Today's post falls into the "whatever else comes along" genre of posts. Recently we were invited to present ourselves and our "Bella Baita - Italian Alps Retreat" business to a European Union association called Euromontana. This association has been in existence for close to 20 years with it's roots stretching back to 1953. Euromontana is dedicated to the cooperation and development of European mountain territories. We felt rather honored to be one of 4 businesses to be invited to speak at their "How to support innovative mountain entrepreneurship?" conference November 7th, 2013.
Pretty exciting stuff, eh? Going to Brussels and speaking at one of the European Union committee conferences, is not unlike going to the US's Washington D.C. to present something to a Congressional Committee. Definitely doesn't happens every day, and maybe never at all in one's life time, so we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in Brussels for this occasion.
Our conference was in one of the European Economic and Social Committee buildings. One presenter was from the from the Catalongna region of Spain who makes soap from whey, who along with ourselves were quite small operations in comparison to the other two presenters. The other two presenters were quite large enterprises. One was from Croatia, who had taken a small family software business to help municipalities monitor and control their local waste, belong them to lower their costs and improve on the negative impact of waste management through recycling and other methods, that were not preciously even considered. The "Three Valleys" of France were tackling the problem of used skis. They have developed a method to separate all the materials and through various methods were reducing the mountains of ski waste into piles of reusable materials. They plan to take on the ski boot problem next. We all represented unique mountain enterprises, innovating to make a living in a sometimes inhospitable business climate and creating our own opportunities. For us, the use of the internet to draw upon a greater pool of potential guests for very low cost is one of our ways of doing business differently. We have been attempting to harness the power of the internet for almost 10 years, so for us it didn't seem that new or innovative, but they seemed to think we are not so common in this part of the world.
|Marla and Fabrizio presenting at the Euromontana Conference|
We have made a lot of friends along the way with people that have come to visit and people that we have come in contact with as we strive to support many local initiatives, like Ls Strada Dei Vini Torinese, C.A.I., or Dante Project. These are diverse projects that are trying to promote our area through its wines, its walking path, and a concerted internet effort. Finding our way continues to an ongoing process, but one that we are able to pursue thanks to the leveling of the playing field by means of the internet. It really is an incredible resource that continues to fascinate and reward. I think most people these days have learned or are learning what an incredible tool it can be and will be the way forward for most businesses great or small.
We were honored to share our experiences. Thank you Alexia.
Now let's just hope that some of these ideals, projects and legislation can come to fruition sooner rather than later. The EU is a massive organization with lofty goals and daunting realities. I am discouraged by it's massiveness, but encouraged that there is a least a voice for the mountain communities of Europe. It was encouraging to be asked to lend our voice and speak for our neighbors to ask not to be forgotten, but to lend us a hand in lifting ourselves up.
They didn't film the presentation, but here is our little "Prezi" presentation. It is more or less a dynamic outline of our presentation.
Then there was the rest of our stay….
Naturally we had a couple nights stay in Brussels. We didn't have a lot of time to look around the town, but it did seem like a bustling city probably in part due to the huge presence of the EU community and the comings and goings of the people working or attending this massive governmental body. We stayed in a pleasant neighborhood that was easy access to the EU and I imagine most of the touristic sights. I never made it to see the "peeing boy", that I remember so fondly from my childhood visit to Brussels, but we enjoyed the sights and food all the same.
We stayed in a very unique hotel, that was in some ways more like a guest house than hotel. The furnishings were eclectic and interesting. The bed was a tad small for our taste, but the room was immaculate and spacious with many interesting touches, that we appreciated. The location is a comfortable walk to a neighborhood that was full of eateries at night that made it easy for us to catch a bite, and walk back to the hotel for a bit of practice and relaxing. It was a great location and pleasant stay.
The choices eating out, were like most cities a variety of cuisines that reflect not only the local cuisine, but international offerings that probably have as much to do with various immigrant populations as the usual popular cuisines that seem to be popular the world around. There were numerous Italian restaurants and a fair showing of French, also reflecting the local affinity to France, and a liberal offering of various Asian offerings. We settled on French one night and Belgium the next which seem heavily influenced by French and German. The city has a good showing of pastries and naturally the Belgium beer was not to be missed. We enjoyed sampling someone else's cooking and the furnishings that delighted and kept your attention. In general I found Brussels to have a delight amount of artistic details with more then it's fair share of art nouveau and deco tucked in and around everywhere. I love architectural and small surprising details that make wandering around delightful. Perhaps one day we will return and have more time to see what else is tucked up around the corners that will surprise and delight.