May 13, 2015: Speaking in London

Today is Wednesday and today is my talk on “DevOps and Snowflakes” at SpiceWorld London.  I was really, really tired getting up this morning as it was so late when I finally got back to the hotel last night and it was a long, exhausting walk to get myself there.

Getting on the tube this morning way awful.  Partially because I had a heavily loaded backpack since I had to clear out of the hotel this morning but also because it was rush hour and I had to wait for three trains before there was one that I could get on.

Finally got the conference with time to grab coffee and relax in the lounge for a little bit before heading to my conference room to speak.  Then I did my hour long talk which I feel went decently well.  I always get good feedback because people don’t want to say that they did not enjoy it so it is very hard to know if you have actually done a good job or not.  But it felt decent.  Not my best, but okay.

From there there was very little time to spend at the conference.  I was there for maybe another half an hour, which was unfortunate, before heading out to go to my London office for a good portion of the day.  Fortunately the London office is directly next to Liverpool Street Station so after putting in a few hours there I was able to walk right across the street, get immediately onto the Stansted Express and was back at the airport in no time.

Because I had allowed a lot of buffer time in getting to the airport and everything went so smoothly that I was at the airport early enough to stop and get coffee and a felafel burger while waiting for the gate to be announced.  The food was excellent and was at a quirky little restaurant called Giraffe.

The flight home was fine.  No issues. I almost had a problem because, again, American passport holders have a special requirement that I did not know about and I was supposed to have gotten cleared to fly at the baggage desk even though I had no baggage.  This was a RyanAir policy, not an airport or security policy.  Really just a way to have an excuse to not let people fly.  RyanAir really makes Americans feel seriously unwanted.  Which, I assume, is actually the case as few places in the world like America so having policies that single us out or group us with less desirable groups is understandable.  But thankfully the RyanAir crew were nice and only scolded me and showed me what I had done wrong and allowed me to fly anyway.

I landed in Malaga after dark.  It was a long walk back to the car and a very long drive back to Cáñar at night.  Very glad to be back home in Spain.  Time for bed.

May 12, 2015: SpiceWorld London

Today is Tuesday and it is the main day, the only full day, of SpiceWorld London.  I am not speaking today, however, but am speaking tomorrow morning so today I get to relax, for the most part, and just attend the conference.

I knew that the day would be busy and that there was nothing that I needed to attend first thing this morning so I took the chance to sleep in a little, until about seven thirty, and shower and have a leisurely trip into the conference.  I did well getting there on the tube with plenty of time to meet up with people, get registered and checked in (did not have a chance to do that last night, if you remember) and get into the conference before the sessions actually began.

As with the last few years, my badge was missing.  I have given up on expecting one anymore.  And, in reality, I prefer the anonymity of not having one.  I have been doing this long enough that the novelty of being a minor celebrity has worn off and without the badge I am able to mostly blend into the background and the majority of people are not even aware that I am there.  Only the people who actually know me, which is pretty few when in London, realize that I am at the conference.

I managed to snag breakfast at the conference, which was a cheese and tomato croissant which was absolutely fantastic.  In fact, I snagged a lot of them.  Best croissants ever.

The London conference is tiny compared to Austin.  It really all happens in a single room and the venue is more like the old Alamo Drafthouse movie theater and less like what Austin has been for the past many years.  This was very low key and casual.  But far less of a party than the Alamo in Austin used to be.  I really miss those old conference days, those were awesome.

The conference went well today.  I had a good time and I feel like the time was well spent since I am here to speak tomorrow.

At lunch I managed to meet someone from my London office.  We had a nice time and it was very valuable getting a chance to get to know a bit about the London team.

After the conference was over, I skipped the 80s party, I’ve made the mistake of going to that one in the past specifically, and instead went right next door to the Jugged Hare to meet up with Clare that I used to work with at Citi back in 2006.  We last met up for coffee when I was in London working on Canary Wharf in 2007!  She had left Citi right about that time so we have not actually worked together for at least seven years but we stay in touch on Facebook.

We had a really nice time catching up at the pub.  She drank wine and I sampled all of the cask ales that they had.  We were there until after eleven!

There was supposed to be a late night pub crawl that I was to organize after the 80s party way over so I hung around for nearly an hour waiting for people to get back just to find out that no one (again, London is not a party down) was up for it.  But because I had waited on them, I had missed the last train back to Westminster.  That sucked.

Danielle ended up being the only person who met me, mostly just because she had to go back to her hotel anyway and I was on the street between the tube and the hotel.  So we walked back there and got a pizza.  We would have done fish and chips again but it was so late that the last kitchen was closed but they hotel does pizza all night so at least we were able to get that.  Definitely a frozen pizza, though, and not on par with the fish and chips.

We also went through our swag bags with an eye towards how we would deal with them needing to fly back to our respective countries.  After going through it we decided that there was nothing worth keeping, including the bags themselves, and tossed it all right there so that we would not have to deal with it tomorrow.  The bag itself was so cheap there was nothing that we would ever use it for. I’ve had a couple of awesome bags from these conferences in the past but a few have been pretty horrible. This was not the worst but not good enough to keep when you don’t live locally and, if I was thinking clearly, not good enough to keep if I was local either.

So around one thirty in the morning I set out to head back to Westminster.  Since the tube was closed and I had no idea how to use the buses and certainly did not want to spend a bunch on a taxi I just started walking.  It was more than four miles, possibly quite a bit more than four, across the heart of London.  What a long night.  But interesting, too.  I got to see so much of the “real” London that I have never seen before.  Lots of neighbourhoods (Notting Hill, for example) that I have never knowingly been in before.  Lots of different districts. Shopping areas, restaurant areas, warehouses, residential, you name it.  It was a very long walk and I got a lot of blisters but it was fun and interesting and the same time.  Rather chilly, though.

It was a little after four in the morning when I finally got to my hotel, after being propositioned by a number of prostitutes along the way, and I was very exhausted.  It was a long day.  I went straight to bed.  I am speaking late tomorrow morning on “DevOps and Snowflakes” at SpiceWorld and then traveling back to Spain immediately following my portion of the conference.

May 11, 2015: Off to London for SpiceWorld

This is my travel day from Spain to London.  I had to be up very early this morning so that I could get ready and set off in the car to drive out to the airport in Malaga, two hours away.  Not a little drive.

I was out the door early in the morning and drove the two hours down to Malaga and parked the car in the garage.  That is going to be some expensive parking.

Getting into the airport was a pain as all of the airport section near where I parked was closed off.  So I had to do a lot of unnecessary walking with everything that I was going to be using this week on my back.  I should not complain as this is a fraction of what Rachel and Shawn have been carrying for months.

I ran into some issues at the airport.  This is my first time flying RyanAir and we have no printer at home.  I am using their app on my iPhone to check into the flight and online their CEO said that if the app did not work for check in that they would print your boarding passes for free.  But on arrival this was not true – anyone with an American passport was not given this free printing and I had to pay an outrageous printing fee that required me to go find a service desk, pay them, take a receipt to the luggage check desk, etc.  A huge waste of time and money and absolutely terrible customer service.  Clearly the CEO said that just to trick people into trying to use the app, going to the airport and RyanAir making a small fortune on unavoidable scam fees.  Very unhappy about that.

Once I managed to get a boarding pass I got right through security and had some time to relax at the airport.  This was a bit of a mess because they did not announce the gate that I needed to be at until the last second so you had to wait in the middle and run for the gate the moment that it was announced.  Once you got to the gate they did not put up any sign to say that you were at the right place so you just had to stand in a line that ran for several gates and hope for the best.

I got to visit with some people from the UK for a good thirty minutes while waiting to board the plane, at least.  We had a good chat and killed the time well.

Once on the plane things were pretty good.  The flight was comfortable and there was plenty of room for my large back pack and there were no incidents.  That went surprisingly well.

I landed at Stansted, the London airport that I know the least, and made my way to the train station in the airport to grab the Stansted Express which would take me right to the Liverpool Station.  That ended up being pretty handy although I would not realize how handy until later.

The ride in was nice and relaxing.  I had gotten coffee and a croissant at the station so had that while I was on the train.  I got one of the little seats with the table.

Once in London proper I just hopped right on the tube and zipped across the cities many miles to Lancaster Gate Station and from there had a short walk through Westminster to my hotel right around the corner from Paddington Station.

I got into the hotel, the Ascott, and got up to my fifth floor room which required riding an elevator to the fourth floor and then walking up.  The hotel from the outside and from the lobby looked ancient but the room itself was quite nice and modern.  It was odd, though, because the bathroom and most of the room was totally modern and sleek but the closet and the tiny desk looked like they were straight out of a 1970s dorm room completely with forty years of wear and tear on them.  Completely out of place and weird.

Sadly, no Internet access in the hotel room.  I have 3G on my phone so that I can be reached and I can get WiFi in the lobby.

I showered and dressed.  Danielle had arrived but neither of us was going to get to the early event check in.  That will just have to wait until tomorrow.

I had a little bit of time, maybe an hour, to relax.  Then it was into the tube again and over to the St. Paul’s station and a twenty minute or so walk to the pub where the “night before” welcome party for SpiceWorld was being held.  The party was already in full swing when I arrived.  I pretty much, as always seems to happen ever since hanging with Justin Dorfman outside of SpiceWorld 2010 in Austin, never made it into the real party other than to grab a pint but instead stood outside in front of the venue.  This has become a standard for me on opening night.

It was a light party, nothing like we have in Austin, but we had fun.  It was very pretty early and there was no late night stuff like I am used to.  London is one of the sleepiest towns that I have ever known so I was not too surprised.

There was basically nothing vegetarian at the event, which is not a surprise to me anymore – I long ago stopped assuming that I could eat at SpiceWorld events as they are meat crazy as a community meme.  Danielle also found no food to eat.  So, after the opening event was over, she and I walked back towards her hotel looking for a restaurant.

We walked a very, very long way and, as I have come to expect in London, found not a single restaurant open.  Found tons that had closed just minutes to an hour before we came upon them but none that were serving anything at all.  None.  London is a really tough town if you want to get a pint or food after about nine.

We ended up hitting a jackpot.  Danielle’s hotel, of all places, actually had a restaurant in it.  She was staying at the Travelodge which you would never expect to have the one late night restaurant in the area, but that is where we ended up.  We basically managed to make the last order for the night from the kitchen and got fish and chips which turned out to be pretty good, in fact.

I had a long walk after dinner to the tube to get back to my own hotel.  It was probably around one in the morning when I got back and was getting into bed.

May 10, 2015: Preparing for London

Today is Sunday.  Tomorrow morning I have to leave for London to attend (and speak at) SpiceWorld London 2015.  So today needs to be a catch up on rest and get everything packed sort of day.  No big plans today.

We all slept in and then went to lunch at the meson in town.  It was a bright and warm day here in the village.  We enjoyed a nice, relaxing lunch in the afternoon.  The girls decided to go down and play in the playground while we ate which is handy because we can sit on the balcony and be right next to them while they get some exercise.

The girls wore themselves out pretty quickly and ended up coming up to eat with us.

While we were at the meson there were actually some tourists who came to get a drink there.  They turned out to be Belgians who were driving through the region for the day.  So we chatted with them for a little bit.

This evening was very slow.  Watched some of The Love Boat with Dominica and got to bed quite early.  I have a long week coming up.

May 9, 2015: Lanjarón with Rachel and Shawn

Today is our first weekend with Rachel and Shawn at the house and today is really my only free day as tomorrow I need to get all ready to head to London early Monday morning. To get ready, Dominica and I needed to hit the grocery store so we left the kids with Rachel and Shawn and ran down the mountain to Órgiva to start the day.

We hit the grocery store and got stocked up on what we needed since I am going to be gone and no one is able to go down the mountain to get groceries again until Thursday as tomorrow is Sunday and everything is closed and I will be gone Monday through Wednesday.  So this was pretty important.

After the grocery shopping we went to the Moroccan restaurant that we liked so much and got take away pita wraps to take back to eat up on the hill.  We got coffee and ice cream while we were waiting, though.

Once we were back up in our village we set up on the terrace and ate lunch.  The food was awesome.

We had a bit of logistical stuff that we wanted to do with them today as this is really the first that they have been stationary anywhere for a few months and they needed to deal with a few things.  A big one was just finding a tee shirt for Shawn which, you would think, would be pretty easy but really is not.  We could think of nowhere in Órgiva to get one but felt that Lanjarón would be more likely to offer something.

We all slept in a lot today and then had a lazy start. It was around five when Shawn, Rachel and I drove out to Lanjarón.  This is their first chance to leave Cáñar since arriving a few days ago.  They have gotten to see nothing except for the village.  Dominica and the girls could not go with us as only I can drive and I can either fit Rachel and Shawn in the car or I can fit the family but I cannot fit both.

We got out to Lanjarón and parked in the municipal parking and walked up the hill to the main street to see what we could find.  We started by going east as that is the direction that I knew the least and there was every possibility that we would just find a clothing store.  At the main circle, where there is the giant, awesome fountain that must be thirty feet high or more and is a giant stone girl drinking from a water fountain shooting up from the ground, we took the northern road that I have never been on before.

There were really no stores on the northern walk.  We found a grocery and a bakery but it was a very residential street.  We did find some really cute plazas and neat little nooks where people lived.  It was a nice walk and a great introduction for Rachel and Shawn to what life in a city like this would be like.

We returned to the circle and took the southern road to the east from the circle this time which had many more businesses, but not the type that we needed.  We walked all the way out to where we drive by when we enter the city from Cáñar and discovered where the big grocery store, the Dia, was located.  But no clothing shops.

Now to go west.  We walked all of the way through the city, ducking into every little bazaar and souvenir shop in the hopes that they would be selling shirts of some sort.  There was tons and tons of women’s clothing available everywhere but nothing for men.  Some stuff for kids.  But not for men.

It was a lot of walking and a lot of hunting around in stores.  We did find a nice gelato place and stopped to get Rachel and Shawn their first ice cream here.  I got the pomegranate (granada) which was amazing.

We walked all of the way to the park and spa on the far west of town.  It was in the very next to last shop that we finally found one store selling men’s souvenir tee shirts.  So Shawn’s one tee shirt is now a blue Lanjarón shirt that he will be using for the next few seasons around Europe.  He won’t be forgetting Lanjarón anytime soon!

As we walked back towards the center of town we talked about getting some food while we were out.  As Dominica and the kids are not here to feed, and I am happy just eating cheese, it was the perfect time to take Rachel and Shawn to a jamoneria (a specialty ham shop.)  There are two in town that look really nice.  One way out to the west that we took a look into but felt that it was going to be really expensive (I am pretty sure now that that assessment was incorrect) and one in the center of town.  So we went to the middle of town and got a seat out on the street.

We ordered a round of wine and this was the first time that Rachel and Shawn got to really experience Granada tapas culture – along with the very low cost wine came a huge plate full of expensive jamon.  They were really impressed.  You could not get the wine nor the food for twice this money in the States.  Nor could you get this quality.

We looked over the menu and decided on a media (half portion) meat plate and a full racion (full plate, basically a ration) of mixed goat and sheep cheese (they had never had goat cheese or even seen sheep cheese before.)  The cheese plate was amazing.  So many awesome cheeses.  It was an awesome dinner.  We also got another round and more tapas came along.  Rachel was so full that she could not eat the tapas that came but the cheese (with meat in it) was so good that she sneaked all of it into her purse (they don’t do take away in Europe) so that she could make grilled cheese sandwiches with it tomorrow.  We also discovered a very low alcohol beer called a Shandy which is beer and something like lemonade mixed together.  Very tasty.

It was dark when we got back to the car and drove back to Cáñar.  A long day in Lanjarón but ultimately it did end up being productive.  At one of the bazaars I had managed to find replacement clothing line for the terrace too.

After getting back home for a bit, we decided to go out to Bar Piqui, which was open for the first time since Rachel and Shawn had come to town.  It is always a challenge to figure out what is and is not going to be open on any given day.  So this was a chance to explore a new place.

It was a busy night at the bar with lots of locals (and their dogs) hanging out.  Tonight someone had a guitar and people were singing which was really interesting.  I managed to get a video up to YouTube of the bar singing.  This is something I have never seen back in the US.

We had a few beers then called it a night.