It’s been an awesome week – three continents’ worth! Leaving South America was sad, but hanging out with Gail and Kevin in Chertsey was just like coming home, and we managed to overcome our dislike of fingerprinting to come to the US and attend TBEX. We were lucky enough to have a discounted stay at the Casablanca Hotel, which was incredible!
21/6 Monday: Our flight left at the not-unreasonable time of 12.15, so we didn’t have to get up super-early. It felt too early though, despite the fact that we hadn’t had a late night on Sunday. We hadn’t realised that we had a stopover in Sao Paolo on the way, so that made our trip that much longer, but it was otherwise pleasant.
22/6 Tuesday: With the time zone change, we arrived in London in the early morning and were collected from the airport by Kevin, who is awesome. The rest of the day was mostly a write-off due to jet-lag, though we did have a great BBQ and catch up with Gail and Kevin in the evening.
23/6 Wednesday: Whenever we stay with Gail and Kevin we do a bit of gardening (they call us the home help, it’s great) so I headed out into the sun to rake leaves and water plants. It was so hot, I couldn’t believe I was in England. We did a bit of shopping, had another barbecue for dinner, and met some of Gail and Kevin’s friends for a drink in a pub – ahhhh culture.
24/6 Thursday: On the last day of our ludicrously short stay in the UK, we did a bit more gardening, watched the NZ-Paraguay game (and were pleased to get a tie, even if we didn’t get through to the next round), then flew to New York. We had a taste of British bureaucracy at one end and American data-gathering at the other, and the trip itself was like going back in time. We flew American Airlines – the staff were friendly but the food and in-seat entertainment put AA right at the bottom of my long-haul experience. But then, we usually fly with awesome airlines like Air New Zealand and LAN Chile.
Getting through customs was easy (though I still strongly disagree with giving away my biometric data) but we had to wait a little while for our shuttle. Made it to Casablanca Hotel without any problems though. It has the best location – right in Times Square, and all the extras they throw in make it really special.
25/6 Friday: The very first thing on our NYC to-do list was to replace our aging Powerbook, so we found the Apple Store and made a very swift purchase – probably made the sales guy’s day. The store was immense, full of staff and customers and other people who were just there to check their email for free.
As part of our tickets to the Travel Blog Exchange conference, we got NYC passes – so we get to do all sorts of awesome stuff here for free. We decided to start off with the Empire State Building, so we met Chris Christensen (who is our good friend/competitor and who we’ve met once before) to go to the top. He was the right person to go with – he pointed out all the items of interest, rendering our audioguides superfluous. I listened to a bit of it, but Chris was more interesting (and possibly more accurate).
After a stop back at the Casablancafor a glass of wine, we all headed out to the speakers’ dinner, our first TBEX event (although apparently there had been some other escapades on Wednesday and Thursday that we missed). After that was the official kick-off party. It was incredible to see people like Sean Keener and Matt Kepnes again, and to finally connect with some amazing people we’ve known for years and count as friends but who we’ve just never met in person before – Sherry Ott, Gary Arndt and Kim Mance to name a very few.
26/6 Saturday: It was an early start on Saturday to get to TBEX on time, it was quite a long walk away. We’ve really been enjoying doing a bit more city walking, and New York is a good place for it, there’s a lot to see. TBEX (the Travel Blog Exchange conference) was great, especially the first two sessions on storytelling and video narrative. Lunch (put on by Australia, thanks guys) was tasty too. There were a couple of other events after the conference itself, they mostly involved drinking and failing to win an iPad. Certainly the highlight for me was talking to some of the other attendees – I’m just sad that there were so many people there that I didn’t have a chance to talk to.
27/6 Sunday: Another TBEX day. We packed up and left earlyish and made it to the conference on time. In the evening we had to change accommodation, so we took off pretty soon after the end of the official programming to move uptown. We planned to meet up with everyone later on, but the only hostel in our budget was far far away from where everyone was drinking, so we found a nice restaurant to have dinner in, and turned in for the night.