Last year was intense on a professional and personal level for all of us.
On a professional level, we saw all 80 events already guaranteed from March to December being cancelled, postponed, reimbursed or even well used (cancellation fees turned into bottles of wine making their way to our clients!). On a personal level, our own health being challenged like never before in our lives and of course, without health there is…nothing!
For event planners, it was an emotionally draining year. As you can imagine, someone who organises events is someone that never stops: technical visits, budgets, checklists, deadlines, coordinating teams, assembling and disassembling. Then suddenly… everything stops. Everything.
But beneath the surface, we were working hard; keeping up the communication with everyone involved in the Quinta’s events, keeping up the moral support for clients and suppliers. Naturally the conversation turned often to reminiscing on past events and wondering how soon we could get back to hosting similar occasions!
Coming back to events at Quinta de Sant’Ana
Whether they are more formal in corporate events, meetings, conferences or more social in incentive trips, the concept always involves sustainability, defending and preserving the local culture, not only our wine production, but also with our selected visits and wine tastings. The most “popular” event is undoubtedly the Festival da Nossa Terra, inspired by our annual Festival and which, every year it rises in the ranking of preferred venues for the planning of the most varied events.
Those who know the Quinta know that it is not just a venue to be rented for events.
It is first a love story with the land, dating back to the 17th century. It comes to the present day through the hands of Ann and James, always dedicated, body and soul, to the organic production of wines and flowers, rural tourism and the organization of exclusive events. It is in this atmosphere that we work, together with all the teams, from the kitchen to the office and to the vineyards, between all the business areas that complement each other.
It reminds us that one day we were 3 hours away from an event for 130 people, coming from the various Americas. It is an event inspired by this Festival of ours, where everything happens at the same time, in every corner of the Quinta, and each activity evokes the identity of the Quinta and local tradition: local craft fair, folklore, organic olive oil tastings, falconry from Tapada de Mafra, wine tasting, tile painting, and of course, the famous Mafra bread coming out of the oven warm and tasty. Everything from 1pm to 5pm. Months of planning with the client, with the chef, with the logistics result in this afternoon.
Arriving at 9am you already find “organized chaos”: everyone has arrived and at the same time! The Quinta full of cars and vans, ladders on the walls with our boys coming from the vineyard to help hang banners, carry tables and distribute sun hats.
We’re lucky with the weather” (yes…it’s a nerve-wracking the weather here…mornings always covered with dense fog that opens at lunchtime to a blue sky, but while the fog doesn’t go away, our nerves are in tatters as there’s still a thought that we’ll be in time to move everything into the rooms, which fortunately are big enough to work out a plan B).
Meanwhile, it’s 11 am and we already see a blue sky…
The colleagues from the setup team having with their arms full of rosemary vases, colorful rugs, and big cushions which you can’t see past (there is always much laughter from the warehouse to the garden!). We are preparing the lounge area on the vineyard terrace: a “picnic” area for the guests.
The falconry staff arrive to set up in the same area and we are warned to lock up the chickens before a tragedy happens! So we bribe Bitsy the dog with a biscuit, to enter the family house, despite knowing that in a few minutes, with all the coming and going, she’ll sneak out and be all over the farm again.
The client arrives a little earlier to see if everything is okay on our part. We take a tour of the venue. It is an events agency with a group of dynamic young people, they organize events all over the world, but it is their first time in Portugal and they fell in love with the country. The local DMC is a regular client of ours, and they alçready know the Quinta inside out; we all work as one team. They had previously visited on 3 site inspections throughout the year. On the last visit, 2 days before, it was pouring rain. We talked about plans A, B, C… but the forecast was sunny. Hard to believe.
The group has already been here a week getting to know the region. Today is their last day. Tomorrow they leave early. So today is a day of celebration. It’s the group’s last experience in Portugal, here on the Quinta. “to end with a flourish” – client says. More pressure for us, but we are proud of this privilege.
The group arrives. The sky is already blue, and the weather gets warmer (we breathe deep in relief). The waiters line up with welcome trays, the accordion gives the rhythm. The ladies with the bread, the hawks on the caretakers’ arms. James welcomes the group, introducing the Quinta and what they will find during the day: the barbecue, the activities, the music.
This is the best part, the beginning of the event: clients arrive and immediately take pictures, “Wow!” to the Quinta, “Wow!” to the wine, the warmth, the folklore. The party starts and it doesn’t stop, until the end of the afternoon.
In the main hall we have tile painting workshops, the artist starts the class, and we see that everything is going well. A colleague is there to assist her. Check!
We peek into the winery, we have a “wine blending” workshop, the activity where guests learn how to create their own bottle of wine. James and Lou are also there to assist. Check!
Everybody is moving around: many are lying on the grass contemplating the vineyards, some peeping through the chapel’s small door, others have already gotten into the folklore and dance, jump or sing. Or trying to!
Others daring to jump into the tractor rides and discover the estate in its most authentic form. A true adventure!
Our head waitress dictates the almost military order to the waiters to serve, collect dirty dishes, refill buffets, serve drinks. Everything is running smoothly.
In the kitchen it is another world: the team never stops: our chef and his team preparing and refilling salads, side dishes, desserts, always fresh ingredients that have to be made on the time. Constant work in series by cutting, chopping, sautéing. All the time! It’s an up and down of lifts from kitchen to service, which almost speak for themselves: “salads are going up! Here go the potatoes”!
The day is winding down, the buses are starting to arrive, but no one wants to leave. The music continues, the wine is chilled, it’s a perfect summer afternoon.
Something comes up suddenly: the New Orleans-style band arrives by surprise. Suddenly we have 130 people dancing all over the place. The trombones, trumpets, the drums, the megaphone give the perfect rhythm to end the day. With everyone dancing on the way to the buses!
Best compliment you can get: the client comes to say thank you: “Please book that week in April next year, we’ll be back!”
Now, in almost a snap of a finger, as soon as the group leaves, everything is dismantled, cleaned up, tidied up. The “organized chaos” kicks in again.
Last farewells now to the partners, and suddenly it’s 8pm and the Quinta is empty, clean and tidy, silent.
We can’t feel our feet. Now yes, it will be good to have a drink!
How we miss these days…it’s what gives us the energy and certainty that they are about to return!