I am a lucky girl.
I’ve just returned from that most romantic of countries – France – and to a region unfamiliar to travellers and visitors – Nord-Pas de Calais – or otherwise known as, Northern France.
In the last few weeks, I hinted to you that I would be going to France, but since a surprise isn’t a surprise if you know all about it, I kept it vague.
WHAT IS A PRESS OR FAM TRIP?
A PRESS TRIP is normally described as a visit to a destination, country, city, hotel, venue etc, organised for media groups. It usually introduces and presents the best bits of a particular itinerary and is usually for a small group of journalists or bloggers, or an organised private trip. Although a press trip could be for a few hours, it usually refers to a trip of a few days.
A familiarization trip, or FAM TRIP as it is better known, is similar to a press trip however, it usually includes a visit to a number of sights, venues, activities, accommodations, or restaurant spots, in one area or region. It is typically organised for travel industry professionals, to give them a better understanding of the regions and products they are trying to sell to their clients. Lots of different activities are included so that as much as possible can be experienced. Sometimes journalists might attend a FAM TRIP too.
In both instances your costs will usually be covered, though this will vary depending on the organiser. In this case, I made my own way to Cologne which was where our press trip weekend was to start.
This trip I went on is probably more a FAM or familiarization trip rather than a press trip per se, but since there was another journalist in the group, I’m calling it a PRESS TRIP. So there!
HOW DID I GET INVITED?
Well, as a blogger who has been writing for just under a year, I have been extremely lucky to be at the right place, at the right time. In May, I happened to be at the Sony Centre in Berlin where I got chatting to a PR person who promised to put me on the guest list of the Berlin Music Video Awards. She did, and even though, I never saw her again, my pro-active activity coupled with an outgoing personality, and a genuine interest to get involved, opened the door to being invited into the VIP section, a glimpse into the media world, and a whole host of people who had a friendly eye and were willing to help me in my quest for knowledge and information.
A press card and a front seat pass at a fashion show during the Berlin Fashion Week also came about because of the simple matter that I asked, and when I undergo to write a piece, I make a thorough job of it.
Let me be clear, that so far, not a single cent, dollar, or Euro has exchanged hands but for now, experience and a representation of a job well done, is all that matters. I blog because I have a passion for life, and where I live, where I go, and what I do. It’s a lifestyle, travel, expat thing LOL!
As far as I’m concerned, all good things have, and will continue to come my way whether it’s in the form of an invite, an event, or a press trip (you know where to find me LOL!)
Being invited on this press trip.
My first ever press trip, was no different.
In February, I went to the ITB in Berlin. The ITB Berlin stands for the “Internationale Tourismus-Börse” or in English, the “international tourism trade fair” and represents B2B, hotels, tourists boards, tour operators and providers, airlines, transport operators, responsible travel organisers, information technology experts, social media bloggers, and anybody else interested in travel and tourism.
It’s a big deal, as the ITB is the world’s largest international tourism trade fair and is located in my new home-town – Berlin.
If you recall, February was the first time that I had attended the ITB Berlin as a press person and during my networking, I met Claire Beaufromé, a senior professional member of the Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas-de Calais. We had a chat. She gave me her details, I gave her mine. We sent each other a couple of Emails, and that was that, until this summer when she sent me a press trip invite.
I was surprised but enormously pleased. I met her last Friday again and she told me that she remembered me because of my passion and enthusiasm, and thought that I’d be a fun person to have along, and so here I am!
WHERE IS NORD-PAS de CALAIS OTHERWISE KNOWN AS, NORTHERN FRANCE?
Nord-Pas-de Calais is indeed in Northern France. It’s a region located near the North Sea and right next to the Belgian border. Northern France is made up of coastal areas as well as vast countryside, and because of it’s closeness to Belgium is although French, Flemish in style and influence.
WHAT WILL I BE DOING IN NORD-PAS de CALAIS OTHERWISE KNOWN AS, NORTHERN FRANCE?
The point of this press trip is to introduce the region as a cultural place to visit and a short-trip destination for not only France, but Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom! In fact, Northern France is that close that it’s extremely easy to not only fly but to travel by train, car, and by bus.
A flight from either the UK or Germany is about an hour and the other means of transport is as follows:
Amsterdam – Lille: 2.30 hours.
Brussels – Lille: 35 minutes.
Paris – Lille: 1 hour.
London – Lille: 1.20 hours.
Cologne – Lille: 3.15 hours.
Frankfurt – Paris: 3.50 hours.
BY BUS or CAR:
Brussels – Lille: 1 hour.
Paris – Lille: 2.50 hours.
Cologne – Lille: 3.5 hours.
Frankfurt – Lille: 5 hours.
This press trip is a long weekend starting from Friday evening and finishing late on Monday afternoon. I don’t have any information as to who is going to be there and what type of industry people will be attending. What I do know is that most of them will be German and French and even though I’m pretty fluent in German, working alongside “real” native-speakers sometimes makes me a little anxious that I’m going to make grammatical mistakes, that I’m going to be shy, or that I’m going to be completely out of my depth and thus, comfort zone.
Yes, I know. Silly isn’t it, but there you have it!
As I said earlier, our meeting point was Cologne so as soon as I had confirmation of the dates, I booked a train with Deutsche Bahn (they’re simply the best) and got a return fare of €65.00 of what is effectively a 6 hour train journey, which turned into a 7.5 hour train journey (OK, not always the best), but that’s another story…..!
On this press trip we will be doing the following:
• Network and Introduction
• Presentation of the region
• A Workshop about what we’re going to be doing and where we’re going.
• Dinner at the hotel
• Overnight at the Best Western Premier Hotel Park Consul in Cologne.
• Early morning departure
• A visit to the Nausicaa (a sort of Seaworld) or Centre National de la Mer
• Lunch in Boulogne-sur-Mer
• A tour and introduction to Béthune
• A brief tour and introduction to Arras
• Dinner in Arras at “Amarine” Restaurant
• Overnight at the Mercure Atria Arras Centre in Arras.
• An introduction and tour of the Battle of Arras First World War memorial
• An introduction and tour of the Louvre-Lens
• Lunch in Lens at “Le Pain de La Bouche”
• An introduction and tour of Cambrai
• An introduction and tour of the Matisse Museum
• Dinner in Lille at the “Basilic Café”
• Overnight at the Hotel Novotel in Lille.
• An introduction and tour of Lille
• Lille to Brussels by train
• Brussels to Cologne by train
• End of Press Trip
HOW HAS IT BEEN SO FAR?
It’s been tiring but marvellous!
As I write this, it’s Saturday night (sigh!), and so much has happened.
Due to technical troubles, I had to abandon my Deutsche Bahn train and got to the arrival hotel with only 20 minutes to spare!
The staff of the Best Western Premier Hotel Park Consul in Cologne were warm and welcoming and I hoped that I would have my own room as I was hot, tired, sweaty, and not yet ready for small talk.
Yes! I had a double room, and yes, it was all to myself. Phew!
The get-to-gether would start in 20 minutes so I just had enough time to drop my stuff (you should have seen the state of the room after I’d finished with it), freshen up, and change into my “work clothes.” This being Germany, this meant a suit. “French Connection” if you must know!
I was welcomed by Claire Beaufromé who worked for the Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas de Calais or the Regional Tourism Authority, and that helped to calm my nerves. In fact, all the tourism people were lovely, friendly, and funny. We didn’t only talk about the region, but their work, my work, France, Germany, and the UK. It was really nice.
Oh yes, slices of French flan and French beer were also given out for us to “taste” whilst we got onto the business at hand.
After the refreshments, there was an official workshop, presentation, and video of what the weekend was all about, and what we would be doing or seeing.
There were roughly 20 people who were mainly French or German and myself as the sole British person. 50% were French and 50% were Germans who either lived in France, worked with groups and organisations, B2B, travel agencies, promoters, social media advertisers, one journalist and myself (the blogger)!
Being that this was my first (1st) such trip, and I had no idea who I would be meeting, when, and how, I’d packed for every eventually.
A professional crowd who dressed casually, but smart. So the boots and scarf stay!
Yep! Our job this weekend was to visit and see the region for ourselves and hopefully, discover the many interests and joys of Nord-Pas de Calais or Northern France, so that other travellers and visitors are encouraged to come and visit themselves.
WERE WE OVERWHELMED BY CRUSTY FRENCH BREAD AND FRENCH RHUBARB BEER?
Find out next week!!!
WHAT IF NORTHERN FRANCE ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?
Don’t make your mind up yet.
Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!
This article is not sponsored and even though I was invited on this trip as a guest of Atout France Deutschland, Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas de Calais, and Hotels Indépendents Francais, all opinions and the tasty French nosh and booze that I’ll take pleasure in indulging, are my very own!
I have so much to share with you so I will be returning to our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar, in November.
Next week, I will tell you what really happens on a press trip and also about the Boulogne, Béthune, Arras, Lens, Cambrai, and Lille, regions of Northern France. Oui! Merci!
In October, I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:
Skylight on: 30.10.14.
Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.
Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.
I’ll be participating in An Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour on 18.10.14. ‘So exciting. Yum!
DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.
In October & November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.
October is going to be out of this world!
Have you ever been to Northern France? Do you know that the largest flea market in Europe actually takes place in Arras, Northern France? Is rhubarb beer the type of beer that you would consider having on a daily basis?
See you in Berlin.
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