Leading up to the TBEX conference, Context Travel, the city of Barcelona and the seaside resort of Lloret de Mar.
After Poland I unexpectedly found myself back in the UK; but maybe it was fate because I learnt that TBEX, a major travel bloggers’ conference was happening in the Costa Brava the following week. I had periodically thought about attending but I was never in the right place at the right time – but now maybe I could be.
Anyhow, I bit the bullet and I applied for a place and then I had to sort flights, accommodation, apply for the press trips and familiarisation tours and try to understand what the hell happens at a TBEX.
I now know that LOTS happens so read on my friends and I promise to give you the shortened version, and also some links to other bloggers’ work. Believe me, travel blogging covers a whole range of niche interests, so you should check some of them out.
First off, there were all sorts of free activities happening in and around Barcelona in the week running up to TBEX.
- On Monday morning I met with Sonya from Context Travel and 6 other travel bloggers in Plaza Catalunya. You will know that I do like a walking tour but this was a cut above. To quote from the website, ‘Context is a network of Ph.D-level scholars and other experts living in cultural capitals around the world who are passionate teachers and guide visitors on an experiential journey of these amazing cities.’
We walked around the Gothic quarter for more than 3 hours and believe me, the attention to detail given in this tour was amazing. In those 3 hours I learnt the basics of how to interpret the Gothic style – differentiating between Catalan Gothic, French Gothic, neo-Gothic and Disneyfied Gothic plus a whole host of other things about the area.
After the tour from Context Travel several of us went out for tapas in a couple of small cafe/bars down by the sea, with Lara (zzzworldninjas), who lives locally and guided us to some good bars and is in the very exciting position of being at the very beginning her current travel adventure along with her son Later that evening I met with another blogger, the delightful Natasha who always has a smile on her face – she is The Boho Chica – for for yet more tapas and a chat in a little place on Las Ramblas.
On Tuesday, following a post on the TBEX attendee website I was hanging around on the steps of the cathedral waiting to meet a couple of bloggers who had suggested that some of us meet for sangria in the sun. Luckily Michael – Just a Pack and Randi who writes from a vegan angle at Veggie Visa approached me, although not before I had approached a couple of other (incorrect) couples. After sangria and beer in the sun I ended up in a part of the area that I had never seen before. It was a little bit dangerous because there were some bars which served VERY generous mojitos and it proved very hard to navigate my way out of the twisting streets in the Gothic quarter.
It turned out that the danger was to be had back in my hostel when a lady who I had been chatting to for the previous 2 days accused me of rummaging through her bag. The golden rule of living in hostels is that you NEVER touch anybody else’s stuff; I have lived in a dorm where there was one sock in the middle of the floor for 2 weeks, but none of us were going to touch it. Anyway, the logistics of this woman’s story didn’t add up so I informed reception who were brilliant and who didn’t seem at all surprised. Apparently she had been saying similar about some other guests and hassling the staff. I knew that she was short of money and I had actually been about to give her some – but I think that she wanted to extract some from me either from guilt or to buy her silence for being accused of going through her bag. I was innocent and as you may know, I will not admit guilt for something that I have not done, even though there have been some dire consequences around that. She was asked to leave the hostel two days later after another fracas with somebody else and very sadly she was spotted sleeping rough on the steps to the Metro station in the early hours of the morning.
On Wednesday morning I joined another Context Tour around the Raval district. This area is bang next door to the Gothic quarter and while it still has little narrow streets it has a totally different feel. Populated originally from immigrants it still has a huge non-Catalan population which is reflected in the shops and the food which is sold as well as the clothes which are worn. Our guide Bernard was also super knowledgeable although the pair of us caused the others to gasp when we were sh*t on from a great height by a pigeon and splattered in smelly white goo.
After my tour and still smelling a bit funky I took the metro and I went for lunch close to the Sagrada Familia – although I moved a street or so away from the expensive tourist haunts and I found a lovely family run restaurant, the El Bon Manjar in Cl Rosellon #402 which was full of local people, had a butcher’s shop at the back and the owner even made cow noises at me to ensure that I understood his Catalan.
After lunch I met up with Geert Leyson who blogs at Inspiring Travellers and who had a couple of free tickets for entry to the Sagrada Familia from Julia Travel. This enormous church (technically it cannot be called a cathedral) is still under construction. I had visited it in 2008 but the difference since then was huge. Most of the scaffolding inside the building has now been removed and many of the stained glass windows have been opened up. They flood the huge hall with brilliant lights, shining with vivid colours. There had been a slight booking error and unfortunately we were not permitted to go up to the roof, and despite the fact that it is still under construction it is still a great place to visit, although if you are going to go, get there early as the queues can be long.
The following day I took the bus to Lloret de Mar and I found my hotel which was bang in the main shopping street in the old town and then in the evening the conference kicked off with a boat trip up the coast to a hotel and an amazing welcome party in the gardens around the pool. I will give a more detailed report about the conference in a later post but it was well worth the anxiety and the nerves. I met some fantastic people and I learnt so much and more importantly, I received very positive feedback about an idea that I have been mulling over for some time now in relation to a new project that I want to launch.
Thank you to:
- Sonya and Bernard from Context Travel for the Gothic Quarter and the Revealing the Ravel walking tours
- Geert Leyson for the free ticket for the tour around the Sagrada Familiar and for allowing me to pick his brains clean about all things technical and bloggy over some beers and mojitos
- Jaume Marin – the Director de Marketing i Planificacio at Patronat Turisme Costa Brava Girona for an AMAZING experience in and around Lloret de Mar
- EVERYBODY that I met at TBEX. I have made many new friends and I know that I will see some of you again.
What did I learn?
- Statistics may be small but they do not always determine the earning potential from a blog
- All travel bloggers are not the same. The breadth of the individual niche areas that they cover is astounding. Many have a wide remit, talking about general travels while others write more specifically about one specific aspect.
- Most seem to have a base to which they can return and from where they can focus on work – there is a real appreciation for those of us who are truly nomadic and work whilst on the road
I flew from Gatwick to Barcelona with Norwegian Air for just over £50 which included taking my rucksack in the hold of the plane
- I stayed at the Equity Point Centric hostel in Barcelona for €11 per night in a 12 bed dorm which, due to its central location was a real bargain (prices change according to the season)
- I travelled from the bus station in Barcelona to Lloret de Mar from the main bus station the Estacio Nord which is located very close to the Arc de TriomfIn Lloret de Mar I stayed at the very friendly Vila de Mar for 4 nights; a neat hotel with Wifi, a balcony and a rooftop swimming pool close to the beach at Carrer de la Vila 55. My netbook was unable to connect to the internet on Sunday morning but the owner was more than happy for me to sit at the reception desk and plug in via an Ethernet cable