I spent the bulk of the week in Barcelona, Spain, covering Nokia World 2008 for CrunchGear (you can find all of my CG posts here). I was the odd-man-out in several respects on this trip: partly because I didn't already know any of the other bloggers there, but mostly because I was the only one there not carrying at least two mobile phones at all times. Thankfully, most of the people with which I interacted were all great people, and I felt like I got on extremely well with them. There were no real prima donnas in the group, there was no drama at all on the trip, and most of the bloggers were interesting people with a broad range of experiences, making for interesting conversations. Of course, the dominant subject of discussion throughout the weekend was still mobile devices, but it was nice to know that the folks I was with were capable of talking about more than that! Finally, the Nokia folks did an absolutely stellar job in coordinating and executing Nokia World.
I generally don't like to travel alone, and I really dislike site seeing on my own, but I didn't let that stop me. After checking into the hotel AB Skipper on Sunday morning, I set off for a brief walk to reconnoiter the neighborhood. Despite my dad's caution that Barcelona is the pickpocket capital of the world, I felt extremely safe and comfortable my entire time in the city. I wandered past Sagrada Familia, the gigantic cathedral in the heart of Barcelona, and on my way back to the hotel nearly ended up trapped in the Barcelona Zoo. Sunday night the bloggers had tapas for dinner, and then most of us called it an early night.
Monday afternoon we had lunch at Cal Pimxo, where I had my first real paella. Mom used to make paella a couple times a year, and I always enjoyed it. I've long yearned to have honest-to-goodness Spanish paella, and the real thing did not disappoint! The lunch conversation was interesting, and prompted me to post Is Print Dead? at CrunchGear. Monday night we had a terrific dinner, and were joined by a number of Nokia employees involved with the new Nokia N97 device that was to be announced the following day. We got a lot of hands-on time with the new phone, and a fantastic opportunity to ask questions from the folks directly responsible for it. It was an entertaining and informative evening. Afterwards, Eric, Kevin and I set off looking for a bar that they thought was in the area. We never did find it, and ended up at the hotel bar, where I stayed up way too late talking to still more Nokia folks.
Tuesday morning I was up early (painfully early, given how late I had gone to bed!) and off to Nokia World, where the N97 was formally announced. After the keynote sessions, we retired to the Social Media room, where the Communications team at Nokia arranged for a series of conversations with even more Nokia folks, covering the spectrum from research to environmental affairs and more. It was an information-rich day, but the Nokia team did a great job scheduling sessions so as not to completely overwhelm us. After a brief rest back at the hotel, we all shuttled over to the Nokia World Party. Highlights include lots of free beer, the Nokia House Band, an air guitar competition, and karaoke.
Wednesday morning I slept late, wrote up a few pieces about stuff from the day before, and then set off back to Nokia World. I browsed around a bit more, looking at stuff I'd glossed over from the day before, and then took a cab to Park Güell. A couple minutes into the cab ride, something started beeping. The cab driver reached between the front seats and -- I presume -- pushed something to silence the beep. A few minutes later the beeping resumed. Again the cabbie reached between the front seats and the beeping stopped. She then made a call and spoke for a long time with someone. She hung up, and then used her CB to speak to someone else for a long time. At the end of this conversation, she pulled over to the side of the road and said "You must get out." I was too surprised to ask why, or to inquire whether another cab would be dispatched to take me to my destination, so I merely exited the cab and watched her drive away. I had been deposited at the outer edge of a very busy roundabout, and didn't see any other cabs approaching. I turned around and was surprised to see a large flea market in full swing behind me. Beyond this I could see several other roads. It was with a sense of adventure that I struck off through the flea market toward some other road from which I might hail a cab. I should also mention that I had left my map in the hotel room, so I was absolutely clueless as to which direction I should walk in order to get at least a little closer toward my ultimate destination.
I finally did hail another cab, and made it to the park. Although it wasn't quite what I had been expecting, I'm really glad I took the time to go. The architecture is wonderful, and the view of Barcelona and the coast from the top of the park is simply stunning.
My time in the park was somewhat curtailed because I wanted to join the others for a trip to Sagrada Familia, and I didn't want to miss that. We gathered at the hotel, took a bus to the cathedral, and spent an enjoyable couple of hours wandering about the premises. It is absolutely huge. It was probably the second most awe-inspiring church I've seen, second only to the Duomo in Milan. Our group splintered as we wandered about taking photos. The view from the tower was breathtaking, and was made all the more amazing when we realized that where we stood would eventually only be the halfway point for the entire edifice!
After the Sagrada Familia we returned to the hotel to collect those who opted not to join us, and then went to a closing dinner with the Nokia folks. It was a nice cap to an excellent week. Afterwards, I joined Eric, Molly and Mayme at an Irish pub for a few pints, and some off-the-record discussion. Molly was surprised to learn that she was, in fact, a "handler" rather than a "social media communications" professional, but she seemed to take the title change in good stride. We retired late, got up early, and spent all of Thursday traveling. Thankfully, the travel was uneventful, and I returned home safe and sound.
Molly's Barcelona wrap-up is a pretty good overview of some of the more entertaining highlights from the week, too!