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Thu, Aug 23, 2012
I'm home again!
It was the 2012 YAPC EU this week - that's the annual European Perl conference. I went last year and it was excellent. I had slightly less-high hopes for this year, because I knew it was in Frankfurt.
I went through Frankfurt a few years ago, on my way around Europe. And I made a note of it in my diary. It said, if memory serves: "Frankfurt: meh"
In fairness, I was only there a day, so I was open to being proved wrong. But my hopes really weren't high. It's just not the kind of city I like.
So I set out Sunday morning and headed for Gatwick Airport. The train from Horsham to Gatwick very considerately waited for me to reach the platform before locking the doors and buggering off without me. Not that I'm bitter. So I was a bit later meeting my colleagues than I'd intended. Can't be helped!
I got a very thorough pat-down by airport security owing to the highly dangerous nail file in my luggage. A quick, and very unspecial, breakfast in a Wetherspoons and then we hightailed it to the plane. The flight passed remarkably quickly - ebooks FTW! - and we got off the plane and to our hotel with all due Teutonic speed and efficiency.
The hotel was awesome. Nice rooms, big bathroom, all the right things. And good aircon. This was important, since it was *very* hot. Then we went out looking for lunch. Slightly tricky, since the place was so empty it felt like a zombie apocalypse had happened. But we eventually tracked down a decent-seeming place to eat where the menus weren't all in german, which we don't speak.
They were in Italian. Which we also don't speak. But it was fine: We compensated by speaking very slowly to the waiter, and reading the menus equally slowly. The food, when it arrived, was excellent, if not entirely what we had thought we'd ordered...
The next morning, we set out for the conference. And it was stupidly hot. Well over 30 and possibly into the 40s (centigrade, obv.) so we were glad to get out of the blistering sun and into the building.
Well.. for a few seconds, anyway. Then we discovered that we had to climb to the fourth floor. This made us less glad. Then when we got there, we discovered that we had to join everybody else in queueing to register. All 350 of them. In a lobby that had no open windows or air conditioning.
We got through this as quickly as possible and made our way to the main auditorium, which DID have aircon. This was a blessed relief, until everyone else found it. We then discovered that the aircon in there was only really good enough to work when the room was empty. A bit of a flaw, that. (We later heard that the reason that particular building wasn't so well-equipped is that it's due for demolition...)
People who've been around a LONG time might remember that I had a severe throat infection some years ago. This sadly left me with a badly-scarred throat, and the intense heat of the day made it so hard to stay hydrated that my throat dried out and started to hurt. It continued to do so for the rest of my stay, which was a bit of a downer.
On the subject of hydration.. what IS the fascination with fizzy water in Frankfurt? Order still water, they bring you fizz. Buy an innocent-looking bottle of water, it will fizz. Most annoyingly of all, pick up a bottle labelled "still" and take a mouthful, and discover that it ISN'T still. It's just fizzy water that's gone flat - it still has that godawful fizzy taste.
Oh, and the other big annoyance - considering how badly the Euro is doing these days, why are they so obsessed with making you use the damn things?? Why have so few businesses ever heard of credit cards??? It's bad enough that they still use signatures instead of chip & pin, but most places don't even use that - cash only in 9 out of 10 places we went to. FFS!
Still, our hotel had very thoughtfully given us a map of places in Frankfurt not worth visiting - or, as they called it, a map of Frankfurt - and between it, word of mouth, blind luck, and a few strategically-placed adverts, we found some good places to eat (there's a place called the Black Bull that does AMAZING steaks. And a Subway near the university, which was handy.)
So we sorted our free time without too much difficulty. And with a steady supply of water, we made it through the conference talks and picked up some useful things and met some interesting people. So on the whole, it counted as a win. The wifi struggled a bit occasionally, but it always will with that volume of use, and I was truly impressed by how much life I got out of my Galaxy S2 phone when I was spending the whole day using it to watch IRC.
So the conference itself was good; the venue could have stood a little improvement; and I'm sorry but I still just don't like the city of Frankfurt. And then we got up at 5am this morning to catch the flight back. Six hours later, I reached home. My kitten meeped excitedly to see me, then blanked me as is her habit to punish me for going away. And then she got stung by a bee.
Yes, really. Right on her lip. And the sting lodged in there. So I had to grab tweezers and pull it out. Which she resented too. So she's a bit sulky, and VERY pouty right now.
Her compatriot, Tina's cat, might have opened an eye in response to my return, which is quite an effusive greeting for her. My fish were unmoved by my return until I fed them.
And so life returns to normality once more..
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