TBEX Europe: Blogging, Medieval Castles, and Endless Ham

Travel Blogger Exchange, or TBEX, is a semi-annual gathering of, well, travel bloggers. Exchange is a good word to describe the even as it is not just a conference or a meet up or a party - it really is a combination of all of these. Workshops are held throughout the days to help bloggers hone their skills, travel industry and tourism board representatives are on hand to form new partnerships, and the evenings are filled with lots of activities showcasing the hosting region. Rick (TBEX founder) and Jaume (Director of Costa Brava Tourism)

I have started blogging about a year ago, mainly because people I knew wanted to follow my adventures around the world. While I enjoy telling my travel stories (hopefully just as much as you enjoy reading them), I have been thinking about adding another dimension to the content on Dima's Corner.

I have the vision for this blog of being not just purely entertaining, but also useful (shocking, I know). Useful to people that are only starting on their adventures, useful to people already on the road, useful to people that just enjoy following along. As I am working on achieving that, it seemed natural to me to attend an event such as TBEX to network with other bloggers and learn from them.

Attendees mingling around at the conference center

TBEX Europe 2012 was held in Girona - the main city of the Costa Brava region in north east Spain, about 60 kilometers north of Barcelona. And what an event it was!

Costa Brava tourism board pulled all stops to make my first TBEX a quite a memorable one (of course, it was all about me!).

The opening night reception was hosted at Castell de Sant Gregori, a 12th century castle a short bus ride away from the city.

Yes, you read it right, a thousand year old castle!

Castell de Sant Gregori

If that was not freaking awesome by itself, the event was catered by Cellar de Can Roca which ranked #2 on World's Top 50 restaurants in 2012.

Making of a traditional drink

The wine cellar was open, the champagne was pouring, and a couple local breweries were on hand with samples of their beers. Each room served a purpose - cheese room, ham room, risotto room, barbecue room, pass out room… On the ham (and cheese) note - the delicious smoked ham leg seemed to follow us everywhere over the weekend, providing endless supply of deliciousness.

Ham and cheese

The locals gave us a live demo of Catalan Castell - constructing a human pyramid. There was also a flash mob performance and a live band playing and singing Spanish tunes at the end of the evening.

Castell - a Catalan tradition

After the first full day of keynotes, workshops, and networking sessions, Expeida sponsored an after hours get-together at Hotel Empúries.

HostalSpa Empúries

A 45 minute ride from Girona, Empúries is located right on the Mediterranean coast and used to serve as an important port and trade hub in the days of Roman Empire.

But we digress.

After a brief welcoming speech by Expedia representative, we were turned loose on another seemingly endless supply of champagne, wine, tapas, and yes, ham and cheese.

The hotel has its own small beach so it wasn't long before I was down there, touching the warm waters of the Mediterranean, less than a week after I was doing the same thing in the Pacific off the coast of Santa Barbara. It is crazy how small this world has become! Unfortunately, due to almost pitch black darkness, no good photos came out of this.

How would organizers top these two performances on the last night of the conference? Well, they did not really have to.

One of the events Gironians (?) are rightfully proud of is the fact that they were able to hold off Napoleon troops for months upon months in 1812. To commemorate that, one weekend a year they recreate the battle in the old part of the city.

Don't mess with Girona!

After wrapping up the conference, we made it out there just in time to watch the final push of the Frenchies into the city.

Rifles firing everywhere, cannons exploding, dead bodies laying on the streets - the battle seemed to be going on forever, seemingly trying to starve us to death as well. What was even more surreal is the fact that the onlookers were seeming everywhere, right in the middle of all this commotion with riffles being discharged right at their cameras on regular basis. Try that in the US!

Смешались в кучу кони, люди....

Finally, the Napoleon troops were chased out of the city square, and starving victorious bloggers were led to one of the courtyards where, you probably guessed it, more ham and beer was served.

Viva Girona!

After staying there for a bit, Jodi and Shannon, whom I met at the World Domination Summit in July, sneaked me away for a quiet dinner with Chris Guillebeau at a local tapas place.

Yes, that Chris Guillebeau, of The Art of Noncoformity, The $100 Startup and the World Domination Summit fame.

Chris Guillebeau delivering the closing keynote

It really is amazing how things you really wish for tend to become a reality. At the beginning of this year, I was thinking it would have been great to meet some of the people that have inspired me to start my journey last year. I ended up meeting Justin Klein at a rooftop bar in Bangkok, Steve Kamb of NerdFitness at the World Domination Summit. This time it was Chris Guillebeau. Tim Ferris and Nate Green - you are next!

This weekend gave me a good taste of travel blogger life and I think I like it! :)