Travel bloggers united in Manchester…

…and we’re chuffed to bits to have been a part of it. This post is a little late getting off the ground, but I hope it’s better late than never.

A couple of weekends ago, smack in the middle of a stressful period at work, with overtime hours racking up at an alarming pace, Sarah and I met up with the Zurikas at Munich Airport and hopped a plane to Manchester, England after work Thursday night for a three-day distraction I greatly appreciated. It also gave us a chance to hang out with The Honourable Husband and Master Right, also in attendance, which we always relish.

We’d heard Jul sing the praises of TBEX Europe in Copenhagen, and especially about getting stuff for free. Travel Bloggers Unite (TBU) sounded like an equally good time. So I registered on the TBU website to poke around there and get more info. Lo and behold, I happened to be the 200th website member, and Oliver emailed me out of the blue to congratulate me on getting free admission to the TBU11 conference in Manchester. Well, shoot — now I had to go (hate to turn down free travel-related stuff!). I had my doubts about leaving work at a critical phase. But der Bossmann insisted, however, that I get outta town and cut loose a bit, so we did.

I was still a little skeptical at the outset that this was a good fit for me or us; the focus seemed to be on travel blogging as an industry. “Crikey,” I thought,

“we’re not in this for the money. What are the seminars going to be like? The schedule for the weekend is pretty dense; I really hope it’s not going to be a sales pitch or some kind of cult.”

But my misgivings were ill-founded. Even before TBU really got underway, the recommended accommodations made a classy first impression and our conference fees scooped us some free tours through the Manchester visitor information center. There were three to choose from, and all three were open to us, but in the end we were sort of tired and opted only for the tour of Manchester’s recent musical past. Inspiral Carpets‘ drummer Craig Gill gave us a great look into the 1980s and 1990s scene. Given that Noel Gallagher of Oasis was once Craig’s roadie, he had plenty of insider scoop to share. Some bands I’d never heard of and some were well-known to me; nevertheless the tour was fascinating.

Even though once the conference got down to business, at times, I thought my ears would fall off if just one more utterance of “monetize” made its way into them, I came away from it all with clear applications for all of the break-out session seminar topics:

Lots of the panel discussion about bloggers and public relations firms working together didn’t really apply to us. We blog for our own personal enjoyment and with the hope that someone else will benefit from our experiences or read what we’ve done and where we’ve gone and suggest a new direction for our future travels. But even then I am pleased to have made contacts in the European P.R. industry. Lots of the contacts and concepts travel bloggers are using to structure and even finance their travels could be applicable to future WEBMU event planning activities as well. Sooner or later, we know that the Whiny Expat Blogger MeetUp will make it to Berlin, and when it does, I want to have Visit Berlin in our corner, helping to give that Meetup a little extra Berlin flair.

With that in mind, together with the personal connections we made before, during and after the sessions, we’re completely excited about the upcoming TBU conference in Innsbruck, August 25-27. We’re looking forward to seeing some familiar faces but new seminars and discussions, including one on travel blogging photography. See you there!

The Light

The Joint

20 Church Street
M4 1PN

Phone: +44 (0)161 839 4848
Fax: +44 (0)161 833 4898


We arrived in Manchester for a long weekend a few Thursday nights ago to attend the Travel Bloggers Unite conference there. We followed the organizer’s recommendation to stay at The Light, since it’s located so centrally and within easy walking distance to all the conference venues and meeting points.

Walking in off the street, it was hard at first to match the images from their website to reality. But just past the reception desk, snapshots from different phases of the building’s obviously recent renovation project helped us understand the depth of transformation.

We split a two-bedroom suite with our travel buddies the Zurikas and discovered ours was a one-bathroom suite (we thought we’d reserved a two-bath unit). No matter though, we checked the pricing and found we were paying the appropriate amount, and we were pretty sure we could make the one-bath thing work between the four of us — even six had worked previously, but that was pushing it.

Our balcony afforded us a view of Manchester’s skyline — at least as much as you can make out through the haze.

Our suite was tastefully furnished and clean. I had high hopes for the kitchen, with its sleek black stone slab countertops, microwave, dishwasher, and generous refrigerator/freezer combo, and a Tesco Express market just one door down from The Light (Cheddar! Crumpets! Clotted cream! Full English! You get the idea.) There was a water boiler, French press coffee maker, toaster, and a few dishes, but absolutely no condiments (not even salt and pepper), dangerously dull knives (which mashed fruit rather than slicing it), and a ragged frying pan, threatening to donate its non-stick properties to my digestive tract. Quickly we realized that the all-metal utensils were to blame for the condition of the frying pan. I asked for a replacement and got another cleaner, but equally shreddy one a short time later. The photo is of the replacement. Jul gave them another chance to replace the frying pan after this failure to solve the problem and another one never arrived. So we left a comment with the front desk upon check-out that we’d really have loved to make more use of the kitchen, but couldn’t for lack of appropriate cookware.

I’d stay again at The Light for a long weekend or even for a long-term stay. I imagine it’s perfect for someone staying in Manchester on a business trip for several months. I’ll just make sure to inspect the cookware the night before I plan a fry-up next time. I would love to hear how anyone has solved the dilemma of having decent knives around to cook when you’re at a rental kitchen!


Cliff covered the major issue with the kitchen. I think we were all pretty disappointed in the non-handling of that, but the griping ends there. The apartment itself was very clean, comfortable and attractively designed. The bedrooms were small, but the bed was generous and comfortable. The bathroom was actually pretty roomy and had some shelf space (a counter would have been best, but you don’t often find that). Here’s something important to a bunch of bloggers: there were enough outlets to plug in computers, devices and hair-styling tools. And the desk staff was unfailingly pleasant and friendly.

Provided you’re not going to need to use the stove, the Light is a great place to stay – centrally located, well-staffed and competitively priced. If they get the kitchen situation sorted out and equip a minimal pantry (salt, pepper, olive oil), I would unreservedly recommend staying here if you’re spending time in Manchester.