WPCampus was in Buffalo, and yes, that’s where the wings come from. Logistically it made sense to fly London to Toronto. Despite my years or travelling for both work and pleasure, it was my first trip to Canada. The country is 150 years old – yea! Compared to the UK, that makes it a toddler, roughly the same age as my apartment in Bristol.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There are obviously similarities to the US, something like 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border, but there are several differences. The accent for one, I also heard some people speaking French, which was very weird. French is the only other language I speak well. I spent 5 months in Lille when at university and at the time was fluent; could give presentation and write long essays – now I’m down to conversations in bars and postcards. Chatting with Quebecois was a new experience.
WPCampus is a great event, and quite different from other WordCamps. For a start, Higher Education has different problems from most WordPress users. They are managing enterprise installations on shoestring budgets.
This was only the second WPCampus, and I’m pleased to say I met a lot of familiar faces from the inaugural event. Rachel is the main organizer, helped by others like Curtis and David. They are a great team, producing an interesting event. I’d recommend it to anyone involved in Higher Ed or enterprise installations.
Before going on to Boston I took some vacation time. Buffalo is very close to Niagara Falls, so I spent some time there. I brought the ninjas with me, the photo op was too good to miss. I stayed on the Canadian side. Everything I’d read online said it was the better choice, and I can understand why, there’s more to do and the famous horseshoe can’t be seen from the US. The falls are spectacular. As a resort it’s a little overdeveloped for my liking, I’m not too worried about casinos etc.
I then went on to Niagara on the Lake, which is much more my scene. It’s wine country, producing 90% of the world’s icewine. I hadn’t heard of icewine before – it’s a thing, one word not two, protected name and all. Icewine is made from grapes that literally shrivel up and freeze on the vine. Before being picked there needs to be 3 consecutive days of -8C. Often the moment of picking is in the middle of the night, everyone gets a call to harvest the crop by hand. Icewine typically has 15 to 20 times the amount of fruit per volume compared to normal wine. The result is a desert wine that’s sweet, but not too strong – most desert wines our fortified, but the frozen fruit is so concentrated that icewine is a comparable proof to normal wine.
Niagara on the Lake is relatively flat, so ideal for biking. I spent 1 day exploring by myself, and another on a guided winery tour. Derek from Zoom bikes was an excellent tour guide. He’s retired now, having spent most of his adult life in Canada, but was originally from the UK. He even supports the same football team as me, so we were always going to get along! YNWA
Finally I flew on to Boston. Since this was a repeat trip, I’d also been to WordCamp Boston last year. It’s very well run. Last year we had a sponsor stand at both camps, and my memory was that the organisers went out of their way to help sponsors. Their rationale being that if sponsors have a good event they are more likely to be involved in future camps. This year with Mind Doodle the timing wasn’t right for us. However, since we are working on WordPress integration for Mind Doodle we may well sponsor next year.
Overall it was a great trip, for me a perfect mix of business and pleasure. I always say that the best thing about WordPress is the community, and as ever I caught up with friends from the past, and made new ones.
My next trip to the US will be WordCamp US. I’ve not been to Nashville before, so am looking forward to the opportunity. From the UK there are no direct flights, so I’m going to have to work out the logistics. The best options seem to be to go via Washington or Chicago, so I need to choose, the White House or Deep Pan Pizza? History or stomach.