WABAS, or more precisely the group of Writers and Bloggers about Spain, is a group of writers and bloggers who publish content about Spain in English. This was the ninth time that they have gathered together to share experience and ideas, and what an incredible group of people they are. Thankfully there were no TV appearances this time!
This year’s meet-up was in the beautiful town of Alcala de Henares, just outside Madrid. It’s known as the birthplace of Cervantes as well as the city where Christopher Columbus had his audience with Queen Isabella to fund his trip to the New World!
Those who stayed in town were treated to the lovely Evenia Boutique Hotel. A word to the wise though, the rooms are quite intimate so if you are sharing, make sure you are good friends. The glass fronted shower doors enter right into the rooms! The accommodation was just round the corner from our meeting room, appropriately called La Casa del la Entrevista as it sits on the spot where Columbus met the Queen.
The weekend began on the Friday evening in the Tempranillo restaurant. There we renewed our acquaintances and made new friends over a glass or two of wine and some tapas. We were given some creative tasks to do our best to fulfill over the weekend, and put into groups. Anna (who built a theatre in the Alpujarras – check out Me Vuelves Lorca) and Alicia (who writes as Andalucia Inland) were responsible for the ensuing madness!
On the Saturday morning we welcomed representatives from the Ayuntamiento who told us something of the history of the building in which we were meeting. Next, Maureen, who lives locally, told us about the exciting project she is currently pursuing. She is writing a book about the history of Alcala and after hearing her impassioned talk, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy some time early next year.
Next up was Molly from one of Spain’s most successful blogs, Piccavey, who gave us some advice about trying to make money from our blogs. Thanks to what she said, I’m wondering about a “buy me tapas” button somewhere on this page!! Following on was Cepee who runs the Madrid Bloggers Network as well as writing a blog for women who want to travel, She Hit Refresh. We were given some great ideas about growing and engaging our Facebook communities.
A bit of self-promotion came next as I talked about my journey around the world teaching English as a foreign language and sought ideas to develop my current Aviation English project. Maya followed me to talk about her innovative Blocksparks project which has reaped rewards after a turbulent year in both her personal and private life. If you ever want to know anything about Blockchain technology, you know where to look.
Joshua then entertained us with tales of superhero milkman, Milky. His comic reached its Kickstarter target at the second time of asking, and lessons learned from the first failed attempt were shared. Marietta then shared her experience of setting up her podcast at Project Pod.
After a round-table discussion about new websites and gadgets that we have all discovered over the past year, Merilyn entertained us with tales of flamenco from Jerez. You can read more at Food and Flamenco. Then Shaheen, organiser of the whole shebang, wrapped things up for the day before we went out for the evening. The Christmas market meant places were generally too packed to fit us all in, but we eventually managed to squeeze in to Mar Salada.
Sunday morning began with me sat by myself in an empty room and wondering if I had got the start time wrong! Eventually I had some colleagues though, and Shaheen kicked proceedings off with a discussion about our challenges over the past year and our goals for the year ahead. She used her business, Vera Content, to illustrate what she had achieved.
Anna and Alicia then had us doing all sorts of crazy activities designed to get the creative juices flowing. This culminated in the Great WABAS Egg Race where we used straws and paper to build a contraption capable of protecting a raw egg on a two storey fall. Luckily two out of three teams completed the task successfully, so there wasn’t much mess to clean up!!
Next we had a whistlestop tour of the town. It was amazing to see the old buildings, the storks and the crowds who were out in force to see the Christmas market. Our guide used photographs of the town before restoration to show the damage that had been caused to this beautiful place by the civil war. The post-restoration view is in stark contrast to the horrors of conflict. We had an excellent lunch in La Posada Magistral before saying our goodbyes. A good time was had by all and we can’t wait to meet up again somewhere else next year.
Also in attendance were:
Gaile from Javea Grapevine
Author Mai Griffin
Talented pianist, Hannah Gracey
Sarah from My Guide Alicante
John from Eco Vida Homes
and Katherine who has moved to Spain from the USA to trace the footsteps of her grandfather, a famous pre-Civil War actor.