One night in Porto

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It is early November and for me working at CPSL this can only mean one thing, a corporate weekend away with my second family. It is one of the highlights of my year and one where I make every effort to ensure my participation.

As a remote worker, being given this opportunity to meet all those with whom I interact with on a daily basis is an amazing gift and one that I am eternally grateful of and can’t thank the senior management of CPSL enough for providing us with it.

So this year the chosen destination of our annual event was Oporto in Portugal. With family members arriving from across the globe our HR manager had one of the most challenging tasks in the company to coordinate everything. To make matters worse, the collapse of Monarch Airlines late in this organisational process threw an extra spanner in the works but she did an amazing job and the resulting event was an absolute credit to her determination and professionalism.

The arrival plan was carried out in stages, I mean we still have a company to run. So people began to arrive on the Friday with the remainder of us landing on Saturday. For me, this meant a very early start, 02.30 to be precise. So having received various messages about the previous journeys on the day before, I sent a WhatsApp message to the group to let them know I was on my way. What I wasn’t aware of was, that unlike me, most people didn’t have their phones on “DO NOT DISTURB” during the hours when they are sleeping and consequently nearly everybody shared my early morning start, albeit they did go back to sleep whereas for me, driving down the motorway with your eyes closed still wasn’t an option (come on Google hurry up with the driverless car will you).

Upon arrival in Oporto, I was greeted by 14-deg and hazy winter sunshine (we call this summer in the UK) and this painted a smile on my face which never left for the duration of my visit and is still there now, as I write this words. The warm greeting was enhanced by the heartfelt warmth of the greeting I received from my colleagues when I arrived at the hotel and despite the early start, a short walk around the city preceding lunch was taken and most thoroughly enjoyed.

The breath-taking beauty of the city is exaggerated by the contrast of buildings of grandeur from previous exuberant wealth to the dilapidation of others which have fallen upon hard times in recent years. Despite this crass side by side historical painting the heart of the city is one where work is key. You can see that all the hard work its residents put into the place is spawning the new roots of wealth, with restoration projects being undertaken in all quarters and this is a very symbolic metaphor to CPSL’s own revitalisation in recent years. As with all global organisations, we have felt the pinch of the financial crash in the last decade but through sheer grit, determination and hard work we are now emerging as one of the strongest LSPs on the market in today’s ever-evolving business world.

So with the backdrop of the location mirroring the company’s ethics and direction, the scene was set for an event of significant importance to take place. Work hard, play hard. A moto of many but rarely executed in the right proportions. Not so with CPSL, the balance of the two on these weekends away is calculated with precision and it started this time around with a welcome glass of dry white port (when in Porto and all that). Personally, I didn’t even know that White Port existed, such is my ignorance of this staple part of my Christmas dinner cooking experience, so to be educated with the first sip of the day in such a pleasant manner ensured that my thirst for knowledge (and port) was wide open. The welcoming aperitifs were followed by a light lunch and then the main event.

The big reveal of the direction CPSL is taking over the next 3 years was magnificent. Gutsy, realistic and, with the help of all our family, very much achievable.

I “LOVED” every minute of the 4 1/2-hours we were together in this company vision and by this time I’d already been awake for 17-hours but such was the energy in the room that I still felt wide awake and raring to go. It was a good job too, with just 1/2-hour to get ready to head out for dinner there was little time to hang about.

The walk to the restaurant took just short of an hour. Guided by a magnificent, near, full-moon the heavens lit up the way to a musical-dining experience that encapsulated and cemented the messages of the day. As with all good things, days like this have to sadly come to a close, for me this was a little early than I would have liked but after 23 hours of being awake, it was certainly the best decision.

Sunday morning came around quite quickly and part two of the corporate weekend lay before us. As with every year, this entailed immersing ourselves in the history and culture of the city we find ourselves within. Oporto has this in spades. Our city guide was a local lady who both grew up and studied in the city. Her passion and admiration for her hometown was oozing out of every pore of her being and enabled us all to absorb the beauty that unfolded around every turn. From Kings and Cathedrals to peasants and derelicts each image told a story and when asked, we were also given the recent history about the shamed St John statue by the waterfront. A boat trip under the bridges whilst basking in glorious mid-day sunshine made for a wonderful interlude before lunch and then on to the final group experience of the day, a winery tour.

Parting is such sweet sorry, it has been said, and this is always so true when these weekends draw to a close but luckily for me, I did have the pleasure of one final night in this magical city, which gave me time to reflect and decide that Porto, I will be back.

Thank you, Oporto, thank you CPSL and thank you to all my second family for sharing this wonderful weekend with me. I’m already looking forward to next year whereupon we will do the same again but different.

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