Autumn in London, Stockholm’s Nordic charm and the independence dilemma in Catalunya

Last week has been pretty eventful with conferences & travel.

First, I got to spend some time in London on the weekend. It was nice to be home and not travelling for once. After travelling all around, I now feel like a tourist coming back to London and as a result, I get to plan my time much better and I’ve been enjoying London more lately. A good side effect of travel is the appreciation of your own city, I suppose 🙂

One of the things that I truly love about London is the amazing parks. I don’t know any other big city with some much green space. When I first moved to London, I chose to live in Greenwich and the Greenwich park played a big part in that decision. It also felt like an interesting place with the Prime Meridian and the Royal Observatory. I’m still in Greenwich, so I must have made the right decision.

I hadn’t been to the Greenwich park lately, so I decided to pay a visit with a good friend. The park was beautiful and peaceful, as it always is. The changing colours of the leaves reminded me that we are unmistakably in autumn.

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I also visited Regent’s Park, another great park in London with another friend. I always visit this park at least once in the summer to see the fantastic rose garden. This time around, there were no roses left.

Two parks in one weekend got me ready for the busy week ahead. On Monday, I flew to Stockholm for Google Cloud Summit. Back in February 2016, Stockholm was the first city I travelled to for a conference as a Googler, so it’s kind of special for me. My co-worker, Ray, took me there for a conference called JFokus. At the time, I had no idea about JFokus but it’s one of the best Java and Software Engineering conferences in Europe. I applied to speak at JFokus in 2018, who knows, maybe I’ll get to visit again.

The Google Cloud Summit was on Tuesday. It was in a big waterfront conference hall in downtown. This time I wasn’t speaking but just helping with the Kubernetes booth and demo. It was nice to enjoy a conference once without the stress of a talk.

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I also had a very nice surprise in Stockholm. Whenever I visit a place, I usually try to ping people I know in that place. This time I pinged Jacob, an ex-coworker of mine from Skype, who is from Sweden but he now lives in Thailand. I had zero hope that he’d be around but turns out, he was visiting Sweden for a few days and he happened to be in town! We ended up meeting after probably 3 years, had a drink and talked about the good old Skype days.

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On Wednesday, I was back in London and I was due to speak at IPExpo Europe. It was at Excel, one of the biggest conference halls of London. I love visiting Excel because it’s literally across the Thames river from my flat, so very close to me. Better yet, I get to take the Emirates Cable Car from my side of the river to the other side where Excel is 🙂 The views of Greenwich, Docklands and Canary Wharf from the cable car never get old.

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IPExpo was a big conference with a unique setup. It was pretty much a big technology fair with lots of booths from different companies. The talks happened in the big expo area out in the open. People in my talk had to wear headsets to hear me because there was a lot of background noise from hundreds of people around. To be honest, it was quite distracting and challenging for me to speak in an open area with all the background noise. I also had only 30 minutes for my talk, but in the end, I think I did a good job.

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I was in the office on Thursday after a couple of weeks but it was only for one day. On Friday, I flew to one of my favorite cities in Europe: Barcelona. This was my third time in Barcelona but I can visit this city many more times. The city has a good vibe, friendly people, amazing food and the weather is always nicer than London! This Barcelona song captures my mood every time I go there.

When I arrived to Barcelona, it was already late afternoon and I was starving, so I visited my favorite tapas place: Maitea. This is a small tapas place that I discovered when I first visited Barcelona 5 years ago. They have amazing tapas and my favourite Pimientos did not disappoint.

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On Saturday, I spoke at Polycon Conference. Polycon is a mid-size software conference. It does not have a strong theme. There were talks on different kinds of topics and programming languages and they had workshops in the afternoon. I had the first talk of the day which is always nice. I talked about containers, Kubernetes and Google Cloud. The good food and the 8 hours of sleep the day before definitely helped me to deliver a good relaxed talk and I got feedback from attendees afterwards.

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After the conference, I got to explore Barcelona more. The weather was good, so I walked all over the city. When I got tired, I got to the beach and had a couple of drinks on the beach.

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Like Stockholm, Barcelona had a nice surprise for me in store. Sevki, a friend whom I met in my first visit to Stockholm back in 2016, saw my status on Facebook and messaged me. He apparently moved from Stockholm and now lives in Barcelona and asked if I wanted to have a drink. We ended up having not one but many drinks in the end. It was nice to catch up with him.

Sunday, I had a little more time to walk around the city before my flight. There were demonstrations all over the city about the Catalan independence referandum. This time, pro-Spain and pro-European Union people were demonstrating against independence. I was amazed how many people were out in the streets with Spanish and Catalan flags.

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It was also good to see the other side of the story. I was under the impression that every Catalan wanted independence but the huge number of people in the streets against independence showed me that it’s actually not that clear cut.

I wrapped up my Barcelona trip with a visit to the beach and of course to The Sagrada Familia.

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Wow, this was a much longer post than I expected but I guess it’s a sign of a good week with 3 conferences in 3 great cities and 2 unexpected friends…

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