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England 2009 & GES Conference, part 2

September 15 2009
Stephanie Selesnick, CEM

Travel Blog, part 2 - Bristol/The Grove/Wiltshire/London

A two and a half hour drive through the still lovely and very green British countryside brought us to The Grove in time for lunch (God forbid we actually miss a meal this trip!). The Grove is a 5-star resort located outside of London about 20 minutes or so from Heathrow, north of London.

Healed a 30-year old family rift and had a fun lunch with more relatives and Jo. (Jo is Mrs. Jo-Anne Kelleway who I’ve had many adventures with through the years - my co-pilot as it were.)

        (left: the Family)

Jo had arrived a few hours earlier from Sydney with a 2.5-hour stopover in Hong Kong. She was a good sport to attend a family lunch after journeying for 24 hours (although to be fair, she did manage to get a nice massage upon arrival at the resort prior to lunch!).

After lunch, the sun was OUT. Not only was it OUT, but the sky was blue, CLOUDLESS and it was warm! Like over 80 degrees warm! After donning swim suits, Jo & I met up in the teeny tiny sunning area just adjacent to the indoor pool…and later jacuzzied with a couple of guys from the UK National Football team (soccer for those in the States). Of course we didn’t know who they were while sharing the Jacuzzi, but they were obviously professional athletes. Ladies, think shorts. No shirt. 8-packs. Pros. Certainly not an unpleasant experience even if they were young…

The following day, we went for a walk along the grounds and golf course - another sunny, gorgeous morning (so glad I brought the sunglasses this trip!)…

       (Mom, Jo, me)

The Grove is decorated with alot of animal art. Only in a weird of zebras, donkeys, farm scenes with miniature plastic animals encased in plexiglass, and ... yellow rubber duckies.

In the meanwhile, Margaret Pederson, good friend and present IAEE Chair joined us - and off we went to the Bricklayer’s Pub. Delicious food. Definitely high end, but suppose one doesn’t win “best pub food” a couple of years running with just a ploughman’s lunch!
       (Mom, Margaret, Jo, me)

The GES Conference was fantastic! 100 CEO’s from all over the world discussing our business as it now stands on a global basis. The pacing was terrific - a couple of different room sets, interactive sessions (with some great new technology) and holograms. The food was plentiful (I’m calling this trip “never missed a meal”), and plenty of time was assigned for networking. The conference ended on a solemn note with a noted Economist, Roger Martin-Fagg giving a prediction of a downturn in November, followed by a pick up in 2010. This is the same man who told a group of organizers in Dubai that a barrel of oil would go under $50 when it was trading at $130 a barrel - and it did.

The Brits and everyone else there were a lot more tolerant of explicatives and sexual innuendo in public speakers and speeches than we are here in the U.S. It was wonderfully refreshing. Sense of Humor. It’s a wonderful thing. You don’t like a joke? Offended? No one cares! Get over it!

Following the end of the GES conference, we all headed out. Our group was originally Steph & Denyse going to Sandy & Jane Angus’ house in Bushton, Wiltshire. Then Jo decided it would be fun to join us since she had a free day before departing back to Hong Kong. Then Margaret decided (along with the rest of us) that it would be fun to delay her return by a day and come with us as well. Somehow Cliff Wallace got into the mix for a ride to Windsor, about 30 minutes from the Grove. It was a bit of a tight squeeze, but thankfully Sandy had brought Jane’s car so the luggage and all 6 of us were able to fit.

Best celebrity sighting: David Beckham playing golf with 3 of his teammates as we were leaving The Grove.

Windsor is beautiful. There’s a castle on the hill and it looks like one of those quaint towns you see in the movies. And the sun was out once again. After bidding Cliff and his cameras adieu, we left Sandy and went for a quick walk around town - best comment of the day must be credited to Jo who exclaimed, “What’s the name of that Canal?” Sandy replied, “The River Thames”.

  (notice the sun!)

We drove through MORE beautiful green idyllic countryside to Sandy & Jane’s house. Along the way we saw a number of small towns - it’s a town if there’s a church. A city if there’s a cathedral. And a village? Not sure but we drove through some of those as well!

We even saw a real crop circle. Really. You read it correctly. The experts don’t know how crop circles are made - no one has ever seen anyone making them - but there are those who believe it’s done by extra-terrestrials, others who think it’s the druids work, and others who just enjoy the patterns and wonder what’s up with the tourists with the purple hair and robes. The last group would be the locals! They even have an annual conference but didn't find an exhibition portion to it...hmmm...can just see it now. Taking this idea - an exhibition for crop circle enthusiasts - to a corporate "incubator" group. Talk about your niche market.

The Angus household is warm and wonderful. They have lots of animals - and had 7-week-old puppies.
       (Sandy, Jane, puppies)

We had one minor meltdown with the luggage - apparently Margaret and Denyse’s carry-ons got mixed up - there was a thought of Cliff having taken the wrong luggage, getting stopped in customs in Hong Kong and trying to explain Denyse’s toiletries and nightwear. Jo solved the puzzle after looking in the unidentified luggage and finding Margaret’s husband, Martin's name and deducing the other suitcase in Margaret’s room was in fact Denyse’s.

We ate a fabulous dinner (lamb) and had the best sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream EVER.

The next day found us eating phenomenal homemade marmalade and croissants for breakfast then heading out to do some sightseeing. Driving down “half track” (one-lane) roads though woods and meadows in the sunshine is awesome. Having to back up to get to the turnout in the road so a big ass tractor can go by? Not so much, but it does get the heart pounding nicely.

Went to a very old village, Lacock that is mostly owned by the UK National Trust  - and people live there! Was fun to walk around. Boy they sure were short in those days if the doors are any indication. Bought some Bath Bombs while there - I guess they are big in Australia & England…hmmmm…new product line for a spa or gift tradeshow (or do I fail at "girly stuff 101" for never having seen them before)?


Followed up our tour with another pub lunch - and said bye to Jo and Margaret. Jane, Denyse & myself took off for Marlborough to do a bit of shopping and then to Avebury. The supermarket in Marlborough is noteworthy for 2 reasons:
1. The selection of food available was amazing (Gelsons on steroids)
2. You scan the items as you place them into bags in your cart. When you check out, simply hand over the scanner then pay. EASY! We’ll see it here in about 10 years…

Avebury. I hugged a rock. Actually hugged two. They did NOT hug me back (now that would have been a great tale!). Long story short - Avebury is over 4500 years old. It is a series of 3 henges (circles of stones) that surround the town of Avebury. Unlike Stonehenge, you can walk amongst the stones (careful of the sheep poop!) and still touch them. One interesting note - the town Church is built outside of the henges. They still can only speculate on why these henges exist - whatever records there may have been at one time were wiped out by the Church’s effort to stamp out paganism during the Dark & Middle Ages - if there were any to begin with!

There are also numerous barrows (burial sites) and Silbury Hill, the largest manmade hill in England nearby, only you aren’t allowed to climb it anymore. (boo! hiss!)

Apparently summer and winter solstices are interesting times around there - and by the looks of the other tourists - that is saying something! Jane had been to see “the rocks” recently and chose to stay in the car and make phone calls while Denyse & I took a walk around the rocks. Only she forgot that cell phones don’t work in the area.Something about ley lines perhaps?

Did I mention it was a full moon while we were there?

The following morning, Mom & I thanked the Angus’s for their incredible hospitality, hugged the puppies good bye (and petted the other doggies too) and took the train to East Croydon, near London. Once we arrived at Paddington Station, took a taxi through London to Victoria Station as we had too much luggage to easily take the Tube (London’s Metro). Even sherpas have their limits you know.

The sun was shining as we drove around Hyde Park, something I had never seen. It’s very pretty in the sun! Made it to East Croydon and went to stay with our very wonderful friends and website designers, Melissa Ooi and Arran Coole from ASP. They have a lovely home and have recently renovated part of the house. They also have a baby blue fridge! ( they also just won a couple of industry awards from IAEE too. YAY!)

   (Melissa & Arran)

After some conversation, more food, wine and naps, we met up with the “S” in ASP, Stefan and his lovely wife Julie at the metro station and went into London to a super cool restaurant called Roast. Arran’s brother David also joined us there. Roast is located quite close to London Bridge in an older part of the city (like there’s a new part?) adjacent to a market & warehouse area.

Dinner was fantastic and hilarious as every time someone would say “Steph”, both of us would say, “Yes?”

       (The gang, Julie)
The next morning came EARLY… Arran kindly got up early and drove me to Heathrow where I wandered around Terminal 1 for awhile - they have tons of shops there. Bought some food to take with me on the plane, having experienced the swill United calls food in Economy on the way out.

Here’s a question - why, as a flight attendant, 5 hours into an 11 hour flight, when most people are SLEEPING, would you wake everyone up to collect garbage? I mean really! And once you were wakened, offered a snack you had to PAY FOR. I tell you, United's International Premium Economy sucks.

We flew in over the fire that had begun 12 days earlier and was still going strong on our way in. The sky was clear (except for the smoke!), the mountains brown and the ocean sparkling. Home (not so) sweet (smelling) home!

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