Approximate time to read: 8 minutes

It’s that time ago when the whole of WordPress VIP have their Grand Meetup. This year, we’re in Rotterdam.

We stayed at the nhow hotel, which is rather splendid, architecture wise, using the hotel facilities for our meetings, workshops, etc.

Wednesday 16th

I’ve volunteered to leave early – Friday is the official “travel day” for most of my colleagues but I’m leaving today so that I can help cover off support whilst they do so. It also gives me a couple of days to settle in, explore the area, etc, and generally do things to help reduce any anxiety that I may, otherwise, be feeling if I threw myself straight into it.

A lot of my colleagues are heading to Amsterdam, which is the nearest option for most long-distance flights. In my case, I’ve managed to bag a flight directly into Rotterdam, albeit from London City Airport.

The flight is at 2:45pm, but I’ve left at 9am because, after all, I’m heading to London and who knows what traffic awaits. And, as it turned out, it didn’t. So I arrived at 11:40am and, because of how tiny the airport is, they won’t let me check in until 12:45pm. With no seats, I spend a frustrating hour stood with my luggage before I’m able to drop off my rather large, hold luggage.

Security was a breeze (Manchester Airport – take note!) and I was soon in the lounge area. And, yes, they don’t even tell you the gate until 30 minutes before the flight leaves so here I am for 1.5 hours!

The flight is just an hour and I was soon met with a rainier country than I left (which rarely occurs). Passport control took me all of 30 seconds and, stepping through that, I was straight in front of the luggage carousel (the joy of a second small airport!). They offloaded all 5 cases (yes, just 5 – London City Airport is mainly for business travellers, so most of them have everything they want as cabin luggage) and I was away in record time for any airport.

Outside, no Uber was available to help me (well, not quite true, but it was 20 minutes wait for one, in a location that wasn’t covered – by now it was cold, wet and getting dark) so I got a standard airport taxi. It was a bit pricey, but we did get stuck in rush hour traffic, which didn’t help. None-the-less, I was at the hotel quite quickly. The whole area looks amazing, I have to say.

For the first night, I’m at Bruno hotel, as our main hotel isn’t available until tomorrow. So I’m not unpacking. But, importantly, I made sure the WiFi worked before heading down and hanging about in reception.

A few of us soon met up and went out for dinner – in this case, the Fenix Food Factory. I had I really nice, freshly made stew. Melissa, who was suffering badly from jet lag, needed to get back to the hotel so I walked back with her. It was probably around 8:30pm and I was already shattered, so I turned in myself. I hooked the TV up to Chromecast and watched a film before heading to sleep at a reasonable 11pm.

Thursday 17th

A good sleep but I’m at 7am as I need to start a triage shift, covering tickets for my colleagues. This is until 11am but it’s quiet, so I manage to shower and grab breakfast. Breakfast is tricky on my diet but I mainly have cooked mushrooms and scrambled egg. At 11am, I pack and check-out, heading just across the road to the hotel for the next week – nhow.

The check-in for this hotel isn’t until 3pm, so I handover my luggage for storage and head out for a walk with Maeve, who I’d bumped into, eventually leading to lunch at the same food market as the night before. This time I had a beef and salad sandwich. I also grabbed some freshly made Stroopwaffles, to take home with me.

Random ships kept docking near out hotel and, they’re so large, they look like just another hotel on passing…

A room has been set up in the hotel for us to co-work from, so we return there until our 3pm check-in time.

At around 5pm, a group of us head out to a different food market, Foodhallen (which is attached to Hotel Bruno). I had a chicken burrito.

We come back to the hotel quite a few hours later and explore the bar area, which is where breakfast is the next day – there’s also a great outside area, where you have a great view of the Erasmusbrug bridge.

We retire around 8:45pm.

Friday 18th

Today is the official travel day, when most of my colleagues will be arriving.

I woke around 8am, showered and joined other colleagues for breakfast. All by 9am. My plan today is to go for a walk across the bridge into the centre of Rotterdam… well, it was my plan until I realised I had another work shift from 11am until 3pm. So, I abandoned that.

Between 9:30am and 11am, I helped set up the music “jam” room before settling down in the co-working room.

When my shift was finished at 3pm, I headed out for a late lunch by myself. I walked back to Fenix food factory to get the same rather splendid beef sandwich that I’d had the previous day. Afterwards, I returned back to the hotel co-working space for a while.

That evening, we were given gift cards to spend at the Foodhallen, where VIP had a reserved area, which we could use to eat together and chat. It was a great evening and I had some rather nice noodles and meat from a Caribbean food stall.

I headed back to the hotel sometime after 10 and was in bed by around 11.

Saturday 19th

Today is the first proper day of the GM. I had an 8am start, showered and went to breakfast. At 10pm, we had a “Town Hall” with our CEO, followed by updates from other department heads. Whatever you may think of meetings, the view from the main room window more than makes up for it…

We broke for lunch around 1:15pm and then got together, in divisions, at 3pm which, in my case, is support.

That evening was an opening reception at Boompjes. Buffet food and an open bar. It didn’t go on too late, so we headed back to the hotel (another open bar!) where we had a music room, games room, etc. for general entertainment. The music room was used for karaoke which I took advantage of, before heading to the games room to play Resistance.

It was a late finish – 12:30am – and a late Coke had given me a sugar rush, so I slept badly.

Sunday 20th

More division time in the morning, before breaking for an early lunch and then getting together for “team time” – in the case of triage, we were split into further groups to discuss different topics. I was in the “Client Feedback” group, which I was also note-taker for.

The dinner in the evening was at Hotel New York, again within individual teams. I had the most amazing tasting “Crispy Chicken” dish.

Again, an evening of Resistance beaconed, this time finishing sometime around 1am. I turned off my alarm for the morning.

Monday 21st

I woke around 9:10am and headed down for breakfast. Once fed and watered, I went back to my room for a shower, still making the first meeting at 10am.

From 10-12pm was a superb talk from a keynote speaker, Sheena Iyengar, about “The Power of Choice”.

After lunch there were some flash talks but, I have to say, none that I was aching to see and I’d not really had a chance to explore Rotterdam much. So I headed out for the afternoon. That included shopping. Although I walked about 5 miles in total, I wasn’t away for too long so spent a lot of the afternoon co-working with my colleagues.

I was needed to work in the evening so skipped the organised dinner and, instead, went to Foodhallen around 8pm.

Around 9:30pm, I retired to my room, tired. I didn’t go to bed, though, until close to midnight.

Tuesday 22nd

Up at sometime after 8am.

There was a Q&A with Nick, VIP CEO from 10am until 11am. After was an AMA that triage had the Steph, the head of support.

After lunch, there was a great discussion about VIPs new pricing structure, followed by a guest speaker from Github talking about incident management. By then it’s 5pm and dinner is at 7pm.

This time, now not working, I’m able to make dinner. I walk over with a group which includes our (other) CEO, Matt Mullenweg, who I got a chance to chat to. The meal at Loetje was really nice but we don’t hang about as there’s a “fireside chat” with Nick and Matt at 9pm. This lasts about 1.5 hours – Matt has only just flown in but needs to fly straight back out again! I grabbed a front row seat.

The evening concludes with a massively popular karaoke in the Jam Room, as well as Resistance and Werewolf in the Games Room (I attended the latter). It’s around 2pm by the time I get to bed.

Wednesday 23rd

The final day of the GM today and it’s gone really, quickly.

The day had a number of talks, one of which was a flash talk by myself. After lunch there was another keynote speaker but I was crashing badly and missed it to recover in my room for a few hours.

In the evening we headed to Euromast for dinner – a 600 foot observation tower, which just happens to have a bar and restaurant half way up! We took a water taxi to the venue.

The views were great, if a little nauseous for those with height issues. During the dinner, some of us went further – stairs take you to a round seated area, which surrounds that top spire. The seats than raise right up, whilst rotating, giving you a tall, 360° view of Rotterdam. It was amazing.

It was also CEO Nick’s birthday, which we celebrated with a cake!

The evening was topped off with Karaoke and Werewolf until, for me, 2:30am. For others – much later.

Oh, and Ryan and I had an excellent, competitive game of Jenga 😉

Thursday 24th

A.K.A. the one where most people go home.

I don’t need to leave until after lunch, so I have a leisurely breakfast before packing. We still have the co-working room, so I put my luggage in there and head, for one last time, to Foodhallen, where the beef burrito awaited.

One fed, I grabbed my luggage and took the taxi which had been arranged for me to get back to Rotterdam airport (technically “Rotterdam and The Hague Airport”). It really is not much more than series of warehouses and a delayed flight, along with no power and no WiFi, left me twiddling my thumbs for some time.

The one thing about the journey I hadn’t taken into account was the time I’d be arriving back in London. Once I had my luggage it was 4:30pm. It took me 2.5 hours to get here but 3.5 hours to get back (and that was only by constantly changing route to avoid holdups).

Wrapping-up

Location

Rotterdam is great – incredibly scenic. But I wouldn’t go there on a family holiday as there’s not a great deal to do. It’s really more inclined to businesses. And, yeah, the hotel was a step-up from last year’s, with great facilities (jam room, yay!)

Travel

The smaller airports are good. To an extent. So much quicker to pass through them but problematic when you get stuck there. Also, I hadn’t thought through the return times, so got stuck on terrible traffic leaving London – something for me to remember for next time!

It was my first time using both airports but also flying British Airways too (of which I have no complaints).

Health

Without jet-lag, I did well. My diet has helped, I think, so I felt well all week. Some lactose consumption didn’t affect me until I got home (and that may have been the custard I had after I got home…).

There was no way I could stick to my WW diet strictly, so I gave up on trying to do so. Instead, I took what I’d learnt and ate as healthily as I could. Time (or my next weigh-in) will tell.

The reality is, at past GMs, I’ve been ready to come home half way through the week. This time I wasn’t ready until the final night. That’s a success in my book.

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