Getting to Know Your Board
Manny Schrager, email@example.com
Serendipity: “It's a bizarre but wonderful feeling, to arrive dead center of a target you didn't even know you were aiming for.” Lois McMaster Bujold
The life of a marketing researcher can be highly structured. Contracts, screeners, discussion guides, reports…all need to be carefully crafted for optimum results. So when it’s “time off,” Andrea and I often find it very refreshing and adventurous to turn off the planning mode and just go. As a result, some of our favorite memories were totally unplanned — pure serendipity. (By the way, I have no idea who Lois McMaster Bujold is — but love the quote.)
Now, serendipity can take some planning. But there are times when we will travel with no reservations at all. We do, however, try to plan out a route that will take us to key places that we’d like to visit, make reservations at a few top restaurants that you can’t get into at the last minute, rent a car so you can pull into that little village that you’d like to explore, and always try to wind up at local festivals (so much better when wine tasting is involved). One important rule, when travel is involved, is to aim for the off season, where the weather is still good but the big crowds are at work or school. So if Europe is the destination, May or September/October can be the best times to be there.
A few of my favorite memories:
Milan in mid-September. We were meeting up with my college fraternity brothers and our spouses the following day near the town of Asti. So we had a free day in Milan. We were spending the night with the mother of one of Andrea’s grad school friends. We arrived at her beautiful home in Milan just around lunch time. She would not hear of us going out to lunch and produced an amazing risotto dish (the rice coming from one of the special purveyors — she made us bring back bags for ourselves and her son), a salad and, of course, wine. Lunch was on her patio, sitting under her grape vines. After lunch, we headed for the beautiful Duomo in the center of town. While visiting, we could see that they were setting up for a concert. We went over to the person who seemed to be supervising the set up and asked what was going to take place. He said it was a free jazz concert with Antonella Ruggiero and her band. (Check it out on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FYFf05JRlM) He also told us that all the tickets had been given out long ago. Andrea asked if there was any way we could get in. He thought for a moment and said to meet him at the entrance before the concert and he would try to get us seats. He did not disappoint and we enjoyed one of the most amazing concerts ever. Antonella is a fantastic talent and the band played with a real joy, including a rockin’ accordion like I’d never heard before.
Douro Valley, Portugal in late October. We visited Portugal for two weeks, with no reservations whatsoever. There were so many wonderful events in that trip that it would take up way more space than I have here. Ask me about it sometime! We made our way to the Douro Valley driving up from Lisbon. Before leaving the US, we asked one of our oenophile friends for recommendations on wineries to visit. When we arrived at our hotel, we asked the concierge if she could arrange some visits from us. She looked at the list and asked us to wait a moment as she wanted to check with one of her colleagues, who turned out to be the hotel marketing manager and an owner of Quinta Vale D. Maria, one of the wineries on our list. She asked us if we would like to take a tour of her winery the following day, as they would be hosting a Danish wine and food writer. And, of course, she asked if we could also stay for lunch. What a fantastic day it was. We got there early and saw that workers were harvesting olives near the entrance, using long bamboo poles to knock them off the trees. They asked Andrea if she’d like to try. She was terrific and so were the pictures. Perhaps that will be her next profession, after moderating.
We then got a tour of the vineyard and winery, tasting many (30 or so) incredible wines and ports. I have to admit that I can never be a professional wine taster because when I taste wines that are so good, I can’t bear to spit them out.
Lunch followed with a traditional dish of a tomato/bread casserole and veal, and several more bottles of one of their top table wines, “CV”. I can still taste it all.
One more, crashing a wedding in Cambodia. We broke one of our rules when visiting SE Asia and did not rent a car but used guides. We were traveling with friends and were heading to a banyan tree forest with many waterfalls. On the way out, we noticed that people were setting up for a party. On the way back, the party was in full swing. We asked our guide to pull over so we could take some pictures. Next thing we knew, members of the bridal party came over and motioned that we should join then. We ate the marvelous dishes they offered, drank beers (one of the women at our table opened the bottles with her teeth) and danced what seemed to be Cambodian versions of the hora. And perhaps best of all, we took pictures with the beautiful wedding couple who were dressed in all white.
So for your next vacation, or even your next four-hour road trip, break out of the structure and just see where the road takes you. You never know what lasting memory is just around the corner.
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