I signed up for the Employee Exchange Program with the intention of meeting the Pomerol team in the USA and visiting the United States. Fortunately, I was lucky, together with João Barbacena, to be one of those selected. I thank Pomerol for making it possible to realize an old dream, which would probably not have gone beyond that, and for creating memories that will stay with me forever. I also extend my gratitude to all the colleagues who welcomed us so warmly in Chicago and made us feel at home during our stay.
The journey began when Gonçalo told me I was one of those selected. From that moment, I started to imagine where I would like to go and what I would like to do. My wife provided me with all the support and encouraged me to see the situation on the bright side; in the best-case scenario, she would have the house expenses covered…
Together with João Barbacena, we began planning the trip and allocated 5 days for a short road trip on the west side of the USA. With the entire trip planned and reservations made, we eagerly awaited the day of departure.
On Friday, at the end of the day, the journey began with the flight from Lisbon to Chicago, which went well despite its considerable duration. Whoever said that “Happiness is a journey, not a destination,” never experienced a long flight… From now on, I consider air travel as a pause in happiness. After a brief 9-hour break, our journey continued when we landed at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
Chicago turned out to be a tremendous and delightful surprise for me. I didn’t anticipate enjoying Chicago as much as I did, particularly the public transportation, which became our primary means of getting around the city. The city’s architecture, skyscrapers, green spaces, vast gardens, and overall safety greatly impressed me. We never felt unsafe or in danger while exploring the city. Chicago also offers a wide range of activities, including jazz bars and theaters. I regret not having had the opportunity to enjoy any activities by the lake. Something that personally struck me was the constant sense of being at home. I never felt out of place in the environment, whether it was due to the warm reception we received from the Pomerol USA team – for which I am eternally grateful – or the ease with which we embraced the city (its people, transportation, shops, museums, etc.
I discerned no distinction in the work environment fostered by the Pomerol USA team; they are professionals above all, and my colleagues were consistently accommodating and available – once more, I felt at home. And so, a week swiftly passed during which we managed to strike a balance between our professional and leisure pursuits; although I must apologize, we were always working and hardly left the house.
Following our time in Chicago, we organized a road trip. This adventure began with a flight to Los Angeles, where a car awaited us. After a brief 4-hour interlude, we touched down in Los Angeles to commence our road trip.
Our itinerary included traveling from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on the first day, from Las Vegas to Bakersfield on the second, from Bakersfield to San Francisco on the third day, and exploring San Francisco on the fourth and final day of our U.S. journey. Unbeknownst to us during the initial planning, this coincided with Memorial Day weekend, and our proactive booking of hotels and a rental car in advance alleviated many concerns.
We retrieved the rental car immediately upon landing in Los Angeles (Sixt pleasantly surprised us with a car class upgrade, and it was brand new, with only 50 miles on the odometer… 😊). On the first morning, we reserved time for visiting some Los Angeles attractions (Santa Monica Pier, Hollywood Boulevard, Griffith Observatory, etc.). However, due to the substantial crowds with similar plans, we limited ourselves to a cursory visit to these attractions. Finding parking proved challenging, and we still had a long journey ahead to reach Las Vegas.
I continued with the feeling of familiarity and deja vu in many of the places we passed. Avenues flanked by palm trees; large houses very well maintained.
In the early afternoon, we started the trip to Las Vegas: a lot of traffic, it seems like all of Los Angeles had the same idea. I noticed the spectacular landscapes, though mostly desert. The most curious of the trip, was Primm, the first location in the state of Nevada right next to the border with the state of California (desert) and suddenly a city with casinos and hotels in the middle of nowhere. Welcome to Nevada!
Arriving in Las Vegas at the end of the day on Saturday, and after leaving our bags at the hotel in Boulder City, we went downtown and joined a huge crowd enjoying Memorial Day weekend next to the Bellagio Hotel & Casino where we watched the famous water show and hardly wandered a little around the area, but fatigue was already weighing on us and we ended up returning to the hotel.
When I was planning the trip I tried to convince my wife to join me in Las Vegas with the goal of getting married again and this time by Elvis (after all he is alive and lives in Las Vegas, unfortunately I could not see him), and she always positive, said that I was crazy, and that I already deceived her once and she wasn’t idiot enough to be fooled a second time.
We started the next day by visiting the Hoover Dam (a fantastic and gigantic piece of engineering). Our car was searched by law enforcement officers to enter the dam area. I think they were suspicious of Barbacena with the Benfica scarf. Then, we went back and finished the morning in Las Vegas.
The trip to Bakersfield with a pass in Death Valley was started after lunch. Death Valley is fantastic and for several hours we were totally isolated from the world, without any contact, without radio, without cellular network, only the cars we crossed paths with and the GPS of the car.
I love to walk on back roads (off the highways) because it allows calmer driving and thus enjoy the scenery and the localities with which we meet. The arrival at Bakersfield took place in the early evening, and we confined ourselves to dinner and rest, for a long journey was planned for the next day… The final goal of the third day was San Francisco, passing through Monterey and driving a bit of Highway 1 south.
I will point out the surrounding area of Monterey, simply fabulous, fully integrated with the forest, and Highway 1, where on one side of the road we have forest and hills and on the other side the Pacific Ocean.
We woke up on the fourth and final day on American soil in San Francisco. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge from the south bank to the north bank… for a moment I thought I was crossing the 25th of April bridge in Lisbon and that I was commuting to work on a normal day… and we strolled through San Francisco before delivering the car and catching the plane back to Europe (we went first to Spain before ending up in Portugal). I was very sorry that we didn’t have time to visit Alcatraz prison.
Differences to Portugal
U.S. flags on all government and public buildings and on many private homes. The U.S. is not 100% perfect, but one feels in the air the pride that people have in being American. Gratuities in Portugal are not “mandatory”, they are provided only if the customer so understands and in the value that the customer wants. I don’t know if it’s the way the roads are built or the car we drive, but at the end of driving for 7/8 hours we were much less tired than when I drive 2/3 hours on the Portuguese roads. The space, the immensity of the country, the variety of natural environments (forests, desert, mountains, snow, heat, …), there must be ranches in the USA the size of Portugal. Use of the airplane as a means of internal transport… in Portugal we almost go on foot from one location to the other, we only use the plane to go to another country.
I had low expectations, so it was a huge positive surprise. I really enjoyed it. It’s a city where I was able to live without any problems (it was cool to have Batman as a neighbor).
It disappointed me a little, due to the expectations I had and that did not come true, in the sense that I got the feeling of being a very “make-believe” city. It didn’t excite me to the point that I wanted to live there.
The biggest surprise for me, I loved the city, I found a city that tells you and shows you what it is (don’t fool you, I felt a “wave” that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I fell in love with the city and if I ever live in the U.S., it will be in Las Vegas.
My first impression was not very positive, I did not feel very safe in the area where we had dinner when we arrived (it was surroundings and it was already night, it was not city center), but it changed the next day when we strolled in the city center. I can’t decide if it’s a city I’d like to live in or not. Probably yes, but not sure.
Special Reference – Monterey
Because of the fantastic natural surroundings, it is a place where I would consider living when retired.
A week in Chicago, another 2000 kms in 4 days… a dream trip “and pears,” carried out with the help of Pomerol Partners. Many of the sets and images we came across could have come out of a Hollywood movie, and because of that the feeling of familiarity and Deja Vu accompanied us the whole journey. I was left with memories and images that I will never forget and with the desire to return… I didn’t have a chance to “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
Thanks for reading!