España 2013, Madrid y Sitges

We survived. If I only had one sentence to explain the week we spent in Spain for work, it would be “we survived,” plain and simple.

I had no idea what I was in for, since I wasn’t with the company last year, and had yet to experience what Kickoff was like, but I had heard stories from seasoned employees. Last year it was in Dubai, and the year before in Shanghai (both locations where we a campus).  This year Sitges, Spain was chosen as the location, and I was really excited since I had never been to Spain before, even when I spent a year abroad in Europe during my undergrad.  Most of the stories I heard about were about lack of sleep. Grrreeeaaaatttttt.  I packed a suitcase (not knowing what the heck I was supposed to be wearing or if we’d have free time, nada) and headed to the airport with a co-worker.


Beautiful sunrise on our second leg of the journey from New Jersey to Madrid.

We spent a day in Madrid before work started, to see the city (briefly, obviously), and to visit a couple friends that live there that I haven’t seen in over a year, since moving from San Diego.  It was really great to spend the day with them, doing things that they enjoy doing, and seeing some of their favorite sights. Tons of tapas were eaten, and we even got to meet their dog, Peka!


The view from our balcony in Madrid!

We decided to do airb&b in Madrid since it was only one night.  Finding one open within our budget wasn’t super easy. I found one we liked in an area we wanted, but it wasn’t available. I applied for another one, and that wasn’t available either.  3 places later we finally found one, and it was worth the wait! It was in a great area, the flat itself was only for airb&b, so we basically had it to ourselves and was typical European-style apartment, which we both love.  If you’re planning to travel anytime soon, I highly recommend airb&b!

We walked around the city and started to make our way to Parque del Buen Retiro, a beautiful park (full of rollerbladers – awesome!) and beautiful architecture (see below). It was already almost sunset when we arrived (we got lost trying to find them, and with no cell/GPS/text options, it took us awhile to find them), so we watched the sun go down as we entered the park.


No big deal, don’t you have buildings like this on your street corners?!

We walked around the park for awhile,  enjoying the architecture, the layout of the park, and all of the people – people just don’t go to parks after dark in the US anymore, but there were SO many people walking, running, biking, rollerblading, etc., and they were setting up for a owner+doggy race that weekend, so there were plenty of other dogs for Peka to sniff and romp around with.

Our day in Madrid was short and sweet, but we wouldn’t have spent it any other way. The next morning we hopped on a short flight to Barcelona, and then took a taxi to our hotel in Sitges, the host of our annual work conference that year.  When I talk about surviving, this is what I am talking about! From Monday at 6pm to Friday morning at 330am (yes, AM), everything was scheduled and planned.  Meetings and breakout sessions every day from 9-530pm, then a brief period to change for dinner, then dinner (we were about 200 people) and some sort of event that evening.


But this was the view from our balcony, so can I really complain?!

Monday night was our team dinner (MBA), the second night was a gala dinner at a small palace near our hotel, where they had arranged for flamenco dancers, and then dancing the night away. Busses didn’t come pick us up until after midnight (and went until 2am)  The third night was nationalities dinner and event, where we were supposed to dress as something “stereotypical” from our country. USA had a bunch of people, so we had football jerseys made for us 🙂  I got back from that event at around 12:30am and since it was still a workweek technically, I hopped on my laptop and worked on applications and emails until 4:15am. Wake-up time: 7:15am. AY YAY YAY.


Our last names were printed on the back… Also, she’s half French, aka the beret and wine :)

That was pretty much how every night went, so we were functioning on about 3 hours of sleep per night.  The last day was a “half-day” and then we went to lunch, broke out into predetermined teams and met for about half an hour before we had to board the busses.  We were going to be driven into Spain, where each group had 3 hours to create a photo story based on certain criteria given to us, and we would present these stories at dinner that night.  Our team had a BLAST putting ours together, and even though we didn’t win, we had fun!


The first photo we took for our story was at a beach near our hotel. I can’t get a closer shot because it was a clothing-optional beach (aka a normal European beach) and there was LOTS of nakedness going on!

We then went to dinner (dinner there = almost 9pm. WHAT THE.) , followed by the 10 team presentations and dancing until 3am. Yes, you read that right, 3am. We didn’t get back to the hotel until 4am, and almost missed the only bus to Barcelona the next morning by about 3 seconds.


… next up is our 2 free (free at last!) days in Barcelona!


DON’T FORGET! I’m an Inaugural Hot Chocolate 15/5k in San Francisco blogger! If you use the code ‘SHEENAMUG’ when you register for the race (ANY LOCATION!), you’ll get an awesome travel mug!

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