London and Manchester 2017

How lucky am I? The second time in a year to go to my favorite place on Earth, and this time, no one was barfing all over the Airbnb. (Okay, honestly, nothing could ever beat our trip last Christmas, but that was definitely a low point.)

This trip was for work. My team (the Happiness Hiring team, also known as Athena) met up in London to work on things, and then we went to Manchester for a couple of nights for an event. It was very busy, but what better place to be busy? Plus, we’d just made our three European teammates (Dan, Cécile, and Hannah) travel to Canada for the Grand Meetup, so it was only fair we went to them this time. We’re so kind and generous.

Monday

Arrived after an uneventful flight. I’ll take it! I even slept for about four hours on the plane, which is crazy awesome. However, I left my sleep mask on the plane, which was sad. But I got over it. I had the whole row to myself to lie down and snooze! I mean, as much as a 5’10” person can lie down across a row of seats. But it was nice.

After I arrived, I met up with Deborah and we tried to find our colleague Dan, but he ended up on another train to Paddington, so we met him there. Somehow it all seemed to take a lot longer than anticipated to get to Kings Cross, where we were supposed to meet everyone else. But no matter. We ate some lunch (I had truly terrible nachos) and walked to the Airbnb I’d found for us.

Which was beautiful if, in the spirit of Airbnb, a lot smaller than the pictures made it look. There were some quirks like a shower that opened directly onto a hallway and a ton of stairs, but otherwise it was great. I had a huge bedroom and bathroom, which I should probably feel guilty about. Also, Princess Diana had apparently hung out there at some point and planted a tree or something.

We hung around the house for the evening, working and chatting and unpacking the groceries we had delivered.

Tuesday

I got up bright and early to go for a birthday run with Deborah (after all, we ran in Barcelona on my birthday) but she slept in instead, which I don’t blame her for at all. We never did get that run in. Oh well!

We headed to a coworking place not far from the Airbnb, and worked like busy bees. Had lunch at Pizza Express around the corner, and then Karen and I snuck out to get Deborah a gluten-free birthday cake.

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More work, and then that evening I made everyone take the tube to Gloucester Road so I could give the Pam Tour of London, but it was dark so we didn’t walk by our old flat, but that’s okay. We ended up having a delicious steak dinner (but very reasonable) and then Karen and Deborah and I walked a bunch (after I made them go to Whole Foods so I could stock up on Winter Pimms.)

Wednesday

Worked at the Airbnb in the morning, then headed over to a coworking place so we could do a video call with our coworkers all over the world. It was a cute neighborhood.

That evening, we had dinner with local Automatticians at Wagamama. Yum!

Thursday

Our last full day in London, and the weather was yuck. Of course Wednesday was gorgeous and sunny and cloudless. Oh well. We went to yet another coworking place for the morning, then I left because I had an appointment…

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I’d noticed the shop walking to our Airbnb and looked it up, it had good reviews. And decided I needed a London tattoo. (I mean, other than the one I have from the London Marathon, but errrrr that one’s not one I want to show off much, to be honest.) So I made an appointment, and it only took about 45 minutes to get this tattoo, which my mother does not approve of, thank you very much. (But I’m 42 so it’s okay. She still loves me.)

I met up with Dan and Karen and Deborah after my appointment, and we wandered around St Paul’s Cathedral (can you believe I’ve never been there?) We walked up a zillion steps but only the Whispering Gallery was open. Though let’s face it, I didn’t need to go up a zillion more steps. It was fine. Quite lovely, but no photos allowed. But I did sneak a video recording of the inside of my purse while a boys’ choir was singing in the crypt. It was lovely.

We had decided we needed to do an open top bus tour, so dad nab it, we were going to do an open top bus tour, weather be damned! So we did. And got wet. But it was fun.

That evening was the London WordPress meetup, where Deborah was giving a talk. I was exhausted, but she did great, and afterwards we finally went to a pub. I had bangers and mash and all was right with the world.

Friday

Time to leave London. Sad! But I was excited to go to Manchester and see a little bit of it. Our train left London at 11 and was to arrive in Manchester at 1. We didn’t have plans until the evening, so plenty of time to wander around.

Alas. About half an hour into the journey, we were informed that the train in front of us had struck a person (!) so we couldn’t proceed. Not for a while. The train backed up and stopped at the platform behind us so we could get out and wander around.

Nearly four hours later, we were on our way to Manchester at last. So much for wandering around. But hey, at least we got to visit the train platform at Leighton Buzzard! Not many people can (or would) say that, I’m sure.

That evening was a dinner for the speakers and volunteers for WordCamp Manchester, where Karen and I were slated to speak the next day. I ate bad nachos again (I will never learn) and we had an early night. On the way to dinner, though, I stopped at HMV and drooled over this, but didn’t buy it because I don’t have a CD player. So maybe I’ll get it digitally instead.

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Saturday

WordCamp Manchester! We got there pretty early so we could get our sponsor table set up. It was at the university there and the venue was so nice. It made me excited to help plan another WordCamp New Orleans. (Help plan, not plan.)

Karen and I were the second speakers on the agenda. Not too much time to be nervous. We got lots of great feedback on our talk, which is nice to hear, of course. And hopefully we’ll get lots of great applications out of it!

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Athena, 2017: Deborah, Karen, Me, Dan, Hannah, Cécile
The rest of the day was spent at WordCamp, and going back and forth to Starbucks in the rain. (They had coffee at the venue, but I needed to get my mug!) That evening was the afterparty, which I stayed at longer than I anticipated, but we had some great conversations. But Karen and I discovered that Lyme Park is not far away and we were kicking ourselves for leaving the next day…we could have gone to see Pemberley (from the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, the only one worth watching, thank you Colin Firth.) Next time.

Sunday

Flew home. Uneventful. The best way!

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