As I started writing this, I was in the back of a Delta MD-80 heading to Atlanta, thence to pick up Delta flight 109 to Madrid. The process reminds me in many ways of the first real set of international business trips I made, back in 2000-2002; Many aspects of the travel world have changed since then, but some have not.
For example, I have two laptops. Back in the day, I carried a ThinkPad for running Windows apps and a Powerbook for everything else. Now I’m taking my MacBook Pro because I need it to do demos in my TechEd session and my Dell-issued laptop because I need it for Dell work. All of the attendant weight, volume, and hassle constraints that come about from dual-wielding laptops are the same as they ever were.
Then there’s my cell phone. I have carried a Nokia 920 running Windows Phone 8 as my daily phone since November of 2012, and I am very happy with it. Unfortunately, AT&T wouldn’t SIM-unlock it for me, so I won’t be able to use it with a local SIM in Spain. That meant I had to dust off my iPhone 4, which is SIM-unlocked. I started using it last night and found it to be terribly clunky and slow compared to the 920. I don’t mean the data speed itself is slow, although it is; the phone UI itself is terribly slow compared to the 920. However, I like having iMessage available to chat with the many, many iOS users among my friends and contacts, and I am also toting my Pebble, which is completely unsupported and therefore essentially useless with Windows Phone. (Side note: I am eager to see what kind of Windows Phone announcements come out at Microsoft’s Build conference this week; I’m looking forward to more details on Nokia’s Amber and on Windows Phone Blue, or 8.1, or whatever it’s called now). So on balance, I’d have to say that the taking-a-US-cell-phone-to-Europe story is pretty much unchanged as well.
Delta surprised me with what’s known as an “operational upgrade,” or op-up, on the Atlanta-Madrid leg. That is, I didn’t buy a business class ticket, and I was not eligible for an upgrade based on my fare class, but Delta wanted to make more room in coach for paying passengers, and they had some empty business-class seats, so they moved me. I certainly wasn’t going to complain; this is the first time I’ve ever gotten an op-up and I was glad of it. I slept almost the entire way in the seat pod; by mashing buttons you can convert it into a narrow flat bed that ends up just about at floor level. The experience was oddly like sleeping in a mummy sleeping bag– the pod is only about 12″ at the footwell, and since I wear a size 13 shoe it was a bit of a tight fit.
We arrived on time at the Madrid airport, and I took a taxi to the hotel that Microsoft arranged for speakers, the Meliá Castilla. It’s gorgeous: very stately and European. Apparently it is near a bunch of nifty stuff but I was only there long enough to take a quick shower and catch a shuttle to IFEMA, the large conference center where TechEd itself is being held. I worked a shift at the “ask the experts” area and got a few good questions; more to say about that in another post. Then it was off to the speaker lounge to check my demos for tomorrow’s session. More to follow…