Gadling’s 2011 NYC summit / NoFF happy hour recap

One week ago, the nefarious crew here at Gadling assembled from all parts of the globe to gather in the Big Apple for our annual team summit. Led by Gadling’s steadfast Editor-in-Chief & tequila pusher, Mr. Grant Martin, the team took to the bustling streets of NYC for a weekend of strategizing, socializing, pool sharking, and vital face time.

The highlights of the weekend (from what we can remember) included a travel/tech panel organized & curated by Gadling’s own Jeremy Kressmann; where Drew Patterson (CEO of Jetsetter), Geoff Lewis (CEO of Topguest) and Grant Martin discussed the present and future of social media’s impact on loyalty programs.

On Saturday evening, we had the pleasure of teaming up once again with the boys at the Nomading Film Festival to wrangle some of the top NYC-based talent in the travel industry for our second happy hour of 2011. Hosted at the Lolita Bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, we convened over a special pouring

of 17 Year Old Fine Oak & 18 Year Old Sherry Oak Single Malts from the Macallan. A sensible amount of scotch & tequila was consumed, new friends were made, old friends reunited, and when the fine folks at Mastercard & Travelocity started feeling generous, coveted gifts (and gnomes) were raffled.


We couldn’t have asked for a better group to share the celebrations with; thank you to all that were able to make it. If you missed us this time around, then scroll through the gallery above to see the photos that we were allowed to publish. If you want the uncensored version, you’ll just have to join us next time!

Competitours Race – Day 2 “The Rhine” (with video)

As part of our Gadling on the Road series, Kent Wien and his wife Linda are participating as Team Gadling in the first run of Competitours, an Amazing Race like competition taking place in three different countries in Europe. Follow along each day this week as Kent documents their progress.

When the alarm went off for day two of our competitours journey, I honestly had no idea where I was. I looked at the ceiling and pondered how I got to that point. This isn’t a rare occurrence for me, since hotels tend to go with the job. But I knew I wasn’t at work. Mostly because my wife seemed to be next to me in bed.

It was 6:30 a.m. and we had just slept for 5 hours after trying desperately to upload nine videos from our challenges on Monday. I started at 10 at night, after having dinner, but by 1:30, I knew nothing was going to get to YouTube.

It seems other teams were in the same boat. In fact, seven other teams were trying frantically to get their videos uploaded by the 1 a.m. deadline for that day. One team gave up and went to a Starbucks. But their connection was slower than a snail as well. Someone took pity on them and invited the team to their house, which was a 30 minute walk away. At 2 a.m. after being up for nearly 41 hours (they started on the west coast), this team really put in the effort, even though they weren’t rewarded with any success since they continued to have more tech issues.

In all, everyone managed to get their videos uploaded at some point the next day and Competitours has agreed not to penalize anyone for their tardiness. This is a trial run, after all, and so much has been learned in just the first two days.
Linda and I enjoyed breakfast while my videos were happily uploading the next morning. We left the hotel 20 minutes late again, just narrowly missing our train to a small town on the Rhine called St. Goar. This train would take an hour and a half, but it would prove to be the perfect opportunity to get some studying in for the next challenge.

The challenge involved taking the lyrics to a poem about Loreley, a voluptuous woman who would lure boats traveling up the Rhine with her hauntingly beautiful song. We were to find her statue, take the lyrics and combine them to the melody of a contemporary song.

Linda chose to sing the song “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley which had become our theme song for this trip. Linda has always considered this trip to be crazy, and she can’t believe she agreed to it, especially after the torturous first day. But after looking back at yesterday, and getting some much needed rest and food the next morning, she’s much happier about her decision.

Back on the train, Linda poured over the lyrics of the song and decided that the version in German would much better match the melody. She never saw much of the scenery on the way to St. Goar, instead preferring to sing on the train, with strangers in the distance wondering what she was up to.
We took a ferry across the Rhine. We had to make our way a mile or two to a “C” shaped spit of land where the Loreley statue sat. We contemplated singing to her from a hundred feet across the water, but this particular challenge had some serious points associated with it (40), so we decided to walk the 1/2 hour to and from the statue.

When we reached the statue we were surprised, and a little disappointed to see a lady taking pictures of Loreley there. But I saw a good opportunity to use her photographic talents to film Linda singing while I took video with the smaller Flip camera.

Linda sang her song with the lyrics available on the iPhone if she needed to glance at them. It was wonderful, since I never get to hear her sing as she’s far too shy. So to help alleviate that shyness, I’ll go ahead and share a shortened version of the video that our fellow photographer took at the end of this post.

When Linda finished, the photographer introduced herself and explained that she was working on a project that would feature the Loreley statue and she had been looking for a song to go with her site. Amazingly, she loved Linda’s version and asked if she’d be able to feature it on the site.

Linda promised to get her the song and we raced back to the ferry to continue with the other challenges. We had two and a half hours to climb a hill to a castle (looking closer at the clue we later realized that we could have taken a taxi) where we had to come up with a creative story about the two castles named Cat and Mouse visible across the river.

We attempted to make the video amusing before working our way back to the basement of the Rheinfels Castle. Once we found it, we were to navigate through a maze of tunnels with a flashlight to document three dead ends. Fortunately I happened to have two flashlights with me.

We enjoyed exploring the caves, and had a few good laughs. We made each dead end in the video the result of poor navigating by me, and finally when Linda took over the navigating duties we made it out of the tunnel. At least, that’s what the video showed.

But to be honest, Linda has been very adept at navigating her way around the cities and train stations. I couldn’t have done it with anyone else.

After a failed attempt at finding Ice Wine, a purported specialty of the area, and no luck in getting anyone to sing Eidelweiss, we decided to move on to the next challenge.

The next task involved picking out steins for the team’s favorite historical figure and modern day celebrity. For the celebrity, I chose Steven Speilberg, since I had met him just a few minutes earlier. You can take my word for it (would you really do that?), or you can watch the video from day 2:

We leisurely made our way to the train station to wait for our ride back to Cologne. After 10 minutes, there wasn’t a train. We found out that it had been delayed due to a freight train blocking the tracks. That thirteen minute delay meant we were sure to miss our 9 minute connection, and subsequently our ride to the next city Tuesday night.

Fortunately the next train was also five minutes late, so we were able to meet up with the rest of the teams to discover where we’d be going next.

It’s Amsterdam!

We had guessed it would be either Amsterdam or Brussels. Since I have already been to Brussels, I was hoping we’d see Amsterdam instead.

We checked in, uploaded our 6 videos from the day using the free and fast wifi at the hotel before looking over the challenges for the next day.

Stay tuned to see how it goes. By the time you read this, the points standings should be posted for the first two days. Team Gadling’s fingers are crossed!

Read about the rest of the week: Pre-departure, departure, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4 and day 5.