Earlier tonight I attended the “Buy Tuscany” event at the Italian Cultural Institute in Westwood, CA. After a quiet January, it’s time to get out and network again!
It was overcast and foggy, with intermitten rain, in the San Fernando Valley today. So after a nice drive over Mulholland Drive, Sepulveda Boulevard and then on the 405 to Wilshire…
First, a few pics from the drive over the hill through the billion dollar clusterf*ck that is the construction on the 405 freeway through the Sepulveda Pass:
Remember “Carmaggeddon”? Well here is the finished Mulholland Bridge that was widened and retrofitted! NOTE HOW TWO LANES BECOME ONE LANE BEFORE THE BRIDGE AND THEN WIDEN TO TWO LANES AGAIN ON THE BRIDGE…it totally defeats the purpose of widening the bridge, and you can’t turn right on a red light at the light.
Sepulveda Boulevard at 2:30pm on a Thursday, once you get past the closed right lane at the top of the hill (where two lanes turn left and then have to merge into one lane again) and the new freeway onramp (where the cars in the right lane have to get in the left turn lane) is still a great drive. Note the huge retaining walls along the freeway….will they hold?
Traffic Tip: Get on the 405 south at Getty Center, because you never know what traffic will be like on Sepulveda at Moraga, Church and Montana! Again note the retaining wall….
Thursday 2:40pm on the 405 Freeway south approaching Sunset, just wait until rush hour. Note the massive Getty Center on the top of the hill.
Exit the 405 at Wilshire on the brand new ramp that is exactly the same as the old ramp, only longer and now one lane again. NOTE THAT THEY DIDN’T CHANGE THE EXIT AT WILSHIRE SO TRAFFIC STILL BACKS UP ONTO THE FREEWAY AT PEAK HOURS.
AND THEY DIDN’T FIX THE INTERSECTION AT SEPULVEDA AND WILSHIRE (the busiest intersection in the western United States) and the construction continues….
So, I made it to Westwood in good time and arrived early enough to navigate traffic on Wilshire and in Westwood. I parked in the parking structure next to the Italian Cultural Institute for FREE! The parking guys let me park my own car because I told them I didn’t want to leave the key (I also didn’t want anyone “stack” parking or moving my car). Parking was complimentary for a limited number of guests, so thank you Tourism Italia!
It began to drizzle a little after 3pm, so I checked in and sat inside on the red ultra moderne designer couch with a few other early arrivees in the reception area until they opened the Trade Show at 3:30pm. Note the beautiful Italian marble patio! It’s a great event space, but unfortunately it rained just enough to make it wet and slippery and they had to change the setup at the last minute.
The first order of business was the Trade Show. Meeting with Vendors and Suppliers from Tuscany, the format was sort of a “one-on-one” format for more than one person. Most of the Vendors were represented by two people and even early on, it was more than two people on my side of the table. I paired up with one of my co-workers for the presentations at the beginning, but eventually had to go it alone, because of the format. There was a lot of room noise and some of the suppliers had thick Italian accents, so it was very hard to hear the presentations. I managed to meet everyone, see what they had to offer, exchange business cards and collected a big bag of collateral material from the hotels, tour operators, wineries and other exhibitors.
Finished with the circle tour of the trade show, I had some coffee, dropped the bag of information in my car, and found a chair in the library to sit in while I waited for cocktail hour to begin. There was limited seating to begin with, and because of the weather everyone who finished also was waiting inside, so having a seat was “groovy”.
Cocktail hour at last! Prosecco, Tuscan red wine and tray passed appetizers: shrimp, rare beef on toast, and tomato pomodoro soup in little square plastic cups. I did some networking, drank some Prosecco and ate some hor d’ourves.
Cocktail hour in the Library
The next order of business was a very nice presentation in the theatre. There were introductions, informative speeches, videos of beautiful Tuscany, expressions of thanks and gratitude, a musical performance and a drawing for some very nice prizes.
Then the Dinner Buffet was served. On the menu: sausage and peppers, polenta with mushrooms and cheese, pasta with red sauce, fava, bruschetta, toasted bread and breadsticks. More Prosecco and Tuscan wine was served, but instead I had still bottled water with my food.
And following the food, there was coffee and mini tiramisu for dessert (not pictured)
It was a long event 3:30-8:30pm (5 hours plus travel time), but it was well managed (even with the weather adjustments) and informative. The food was good and the presentation was entertaining. Overall, it was a pretty nice event and now I want to visit Tuscany!
I thanked my hosts, said goodbye to my friends and co-workers, and drove my car out of the parking lot back to the 405. There was traffic on Wilshire, traffic getting on the 405 at Wilshire, traffic on the 405 freeway and the Skirball exit was closed. Nevertheless, I made back to the valley in about a half hour, posted on facebook, and wrote this blog. Hope you enjoyed my afternoon and evening. Thanks for reading!!! Grazie! Tutte bene!