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Springtime in Paris

C&I Traveller heads to the French capital for an update on Paris’ C&I offer.

Day one:

There’s something about Paris in springtime. Especially when you’re being seamlessly escorted round the city by the Paris Convention Bureau and DMC Allied PRA France. Our Parisian friends may have been suffering from the same Narnia-like extended winter as the UK, but the city’s C&I offer continues to shine.

Against a backdrop of cloudy skies, C&I Traveller was given exclusive tours of some fabulous event spaces, such as Les Pavillons de Bercy and the sparkling Baccarat Gallery Museum. The funfair-themed cheer of the former, and Philippe Starck-designed glamour of the latter certainly helped to cheer up the rainy afternoon.

A tour of Les Yachts De Paris’ fleet had us dreaming of a luxurious cocktail cruise along the Seine, before it was time to explore the new developments taking place at the fabulously located Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel – why stroll the short distance to the Eiffel Tower when you can enjoy a cocktail and uninterrupted views from its 180 events space.

The day drew to a close at the art deco-style L’Hotel du Collectionneur, with a stay in one of its 473 luxurious rooms.

Day two:

After breakfast in the hotel’s swanky Executive Lounge, we were met by the Paris Convention Bureau to meet with suppliers offering C&I groups some exclusive experiences around the city. The meetings took place at Kadrance, where we took a tour of its stylish private event spaces, before heading on to meet Rêvez d’Ailleurs, a collection of event spaces including Le Club, a beautifully restored building overlooking the National Assembly, offering event spaces including the 100-capacity Le Salon.

Next stop is one of Paris’ iconic hotels, Intercontinental Paris Le Grand, for a lunch meeting in style at Café de la Paix, the chance to explore the historic building’s richly decorated event spaces, and a spot of pampering in the I-Spa.

A couple more meetings later, and we retreat to Castille Paris, a boutique gem in one of C&I Traveller’s favourite parts of the city, near Place de la Madeleine and Place de l’Opéra. Dinner in the hotel’s L’Assaggio restaurant provides a gourmet end to the day, perfectly setting us up for a weekend of exploring the attractions within walking distance of the hotel.

Divine oriental bites and event options at Naga, Kensington

For businesses that boast a W8 postcode – or those seeking to bask in its upscale surroundings – Naga, still a relatively undiscovered gem located just off High Street Kensington, is a grand choice.

Enthusiasm and attention to detail is the restaurant-cum-event space’s forte, with staff eager to guide you through the labyrinthine menu of South-east Asian cuisine – all of which is available to order into the venue’s private meeting room, which has capacity for 14 delegates. For those interested in larger scale events, the venue can be hired in its entirety, with events benefiting from use of a mezzanine area.

Dishes are typically well seasoned, not too salty and fresh tasting with a spiciness that is satisfyingly intense without lingering. The king prawns with coconut, the honey glazed spare ribs and the beef fillet with pak choi all delighted. Meanwhile, the black cod was cooked with sterling competency.

The restaurant opened late last year, but already exudes a confidence and atmosphere that belies its age thanks to owner Eddy Lim’s 30-years of experience. Lights are tastefully dimmed, with bold red furnishings, foliage and oriental prints creating a sleek, elegant look which is highly conducive to the drinking the venue’s ample selection of wines – not that I need much encouragement. Cocktails meanwhile are lovingly prepared by one of London’s top mixologists, Tri Van Dang.

Naga gets a firm C&IT nod.


Website: http://www.nagarestaurants.co.uk/about.html

Five-star hospitality at Kempinski’s new Vienna property

C&I Traveller was invited to the Kempinski Palais Hansen Vienna for the hotel’s Grand Opening Gala in March 2013.

I am met at Vienna airport by the hotel’s chauffeur and after a 20-minute drive and brief tour of the city by my very informative driver, we arrive at the luxury five-star hotel just in time for the opening ceremony.

Being able to speak some German, I talk with some of the 700-plus attendees at the glamorous event, including the chief executive of an oil company who intends to use the hotel for some of his employees, and the director of local events company, Party-Verleih Frankl, who was “extremely impressed” with the hotel.

After enjoying a spectacular market-style breakfast the following morning in the Die Küche restaurant, I am treated to a 60-minute full-body massage in the luxurious Kempinski The Spa, before a sneak preview of the hotel’s conference facilities.

Then it’s check-out time and a short drive back to the airport for my return flight home.

Greek dancing, five-star luxury and sea views in Athens

C&IT Traveller waved farewell to winter and hello to spring with a trip to Athens this month. Organised by GT Associates and DMC The Event Makers, I joined event planners including Toucan International Events, Brown Venues and Events, Clockwise Events and Grass Roots to explore the Greek capital’s C&I offer.

Day One

We meet at Heathrow airport before boarding our flight with Aegean Airlines, which will take us to Athens.

After a pleasant, though humid, four-hour flight, we are greeted by local DMC Event Makers who will be our guides during the four-day trip.

A short drive later we arrive at our stunning five-star luxury accommodation, the Grande Bretagne Hotel.

Day Two

After breakfast, we take part in a fun city tour before a visit to the impressive New Acropolis Museum to learn more about Athens’ ancient history.

Our evening activities include a visit and cocktails at the Vorres Private Museum, 30 minutes outside the city, followed by dinner at the Byzantine Estate, featuring traditional greek dancing.

Day Three

We start the day with breakfast at the Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel, before taking a 30-minute trip to the coast. We have coffee at The Island, a beautiful, multi-option venue with stunning views of the Aegean Sea.

In the evening, we take a funicular tram ride to the top of Lycabettus Hill for cocktails at the stylish Orizontes Restaurant, which boasts incredible views over Athens. A particular highlight of the trip was the following dinner at Dionyssos Restaurant, situated close to the Parthenon, which served delicious Greek delicacies.

Day Four

A quick site visit to Zappeion Conference & Exhibition Historial Centre was followed by watching the weekly Change of Guards Ceremony at Constitution Square, which is must-see, before saying farewell to the city and heading back to the airport for the trip home.

Weekend in style at Cafe Royal

Ended the week with a visit to the new Cafe Royal hotel in London – a great way to start the weekend. Entering from the Piccadilly Circus end of Regent Street, where bitter temperatures and light snow did nothing to hinder London’s booming tourist trade, C&I Traveller found something of a haven.

The hotel soft-opened in December, with further rooms opening in phases for a grand launch in April, followed by meeting spaces in June.

If Piccadilly Circus is a whirlwind of glaring, blaring activity, then Cafe Royal is the eye of the storm. From the soothing reception music to the friendly but unobtrusive service, it set a great tone for a relaxing weekend in the city.

After a tour of the property – including a sneak preview of the work-in-progress first-floor meeting rooms – there was just time to relax in my Junior Suite before dinner.  Then, my plus-one and I stop off for a glass of Champagne and an amuse-bouche in the opulent Grill Room, before dinner in the hotel’s brasserie-style restaurant, the Ten Room. The menu includes tasty dishes such as suckling pig stew, and mashed potato – the perfect high-end comfort food for a snowy evening. A quick peek in the bar was in order to round off the night, where we checked out the cocktail menu but sensibly decided against sampling the absinthe cocktails.

We’re treated to a two-course breakfast the next morning, then it’s time to check out, reflecting on the fact that it’s not often one can take a trip to Piccadilly Circus and emerge feeling relaxed and refreshed, but Cafe Royal seems to hit the spot.

Imex America… and Elton John

C&IT heads to the US for the Boston & Chicago fam trip and Imex America with Fairmont, Virgin Atlantic and Allied PRA……

DAY FOUR

The next morning, we meet up with the second of Fairmont’s fam trip groups, whose trip to California included a cable car tour of San Francisco, wine-tasting at Chateau St Jean and St Francis Wineries, and visits to Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa and the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica.

The rest of the trip is a mix of meetings at Imex America 2012, and fam activities to show off some of Vegas’ attractions for groups.

The show has increased by 28% since it launched last year, and buyers are kept busy with up to ten appointments each day. Which means by evening, they’re ready to let off some steam. Highlights included learning about the city’s seedy past at Mob Attraction Las Vegas, dining at Triple George and Joe’s, and drinks at Ghost Bar. Not to mention a trip to Caesars Palace Hotel for the Reg Dwight fans among us to see Elton John’s Million Dollar Piano Concert – a suitably glitzy affair which felt very Vegas indeed.

BUYER FEEDBACK

“It was a good taster to see both Boston and Chicago and experience some of the ground programme possibilities. In Boston, my favourite was the Battery Wharf and I like the idea of been able to transfer a group from the airport to the hotel by boat.
In Chicago, both hotels were great and the endless meeting space make them suitable for very large events. Chicago is a fabulous city to propose for those already having visited New York or wanting a slightly lower key destination but still with a great buzz.
Imex was in a great destination and I love the convenience of having the exhibition within such close proximity to several hotels.
The show was very slick and well organised both in advance and on site.  My only criticism is the allocation of group appointments.  I attended Imex Las Vegas to learn more about the USA, which generally has a lower focus at European trade shows. Thus, being allocated compulsory appointments for Germany, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and South Africa was unfortunate and did not help in delivering my objectives.”
Linda Gillingham, solutions consultant, Grass Roots Eventcom

Buyers’ feedback on Fairmont’s California fam trip:

It was a wonderfully arranged fam. The San Francisco/Sonoma element was especially useful in relation to what I am currently working on for a couple of our clients in 2013/2014.
The guide, DMC and restaurant in San Fran were superb ( I would request Don on my tour bus any day), as was the organisation at Imex upon arrival and departure.
Pia Zeyss, senior account manager, DBMT

It was a fantastic trip and a wonderful, if challenging, itinerary. I enjoyed it all hugely and I discovered a whole raft of hitherto unknown destinations and Imex, which is exactly what I wanted, so objectives were well met.
Penny Nichol, director, MPIE

Day three: Boston, Chicago and Vegas in a day

C&IT heads to the US for the Boston & Chicago fam trip and Imex America with Fairmont, Virgin Atlantic and Allied PRA…

DAY THREE

At 6am we depart for a short flight to Chicago, where we are met by Allied PRA’s John. The transfer into town can take up to two hours in rush hour but thankfully our journey is far shorter and we learn a little about the history of Chicago on the way – including the fact it was completely rebuilt following a fire in the 1800s. First stop is the Chicago Cut Steakhouse for mid-morning coffee and pastries. From here, we head to Swissôtel Chicago, which is connected to other hotels in area connected by a series of underground tunnels, for warm apple cocktails.
We take a tour of the hotel, which includes great views of city and Lake Michigan from the 43rd floor, before walking to the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park for a site tour and lunch.
This is followed by a fabulous Segway tour of Chicago – the perfect way to explore the heart of the city in a couple of hours. Highlights include photogenic views of the skyscrapers against the clear blue sky, and riding past historic buildings such as the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. Time for a quick drink before our second flight to the third city of the day.
We’ve been up around 20 hours but Vegas, lit up like a Christmas bauble, still makes an exciting first impression. The transfer to the Palazzo, where our group will stay during Imex America 2012, is short, and soon we’re checking in.

Day two: Boston’s land and water highlights

C&IT heads to the US for the Boston & Chicago fam trip and Imex America with Fairmont, Virgin Atlantic and Allied PRA…

DAY TWO

We meet for a private breakfast at the hotel before embarking on a Duck Tour, with lively commentary on Boston history from the Jack-Blackesque Bogey. We take in land sights and venues including Mooo steakhouse, King’s Chapel and the Stock Exchange, heading through the historic North End district, Charlestown and Cambridge, before splashing onto the Charles River. The tour ends at the pub which originally inspired TV show Cheers – time for a group photo.
From here, we take a tour of a private home in Beacon Hill, an upmarket and historical area of Boston. Next stop is the Fairmont Battery Wharf, a four-year-old property set in a campus of buildings next to the North End.
Time for lunch and a site inspection before our North End tour. Our guide Michele takes us through the neighbourhood, where the large Italian population makes it a foodie haven, with around 100 eateries in less than one square mile. Highlights include trying delicious macaroons at Maria’s and “genuine” olive oil (who knew olive oil fraud was such a wide spread issue!).
Then back to the hotel for a fabulous spa treatment before we walk back into the North End for dinner at the Four-Diamond-rated Mamma Maria. After a lively meal, where we use our newfound Italian knowledge to order bitter amaro shots, we decide on early nights all round ahead of our 6am departure the next day.

Imex America: upgraded to a great start

C&IT heads to the US for the Boston & Chicago fam trip and Imex America with Fairmont, Virgin Atlantic and Allied PRA…

DAY ONE

Our trip starts in style, when our group meets at Heathrow and learns we’ve been upgraded to Virgin’s Upper Class, kicking off with speedy security and a trip to amazing Heathrow Clubhouse. Here, we order lunch, where only the slightly undersized cutlery betrays the illusion you’re in a smart restaurant, before a 15-min massage and cocktail.
Time flies and too soon we’re on the plane for a seven-hour flight to Boston. The Upper Class cabin is as good as the lounge, and most of us resist napping in favour of enjoying the movies, lunch and afternoon tea and hanging out in the onboard bar. At Boston, we’re welcomed by DMC Allied PRA and it’s a short coach ride to the Fairmont Copley Plaza, next to Boston Public Library.
We check in and take a tour of the opulent hotel, ending in the Presidential Suite for a buffet-style dinner, relaxing as we fight jetlag.

Whirlwind adventures in Tampa

Hurricane Isaac may have blown a few changes across the 2012 Republican National Convention schedule last week, but when C&IT visited a few days before, it was a breeze.

Along with interviewing some of the key figures involved in securing and organising the event, I also got a chance to experience some of Tampa’s C&I highlights firsthand.

As the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee prepared for the expected – more than 50,000 guests, including delegates and elected officials – and the unexpected – weather hiccups, Clint Eastwood’s imaginary chat with Obama – I took advantage of the city’s fine weather to enjoy a host of activities. Canoeing down the Hillsborough River, where we spotted a host of wildlife including alligators swimming just a feet away, was the perfect way to relax the day after a long flight. Not to mention handfeeding giraffes at Busch Gardens, or tucking into an epic steak at Bern’s Steak House. Tampa is packed with great incentive activities and venues – see C&IT’s October feature for more information.

The RNC was expected to be worth between $175m and $200m to the local economy. However, with venues such as the Tampa Bay Times Forum and Tampa Convention Center successfully welcoming thousands of delegates, its legacy will surely be to place Tampa firmly on the global meetings map. C&IT, for one, would be more than happy to return.