I have gone to the conference before in 2006 in Middlesborough (Teeside University). I missed the 2007 and 2008 due to the campus move (2007) and it being too close after visiting babyghia (which started not long after I'd returned to work after my arm operation).
Anyway, last Wednesday I got up at 4am (I had gone to sleep around 11.30pm), ate breakfast etc and drove to East Midlands Airport. Its only a 20 minute drive away and at that time of the day there is almost no traffic, parking was fairly easy too. Although it was raining extremely hard. The airport itself is not exactly fun - its a regional airport and fairly cramped in places. I got through security okay as I only had hand luggage and made it easily to the gate with plenty of time.
The flight I got was a Ryanair flight - basically a cattle class 'cheap' airline which charges for just about anything it can get away with. The seats are cramped and the background music is stuffed full with adverts and such like. Thankfully the flight was fairly quiet so finding a seat was easy and I had the row to myself. One short hope later and we landed early in Dublin. To be honest - if I'd have had a choice - I would have driven to Wales and taken the ferry. I can't complain though, it was a short flight and survivable. This airline are hinting that they will be doing transatlantic flights - there is no way in hell I'd take one of those, I wouldn't be able to move afterwards. There are also no 'booked' seats so its find a seat and sit in it. I didn't have 'priority' boarding but was near to the front of the queue (more luck than judgement). Also, when heading out to board I went to the rear entrance which also was a decent plan (as most people went to the front).
Anyway, there I was, at Dublin Airport, at 7.30am. The earliest I could check in at the hotel was 2pm. So, I had a lot of time to waste and I did what turned out to be one of the talking points of the week (and the looks of surprise). With my usual thinking - I decided to walk to Dublin from the airport, which is approximately 6 miles. The question (and often asked of me) 'why' is answered like this.
I had six hours to loose. The choice was take the bus to Dublin and walk around Dublin for six hours (Dublin is a nice place) OR walk to Dublin from the airport and see what I see - they walk around Dublin for 3 to 4 hours.
I had my trusty Sat Nav (aka Emily and set to pedestrian mode) and a rucksack. So, to me it was a decent idea which turned out pretty good. I saw a few things you wouldn't have seen from the coach and it was a decent day. I stopped at a shop and got a something to eat and drink. Had a short break at a park I walked by and just enjoyed the walk. I got to Dublin in about 2 1/2 hours (wasn't rushing and didn't really look at the clock much). Got something to eat and drink then walked around Dublin for a bit.
The hotel could have been better - but it was decent enough, had free wifi, and the room was a decent size. I didn't have a view and the extractor fans were just below my window so it wasn't quiet. It was, however, fine for me and thats all that I needed.
The 'meet' session was at 4.30pm (ish) at Trinity College. Its a nice place, but the information maps weren't good. Luckily I found the library and the security guard pointed me in the correct direction. That was nice - psychology techies and not an academic in sight so it was also good fun.
I won't go into the full details of the conference itself and the ATSiP AGM but it was good enough. We had a meal on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Wednesday, the meal was in Dublin and Thursday was in a town outside of Dublin (short train journey). The food was good and I choose a traditional Irish dish on Wednesday. Both nights I had to sample the proper Irish Drink - which, of course, is Guinness. Now, I like to drink - but not for the reason of drinking. I like a good Ale or bitter in a social setting, not the standard 'student' thing which is to get drunk as quickly as possible. I like to enjoy my alcohol - so I had a few pints of Guinness and they were decent enough. Guinness is a 'stout', which isn't a type of drink I would go for, but I was in Ireland and I like to sample the local 'stuff'. I didn't stay up as long as some people did when we were back at the hotel, but I didn't embarass myself.
Friday, I checked out the hotel before going to Trinity College, after the talks and AGM a few of us went to see The book of Kells - we got in for free as Trinity college staff can get in for free and bring 'guests' (although six guests each did push it a little). Its well worth seeing if you get the chance - although the gift shop is quite expensive and mostly tacky (staff can get 10% off too). I'm a sucker for historic things - so it was very interesting for me.
and made got back to Dublin airport mid afternoon (this time I took the bus although I did seriously consider walking). I was stuck there for a while as the plane was due to leave at 8.55pm but I had my DS with me and played that (needed the spare battery). I did get a little fed up of the constant 'surprise' in a dungeon in FF IV Thats not a door, its a trap - which occured on EVERY damn door.
Anyway, after security I went to the gate and found that the plane that was due to leave from it before mine was 'delayed'. The plane wasn't even there - sounds like the plane had a big fault and everyone was stuck. Luckily my plane wasn't delayed and again I was quite close to the 'front' of the queue and went to the back of the plane and found a window seat. I helped a short lady get her case into the overhead compartment (it was only polite). Although I had someone next to me who played music on their ipod - it was quiet enough to be only slightly annoying and wasn't on for that long as the flight was so short.
On landing I waiting until the 'rush' had gone for people getting off the plane (again I was polite and helped the lady retrieve her case). Short walk to retrieve the car followed by a nice drive home I half collapsed and made a pot of tea.
I have some pictures that I'll probably put on facebook - I have some others that were taken by one of the other people at the conference (I'm in a few unfortunatly).
All in all, it was a decent few days out and very useful (especially in meeting other people) - and work paid for it as well (well, not everything but the hotel, conference and travel).
So, now its back to the programming and other such fun at work. I spent a couple of days before the conference messing with 'gd' to attempt to make dynamic graphs from php. Now I'm back to the systems I need to programme. The graphs are an interesting project - but these other projects are more important currently.