Well that was one way to kick off the New Year I suppose! Huge road trip from our base in Manchester to the sunny little island of Malta, just south of Italy. A spectacular road trip to work on a week of back to back conferences with Leica Biosystems and GES Creative Services. Why drive all that way you ask? One word... Equipment! (two vans of it to be precise)
We set off from Manchester 14 days ago at the crack of dawn heading for Folkestone to catch the Euro Tunnel shuttle to France. The roads in the UK really are rubbish compared with out on the continent. There are way too many cars here and not enough road surface area to deal with it, so by the time you get on the French roads, it's like a breath of fresh air. We took our normal route that we use when heading south in France heading out towards Reims and down to our first pitstop in Lyon (avoid Paris like the plague... an automotive spiders web you want to avoid). We made good time to Lyon this time doing it in just under 13 hours from Manchester.
Day two of the journey and we were heading to Rome via the Alps where we drove through some winding mountain roads with alpine views and the odd tunnel every few miles. Day three as the sun rose over the historic city of Rome and we proceeded on the final leg of the trip to Malta (Driving the length of Italy where we caught an evening ferry from Sicily). Sicily was a beautiful all in all! Heading to catch the ferry on a winding coastal road, we had the Mediterranean on our left and the incredibly large active volcano that is Mt. Etna on our left which was an eye opener to say the least.
After an overnight trip on the ferry from Sicily (roughly 8hrs) we arrived in Valetta, Malta. Immediately I nearly had my first accident after over 2000miles of driving as I didn't realise that in Malta they drive on the same side of the road as the UK. Safe to say that I began my first moments in Malta driving into angry on coming traffic which didn't go down to well with the locals. Catastrophe averted, and we made it to the Grand hotel Excelsior which would be our home for the following days. The rest of the crew arrived from the airport and we began loading the equipment into the plenary room to set up the show. The conference went very well overall and we managed to capture some great video content as well as having a little down time to explore Valetta which was nice. There were two gala dinners throughout the week that were both at off-site venues. One was at a limestone heritage quarry in a marquee complete with high walls, a waterfall, some donkeys and a couple of adult lions (yes actual lions??). The second gala event was held in the grounds of an old large Maltese villa which was an equally pretty venue.
After the conference wrapped, we de-rigged the main room and loaded the vans back up with all the equipment. Heading for home, we took a slightly different route home staying overnight in Florence (most beautiful city I've ever been to), and driving through the picturesque Switzerland to stop over in Reims for the night. From here it was a very easy push back to the ice cold of Manchester and a few days of sleep....Until the next one!!