Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there

Venice, Spain, Petaluma – wanderlust cured!
28/06/2010, 16:10
Filed under: travel | Tags: , , , ,

Forget my earlier musings about how to cure wanderlust. Seems the best way is to, well, start wandering again. A month ago my calendar was looking decidedly parochial for the remainder of the year, now it’s rammed to the gills, especially over the next month.

First, there’s Venice – I’ve never been and it’ll no doubt be spilling over with tourists, but it’s Jane’s birthday (quite a significant anniversary that I won’t reveal for fear of a death blow to the kidneys), so we’re flying to Italy in the morning. Any hints or tips on what to do beyond the obvious, I’d love to hear them. Then it’s the family holiday, for which we’ll be flying out to Barcelona then onto Salou – I’ll be spending my 35th birthday in a theme park on rollercoasters and log flumes. Aces.

Meanwhile, a friend I made during Twitchhiker, Anastasia (@accessinspirati), has invited me back to Petaluma, California to be part of SocialBizWorld – a two day social media and web conference. It’s brilliant to be asked to participate – I’ll be presenting and putting some round table discussions together for the event – but it’s also an opportunity to indulge in the fine hospitality of Petaluma and Sonoma.

Since I’m on the West coast, I may travel back via one or two other places and catch up with other Twitter uaers. Wichita, maybe. We’ll see.

And in the future I promise not to mope when I’m not travelling; when I bought my currency for Venice this morning, the shop assistant exhaled in disappointment: “I’ve always wanted to go to Venice, I wish I could go.” My reply? “Then go.” What excuse do you have not to step beyond your front door? If you want to travel, don’t make excuses – do it.


Day 16/17 – the tweets of San Francisco
19/03/2009, 17:06
Filed under: twitchhiker project | Tags: , , , ,

The Tweets of San Francisco

According to Google, I’ve been beaten to the play-on-words in my headine by a couple of months. Regardless, I’d appreciate it if you could find it utterly hilarious and continue reading.

I’ve also just recalled my most disturbing discovery to date. I should have mentioned this in my previous post, so apologies to fans of linear continuity. The fact that I’m writing this blog three days after the fact while planning the next three days ahead on Twitter has eradicated any notion of chronology I once possessed, so you may as well wallow in the delirium of non sequitur I enjoy moment to moment.

Anyway. It was in Austin, while been driven to the airport by @hallienoves along E 7th Street. There by the roadside, a 20-something year-old handed out leaflets for a local business or similar, dressed as Uncle Sam in the appropriate star-spangled paraphernalia. But in a break with the traditional image of the white-bearded chap in the top hat, he had blacked up.


I still don’t understand it, and neither does anybody else I’ve asked since. A blacked-up Uncle Sam. Words fail me.

Back to San Francisco.

I spent the night on an air-bed in the living room of Christen, otherwise known as @thumbble. Despite my legs feeling sore from the previous evening’s flights, it was the best sleep I’d of the trip so far. My mood had improved no end, and suddenly I found myself feeling excited for the first time in what seemed like forever. A good night’s sleep can solve many a trouble, and maybe one day I’ll share with you why that’s more true in my situation than most.

Christen and her boyfriend Josh lived in the Hayes Valley area of San Francisco, a stone’s throw from the Mission.  I hadn’t taken in much of the scenery the evening before, but I later discovered it to possess all the crucial San Franciscian elements required of the more colourful neighbourhoods. Hills? Check. Trams? Yep. Drunks? Yessum. The stench of skunk in all direction? You betcha.

I saw nothing of the city on Monday. I realised that would be the case before my trip began – trying to work while travelling invariably meant staying behind in class while the other kids played rounders outside. And so I sat about in my underwear from early morning until late afternoon, MacBook perched on my naked legs, super-heating my thighs and gently sterilising my sperm.

In a curious twist of fate, I was in the company of a fellow iPhone Apps developer, although many would argue that in this town you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting one. Christen is the CEO and co-founder of Thumbble, a company that designs a range of travel-based apps called Twiddler, that match activities in your vicinity to your mood and time available. Despite five months of building iPhone gizmos with my business partner Jon, I’d never met another developer, so we spent the morning exchanging tall tales concerning iPhones, road-testing one another’s apps and generally been very, very geeky.

iPhone applications were to be a running theme for the day. We’d thrown together a quick tweet-up in the Mission, at a busted-up shack of a dive bar called Zeitgeist, populated by locals and drunks, and local drunks. Amongst those who appeared was Jeff Scott, founder of the excellent iPhone Apps review site Together with Jeff’s wife and @HeatherHAL who arrived after a disappointing turnout at her book club, we drank many a real ale and watched our little corner of San Francisco get smashed out of its skull.

Tuesday came but my inability to dress or leave the apartment during daylight hours continued until 1pm, when my next host Anastasia (@accessinspirati) picked me up. At that point I put some trousers on. A wife and business woman working in the travel industry, Anastasia was bundling me away for a couple of days to recharge in Sonoma and Petaluma, about an hour North of San Francisco. I did have an alterior motive, however. I’d had the option of a trip to Portland in Oregon, but time was becoming precious and I had to find a way to make the impossible leap across the Pacific. I chose to stick close to San Francisco because at some point I needed to find a way to LA, where my chances of making a flight were far greater. I was crossing my fingers and hoping for Twitter to come through for me once more.

Petaluma is also the home of world-respected tech commentator Leo Laporte; @arcticmatt had been shouting about Twitchhiker to net@night host Amber MaCarthur since I announced the trip. Through Twitter, he’d finally got her attention, and so I found myself as special guest on her and Leo’s show. I was only vaguely aware of it beforehand, but from I understand plenty of people would have paid serious coin and indulged in deviant behaviour to swap places with me. If only I’d known beforehand.

Before Anastasia took me to the Hampton Inn at Rohnert Park (@kateHamptonInn), we swung by Petaluma to meet her family for a spot of Saint Patricks Day celebrations. My previous experience of drinking anything dyed green resulted in me prolifically vomiting into a New York gutter (although that may have been the volume consumed, rather than the food dye) so I raised only a pint or two of Guinness to the man in question. All the while, the town drunk itself sick and enjoyed the authentic Sasint Patricks Day tradition of… Scottish bagpipes. “Really?” I asked. “Really,” Petaluma replied. Oh well. When in Petaluma…