Travel

IMG_5756

Day 4: Polar Bear’s Club.

I awoke to a dull light illuminating the room. Erroneously thinking I had woken up before everyone else I decided to grab my phone and check the time: 11:00AM. The dull light wasn’t from the sunrise, no it was because the weather had finally turned and we were greeted by our first overcast day since arriving. We had known this was coming and had planned accordingly, today would be spent lazing around the house and eventually making our way out to the Polar Bear’s Club, a relaxation spot where we’d spend the afternoon to early evening lying in pools, sweating in saunas and getting the requisite massage that all holidays need.

IMG_5756

The late morning until afternoon was uneventful, spent half watching TV, browsing the usual websites and lazily getting ready to go. I made the mistake of opening up my work email (with all good intentions of shutting it down after I set my out of office message) and reading through the various trials and tribulations that were going on half a world away. Thankfully I resisted the urge to respond to anything, merely marking the vast majority of the 60+ emails as read and leaving the rest for future Dave to solve.

The trip out would take us the better part of 2 hours thanks to some heavy traffic along the way. I thought myself rid of all the jet lag however I was hit with a wave of tiredness I hadn’t yet felt, bringing into question just how well my circadian rhythm had adjusted. It passed quickly after a short nap however although I’d be lying if I said I felt it was completely gone. Shortly afterwards we arrived at our destination, a semi-rural retreat called the Polar Bear’s Club that was promising us a day of relaxation after the mild bedlam of the past few days.

The spa itself is set against a picturesque river, albeit a stones throw away from the main highway. My wife was disappointed to see that some of the renovations had, in her opinion, made the place worse and wished to show me how it was when she was last there. Undeterred we made our way in, got changed and proceeded to make use of the facilities. The warm pools and brisk river were great to jump between, invigorating the muscles and mind. We also spent a little time in the dry sauna that was powered by eucalyptus wood making for a rather intense experience.

The massages were so-so, our masseuse unable to conjure up the requisite strength to penetrate my wife and I’s muscles to our satisfaction. However the wet sauna we went into afterwards made up for that in spades, seeping the heat deep into our bodies. The steam was, again, infused with eucalyptus ensuring that every breath drawn opened up the airways fully. I couldn’t stand more than 5 minutes in there however. The walk to the door was also quite a challenge, the extra height gained from sitting to standing enough to dramatically increase the heat I received.

This was to to be the night where our hosts would cook us their favorite three cheese pasta however we were all drowsy from a long day spent doing nothing. Instead we decided to grab some food and watch something light before retiring. This plan went well until we discovered some mold in some of the sandwiches we had bought, something which the restaurant did make right by us thankfully. With that we bid the night to a close and left our plans open for the next day.

This being my first real holiday in 6 years I had forgotten one of my less-than-desirable habits: wishing that this whole thing would be over. I don’t know what causes it, maybe out of a desire to finish things in as short a time as possible, but I can remember thinking the exact same thing on nearly every holiday I’ve been on. There’s only one cure I’ve found: getting beyond the halfway point. I’m sure sometime tomorrow it’ll finally hit me that I only have 2 days left here and almost a week will be gone from our holiday already but until then there’s still a nagging thought train pushing me to “get this holiday done”.

Whatever it is if it doesn’t abate soon I’ll be treating it with a non-zero amount of gin and other high strength spirits ūüėČ

IMG_5736

Day 3: Jazz and Rockaberry

I expected to pay for my day of fun this morning, thinking my legs and feet would rebel after the some dozens of kilometers I walked the previous day. Seems I must have been doing something right with my exercise over the past couple years as there wasn’t a hint of additional soreness to be found. A quick stretch after an (admittedly¬†very lazy morning) saw me prepped and ready for the day ahead. Not that we had much in the way of plans for the day. No the planning was reserved for tonight: a great dinner accompanied by live jazz music all for celebrating our host”s birthday.

IMG_5736

Our day started with a trip to¬†Le D√©jeuner Cosmopolitain, a breakfast restaurant who specializes in crepes which could leave two people satisfied with a single serving. I indulged in one of bananas and strawberries, smothered in a far too generous helping of Nutella. This was also when I made my first dining faux pas, fat fingering the credit card machine and accidentally not giving them a tip. I didn’t realize this until the waitress asked me profusely if her service was ok which clued me into what I had done.

We then debated the merits of making a trip down to Old Montreal to kill time before dinner this evening. In the end we decided against it, figuring we’d only have a couple hours before we’d have to rush back home to get ready. So instead we lounged around our host’s house, watching a movie and just generally milling around. In hindsight this time may have been better spent doing the few errands we needed to do before we went out as the next hour or so was a mad rush.

The restaurant we were going had an offer going on Living Social, giving us essentially half off our bill. Unfortunately we didn’t have a printer at this house so our host’s parents graciously offered us the use of theirs. I noticed a HAM radio whilst we were there and meant to strike up a conversation. I was later told that, whilst our host’s dad would be very appreciative, we’d like not have made it out of there for many hours if I had. Once we had that sorted we were off and into downtown Montreal traffic, something that delayed us for much longer than Google had estimated.

The House of Jazz was an amazing venue, one that our server had told us hadn’t changed in the better part of 40 years. Halfway through the night a live jazz band began playing which, whilst entertaining, was a bit of a killer to the conversation. Still we managed to get acquainted with everyone at the table, hearing their stories, regaling them with ours and wishing the birthday girl all the best for the coming year as a slightly older person.

The night didn’t end there however as, since we weren’t allowed to bring our own cake into the House of Jazz, we decided to frequent one of our host’s favorite places: Rockaberry. The cake selection was impressive, ranging from the simple favorites like apple crumbles to the extravagant like an Oreo cheesecake. I made the mistake of ordering a hot chocolate on the side, my insulin rocketing to all new highs and threatening to send me into a food coma in no short order.

As I type this we’re lying on the couch, waiting patiently for Game of Thrones to download. Our host is an unabashed fan of the series, the books dotted throughout the house and the couches covered in cushions adorned with the Stark emblem. This will be our final hurrah before we call it a night for some well needed rest. Tomorrow we shall be spoiling the birthday girl (and ourselves!) once again with a trip to the Polar Bear Club spa for a day of relaxation.

IMG_5721

Day 2: La Ronde.

There’s a scratching noise coming from the corner of our room. I think it’s just the cat, it’s scratching pole is in our room, but it’s too methodical. The noise is rhythmic and not enough to fully rouse me from my slumber. I learn later that it was my wife beavering away at the personal gift she’s made for her friend’s birthday which is tomorrow night. An hour or so later I find the energy to lift myself out of my bed and begin the day, one that will see me touring Montreal’s premier amusement park: La Ronde.

IMG_5721

Our hosts are making us breakfast today, a simple one of coffee, eggs and bacon. Now I’m usually one for eggs, they’ve long been ruined for reasons I can no longer remember, however I’m tempted by some home made hot sauce that had a powerful aroma. Eggs, when accompanied by something with actual taste, are a far more palatable affair. Of course in usual fashion I probably overdid it and paid the price over the course of the day. The rest of the breakfast was delightful however, even the filter coffee which is typically trash in these parts of the world. Once we were done it was a quick trip to La Ronde and revisiting something I hadn’t done in half a dozen years.

The weather is pretty much perfect, although being in the sun with no shade did push it into unbearable territory. Unfortunately we found ourselves in peak season so the park was somewhat packed. However the time spent in lines passed quickly, the conversation flowing around numerous topics whilst we waited for our turn on the ride. We managed to hit all the flagship rides including a large, wooden roller coaster. Unsurprisingly it was exactly how I remembered riding a similar one in Australia, my bones shaken to the core and my adrenaline sent to all time highs.

Our hosts had warned us of one roller coaster, one that had been recently changed to go backwards rather than forwards. This coaster had apparently made both of them quite ill for a period of time, enough so that both of them warned us against riding it. Their warnings were only reinforced by the fact that the lines for this ride, out of the all the rides, were non-existent allowing us to stroll right up and get straight on. The ride itself was great however but our newfound strength and hubris would soon be our downfall.

To cap off the day we boarded one of those typical carnival rides, the ones with the seats on long chains that spin around for a few minutes before sending you back down to the ground. All of us walked away from that feeling rather awful, a simple and uneventful ride able to do more damage than all of the previous combined. This made the walk back to the car a slow one, the nausea only abating once we’d finally found our way back home.

The day was finished with an extremely late dinner at a lakeside restaurant, one that our host had previously worked at. I indulged myself in an old favorite, BBQ chicken wings and a blue cheese burger. Canada might not be America but I’ll be damned if the portions aren’t the same. We once again began the slow waddle back to the car to end our night back at home.

All the while this went on I couldn’t help but remember how I felt the previous time I was here. The city of Montreal is a dichotomy of old and new, juxtaposed against each other nearly everywhere you look. Even the new can look old too, with (I’m told) the construction handled by the Montreal Mafioso who do poor work for extraordinary pay. I find it interesting as cities typically gentrify holistically, sections being upheaved¬†and renewed in one fell swoop rather than in isolation. But this is just the view of an outsider, I have no reference as to why these things are they way they are.

IMG_20160624_100249

Day 1: So Many Planes.

The alarm goes off but I’m already awake. It’s going to be our first big trip in 6 years and my mind is churning through all the things it doesn’t need to. The anxiety that’s been building up over the past couple months, anxiety born out of a fear of actually taking some time off work, is wrecking all sorts of havoc on me. The text message at 4:30AM saying our flight has been delayed doesn’t help but it quickly turns out to be nothing. We board our plane at the crack of dawn and jet off into the sunset, the first step on a 3 plane and 24 hour trip that will see us land in Montreal, Canada.

IMG_20160624_100249

Had it not been for a work trip to Singapore earlier in the year this would be my first international trip in quite some time. Before then such travel was simply par for the course and I had developed numerous habits that helped make each trip that much easier. Those habits were long gone now, my knowledge of airports up heaved by the rapid change they’ve all undergone over the years I’ve been absent. Once I boarded our Air Canada flight to Vancouver however all the worry quickly melted away to be quickly replaced by the drudgery that is long haul cattle class travel.

The flights were uneventful, filled with average food, surprisingly decent wine and fitful attempts at trying to get some sleep. It seems that being able to sleep on planes is one of those useful habits that has slipped by the wayside as I only managed a couple broken hours over the entire day I just spent in planes. The shining star however is the Kindle Paperwhite that I picked up before I left, stacked to the brim with enough eBooks to last me for the entire 5 week long trip. I’ve found myself reading a lot more than I would have otherwise, something I’m sure many of my friends would be delighted to hear.

We arrived in Canada to the usual fanfare of tired people waiting in lines. Our hosts (one of which is my wife’s best friend and the whole reason we’re in this country) were caught up in the catacombs that is Montreal’s airport car park. They found their way to us eventually and we were quickly off to her new house to while away the rest of the day.

The trip there was an interesting mix of nostalgia and wanderlust. There were so many places that I recognised from our previous trip: the hotel we stayed in, the Tim Horton’s that we drunkenly stumbled into at 2AM for doughnut holes and the supermarkets we frequented to get snacks for movies we watched of a night time. The weather here is beautiful but I’m told it won’t last past the weekend. Thankfully we’ll be able to cram in all the cool outdoor things before the weather turns and then spend the rest of the time resting up before we depart to our next destination.

It’s strange thinking back to the last time I was here. I was a completely different person back then and now I’ll be experiencing the same thing again in a completely new way. I guess this is the first stage of me taking stock of everything, something which I think is a core part of what a holiday is regardless of the destination. Tomorrow we’re going to La Ronde, the largest amusement park in Montreal, and after my experience with Disneyland all those years ago I’m very much looking forward to it,

Airbnb Logo

Airbnb’s Secret Sauce is That it Works, and Works Well.

For PAX Australia¬†this year my friends and I were left in a rather unenviable position. All of the Melbourne residents didn’t have the space to accommodate the 6 of us visiting and trying to find accommodation that would suit us was proving troublesome. ¬†Sure we could’ve booked multiple hotel rooms but the price wasn’t particularly great, on the order of $200 per night per room (of which we’d need 3). Whilst we’d previously used holiday homes for other adventures our usual websites weren’t coming up with anything, at least nothing in a reasonable price range. After mulling over the options I finally relented and gave Airbnb a go and the experience was pretty amazing.

Airbnb LogoSearching around for places that were close to PAX I found a couple places that were available for that weekend which could accommodate the lot of us. From the pictures most of them didn’t look like anything special but we weren’t going to be doing much there at all so I wasn’t particularly fussed. After jumping through a couple login hoops and laying down my credit card I had booked 3 nights accommodation for 6 people for a grand total of $600. If I had booked hotels to cover the same time period the cost would have been almost triple that, something which my travelling compatriots were very pleased with.

We were quite unlucky when it came to fly down as the weather saw many of the afternoon flights cancelled. I was worried that we’d get there too late and end up annoying our hosts but arriving at 9:30PM I was greeted by the couple who owned the house plus one of their friends. After dropping off all my gear I asked them if there was anywhere local I could get dinner and, to my surprise, they offered up the left overs from the dinner they had just packed up. They also gave us breakfast every morning, not that we stayed for it since we were usually meeting up with everyone at PAX.

Talking it over with our hosts it seemed like this experience wasn’t exactly uncommon as they had had several Airbnbers through previously all of which said similar things. Indeed all my friends who have used Airbnb since have commented on just how smooth the whole process is and how cheap the accommodation is when you compare it to hotel rooms of the same quality. This is even in a country where Airbnb doesn’t have that much use when compared to local equivalents (like Stayz).

It came as little surprise then that Airbnb has been shown to have positive effects for tourism in the areas in which its prevalent with guests often spending a lot more in the area than their hotel counter parts. I know that for myself personally the money that would’ve otherwise been spent on accommodation did end up in other places and I felt far more at ease with spending more knowing that my entire accommodation budget was only $100. At the same time I know that some of my friends might not have attended if the accommodation price was too high and Airbnb made it possible for them to come and not have to worry about it.

What Airbnb has above everyone else is the fact that their service just plain works, taking away all the barriers that would otherwise be required to book a stay at a non-hotel location. I was able to find a place, check it out, book it and send an email to everyone coming all in the space of 30 minutes, even without having used the service before. The only improvement I’d love to see (and feel free to correct me if this already exists within it) would be the ability to split the payment up and have everyone pay their share directly. It wasn’t too much of an issue for me however but it’s something that I’m sure a lot of people would love.

Now we just need Uber to start making their way around here, then I’ll be able to do all my travel needs from my smartphone. Now that’d be awesome.

 

DSC_0243_1

Travelling Light.

My first overseas trip is probably the best example I can give of my over-packer mentality. It was the middle of 2001, I’d only just become comfortable with the college lifestyle (for the Americans I’m referring to the 2 years prior to university) and my parents agreed to send me on a school trip to Japan something I was incredibly eager to do. Of course this being the first time they’d sent one of their children overseas my parents ensured I’d have everything I’d need whilst over there, and I really do mean everything. I managed to lug 2 giant sports bags around with me for the entire trip which contained nearly every article of clothing I owned. Whilst it was nice to not have to do laundry I think the ridicule I recieved for my rather ludicrous amount of baggage was well deserved.

DSC_0243_1The habit didn’t die there unfortunately, managing to cement itself as something that I’d do instinctively throughout all my travels over the years. Indeed this became something of a running joke of whenever I’d go to visit friends as they’d often wonder why I was waiting for checked baggage only to break into hysterics when they sighted my brimming luggage trundle past on the carousel. When travelling overseas it was a little more defensible, although my recent visit to the USA did have me questioning why I needed to bring along as much as I did. This, combined with my casual interest in minimization (I love things like those tiny, fully featured houses people build), has led me to shed much of the cruft that I used to lug with me and I’m quite happy with the results.

I’ll admit that the catalyst for it was my Sydney trip last week where I was only going to be staying a single night. It really didn’t make sense to check in baggage for that, even if my back pack felt a little swollen with clothes plus laptop, and the experience of getting off the plane and being able to head straight for a cab was something I felt I wanted to repeat. Thus I set about seeking out the biggest sized carry on I could find and was surprised at just how much I could get away with.

I settled on an Antler Cyberlite International Cabin Suitcase¬†and to my surprise it’s plenty big enough for me to fit up to a week’s worth of clothes and other supplies, more than enough for any business trip I’ll find myself on. I was a little worried that it might be a little¬†too big but I had no complaints from the cabin crew this morning and indeed the amount of space in the overhead locker seemed to dwarf my supposedly huge carry on. In theory it’d be enough for pretty much anything then although I don’t think I’ve shaken the over-packer bug for everything just yet but at least I won’t be lugging around a massive bag for short domestic trips anymore.

I’m sure there are those out there that can take it further than I have, indeed many of the people who scoffed at my over-packing previously would routinely show up in Canberra carrying nothing more than a single backpack, however this feels like a happy medium. It still allows me to have a little fat in my packing (I’ve brought along an extra days worth of clothes in this round) whilst also giving me the advantages that I didn’t know I was missing out on before. Going any further would be quickly met with diminishing returns and I’m sure I’d end up sweating what I forgot.

But I’m weird like that ūüėČ

 

DSC_0236

My Hotel Ritual.

Whilst I’m not a jet bound workaholic like I thought I’d be when I was this age (ah the naivety of teenagers) I have done my fair share of travel for work. I’ve come to find out that I’m not in either of the extremes of the two camps on it as I’m not particularly adverse to it but neither do I look forward to it like many I have met. Indeed many of the exotic places that I can say I’ve been too were because of work related travel and they truly are experiences that I treasure but should they have become the norm for me I can see myself swiftly becoming sick of it. New places are always fun to visit but I’ve never been on a work trip that wasn’t primarily about work.

DSC_0236It occurred to me that I’d developed a kind of ritual when it came to hotel rooms, something that upon reflection hasn’t changed in quite a while. As far as I can tell I developed it back when I was travelling the USA which I can only assume was because of the multitude of different places we stayed in over the course of the month we spent over there. The reasons for it are simple: I need to know what facilities I have access to and, in the event of the absence, arrange for alternatives. I’m sure this isn’t unique to me either but it was quite interesting to see what habits I had ingrained in myself over the past couple years.

For instance, and this might be a telltale sign of my generation, the first thing I’ll do will be to seek out what kind of Internet connection I have at my disposal. For the most part I’m bound for disappointment, as is the case with my current accommodation ($10 for 24 hours, 700MB limit), but the process of discovering what I’ve got to work with can be quite fun. If I’m in a particularly vindictive move I’ll bust out my network scanner tools and see how well their Internet access scheme has been set up (which, if you’re wondering, hotels seem to be getting better at) but for travel in Australia I’ll usually just tether to my phone.

The next one, which is something of a guilty pleasure of mine, is to crawl through the various pay TV channels to see if they have any of my favorites on them. If Discovery is on there then I’m guaranteed to binge on it for at least an hour each night, usually at the cost of a decent night’s sleep. It gets even worse when you consider just how bad most of the programming on there is and how much of it is continuous repeats but for some reason when I’m in a hotel room that’s one of my top things to do.

I also have to inspect the bed to see if I’ve ended up with a proper bed or the notorious faux-queen (as pictured above). My fellow giants will understand just how irritating those kinds of beds are, especially if they’re paired with an equally tragic mattress.

I think this whole thing just caught me off guard because I didn’t really think of something I¬†had to do after every check in but thinking back to all my stays the first hour or so spent in the room is almost always spent methodically going through each of those items. Is this something that you do? (please say yes, I don’t need another thing that I might be potentially OCD about).

DSC_0162_1[1]

New Orleans: Day 5 and 6

I had that feeling, you know the one, when you wake up and everything just feels a little…off. It wasn’t due to any self inflicted torment (although that is the reason why this post is a day late, which I’ll get into later) but it felt distinctly like the beginnings of a cold, almost on cue for the same time I did this last year. Great, I thought, I’m going to have to ride out the last day of the conference a blithering mess and then be that guy on the plane that gets everyone sick. Thankfully though that particular feeling didn’t last long , although the extreme humidity outside and the near freezing temperatures inside didn’t do much to help that along.

DSC_0156_1[1]

The sessions I had lined up with a specific topic in mind (I wanted to dive into the backup/disaster recovery stuff that they just put into Azure) turned out to be complete wastes of time. One of them being another vendor junket and another a 400 (expert) level class that was realistically a 200 (beginner) class and the only reason I could think of for it being labelled as such was due to the over-inflated ego of the presenter. The final one was interesting to a point, but I’d already seen the majority of it through various other sessions that were tangentially related. Thankfully the interview I did with Don Jones turned out quite well despite me not really knowing what to do, which can be wholly attributed to the fact that Don is a really switched on guy.

However this was only a small part of the day since tonight was the closing party which promised to be quite an amazing event.

After we’d all filed our posts for the day and rested up a little bit we trundled down to the Mercedes Superdome to get our drink on courtesy of Microsoft. There was no shortage of entertainment with all attendees greeted by a marching band at the door and the main floor thriving with people in front of a live band. We spent most of the night checking out the various side shows they had running (like a hand writing analyzer, the one that doesn’t use science) whilst slowly making our way through a good chunk of Microsoft’s booze. That was all mere distraction however as they announced the “special guest” they had been alluding to all evening.

Tina Turner.

DSC_0162_1[1]

Now don’t get me wrong, the instant her name was said the entire TechEd population flocked to the center stage so she still has drawing power, but the performance that followed afterwards can only be described as atrocious. Sure I enjoyed myself, and so did a lot of other people there I’m betting, but I’d hazard a guess that most of them enjoyed it for all the wrong reasons. Indeed it was a bizarre performance in its own right as she didn’t have a band and, whilst all credit should be given to her for not lip syncing, she was essentially singing over the top of her own performance. You could do worse when you’re pushing 70 though.

The band that followed (Mojo Band) we’re quite excellent, playing songs from Elvis all the way up to the Black Eyed Peas, nailing them all. They certainly did a lot better job of getting near immovable crowd dancing (although that’s to be expected when you cram 12,000 nerds in the same room with nary a computer to be seen) than the other band did and we spent the rest of our time there chatting and enjoying their covers. The TechEd party closed at midnight and with all of us sufficiently intoxicated Bourbon St started to sound like a great idea. In retrospect it was, although the current dull headache I’m nursing might attest to otherwise.

We meandered around a bit looking for a place to pick up a couple of roadies (walking around with an open container is legal here, surprisingly) but we ended up finding a bar to settle into. Before we could get drinks though we were accosted by one of the shot girls and of course, we all obliged. Suffice to say I have a photo for one of my friends who requested I do “something stupid in Bourbon St” for him thanks to her. After that we barreled around looking for another place to grab some more drinks and ended up in a divy jazz bar where one of the competition winners was parted with 20 of his dollars for the pleasure of standing on stage for 5 minutes.

By this point (I think it was around 2:30am) I was getting seriously hungry and ended up in one of the local burrito places. I have to say that it was actually pretty well done, even upon reflection the next day, and the others picked up a couple roadie slushies to tide them over. I was nearing that tenuous point where Drunk Dave was about to come out and, knowing that I had to endure 18+ hours of flying the next day, decided not to continue and wandered off back to the hotel. It was halfway back there that I caught up with Gus who’d gotten separated from us an hour previously and, with no one but me with international roaming enabled, was out of contact with us.

DSC_0185_1[1]

Of course that meant today I woke up feeling a lot less than optimal, especially when I saw I only had 30 mins to pack everything and check out. I managed to get it all done, of course, however the TechEd bag and my new Surface have proved to be problematic leaving me with 3 bags to carry around. Once we were all sorted we headed over to Mother’s, a Zagat rated restaurant across the street that always had a long line snaking out the front door. The food there was pretty great, especially for the price, and was most definitely better than the usual Maccas run that I seem to fall into every time I’m hung over.

We spent the rest of the day aimlessly wandering around New Orleans since we didn’t have time to really do anything thanks to our late start and need to get to the airport early in the afternoon. The highlight (and this says a lot about our state of mind at the time) was sitting in one of the ferries that crosses the Mississippi river. After that it was a quick trip to the airport where I’m currently awaiting a connecting flight to Dallas before the 15 hour flight back to Australia.

All in all it’s been a pretty good trip and whilst I haven’t seen as much of New Orleans as I would have liked I did get to check off pretty much everything on my “must do” list, although the list of recommendations I got from friends is untouched. It’s definitely an interesting city, one that definitely requires more than one night of drunken stumbling to explore properly. I don’t think I’ll ever make the trip out here specifically to do that, however, but should I ever find myself doing a second tour of the USA it’ll be one of the many stops on my list.

 

DSC_0151_1[1]

New Orleans: Day 4

I don’t know what it is about holidays or trips away but I seem to spend the first half dreading everything about the place I’m in and then once I’m past the halfway point I seem to yearn for it not to end. This trip is no different as I wasn’t too crash hot on the whole idea but late yesterday I felt like I hit a turning point. My article that I dreamed up went down a treat and today the vague layout I had given myself helped to focus me on the important points of the sessions I was attending. Now I feel like the little amount of time I have left here isn’t enough and I curse my former self for being so impudent.

DSC_0151_1[1]

Most of today was fairly uneventful as I had managed to choose a few sessions that had significant overlap with each other. This is despite them claiming that “no one else has seen this content yet” so I ended up spending an undue amount of time on Reddit just waiting for it to finish so I could move onto the next one. Thankfully I had 2 sessions that were really quite awesome, especially the Azure Internals one done by Mark Russinovich who’s fast becoming my favorite presenter for everything Microsoft. I’m less worried about what I’m going to see tomorrow since I can do a reflective post about everything and I expect the chances of me finding out anything amazing on the last day are slim to nil.

I finally decided to brave the line for a Surface¬Ļ as I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t take them up on the offer. Like most I was planning to go for the duo, getting one of both to take advantage of the price difference, however thinking about it I have no need for 2 tablets (my wife swears by her Macbook Air and I my Zenbook) but for $99 I figured the RT was cheap enough for those rare times I’ve found myself thinking “Hey a tablet would rock here”. All told I was in the line for about an hour or so when all I would’ve been doing otherwise was surfing the web so it wasn’t time wasted and the short line for lunch afterwards was a nice bonus.

We all managed to catch up for beers and dinner after we’d all finished writing our posts which was bloody fantastic and was most definitely one of the key things that had been missing from this trip. It was also very interesting to hear the journos war stories about the various tech press and the media in general and even better still being able to relate to them as a blogger (and not be ridiculed for it, omg). I did feel a little bad for the other guys though as whilst they we were all talking shop I felt like we might’ve been excluding them a little bit, but thankfully the conversation didn’t circle around journalism for the whole night.

Tomorrow is shaping up to be a pretty excellent day with the sessions stopping early and the big Microsoft piss up happening shortly after. I know we’re all looking to exploit this for all its worth so it should be a good time to get loose with everyone after a hard week’s blogging. Whilst that might preclude doing anything particularly interesting the day after it’ll all be worth it if we enjoy ourselves. I’ll just have to make sure to not get too wrecked as we’ll be shipping out the next day and flying hungover isn’t exactly one of my most favorite things to do.

 

¬ĻFor those not in the know they’re offering them to TechEd attendees at a ridiculous price point, $99 for the RT and $499 for the Pro.

 

DSC_0129

New Orleans: Day 3

I’ll have to admit I was a little bit stressed this morning. I’d spent the majority of the night previously thinking about the narrative I wanted to put forward for my post for Lifehacker and the night’s sleep didn’t bring about any sudden moments of clarity. This isn’t completely unusual, indeed there are many times when I go through a similar process for my daily entries here, but the thought of not being able to deliver something (well, something that was up to my standards) to someone else for publication wore on me heavily. Still I’m not one to dwell on problems that don’t have an immediate solution so I trucked myself out to TechEd.

DSC_0119_1[1]

My writer’s anxiety wasn’t helped by the fact that the first session I had chosen turned out to be a 75 minute long advertisement for NetApp. Now usually I’m ok with sessions like this, especially if I’m interested in the particular tech they happen to be peddling, but no where on the session information did it say anything about this being all about whatever NetApp could do rather than, you know, what the session description led you to believe. Thankfully the second session I went to was with Mark Russinovich (of SysInternals fame) who’s presentation was not only great the stuff he talked about it was the inspiration for my post on Lifehacker. That’s also led onto me figuring out where I want to go with it for the next 2 that are due which just makes everything a lot easier.

The lack of a common meeting point (like the press room was the last time around) has led to this weird situation between all of us. Since we’re all in sessions for most of the day and the majority of them don’t overlap I actually didn’t see anyone else from the Lifehacker crew today. Sure there were a couple emails shot about but apart from that I’ve had no contact with them. After the experience I had travelling with DFAT it certainly feels a bit weird to me as we’d always meet up after work for dinner and a chat, something which was always fun after you got over that initial getting-to-know-you hurdle.

However this also afforded me a little freedom to do what I pleased after TechEd finished. After battling with dodgy Internet to get my post and pictures uploaded for the better part of an hour I finally made it out of the hotel and set out to look for some local cuisine. I’d tracked down a decent looking restaurant called Luke¬†and, after walking in circles and almost giving up on finding it, settled in for a nice meal of baked oysters, a burger and an Oaked Arrogant Bastard ale. The food was quite incredible as the following photo will attest:

DSC_0129

I had thought ahead and brought my camera with me to the restaurant (none of the pics I’ve uploaded so far are from it, however) and afterwards I went on a bit of a tour around the area near my hotel. There was no limit of interesting subjects, at least for someone like me, and looking over the photos shows that I should have at least a couple keepers, maybe more once I get done with them in Lightroom. I was going to install a copy of it on this laptop however I don’t really have the time to go through them right now, unless I want to cut sleep out completely. It’s enough to satisfy me should I not get another chance, but I’m hoping to spend the better part of Friday doing the same thing again, only during the day.

So two days and two more posts to go. I’m feeling an awful lot better about this whole thing and I feel like its going to be reflected in my writing. Hopefully I luck into some more of those inspirational sessions as whilst I’ve got a general idea of what I want to write those kinds of posts always feel a whole bunch better. We shall have to see though and I’d better stop prattling on here in favor of getting some decent rest before tomorrow.