ITB Asia and WTM London for Bloggers

ITB Asia and WTM London for Bloggers

Leaving Bali, in hindsight, may have been a mistake.  When we left, I was on a high.  I was healthier than I had been in years, and we had really found our groove – new friends, a new routine.  We were being productive and had settled in nicely.  Then, we left, in part to attend ITB Asia and WTM London, two big travel conferences. We left so that: 1) I could attend TBEX Dublin, the conference for travel bloggers; 2) we both could attend ITB Asia in Singapore, a large travel industry conference; and 3) we could both attend World Travel Market in London, one of the largest travel conferences in the world.  It was two months of travel, with the express purpose of conducting “business.”   For Eric, who is selling advertising on a contract basis for a couple travel websites, this seemed like a no-brainer.  A chance for him to network and make contacts that might prove fruitful.  For me, though, as a travel blogger, I was unsure why I was going to these conferences, and what I hoped to get from it.  I had no clear plan, other than show up, smile, and carry business cards. ITB Asia in Singapore ITB Asia brands itself as one of the leading B2B conferences for the Asian travel market.  The goal is to provide a forum for buyers and sellers to meet, introduce themselves, and sign deals. What the what?  What does this mean for travel bloggers? What is a Travel Buyer? There were over 800 exhibitors at ITB Asia in Singapore.  After only a handful of tables offered...
The Mines Advisory Group – in Manchester With MAG

The Mines Advisory Group – in Manchester With MAG

Although our primary reason for making our way to the great, grey north they call Manchester was to see family, we were happy to make a pitstop at the UK headquarters of one of our favorite NGOs, MAG. The Mines Advisory Group conducts demining activities in formerly war torn areas as diverse as South Sudan, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Iraq.  They also engage in land mine risk education, teaching people, and particularly children, of the dangers of mines and unexploded ordinance (UXO). We first became interested in the UXO problem during our first trip to Southeast Asia, where we visited a rural town, Nong Kiew, on a volunteer literacy trip.  In the primary school hung posters warning of the types of UXO in the area, and what danger they can cause to a small person who gets too close.  During our trips to Vietnam with Global Community Service Foundation, we again saw what happens in post-conflict zones, once the fighting officially ends.  Beautiful swaths of country side throughout Quang Tri province are unusable for farming, developing, or ecotourism due to UXO risk, decades after the war. MAG works in Quang Tri, as well as Quang Nam and Quang Binh provinces in Vietnam.  It is part of the reason why we have been following their work.  They have a wonderful staff in the US at MAG America, and we have become friendly with several of them. Popping into the headquarters in Manchester gave us the opportunity to meet some more great folks, including the director of SE Asia operations.  We spent two hours talking about development in Asia, and other regions,...
Training Through London, and Barely Escaping

Training Through London, and Barely Escaping

We came to the UK for a few reasons.  Family and friends.  A layover on a mileage ticket.  Curry.  That pretty much covers it. Eric came to London a few times for work, flying solo.  I came as a child to meet some family and returned on a school trip just after graduating from high school.  That was a long time ago.  We have not been to the island together, so that was a first.   London was not a place I dreamed of returning to – not a place I craved.  I thought of it as cold, rainy, and expensive.  But, we found ourselves traveling through, and luckily, had a friend to crash with.  I am glad we came, in particular because we ate very well in London, but still, our trip was not without incident. Training Through the London Underground I was a little intimidated by getting around London.  Now, I have lived in cities for much of the last 15 years.  I can make my way around Manhattan on the subway, and on the Tokyo Metro.  Why was London so stressful?  Perhaps it was because I had no frame of reference – where does our friend Jamie live?  Where are the tourist sites?  Where is that pesky river?  I was just not sure.   We took the train our first day to visit a friend in North London before doing a whirlwind tour of the London sites.  We saw the London Eye, Westminster, Downing Street, Trafalgar, Piccadilly, and Buckingham Palace, all in a little more than an hour.  The following day, we walked across London Bridge, wandered up...
London Calling – A Photo Essay

London Calling – A Photo Essay

We had both been to London before, although I have not been there in 19 years.  I assumed, though, that most of the big sights had not changed much, like Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge.  The may have received a bit of a facelift in prep for the Queen’s Jubilee that summer, though. It was strange to be back after so long away, it was as if we heard London Calling…asking us to see the typical London sights, all in about a day.  We purchased an unlimited train ticket and set off to see the sites.  So, in addition to eating curry and eating fabulous foodie meals, we focused on seeing the sites, quickly. We ran through the big sights of London in a little over one hour on day 1 and another hour on day 2.  Within a short amount of time we ticked off everything “British on our list.” We saw the Tower Bridge: And of course we trekked over to see Buckingham Palace: We hit the trifecta of Britishness by catching Trafalgar Square, a double decker bus, and a black cab, all in one shot: It might not be the most well taken photo of London, but it certainly was expedient during our London Calling tour of Britishness. In addition to the main sights, we saw a red telephone booth, a black cab, a large Union Jack, a bobbie, more double decker busses, and business men in fitted suits with pink dress shirts and a pocket square. We caught the Union Jack flying proudly, and in front of the bluest skies we caught that weekend.  Okay, not...
A Foodie Pilgrimage to St John London

A Foodie Pilgrimage to St John London

The best highlight of our trip through London could be narrowed down to one street, and to one restaurant, and possibly even to one bite. I was expecting something tasty, but did not expect exactly how good the food could be at St. John London. St. John London Before arriving in London, visiting St John London was not even on our radar.  During our stay, though, I remembered Fergus Henderson’s snout to tail eating establishment, on the outskirts of the old Smithfield Market.  It is a must stop on a foodie tour of London, but we thought out of our price range.   We found that, in addition to a difficult to get into lunch and dinner dining room, St. John offered an all day bar menu of small plates, perfect for a budget tasting.   After training over to Smithfield market, we entered the famous St. John Smithfield Restaurant just at the end of the lunch service.  The bar area was desolate, other than a single gentleman making his way through numerous plates of fish, a terrine, and a double cooked chocolate cake. We walked the traditional path and started with one of Fergus’s signature dishes.  Roasted bone marrow with parsley salad.  A special spoon was used to scrape the barrow out of the bone, to be spread on toasted bread.  A rough salt was sprinkled on top, which immediately melted into the warm marrow.  A parsley salad with onions and capers was gently placed on top.  As I bit in, marrow ran down my chin.  It was creamy delish.  The coolness of the salad complemented the warm marrow,...
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