Well folks, the time has finally arrived – it is my turn to write part of the blog. Rachel has done such a good job so far that I have a hard act to follow, but I will give it a go……..
Firstly introductions, just so you know who I am. My name is Sarah and I am the VSA here. What’s a VSA? I hear you ask; well that is an interesting one. VSA stands for Visitor Services Assistant; this means that my role has lots of interesting aspects. Part of my role is to work alongside Rachel with the planning and running of the events – lucky for me Rachel has got lots of new events planned this year to keep me busy! I would also be responsible for volunteering enquiries, group bookings and weddings – quite a lot of balls for me to juggle in a week, so it is a good thing that I love my job, no really I do!
Recently I have been travelling all over Ireland on behalf of Mount Stewart to promote the fantastic group offer here. In the last couple of months I have attended shows in Enniskillen, Dublin (twice), Antrim and Belfast. It might sound very glamorous but anyone who knows me will know that I am definitely NOT a morning person. The early starts to these shows have meant that I have had plenty of 5am wake up calls! Last week I was lucky enough to spend a day in the fabulous Titanic Belfast, representing the National Trust at the NITB great days out show. I spent the day manning our stand in the conference room with ‘the staircase’, so I was a very lucky lady indeed. It was hard for me not to sit there, listening to a string quartet from the Ulster Orchestra and not imagine Jack walking down to whisk me away – well a girl is allowed to dream! NITB organised this day and invited lots of fantastic places to come and promote things to do. It is really good to know that for such a small country Northern Ireland has so many things going on.
The ‘Staircase’ at Titanic Belfast complete with a string quartet from the Ulster Orchestra – Where is Jack?
Two days later I found myself up again at 5am, only this time I was Dublin bound, well not quite Dublin, just below it in a place called Dalkey. This place was described to me by our lovely propagator, Alan, as Dublin’s answer to the ‘Bay of Naples’ and he wasn’t wrong. It was gorgeous, it was a beautiful crisp spring day just the kind of day that you want when you have a 3 hour train ride followed by a 15 minute walk up a steep hill to do (this is before you start work!) The event today was organised for travel trade operators who bring international parties into the isle of Ireland. Today’s surroundings were grander than the ballroom (if that was possible), as we were at the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel. This stunning hotel was one of the nicest places that I have ever been. We were treated to a delightful 3 course lunch when we got there (I was so stuffed that I didn’t eat anything for the rest of the day). We were piped into the dining room while the chefs, carried platters of beef complete with sparklers out for us all to see. This plus the castle setting gave you the full baronial feel, (I could get used to this lifestyle – Lady Sarah has a nice ring to it don’t you think?!) After a feast fit for a king we made our way upstairs for the afternoon’s workshop. The basic premise of this is speed dating for tour operators. The operators have their desks and you have a list of who they are and what tours they do, you then go and queue up to sell them the experience that you have to offer. You have a limited time with each operator to try and keep it fair with each ‘appointment’ lasting 6 minutes before they ring a bell and you have to move on to the next one. After 3 hours of this I was finding it hard to remember what I was saying, I felt really sorry for the tour operators as they had had a full 8 hours of it. After this finished I strolled back down to get my trains and so started the return leg of my journey home. To say that I was glad to see my bed was an understatement.
The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, Dalkey
I was back into work on the Friday morning ready to welcome a group of corporate volunteers from DEL, who have come to help in the gardens as part of ‘Be a Saint Day’, this is the 4th year that we have supported this event. Business in the Community and Volunteer Now, encourage some of the large companies to come and get out from behind their desks and help good causes, all over Northern Ireland. The gardens here are world famous but they do take a lot of looking after to keep them in tip top shape. Jonathan is always pleased to have them help, and they all like him so after a welcome from me I can leave them in his safe hands and head off to meet a bride and groom about there wedding here later on in the year. This weekend saw the house opening again after being closed for the winter, and then St. Patrick’s Day. I then have two weddings this week, all of this can only mean one thing – the season has started again.
I really do love my job!