21 February 2012

Top: @sergialmar, me, and @neodevelop.
Bottom two: beautiful Photos of Madrid!

All three photos: una manifestación!
This was my first time in Madrid, Spain, for the Spring IO conference. I enjoyed the people, the culture (y las bebidas!) and more. I brought my dad with me on this trip, since he's never been abroad, and I wanted him to see Europe with me. We had talked about this when I went to JavaZone, last year, and I described to him that there were fjords and plenty of beautiful wildlife and vast expanses of nature's beauty. That trip, for reasons not that relevant here, never panned out for us (although I quite enjoyed it!). JavaZone came and went, but he was still interested in Scandinavia and experiencing that type of culture. When this trip (first to Stockholm, Sweden, for JFokus, and then to Madrid, Spain, for Spring I/O) materialized, dad jumped at the chance. I bought his tickets (a late birthday gift - we share the same birthday!) and I asked him to secure a passport, which he did.

He was most looking forward to visiting Stockholm. Stockholm is every bit as lovely as he imagined it would be, having seen The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo.

But, dad fell ill - something he ate didn't agree with him (probably the airline food!) - and he was trapped in the hotel for a few days, and very weak. This made moving around a bit more problematic than it should have been as we made the subsequent trip to Madrid, Spain. One thing we did learn: getting sick in a hotel room's a good idea, especially in Stockholm. The staff at the hotel we stayed at - the lovely Radisson Blu Waterfront in Stockholm, right next to the JFokus venue - treated him exceptionally. It seemed as though the staff was almost rooting for him to recover! Somebody even checked in on him for me, while I was tending to my obligations as a speaker at the conference! Talk about great service.

During all of this, I took a quick jaunt (a train, then a flight, then a cab) from Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland's port, where I jumped on a cruise headed back to Stockholm! This cruise, in particular was the vessel on which the Vaadin Dev Days took place. It was an amazing, enthusiastic group of programmers, and you couldn't ask for a more interesting venue. I enjoyed everything, and particularly, I enjoyed giving a talk against the background sound of ice breaking as the ship plowed onward, through the frozen waters. Adding that to the list of things that I can't beleive I got to do...

We finally made it to Madrid. By that point dad was on the mend, and the temperature in Madrid was more favorable to people of, em, superior years. It was a lot warmer than in Stockholm. Madrid seems like it was realized from a story book illustration: nice people, great food and - most manifestly for an American like my dear dad, never before abroad in his 75+ years of life - full of beautiful architecture! Madrid ended up being his favorite city.

It didn't hurt that the conference coincided with carnivale, which was being celebrated in some form or another in many different Catholic countries world-wide. The streets were abuzz with music, debauchery and crowds of people. Dad and I went outside, took in some of the scenery and had to find a place to sit when one of the Manifestacións plowed through the center where we were! What an incredible thing to behold! We missed the memo, evidently, where it was announced that the entire walking population of Madrid would go on a walkabout!

I really enjoyed JFokus, the Vaadin Dev Days, and finally Spring IO both because they were great events with enthusiastic developers, but also because I got to go with my dad, who got to experience Europe for the first time with me. We learned a lot. I'll be back in Europe next month for 33rd Degree, and I'll be in Sweden, again(!), and in numerous other countries in April for ScanDevConf and the Cloud Foundry Open Tour (which we'll talk about a bit later), respectively, and I'll be sure to approach those trips in the same way as my dad did: full of a (renewed) curiousity.