small but nothing I wasn’t expecting; perfect for a quick visit.

As we had a very limited time there we filled each moment and saw all of the main sights:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

There is no shortage of bars and restaurants to go to in Berlin, just head to Invalidenstraße and Veteranenstrasse and you’re good to go!

~ Have you been to Berlin? What’s your favourite thing? ~

Paris

If you happen to be in Paris and need to stay by the airport for whatever reason, make sure you check out the cute little village they have. In October I stayed at the Marriot Charles de Gaulle Airport hotel for a conference I was organising (Aero Engines Europe) and I absolutely loved it!

I make it no secret that I am not the biggest fan of Paris, which is purely down to the awful experience I had when I went in April 2014 to see Justin Timberlake in concert. After the hotel drama, terrible concert seats and twisting my ankle on the way to the airport, we decided that we hated the city of love. However, in hindsight Paris is not to blame for any of the things we went through during our trip so I brushed off my prejudice and opened my mind up for enjoying my trip this year.

The Marriot was lovely, with great staff and nice rooms but what really stole the show for me was the cute little Brasserie Le Village restaurant. The village is a small area near the airport with restaurants, shops, apartments and a park, which my colleagues and I decided to take a stroll through one evening after the conference. We found the Brasserie Le Village and fell in love immediately. It’s a pub-esque restaurant with tables and chairs crammed into every nook and cranny! In the summer they open out the front and you can dine overlooking the park!

I decided to try all new things for my meal so I tried the snails, duck with orange sauce and profiteroles, also known as:

 

Escargots façon Bourgogne

 IMG_20151021_210653

Magrets de Canard à l’orange et ses pommes Grenaille

 20151021_212038

Profiteroles au Chocolat ‘Maison

 20151021_221757

The escargots were fabulous! I really didn’t know what to expect and as I absolutely hate insects I expected the worst (lol) but they were so good! Unfortunately the profiteroles weren’t to my taste as they were smothered in dark chocolate but I can see how they would be excellent.

It’s very easy to stick to what I know, especially when I travel with work as the hotels are usually International chains which offer Western meals. My new thing of 2016 will be to make sure I eat a traditional meal in each country I go to.

~ What is your favourite cuisine? ~

Travelling While Black

You don’t have to look at me funny; I do not have Ebola. You don’t have to follow me around your shop; I am not a thief. You don’t have to avoid me; I’m not a prostitute. You don’t have to ask to feel my hair/skin; I’m not an alien.

The frustrating thing is, I know that the majority do not do it on purpose. It’s ignorance, plain and simple. My first time in Hong Kong (in 2014) was my worst travelling experience to date. I was with my colleagues and they would never have known it but I saw all of the sideward glances, I saw the white men in suits regarding me, wondering if I was one of the Nigerian prostitutes that trolled outside of the bar we were in. I noticed the elderly Chinese women scowling as I walked down the street laughing and joking around with my white male colleague.

By the time I went to Istanbul with my manager later that year I was used to it. Plus the kind of attention I received there was different. It was less accusatory and more complimentary. I received countless marriage proposals and many many people asking to touch my hair in awe (to be fair I did have waist length twists at the time so I drew attention from it at home in London). Turkey was even more interesting because I wasn’t the only one drawing attention. The attention my pretty blonde manager got was more or less on the same scale so imagine us together! It was even a little flattering at first. But it soon grows tiresome having to avoid markets and tourist attractions so as not to be harassed.

Singapore was an eye opener. I never know what to expect as I do very little research before travelling, preferring to see and explore it for myself. Plus there’s no website or app that measure’s countries’ tolerance on a scale so it’s pretty much guess-work!

For the most parts Singapore was excellent; I wasn’t harassed, I felt relaxed and at ease. Everyone was very helpful and chivalrous, something I do not experience much of in London. But, and there’s always a but, there was one day I decided (as I often do on these work trips) to venture out alone and just walk, jump on the public transport and explore. I got on the metro (cleanest, most efficient mode of public transport I’ve ever used) and stood within the crowd. Something made me look down and there was a sweet little girl, around 5 or 6 years old, staring at me. Mouth open, eyes wide; this little girl looked like she was seeing a ghost. This shocked me to the core. There’s nothing like a child’s innocence to make you face reality. Yes places like Singapore and Hong Kong are filled with expats but children aren’t necessarily exposed to that. In the week I typically spend in these countries I can count the amount of ‘ethnic’ people I see on one hand; and that’s typically at the airport, in bars or the hotel I’m staying in. When would a child be exposed to expats or visitors? Maybe at a shopping mall, perhaps a restaurant, but that’s about it.

There has recently been an influx of blogs and Instagram pages dedicated to travel. Everyone encourages us to hit the open road, see the world, explore. I wish it were that easy for everyone. I am privileged to have been able to travel to 17 countries multiple times, mostly within the past two years. For someone from my financial and social background it is not typical because let’s face it, who can afford it? But thanks to my job I have been able to. Finances aside it’s still not as easy as it sounds. As a woman I am already nervous to travel alone, add my race into the mix and I have actively avoided going to certain parts of the world and probably always will. It’s sad that something so liberating and inspirational isn’t as liberating for everyone. I couldn’t imagine wandering around Russia alone taking pictures of the beautiful buildings and speaking to new and interesting people, but I would absolutely love to.

Conference – Abu Dhabi 2015

One of my first solo International conferences was in Abu Dhabi in April 2015. It was my first time in the Middle East and it was fabulous! I loved Abu Dhabi!

During these trips abroad to organise these conferences I don’t have a lot of time to explore, as any event organiser can attest, these trips are usually filled with early mornings organising and late nights networking with a couple of hours reserved for sleep and perhaps a meal if you’re lucky! But I always try to have at least a day (usually the day before it all kicks off) to see where I am and appreciate my new surroundings. With this trip we visited the Heritage Village, had a walk around in the sweltering heat and I spent an afternoon at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

11196363_10155500873820442_3168898215077278819_n
Etihad Towers
11193283_10155501404490442_702072305419192380_n
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque 2
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Heritage Village Abu Dhabi
Heritage Village
10422498_10155483736215442_7958687228816026232_n
Heritage Village
AEM Middle East - Abu Dhabi
AEM Middle East Conference
11174993_10155491744775442_3597556070098804365_n
AEM Middle East Conference

 

 

The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is by far the most beautiful mosque I’ve ever seen. No offence to the other mosques, I really haven’t seen many (that may be a future project for me to consider) but nonetheless; stunning. Absolutely stunning. I unfortunately didn’t get to have a tour where I would have learnt the history of all the intricate details I spent hours admiring but I did pick up one lesson: The 5,700 square meters of hand-knotted carpet in the main prayer rooms is one huge piece that was applied in one go. Crazy!

We also attempted to visit the Emirates Palace but I was in a strappy top and my colleague in shorts, so that visit was cut remarkably short haha!

The event took place at the lovely Intercontinental which has restaurants, bars, a private beach, pool, gym etc so we really did not need to leave the hotel much.

The Event

Although this was one of the best International events I’ve organised, it was also one of the most complicated.

Tip: research, research, research. My saving grace with this event was that my hotel event manager was competent and helpful. Without her I would have been royally screwed! There are all kinds of hoops to jump through in order to organise an event in Abu Dhabi (and the rest of the UAE I’ve been told), they really do not make it easy for you. Permits were the bane of my life during this time! Not only did we need one for the event itself (which involved collecting passports and forms from all of the speakers, who getting a simple yes/no answer out of is taxing!!) but we also needed many many many things in order to conduct our facility tour of the Etihad hanger (understandably).

Thankfully to the untrained eye the conference went very well with no hitches or delays!

Best friend: Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority Website

 

Conference – Singapore 2015

Singapore is fast becoming my favourite city (state). I’ve organised two conferences there now and both times were fantastic!

I love:

  • The cleanliness – I’m not OCD level but I am a neat freak
  • The mix of culture and mammoth glass towers filled with financial and business analysts
  • The beauty – just look at the picture attached to this post. Bea-u-ti-ful!
  • The island feel
  • The metropolis feel
  • The kindness of the locals

Just many many things really.

Organising an event there has it’s challenges as with any country but mostly I have found it quite easy. The culture of the locals is efficiency and this is very apparent in the hotel business. My favourite hotel so far has been the Pan Pacific (the one near Marina Bay Sands). Check out my TripAdvisor review for the ins and outs!

There is so much to see in Singapore from visiting the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel to getting lost in the beautiful Gardens by the Bay! Just be sure to keep an eye on the exchange rate; it’s very easy to spend a lot more than anticipated!

20150301_132446
The Iconic Marina Bay Sands
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Gardens By The Bay
Gardens By The Bay
20140831_021915
Singapore Changi Airport
20140831_021920
Singapore Changi Airport

IMG_31517546241234620140831_184816

20140831_180731
Gardens by the Bay
20140831_180906
Gardens by the Bay
20140904_214601
Night Safari

20140904_213232

20140831_165424
Merlion
20140831_164821
Marina Bay Sands

20140831_165014

20150304_211623IMG_20150302_213343IMG_315175462412346

20150302_130351
Suntec Fountain of Wealth

IMG_20150302_130302

20150302_171549
Chinese New Year Celebrations
20150302_171601
Chinese New Year Celebrations
20150302_171644
Chinese New Year Celebrations
20150302_171815
Chinese New Year Celebrations
20150302_221217
Long Bar, Raffles Hotel – Singapore Sling

IMG_20150301_201645

IMG_20150302_132020
Haji Lane

IMG_20150302_155443IMG_20150302_154337IMG_20150302_170008

IMG_20150302_155003
Sri Thendayuthapani Temple

IMG_20150302_155610

IMG_20150302_170838
Garden in a building!