Or rather, the VIP Triage and Development teams.
Yes, it's time, again, for a support team meetup and this time we're in Lisbon, Portugal.
Waking at 6am, I leave the house at 7am to head to Manchester Airport. I'm flying to Lisbon with Air Portugal and, immediately, problems set in. The check in (conveyors, etc) at Manchester Airport has broken down plus my flight is horribly over-booked, with people being turned away at the point of check-in as a result. Thankfully, I had paid a little extra at the time of booking to get a reserved seat but standing behind a line of disgruntled people is not a good start.
Security, for once, was smooth and after a quick coffee and sandwich at Starbucks I'm on my flight. It takes about 2.5 hours to get to Lisbon.
Now, most of my team are not travelling until tomorrow but I've elected to come early, to not only help cover support on Sunday but also because I fancied the idea of having a day to get more settled in first.
I get an Uber to our villa, which is in Cascais, just outside Lisbon. The driver was brilliant – very chatty and, particularly, very willing to teach more about the area and the country as a whole. By the time I get to Cascais, I know some of the language, some useful road rules but also the geography of the region.
It's now about 3:30pm and I meet up with my colleague Chris, where we grab a drink and a bite to eat at a nearby cafe. This includes a freshly made Pasteis de Nata, something I eat a LOT of during the week.
The villa is ready for us soon after 4pm, so we meet up with the owner who gives us a very thorough walk-thru of everything we need to know.
We have both buildings on the gated site plus a nearby B&B, as an overflow for 5 additional people. Chris and I quickly take the opportunity to reserve ourselves some of the better bedrooms 😉 and, after a while, head out for dinner – there is a restaurant just down the road which the owner recommended, Estrela da Serra. The food was, indeed, delicious and it was good value too.
Another colleague, Stefan, is due to arrive just after midnight so we decide to stay up to greet him but even watching Man of Steel with Portuguese subtitles on the TV wasn't enough to keep us going so we both retired to our rooms, albeit to rest. I managed to just stay awake for Stefan's arrival but was happy to get some sleep as soon as he was here.
The three of us head to down a local Spar shop to get a few essential supplies, plus to also grab some pastries for breakfast. Today was quite relaxed, as we awaited the majority of our colleagues to arrive throughout the day. Stefan had hired a 7-seater car at the airport and two more of those arriving during the day were going to do the same, all 3 of them helping to ferry people around during the week.
We put on a simple lunch, laid out in the kitchen, of ham, cheese and bread with crisps and some other snacks – people can grab as they arrive. For the evening we order pizzas from a local pizza restaurant (the garlic bread, in particularly, was fantastic).
By the end of the day most of my colleagues have arrived and we've already started moving some people to the B&B. One more person was due later that evening and three more the next day, including the head of VIP, Nick. At this point there would be 17 of us, with just one person left to arrive.
The first full day of the meetup and the first of many amazing breakfasts cooked up by Matthew, complete with freshly baked bread.
We have discussions throughout the morning and spilling into the early afternoon too. This is punctuated by a stop for lunch, which was brought to us from a nearby caterer.
It was during this time that I found out about Stéphane's love of eating frozen peas. His only issue – there wasn't any salt!
We co-work for the rest of the afternoon, during which my VIP twin (long story), David, helps me to get PHPCS working correctly, complete with VIP rulesets – something I'd been trying to do for a while, so I was very elated to get it complete (and it would have been so much harder to do if we'd not been sat together at the time).
For dinner we head out to Restaurante Metamorphosis in Sintra where we have a booked restaurant – the meal was delicious and we all returned back content.
Sitting around chatting for a while, I head to bed around 11pm, switching my light off around 11:30. Next morning, I'm awake by 7:20am.
Another superb breakfast from Matthew, followed by, well, the morning and afternoon in discussion with Nick. It was a long, but fruitful, discussion which we were all pretty tired from afterwards.
The evening was a lot more relaxed, with a barbecue dinner, made my Matthew and a combination of working and playing (Jackbox, to be more precise).
Nick left to get early flight but also Ingrid, from our HR team, joined us for the rest of the week.
After breakfast, a few of us headed to a local beach, not for long – just to look around really.
When we got back there was a discussion on debugging but, generally, it was all pretty relaxed.
Late afternoon, a few of us headed into Lisbon but, after a short lap of the area in which we'd parked (it wasn't the centre of Lisbon by any account) we needed to be off again as most of us were meeting up to go "Sunset sailing".
We had a privately chartered catamaran, which was to tour around the waters, as the sun set. An elasticated mesh had been stretched over the very front of the boat, allowing some us to sit on it, with the water rushing below. It was cold at the front but well worth being there.
After the sailing, we headed to the nearby Time Out market to grab something to eat (I got an excellent steak, followed by gelato).
By the time we got back, I was tired but enjoyed another night of Jackbox, before heading to bed.
On our final day, we kept it a quiet one. There was a learn-up in the morning (run by myself) and, for lunch, we'd booked private caterers for a barbeque. We knew we were in trouble when they said there were 12 types of meat and they weren't wrong – we were all stodged with meat by the end of it. Many went for a walk after and, yeah, the day was quiet.
I didn't bother eating again for the rest of the day and kicked off a game of Jackbox myself quite early in the evening.
People were already saying their goodbyes at this stage, as some were leaving early in the morning.
Time to leave. Well, at 11am, anyway. I was on the same flight back as Paul and we needed to give Matthew a lift to the airport, where he was meeting his wife (she'd flown out to join him for a week's holiday).
Again, security was swift and, despite mooching around airport shops, we still had plenty of time to kill. It was just after midday and our flight didn't leave until 2:35pm. Thankfully, Paul has lounge access, so we stayed there – doing some work but also taking advantage of putting our feet up and enjoying the free food and drink on offer 🙂
We had a much smaller plane on the way home (just 4 seats wide), which may explain why it took nearer to 3 hours to return home. However, I managed to get back for around 7:30pm, giving me some time to catch up with my daughter before she went to bed at 8pm.
It was a great week and, indeed, many thought one of the better meetups – I'd certainly agree. There were lots of people present who'd I'd not met before plus it was relaxed enough without there being nothing to do.