Combining these domains means hitting the sweet spot of life. This opportunity opened for me when a client invited me and my collaborator, Sheldon Frank, to facilitate a team workshop at Chateau de Guermantes, a historic castle outside Paris.
I twisted my husband’s arm to join me for a few days in Paris followed by a barging trip on the Canal Petit Rhone. It is an easy twist as Ronald is a keen adventurer and we are very happy gypsy companions.
Paris truly is the city of romance, mystery and intrigue. We stayed in the Latin Quarter which lends itself to idyllic walks along the Seine and delicious cuisine at cafes along the route. We relaxed in the balmy days and felt all our residual stresses melt away.
Our cultural experiences were in visiting the Centre Pompidou, a digital art immersion of Gustav Klimt, being blown away by Roger Waters from Pink Floyd and seeing Joan Baez perform at her Fare Thee Well tour – still a diva at 73 years of age.
I had to convince the doorman at the Klimt exhibition to allow us in as all tickets had been sold, by telling him I was a ‘life artist all the way from Africa’ – it worked, and we were amazed by the alchemy of technology and art.
Both Baez and Walters were vocal in their disapproval of Trump’s leadership and their strong activist voices called for a world of humanity, equality and world peace.
We enjoyed the rail trip to Latte outside Montpellier where we arrived in torrential showers to take residence on our barge. Even our passports were drenched through our rucksacks. The hiccup then was that we could not leave the harbor the next morning as the river was in flood.
It was an interesting observation of human nature to notice the responses from our neighboring barges – our Brazilian neighbors were sanguine, the British were indignant, the Germans stoic, the French drank more wine and us Saffas…..well we went cycling and visited the quirky village of Palavas Les Flots. A French Brighton by the sea with kitsch nautical shops, a sad circus and many ice cream stalls. But the scenery along the canal made up for the flotsam village.
Our barge set off the following morning with a flourish with my capable helmsman at the wheel. At the first canal intersection we did feel the strong current after the floods and I was relieved when Ronald managed to turn the barge without being swept away.
The mellow river days melted into each other as we drifted along sipping French wine accompanied by fresh cherries, French cheeses and baguettes. We docked at the charming village of Aigues Mortes and sailed onto the Camargue. The birdlife was exquisite and although the wild horses of the Camargue are now very tame, I still relished being up close and breathing in the aura of the dashing white horses. We dipped into the warm Mediterranean Sea and slept peacefully in the gentle rocking cradle of our cozy barge.
The next adventure was visiting the ancient Roman town of Carcasonne. It is a Rapunzel castle straight out of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Our pension was close by, so we could have an early morning stroll around the castle before any tourists arrived.
We traveled back to Paris on the very efficient rail system, had our last night together before Ronald flew back home to work – and left me to resume my work.
But before this I had a day alone in Paris. I hopped on the Batobus, a river boat shuttle which stops at all the historic places along the Seine. My lunch was at an intimate bistro opposite the magnificent Notre Dame. In the afternoon I met up with a Parisian friend. I had only seen Francesca in Cape Town so it was such fun to ride pillion on her scooter to her home, visit her fascinating communal vegetable garden and enjoy a delicious meal of fresh asparagus and French wine.
And now for the work. This was work being in the proverbial flow – being with people who are truly curious about learning more about themselves, being the most available to their team members and willing to be vulnerable in becoming more resilient. The leaders were fun and inspiring. Inviting team members from all over Europe to be in a place of such beauty, seeped in history with the most superb cuisine means you are demonstrating to them that your employees really matter. This is what Sheldon and I experienced with the Fibrelean management in the work we enjoyed at the castle. I was able to refresh after facilitations by going for walks in the resplendent forest nearby – and again feeling the gratitude and freedom of being able to be safe as a woman alone……
And so back to Cape Town and my more familiar routines. The experience was a gift in a lifetime – may I be blessed enough to have more travel and work opportunities. Always the best of all worlds.