zzzzzzzHusband. Drummer. Marketing, Sales and Customer Service Specialist. Music and Art Collector. Road Cyclist. Volunteer. Traveler. bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb Amateur Photographer. Media/News/Coffee Junkie. Hockey Fan.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

More beer, please!

After leaving Garden in the City, I went in search of my rental car. Kurt (B&B owner) mentioned that Hertz was "quite far away"; I have learned that Belgian concepts of proximity differ slightly from those of North Americans. Walking is the best way to discover new places and Gent did not disappoint. Needing to be in Oudenaarde for 3 or 4 pm, my car quest took priority. Nevertheless, rather than take a bus I traded the beaten path for the canals less traveled - by visitors. Gent did not disappoint. It is lovely. Smitten by the calming scenery, cute bridges, grassy riverbanks and gorgeous riverfront homes (I have long appreciated European aesthetics), I actually traveled past my destination by 10 or 15 minutes. "Quite far away" passed very quickly. Here are a few first impression images:

After taking possession of my wee but spirited Hyundai, I was on my way to Oudenaarde. My accommodation in Oudenaarde is not quite in Oudenaarde (ODEN-ardeh). Off the highway about 10 minutes north, Hotel Moriaanshooft (view from my room, and that of the restaurant entrance, are below) would not be out of place in the Alberta Rockies. Indeed, the menu would appeal to a great many Albertans; let's just say it does not cater to vegetarians. That is, right now. After some marketing consultations with owner Joris, that may well change - all about revenue streams, no? Nevertheless, on my first evening, Joris, who owns the hotel with his wife, delivered a lovely Ni├žoise salad to my table, along with some excellent Belgian beer and thoroughly enjoyable conversation. So far, I have found Belgian hospitality and customer service to be exceptional. The beer, too, has been terrific. I'm not really a beer guy, but let's just say I've not even considered bourbon since arriving. 

Like so many people I have met this week, Joris is engaging, very knowledgeable and incredibly passionate about the best things Flanders has to offer, especially beer, hospitality and, of course, cycling. He really wants clients to feel the warmth often lacking at more sterile, modern properties. Knowing my lack of experience when it comes to Belgian beer, Joris had me try some fabulous local brews high in alcohol content and equally rich in flavour. After he provided some background on brewing, I feel that I'm enjoying beer while savouring a rich history. It is no wonder Hotel Moriaanshooft is favoured by Belgian pro cycling teams and many companies doing business in the area. On the topic of locale, here are a few images taken around Oudenaarde:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

There Once Was A Young Man from Ghent....

I've been waiting, like, for-ever for an opportuniy to employ my favorite naughty limerick. This first post from Belgium needed a title; I simply could not resist. 

Day one in Ghent (Gent). I stayed up last night until 10:00 pm local time (1pm at home) after being up since 7:30 Sunday morning. With perhaps an hour or two of dozing on the 9 hour flight to London, another hour to Brussels and 1 more by train to Ghent, it was a long day. 

The owner of the B&B (Garden in the City), Kurt, greeted me at 8:30pm. A gracious and very welcoming host of a perfectly appointed - and by then greatly appreciated - accommodation, he gave me the largest suite (check out the images - some 'B&B'!) and, after offering a few vegetarian suggestions, left me to find my dinner. This is the university quarter of Ghent and the streets are quite busy with walkers and cyclists. Unlike those I will watch race this week and next, these attractive riders are bundled in fashionable outfits as they glide by in the chilly night on Dutch-style bikes. Love it. 

I found a Greek restaurant in the area, had a decent vegetarian moussaka, came back and crashed. I awoke 4 hours later. WTF? Of course. The dreaded lag. I managed to eke out 3.5 more hours and here I am. This place is fabulous. Pity I am only staying the one evening before the adventure really begins. 

If ever in Ghent, Garden in the City is a must place to stay. Kurt and his husband (he's in S. France managing their other hotel) have a lovely B&B that has exceeded every expectation. Their two kittens are terrific; one is named Tommy, which as many of my friends know, is a name that holds much significance for me! Here are a few images of my room, as well as Kurt's home where breakfast is served. Garden in the City, indeed. Please note the bed looked way better before I slept in it. This is my feeble attempt to recreate the crisp look. You'll get the idea. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Back Seat Driving: Launching the Cadillac CT6

On Oscar night, Cadillac launched their new campaign; clearly, the hope is we (OK, the next generation of luxury consumers) consider their brand cool. This is not really news: for some time now, Cadillac has made it clear they want us to re-evaluate our impression of them. That in itself is uncool to me. 

Cleverly launched during the Academy Awards, the spot is beautifully shot in Soho (Cadillac's new home), around Manhattan, and Brooklyn. We are challenged to "Dare Greatly", as Cadillac has done (presumably) with this new brand refresh, and just like the game-changing Americans featured in the commercial: Steve Wozniak, Jason Wu, and (how timely!) filmmaker Richard Linklater. That's some country club your Caddy just pulled up to. 

Of course, daring greatly drives the world forward, risk of failure be damned. Cadillac failed for decades, but not in the focused pursuit of life changing events or technologies. Instead, it made ponderous beasts too often piloted by believers of 'you are what you drive'. It also failed masterfully in recent advertisements directed, it seemed, not to thoughtful, discerning, and hip millennials but to arrogant douche-a-holics. The agency responsible for those hard starts was recently dropped at the curb. 

The objective for Cadillac then, is appealing in a meaningful, memorable way to consumers too young to remember land-barge Caddy's. Naturally, the tagline 'not your father's - or grandfather's - Cadillac' would have undermined the reinvention. I like the new direction but I am uncomfortable with the predictability. The problem for me is this 'new' engagement concept is already a tired theme. The tone or message is similar to Facebook's recent 'Our Friends' promotion; indeed, like the often imitated Man on a Horse campaign that brilliantly and successfully rescued Old Spice from your father's - or grandfather's - shaving kit, it seems every agency wants to recreate the latest winning concept. I can understand the motivation: in 30 seconds, Old Spice, that forgotten, totally uncool brand, arrived unexpectedly and instantly became super cool; the commercial delivered an influential impression that still resonates. Dare greatly, indeed.

Old Spice set the bar on re-setting brand perception and as we know, consumer perceptions are key. Heineken, for example, manages to beat all other beer brands with clever TV spots that are well crafted and smart, making a statement without missing the point. Their ads blow me away. They make me laugh. They don't tour me around a brooding Manhattan to prove their Soho cred. Feh. (Moving to Southern California would have made much more sense, Cadillac: a game-changing location with a car-centric culture and myriad opportunities to market a luxury brand. I realize Lincoln tried but they gave up. Remember: Dare Greatly.) 

So much more could have been done to re-engineer my impression of Cadillac. Want to be really cool? Want to 'Dare Greatly'? Dare to be original.