October 28th, 2013 by Sally Pinnock
Now back in the dreary UK, it’s hard to believe that we have just spent just over two days in 30 degrees plus!!
It amazed us all that not only is the flight just three hours from the UK but the transfer time to most of the hotels in Marrakech is about 10 minutes.
Our first evening took us to enjoy drinks at one of the oldest hotels in Marrakech. A location frequented by connoisseurs and celebrities able to relax in an atmosphere that combines history with enchantment and luxury. Even Winston Churchill considered the hotel and Marrakech to be the most unforgettable place on earth. The hotel was a temporary home to Churchill five times, including a 1943 visit he made with President Roosevelt after a conference in Casablanca. Alfred Hitchcock shot scenes from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” in the hotel’s lobby. Dinner followed at a contrasting restaurant that offered an uber cool space where indoor meets outdoor and serves as a unique space for any event. The contemporary menu and fine wine went down a treat.
Day two was action day, an entourage of 4x4’s snaked their way into the Atlas Mountains, home to the Berber population. The Atlas range separates the Mediterranean and Atlantic Coastlines from the Sahara Desert and provides an idyllic location for one of Marrakech’s top boutique hotels which is nestled into its foothills. Not only did we sip traditional mint tea over the looking the mountains during our visit, but enjoyed the sheer luxury the Kasbah had to offer. The icing on the cake is that the Kasbah actively approached the leaders of the local communities to offer villagers the opportunity to work at the Kasbah. Most had never worked in a hotel before, let alone spoke English, however they now proudly employ and train the local villagers in all aspects of hotel operations and English and employ 120 staff together with an extended family of 4 mules, 3 donkeys and 2 camels!
The 4x4 experience continued through the Atlas Mountains and at some points looking at the drop down over the cliff side was quite something and left us wandering how the Berbers manage to live in this remote environment. A traditional Berber lunch was enjoyed. The scene was set as we were seated under a Bedouin style tent by the Lalla Takerkoust Lake.
The second half of the action packed day was split into two – Was it to be an afternoon of bartering at the Souks and an eye opening tour of the Jemaa El Fna Square with its snake charmers and mobile dentists…or a chilled spa treatment at a Country Club? As it turned out, it was more of an eye opening experience at the Country Club… the local spa treatment of a Hammam turned out not to be for the prudish or faint hearted…I feel that the spa posse now know each other rather well! For the Souk posse, it appeared that immense reserve was exercised not to be cajoled into buying hundreds of pairs of leather Moroccan slippers and thousands of spices for all the Tagines that were to be cooked upon return. Yes, hands up….a tagine or two was purchased!
The evening led us to the contrast of modern versus traditional which Marrakech is so good at. Pre-dinner cocktails were taken on a hotel roof terrace where a 360 degree view of Marrakech could be enjoyed. It combined sophistication with timeless design and effortless chic. Transfer to the dinner venue, a beautiful ornate Palace was of a traditional style, the good old horse and cart, locally know as a Caleche. An interesting experience not hampered at all by crazy drivers and motorbikes transporting families ranging from three to eight persons per bike!! By comparison the serene yet ambient dinner location, a traditional Palace was the perfect tonic. An impressive four course dinner was accompanied by the traditional musicians.
Our third and final day took us on a whirlwind tour of four hotels that ranged from traditional to modern, to Zen to golf. The hotel and venues in Marrakech offer top of the range facilities for a conference or incentive and you can go as modern and eclectic as you want to as traditional and regal as you want. There is something for everyone.
My recommendation: Marrakech has got so much to offer throughout the year. It is also great value for money, short flight and transfer times from UK and becoming more accessible worldwide. I would say if you’re looking for contrast and diversity, Marrakech is your destination.
Click here to view some of our holiday snaps!
August 7th, 2013 by Amanda Turner
The Olympic Games was one of the largest and most complex events the world has ever seen and definitely one of the proudest moments for Great Britain.
A year on from the festivities of this great event we thought it would be a good idea to take this opportunity to look back and reflect on what we all managed to achieve as a country!
As event gurus’ even all of us here at Penguins are amazed by the following logistical challenges the London 2012 team had to face:
- 26 sports, featuring 39 disciplines, were contested during the Games across 34 venues
- The Olympic Park, which held nine venues, was 2.5sq km in size – equivalent to 357 football pitches
- 8.8 million tickets were available for the London 2012 Olympic Games
- About 10,500 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees took part in the Games, with 302 medal events being held
- Over 21,000 accredited media communicated the Games to a potential worldwide audience of 4 billion people
- There were also 2,961 technical officials and 5,770 team officials
- A total workforce of around 200,000 people, including more than 6,000 staffs, 70,000 volunteers and 100,000 contractors, were involved in the Games
- LOCOG had sourced over one million pieces of sport equipment for the Games, including 510 adjustable hurdles for athletics, 600 basket balls, 2,700 foot balls and 356 pairs of boxing gloves
- During the Games, 20 million spectator journeys were made in London, including three million on the busiest day of the Games
- Approximately 14 million meals were served at the Games, including 45,000 per day in the Olympic Village
Here is a short video to fill you all with nostalgia and pride…Enjoy!
July 2nd, 2013 by Mark Buist
Well I just can’t believe that these educational trips just get better and better, but they do. Being involved in events you’ll all appreciate that every event is different and this certainly proves the point with our latest “EDU” trip to Malaga in Spain. For me Spain offers the perfect destination for conferences and incentives. It has it all. The sun, the history, the culture and all the modern and contemporary facilities that we require in staging today’s events. November was Barcelona and therefore June was Malaga.
A big “shout out” must go to our friends at Barcelo Hotels who very kindly hosted this trip and looked after ten of our clients, plus our ever fantastic partners at Ole Special Events.
Our first port of call was the Hotel Barcelo Malaga which is a modern hotel that boasts all the latest facilities that we all expect of a vibrant city hotel, plus it has a slide from the first floor into the reception! I was just disappointed that there wasn’t one on every floor!!
We had a private tour of historic Malaga. I had no idea that Malaga was the birth place of Picasso. So after seeing some of the beautiful sites of this city we then all enjoyed a private visit the Picasso Museum.
As with all of these trips it is essential to stay refreshed and so we called into Bodegas El Pimpi to taste the fabulous sweet wine of the region. Good start. Later on we found ourselves on the beautifully regenerated waterfront for dinner at the Kaleido restaurant owned by Antonio Banderas. Not a cat in sight! After a beautiful dinner, if overlooking the sea was not enough we set sail on it in a stunning catamaran - perfect for an incentive… this was all within a few hours of arriving in Malaga!
Day two and after breakfast at the Hotel Barcelo we headed inland to learn about one of Spains biggest exports, Olive Oil. We visited the Hojiblanca Olive Oil Cooperative, a short distance from Antequera. This cooperative of 55,000 farming families produces no less than 15% of the world’s olive oil whilst Spain produces 80% of the world’s supply. Incredible! After visiting one of the vast oil groves where the questions just kept coming, we had to sample a variety of olive oils.
Of course all this tasting and talk of food soon left us hungry so it was off to our next culinary delight. Lunch at Antequera’s Bull Ring! Now admittedly a bull ring would not be my first choice for lunch but in hindsight this is Spain and you don’t get much more Spanish than this. A very interesting way to entertain a group, an aperitif in the bull ring followed by lunch.
Our next stop and our hosts for our second night was the stunningly beautiful Barcelo La Bobadilla set amidst 750 acres of olive groves and rolling hills. This five star oasis is quite simply magical. It did not disappoint and how could it when those that have stayed here have come from the highest echelons of society and royalty. Despite all this grandeur, upon arrival there is nothing quite like getting stuck into learning how to make your very own Gazpacho in the hotels kitchen before being given a guided tour of the this quintessentially Spanish villa hotel.
With an hour or two before dinner in La Finca, one of the hotels gastronomique restaurants, there was plenty to see and do. If you don’t fancy a dip in the enormous landscaped outdoor pool then why not visit the spa or hire out one of their quad bikes or even take a trek out on one of their Andalucían horses.
La Finca, with its views over the Sierra Navada Mountains provided not only the perfect sunset but also some of the nicest food and wine I have had in a long time. Everyone was in fine spirits and I for one, if only I hadn’t opened my mouth about going for a run in the morning, could have stayed up all night. A very special place with very special people. A great end to day two.
After a delicious breakfast at La Bobadilla hotel and a very reluctant departure, next hotel stop was Barcelo Marbella but not before visiting the mountain village of Mijas, a white wash village overlooking the Mediterranean. After a very pleasant guided tour of the village it was time for a visit to Mijas Wine Museum. Clearly there is a theme running through our program that you might have spotted!!
Finally on to Barcelos hotel in Marbella. A versatile property with plenty of space and potential as an out of season conference centre. The hotel had laid on a fantastic pool party with food, massages, a Spanish guitarist and a Flamenco lesson. You can’t say fairer than that can you?
And then sadly it’s back to reality with a bump. The weather throughout was perfect, and like most of Europe this year Spain too has experienced its fair share of inclement weather but at the end of the day the sun is much more likely to shine there than here in the UK.
My recommendation: Spain has got so much to offer throughout the year. It is also great value for money, has great airports with connections throughout the year and the people are just so helpful. With our strong contacts in Spain you have got to consider not just Malaga but the whole of Spain for your events. You’d be mad not to.