Being sick is never fun, but it seems particularly unfortunate that Craig and I have our first colds in almost two years right when we’re spending time with people. Spending the week in Ireland and Croatia is at least a bit of a pay-off!
Monday 30/9: Craig had been asked to be the resident tech geek at BlogHouse, a learning retreat for travel bloggers, and Monday was his big day. He spoke at the sessions about WordPress, SEO, and the basics of travel blogging, and was in hot demand for one-on-one talks. I wasn’t on staff, but I really enjoyed the sessions that I attended, as well as getting to know the attendees (Murissa, Andrew, Helen, Lance, Jaclynn, Brendon, Jo, Megan, Julika, and Béatrice). I spent quite a lot of time chatting with Andrew about his volunteering experiences, and with Helen about her trips to Africa, and really enjoyed hanging out in a castle!
Tuesday 1/10: The sessions continued but Craig had the morning off, so we slept in and staggered downstairs later than everyone else to attend a discussion on monetization. I attended Pete and Michael’s photography class but otherwise spent the afternoon trying to plan our upcoming Balkans trip — I’ve really left it to the last minute!
After dinner most of us walked down to the village pub for a few pints with Isabelle and Leah, representatives of two of BlogHouse’s sponsors, HostelBookers and HostelWorld. (The other two were FlipKey and Trivago.) Craig, whose cold was a lot worse than mine, stayed behind and made the most of our awesome bathroom by having a long hot bath.
Wednesday 2/10: Although BlogHouse was definitely held at the beginning of the week, its three-day format made it feel like a weekend. The last session of this virtual weekend was the most interactive, as the participants had to give their elevator pitch to a panel that included industry representatives (reps they’d had a drink with the night before, but still). This was followed by a quick rush to pack up and leave Bansha; most of us were travelling to Dublin on the same train. Craig and I sat with Michael and Ayngelina — we’ve seen a lot of Michael recently but we’ve never really spent time with Ayngelina, so it was nice to get to know her a little.
In Dublin, we were being put up by Barnacles Hostel, which has an enviable location in the centre of the Temple Bar nightlife district. We just had time to look through the goody bags our contact Lidija had left us, and do half an hour’s work, before it was time to head out to the BlogHouse industry function. This was immediately followed by the TBEX Dublin Opening Night Party at the Guinness Storehouse, sponsored by Failte Ireland.
They’d gone all-out on entertainment, with stilt walkers to welcome us, bands around every corner, and Irish dancers galore, but I was there to see my friends. Finding them took a bit of time as we had to stop halfway up the stairs for a Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-like Guinness tasting experience (there were smoking columns, need I say more?). Eventually, though, we found Corey from Irish Fireside and I spent most of the evening with him, Heather, and a couple of other bloggers. This isn’t to say that I didn’t meet anyone new — I particularly enjoyed my conversation with Ian and his slightly drunk friend.
Thursday 3/10: For us, TBEX is about connecting with other bloggers, and Tuesday was great for that… especially the time we spent with Corey and Chris Christensen. We somehow managed to spend about two hours just talking at the DoubleTree, where TBEX was being held, and then walked over to the Odeon together for the Expedia party.
Friday 4/10: It wouldn’t be a conference if you didn’t skip out on at least one session, so we slept in then walked over to the Old Jameson Distillery for a tour and whiskey tasting; there’s nothing like whiskey for breakfast. Craig met Michael to get some work done and I was given a tour of our hostel before trying to do just a tiny bit more Balkan-trip planning.
I think I attended just one TBEX session on Friday apart from Dan and Audrey‘s excellent closing key-note speech, but I certainly got some people time: with Leyla, Dan and Linda, and a few interesting industry reps. This continued at the post-TBEX drinks and at two unofficial after parties… and so ended our second weekend of the week.
Saturday 5/10: We’d been sensible the night before and not stayed out too late, which paid off the next morning when we had to get up at 6am for a 9am flight to Zadar, Croatia. Luckily everything went well and our plane touched down after three hours in the air to the sound of Ryanair’s self-congratulatory “on-time” jingle. The luck continued as we walked out the door of the airport and right on to the bus into the city; I was impressed that the public transport company had hired an English-speaking host to deal with the hordes of tourists arriving on our flight.
Recent rain had left Zadar’s polished streets quite slippery, so we almost literally slid our way to our accommodation. After checking into our (frankly quite amazing) hostel, the Boutique Hostel Forum, we had burek for lunch and went for a quick stroll around the old town. The highlight was seeing workers transfer trays of fish from a boat on to a waiting truck; the fluid motions they used, how they all worked in unison to ensure speed: it was quite beautiful. The wedding party we later saw marching down our street, serenaded by relatives and followed by dozens of guests? That was also impressive, I suppose.
Sunday 6/10: Rain kept us inside in the morning but also meant that we met Annie and Colin, who are busking to fund their travels. I convinced them to do an interview for an upcoming podcast, and they even played for me — on the harp and mandolin! We saw them later on as they busked on the waterfront near the sea organ; we were making the most of a break in the rain to see a little more of the city. We also visited the Archaeological Museum, which I quite liked despite the fact that one of its three floors has been closed for a year and shows no sign of reopening; the audio guide was great and the collection of prehistorical objects on the top floor was thoughtfully displayed.
The skies opened again after lunch so we holed up in our cabin-like bunks to work. We were interrupted at one point by a member of the housekeeping staff, who was bringing us back the laundry we’d left to be cleaned. Since we’d handed in one bag and she’d brought back three, we were pretty sure this couldn’t be our washing, and this was confirmed by the fact that one of the bags held two large, brightly coloured towels. When I pointed this out to the maid, she said “no, no, they are a gift from the hostel, they are from Croatia.” I think they saw our piddly little travel towels and took pity on us!
The real weekend ended with a damp dinner out.