Puppies, Cirque du Soleil & Joe Manganiello in Atlanta

I’m no stranger to blogging conferences. Before moving over to the US to work at IZEA, I was a regular attendee at many blogging conferences back home in Australia. I thought I’d seen it all there when the mum bloggers would get a little cray, drink the open bar dry and proceed to dance on top of the tables! I guess that’s what happens when you get rid of your husband and kid(s) for one night and drink all the alcohol with your blogging girlfriends.

That was nothing compared to what I would witness over the weekend at the BarkWorld Expo in Atlanta though. DUN DUN DUN…

Dogs in strollers.

Dogs in Halloween costumes.

Dogs in baby chest harnesses.

Dogs in tutus.

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THE HOTEL

BarkWorld was held at The Westin in Buckhead which is about a 20 minute drive north from downtown Atlanta. Instead of staying at the conference hotel though, we opted for mates rates at the Ritz-Carlton. This hotel chain is associated with nothing but prestige so when I found out we were staying here, I was beyond excited. Upon check-in, I was quick to tell Crystal that I don’t think we’d be able to stumble into this place, drunk, late at night.

What I loved about the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead:

1. The beds. Out of all the hotels around the world that I’ve graced with my presence, the Ritz-Carlton had to have the most comfiest bed I’ve ever slept in. The comforter was so soft and snuggly and my head just seemed to sink into the heavenly, cloud-like pillows often making it extremely difficult to wake up early each morning.

2. Turn-down service. I’d never stayed at a hotel before that offered this, so upon returning to our hotel room at 6pm and seeing our door slightly open, I thought someone had broken in! When entering the room, I was surprised to see a housekeeper removing all the excess pillows from our beds and pulling the top corner of our bed sheets back slightly to make it easier for us to hop into bed. Clearly she knew I planned on rolling in later that night, intoxicated, so this was a blessing.

3. Bed-side chocolate. This was part of the turn-down service offering. Each evening, the housekeeper would place delicious milk and dark chocolate squares on our beds. I found these made for a great hangover snack the morning after. Although we’d only just met, I felt our housekeeper knew both Crystal and I all too well.
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THURSDAY NIGHT

On the Thursday evening both Crystal and I had only one quick blogger ‘speed-dating’ session – other than that, our night was free. Ted had been busy Yelping restaurants near by to our hotel to treat us for dinner – he was way too excited by one review left over on Uncle Julio’s Fine Mexican Food…

“Dip those fresh made tortillas in that shit.”

This pretty much sealed the deal for Ted; Uncle Julio’s it was. It is here that we ate all the fresh made tortillas (dipped in shit) & enchiladas (much to our hosts dismay) & drank all the margaritas… and this was just the beginning.

We then proceeded to a hole-in-the-wall bar and drank all their vodka, beer and shots of God knows what. This led to a massive hug fest which resulted in Crystal having a hard time removing us from the cab after arriving at our destination. I did what I said I wouldn’t… stumbled into the Ritz-Carlton late at night and drunk. Woops.
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THE CONFERENCE

Like I mentioned previously, BarkWorld was like no other conference I’d ever attended. It was a dog-a-licious heaven filled with so much adorableness; each puppy cuter than the next. I couldn’t help but make SQUEEEEEEEE-ing noises every time I saw a puppy that I wanted to abdu… ahem, play with. They sent warm, fuzzy feelings of happiness jolting around inside of me. My Friday was spent sitting at the IZEA booth plotting the kidnapping of several Pomeranians while scheming up ways to get them to stop barking while escorting them out of the conference venue, into my luggage and through airport security.

“Ma’am, did your suitcase just bark?” No! How dare you accuse me of puppy smuggling!

I was mid-way through conversation with a lovely blogger at the IZEA booth on Friday morning when this happened…

Yes, it just jumped right out onto our table. All train of thought was immediately lost as I dove towards this tiny dog, bright-eyed and hands out in front of me ready to pat and squish this ball of fluff. “EEEEEEEEE, I want to play!” I squealed.

Crystal commanded its full attention as she waved a bag of dog treats around in front of it. I tried my hardest to continue on my conversation with the blogger that was standing in front of me but was feeling slightly rejected by the Pomeranians love of only Crystal… that was until I got my hands on the treats bag and scored all the puppy kisses on my forehead after feeding it a dog biscuit. For a split second, my cold, bitter heart melted slightly.

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This is how I felt…

When I wasn’t plotting the abduction of puppies or manning the IZEA booth, I was able to sneak away and attend a couple of conference sessions.

Ted was a keynote speaker and presented the session ‘Name that price! How much is your tweet worth?’ In a game show-style set, Ted presented detailed results from the State of Social Media Sponsorship survey which can be downloaded here.

Randomly throwing in some BarkWorld puppies here for good measure…

*throws puppies*

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Later that day it was time for another IZEA rep to rock the stage. Although very nervous, Crystal delivered a stellar presentation for the ‘So You’re a Social Influencer, Now What?’ session. And what presentation wouldn’t be complete without a backing track of ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’ by the Baha Men – oh yeahhh, this one!

You can retrieve Crystal’s presentation here.

After a successful day and with nerves no longer an issue, there was only one thing left to do… celebrate!
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CIRQUE DU SOLEIL – TOTEM

Through my prior working history with Disney at Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba, I was able to secure complimentary tickets to attend the premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s Totem in Atlanta. I was not, however, expecting to receive VIP Tapis Rouge tickets to the event. Actually, I wasn’t even sure what this entitled us to so I had to Google it…

– access to the exclusive VIP marquee one hour prior to showtime
– VIP marquee access during half hour show intermission
– complimentary drinks that pour freely
– a plentiful supply of delicious hors d’oeuvre
– popcorn and a souvenir Totem program
– incredibly awesome seats

The ambiance of the entire set up was insane. From the minute you step into the VIP line to receive your lanyard and a glass of champagne you are spoilt rotten and feel as though you a celebrity.

Speaking of celebrities, while in the VIP marquee, Crystal was quick to spot the spunky Joe Manganiello from Magic Mike and What To Expect When You’re Expecting. He looked so rugged and manly in person and we couldn’t help but notice his incredible pecks sticking out of his tight-fitted shirt. While walking to the bar, Crystal stopped in his path, forcing him to rub up on her from behind as he passed by. Erin then snapped this amazing photo of Joe Manganiello photo bombing a deep, in-thought, Crystal. Way to steal the moment, Joe!

Totem itself was absolutely AMAZING. I have seen La Nouba, LOVE, Zumanity and Mystère now and Totem truly did rank up there as one of my favorites (although I think LOVE still holds that title). I did not expect it to be as incredible as it was, given that it’s a traveling show but it really did blow me away. For most of the show, the three of us sat there on the edge of our seats with our mouths hanging wide open – not knowing what would come next!

If Totem is touring in a city near you, I highly recommend heading out to see it and splashing out on the Tapis Rouge tickets – you will definitely not regret it!

We continued on our awesome night by becoming BFF and drinking with some hottie from the Vampire Diaries. What a lovely man he was.

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SATURDAY NIGHT 

After a successful, final day at BarkWorld, Crystal and I head out for dinner and drinks at a classy sports bar by our hotel. No, you did not read that wrong, I did just use classy and sports bar in the same sentence – I know, we were shocked too.

This was the nicest bar in the world. Firstly, our greeter was stunningly gorgeous, only she told us how pretty we both looked while seating us and second, our server was a charmer and called us beautiful. Awwww.

Here, we enjoyed a delicious dinner and then moved on over to the bar. Our bar tender, Frederick, instantly fell in love with us – I mean, can you blame him?! Frederick made us all the shots and never left us with an empty glass – he was such a sweet heart. Shot, after shot, after shot, he kept pouring, he even started shooting them with us. Not only had we thrown back a good ten shots each but we were also drinking our standard vodka cocktails and beer, so by the nights end, we were sure our drink bill would be in the hundreds… but in true BFF form, Frederick took good care of us and it totaled $40 amongst the two of us. Oh, Frederick, you really know the way to two girls hearts. Even after paying the bill, they asked us if we wanted more shots, their treat. Haha.

Atlanta, you were too much fun!

Upon arriving home on the Sunday night, I text Crystal, slightly confused as to how I was supposed to get into my bed and go to sleep without someone removing my excess pillows and pulling my bed sheets back for me. Ah, Ritz-Carlton, you truly spoilt us.

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