My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!

My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!
My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!

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.

In a market in Northern France.

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.

The cost is covered except for personal spending and tips. That means no shopping. Awwww!
The cost is covered except for personal spending and tips. That means no shopping.
Awwww!

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!

Myself at the E-travel Congress. Hustle! Hustle! Hustle!
Myself at the E-travel Congress. Hustle! Hustle! Hustle!

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!)

On the red carpet at the Internationale Filmfestspiele, Berlin or at the International Film Festival, Berlin.
On the red carpet at the Internationale Filmfestspiele, Berlin or at the International Film Festival, Berlin.

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!

The Fine Arts Museum in Cambrai, Nord-Pas-de Calais, in France!
The Fine Arts Museum in Cambrai, Nord-Pas-de Calais, in France!

WHERE IS NORD-PAS de CALAIS OTHERWISE KNOWN AS, NORTHERN FRANCE?

A Flemish farmhouse, in France.
A Flemish farmhouse, in 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:

The Deutsche Bahn train.
The Deutsche Bahn train.

BY TRAIN:

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.

Travelling to Northern France really doesn't take up that much time!
Travelling to Northern France really doesn’t take up that much time!

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…..!

Press Trip!
Press Trip!

On this press trip we will be doing the following:

FRIDAY:

• 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.

SATURDAY:

• 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.

SUNDAY:

• 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.

MONDAY:

• An introduction and tour of Lille
• Lille to Brussels by train
• Brussels to Cologne by train
• End of Press Trip

My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!
My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!

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.

Authentic rustic French food!
Authentic rustic French food!

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.

It's embarrassing. I had no idea who I would be meeting, I just knew that I would be going to France!
It’s embarrassing. I had no idea who I would be meeting, I just knew that I would be going to France!

VERDICT?

A professional crowd who dressed casually, but smart. So the boots and scarf stay!

ANYTHING ELSE?

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!!!

Have you ever seen such a fantastic crème brûlée? So creamy, so delicious, so....!
Have you ever seen such a fantastic crème brûlée? So creamy, so delicious, so….!

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!

Pictures speak louder than words.
Pictures speak louder than words.

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!

It's Me!
It’s Me!

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!

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.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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53 thoughts on “My first press or FAM trip ever to Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France!

  1. Oh, the trip sounds lovely. It’s really not that far like you say. I would consider it as an annex to a Brussels trip, perhaps time it to the flea market day. The food l bet is delicious. Congratulations on the invitation. Onward and Upward!!! Looking forward to reading about the rest of the trip 🙂 .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks kemkem. Indeed, you’re so right. Northern France is only a hop and a skip away and the flea-market would be a very nice idea!
      You said it, the food has been fab! Thanks so much for your warm and kind words. 🙂

      Like

    1. Thank you so much Anna! Honestly, I’ve been really, really lucky as I know it normally takes years to get an invitation, not to talk of a few months! I don’t know about being an overachiever LOL, but I definitely take blogging seriously. That’s all the more reason that I do the job that I said I would do. For many organisations, bloggers are still an alien force and I just know that I have to make a good impression, so that every experience they have with me or others, is a positive one. Moreover, Germany is a new market so you have to be organised and get it together.
      P.S. Praise from a professional media expert such as yourself, is praise indeed. Thanks so much. 🙂

      Like

    1. Thanks so much Jenna. I was really pleased to be invited so I’m looking forward to writing it too LOL! Right now, I’m on a train in Brussels, going to Cologne. It was a great experience and one that I would be happy to do again. 🙂

      Like

      1. I’d be happy to. I went to the ITB Berlin and did my networking and hustling there but there is also a mailing list belonging to the French Tourism Authority that you can join. It’s called AtoutFrance. Let me know how you do. 🙂

        Like

      2. Yeah, me neither LOL! It’s pretty rare to get transport THERE paid for. The normal thing as far as I know is that you pay for yourself and once you get to the allocated location, they take it from there. Nord-Pas de Calais were great and really looked after us. I was so pleased ‘cos this is my first time, so I just went with the flow.

        I guess that if you had a press trip of sort, link it with a journey around France, Belgium, or even the UK. It’s that close. In fact, I hope to go there again myself. Especially in Lille. It really called to me LOL!

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    1. Thanks so much for your lovely kind comments Annie. That’s really sweet of you! I hope that the reason that my readers like my blog is because I say stuff like that. Why not? It’s pretty exciting for us all and your blog is pretty amazing too! 🙂

      Like

  2. I’m so puzzled when it comes to press/FAM trips but right now, I’ve decided that it’s not for me. The main reason why is that I’m very picky when I travel and I often encounter hotels, restaurants etc. that I don’t like. How would you deal with that on a press/FAM trip? You can’t really bite the hand that feeds you? Really curious to hear your thoughts on this:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t answer that question for you Mitzie Mee. Thankfully, the French organisers were very German in their approach (professional, efficient, competent, and very organised) as the press/FAM trip was meant to promote the German market first and formost. I was invited because I live in Berlin, and because a large number of German citizens read my blog! A large number! In that wise, we were sent a whole lot of information from the very beginning! The agenda, the hotels, and a rough idea of where we would be touching. Including names and websites addresses which you could check up yourself beforehand.

      For me, it wasn’t for a lack of information, it was more what would the dynamic be, what kind of people would be there, would I be the only press person, is my German really good enough, would I like it, that sort of thing? In the end, they were great. They were all so warm and welcoming. I was the only British person, and the only blogger, but it was such a small group of people that you could hang out with everyone, so I did. I think organisation is key. The hotels were all 4-star graded and we all ate together, and hung out. We had our own rooms, and our own space on the bus so you could stretch out. We had a 40-seater for 20 people!

      The Northern France Nord-Pas de Calais team treated us like adults so if you wanted to go to a bar later in the evening, you did so. If you felt like wandering off for a little while, you could do that too. I suspect the fact that the age group ranged from 28 – 60, had an awful lot to do with it, so we weren’t treated like children. The participants were also all very professional. Nobody lagged behind, or got lost, or “forgot” the time. When the wake-up call was 05:00. Everyone was in the lobby!

      Of course, this being my first Press/FAM trip means that I have nothing with which to compare, but you can be sure that if I’m lucky enough to be invited again, I know how it should be!
      I hope that was helpful. If I can help you with anything else, be sure to let me know Mitzie. 🙂

      Like

  3. Thanks a lot for the reply:) What I was thinking about was actually how you deal with sponsored events as a writer. Does it influence what you write or how you perceive a place? I did a lot of restaurant “reviews” a year ago, but I stopped doing it, as I didn’t feel I could be true to my readers, as those review situations were all set up to give me the most positive experience the restaurant could come up with i.e. the chef coming out to say hi, the best table in the restaurant and of course everything was for free. As I also write city guides, I felt my opinions and writing got flawed and biased, so I stopped doing it. Through the years, I’ve received offers to go on press trip, but I’ve rejected all of them as I felt it would probably be the same. So just curious about how you deal with it? If you for instance were invited to stay at a hotel, which turned out to be absolutely horrible, would you then write your hones opinion, or would you write something nice to make sure you would get invited again? Sorry for bugging you, but this is something I’m really curious about, as I’m considering changing my mind regarding sponsored trips:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comments Mitzie. I’m not bugged at all. 🙂 I’m sure many bloggers think about this. I thought about this myself! The answer as I know it, depends on you – the blogger. I haven’t done any sponsored events yet, so I have no experience as such. So far, everything on my blog are all the things I like doing, and of which I am proud. And I guess, that’s your answer. As far as I’m concerned nothing goes on my blog unless it’s connected to me in some way. And yes, I do get requests to put advertising or links on my blogs, and so far, there hasn’t been a need for me to do so. Sure, I’ve had complimentary tickets yes, but I asked for them, and I knew perfectly well the events would be fantastic, why else would I want to go LOL! 🙂 🙂

      Remember, I’ve only ever been on a press trip once, and that was only two weeks ago! I was very well looked-after and I’m enormously pleased. I have no idea if that’s the norm but the German-market is very demanding, so I’m going to say yes, that’s the norm! Having said that, if I were on an invited stay at a hotel and it was horrible, I would tell the person who invited me. Politeness demands that they are given a chance to explain, or to change the situation. I personally wouldn’t put it on my blog. My blog is about the things I like and want to do, not about the things I don’t. If I don’t like it, I’m not going to publicise it by writing about it. In September, I was invited for an event. I always do my research, so I checked up on the details and I discovered that it was something that I would never want to go to. I was sent an official invitation, so I politely declined, and then sent a private Email explaining why. I wasn’t expecting to hear from them ever again. They respected my decision. So much so, that they sent a private apology and invited me for something that they felt that I would like. I accepted both.

      The buck ends with you. I know some bloggers blast PR trips and are enormously rude. That’s entirely up to them. I don’t believe in bashing people. You don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to. Just be professional and make sure that whatever you write, stands up to your own integrity. I’m not rude in real life so why would I be rude on my blog. My blog. My rules. Same for you. Your blog. Your rules. ‘Hope that was helpful. As ever, any questions? Do let me know. 🙂

      Like

      1. Once again thank you for your response:) I share your point of view regarding places deserving a second chance (at least to explain themselves), and I only rarely write about bad experiences, unless they’ve been really bad:)
        Most of the press/media trips I’ve been invited to have come with a requirement to write (positively) about the place in question (usually defined as a minimum number of posts or mentions) and that’s what’s been the main issue why I’ve chosen not to go. What if you haven’t anything positive to say? Would you write something nice anyway, knowing that you’ll be dishonest to your readers? I’m quite sure you wouldn’t (it appears from your blog posts that you have a lot of integrity), but I know a lot of bloggers who would. I know you do a lot of research before you accept an invitation. I also did/do, but I’ve more than once experienced that a place, I thought I would love, turned out to be absolutely crap (I had based my research on blog posts from bloggers, who turned out to be willing to write anything in return for a free meal…there are lots of them in Dubai, sad but true).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aah I see! My press trip came with absolutely no strings attached and no requirements. In fact, I’m shocked that this actually happens. It makes me feel how absolutely lucky I was to get such great organisers in the Northern France team.
        I would go with your gut. If you have nothing positive to say, don’t say it. I would never write rubbish on my blog. It’s my blog and I want to be proud of it, and not cringe in the future. Also, you’ll be surprised which people ready your blog. You just never know…!
        When people write tosh, you can see right through it, their “voice” changes and when you read the post, it makes absolutely no sense as it’s bland, and everyone knows it.
        Well, Dubai. It’s a hard one. Go with your gut. If you can’t write about that project, I think it’s OK not to write anything at all, but perhaps find something that you can write about, and that you liked. If it was really horrid, let them know professionally. If they reject your discomfort, perhaps they’re not the team you want to be working for anyway…! I’m lucky that I already have a career that I love and like, so I don’t have to depend on favours. I only do the things I like to do, and walk away from the others that I don’t.
        Feel free to ask as many questions as you like. I initially came to your blog because I saw a BBC article about your food. I like you, and I like the way you write. You have gumption, you’re a professional, and you fly aeroplanes! You’re a smashing lady to know, don’t forget that. 🙂

        Like

      3. I think the problem is that a lot of people in Dubai do not have anything else to do than to blog:) They see the free meals and comped hotel stays as their payment (and in return they write sugar-coated reviews. PRs are very aggressive down here and even though I receive a lot of invitations for events each week, I usually only accept very few of them, as most comes with a “could you please add this and that to your blog”. Sometimes I read other bloggers’ posts about the events in question and recognize the exact wording from the press release, which was sent along:)
        Some of the media trips in the region I’ve been invited to even required you to tweet and post a certain number of pictures with specific hashtags. Silly, right? Sounds like you’ve had a lot more professional experience, this is how PRs should approach us:)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yep! I think you’re right. It’s sad to hear. When there’s boredom, laziness drops in.
        The approach is totally different in Berlin. I can’t say for other countries but certainly, in Germany, professionalism is taken very seriously. By both the client and the blogger. Since sleeping on the streets isn’t the norm here, we survive with our integrity intact.
        Could you think of widening your net and blogging elsewhere or specializing with just a few clients or sectors? You live in Dubai yes, but you also travel a lot and Denmark is still virgin territory as nobody can afford to live there. You’re a Dane, you know everything there is to know and the Nordic nations are “in” right now….!

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      5. As a matter of fact I just removed my “Copenhagen Guide” as I don’t have the time to keep it updated:) I guess I’m just not interested enough in Scandinavia to keep it alive..
        These days I’m focusing more on my guides and less on my blog, but my plans are to write more about being a female pilot. Not a lot of female pilot blogs out there…:)

        Liked by 1 person

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