Bonding & Eating & Meetings, Oh My! – A Brief Synopsis of Barcelona 2024

Visiting Barcelona last month for Seafood Expo Global was a whirlwind from start to finish. The experience was both exhausting and motivating for a number of reasons, and here I’ll do my best to take you through the trip in the eyes of a relative newbie to both seafood conferences and international travel.


Our Itinerary (Work and Play):

Day 1 – My first day (or two, depending on the time zone) began with an exceptionally long plane trip across the Eastern half of the United States, over the Atlantic Ocean, and traversing a good bit of the Spanish mainland to reach Barcelona. Upon landing, I successfully caught a bus to the city center where I met my wonderful colleague, Eloïse, for the first time in front of a small coffee shop (or café, as Europeans prefer to call them). Within a half hour we were joined by our Executive Director, Daniel, and within another 30 minutes we were off on a three hour walking tour of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter.

Even though I was running on two hours of sleep over the previous 28, I was delighted (but unsurprised) to learn that Barcelona is beautiful–a wonderful mix of historic and modern architecture, intricate mosaics, illustrative reliefs, and narrow cobblestone alleys.


Day 2 – After a much-needed shower and sleep, we reconvened in the morning for a day of alternating GTA team building and strategic planning. Being the first time the three of us had ever been in person together, we made a point of getting to know each other in both a professional context and a more casual one. We’re a small team working to have a big impact, so we felt it critical to forge connections that can span the oceans and country borders that usually separate us.

We began with some indoor bouldering at renowned climber Chris Sharma’s local gym, a personal highlight of mine! When our forearms gave out, we found an open-air café on the beach to get some collaborative work done. After our brainstorm/virtual sticky-note session I was thrilled to wade into the Mediterranean, however cold it may have been. We rounded out the day with some (controlled) axe-throwing in town. I was VERY bad at this, but Eloïse and Daniel crushed!


Day 3 – Work, work, work! Our team spent the day alternating between our Airbnb and various coffee shops to lay out our plans for the GTA and break down our goals into actionable steps for the next six plus months. We were then joined by the lovely Cassie Liesk, GTA’s board chair, to share our ideas and chat about the GTA’s direction. To wrap up our final pre-expo day, we hosted a night of pinchos and drinks for GTA Partners, collaborators, and friends! It was fantastic to get to meet so many of our affiliates face to face, chatting about everything tuna and beyond.


Day 4 – It’s expo time baby!! The next two days felt extremely long and overwhelming, but I’ll keep my descriptions short and sweet. As I’m learning is pretty typical for seafood shows, we bounced from meeting to meeting all day, walking the exhibit floors (FOUR of them!) in between. I was disappointed to find far fewer delicious samples than we did at SENA in March, but perhaps we were just exploring the wrong rows.

On a brighter note, we were fortunate enough to be asked to collaborate with The Nature Conservancy on a session about their newly launched Tuna Transparency Pledge. Daniel did a fantastic job moderating a panel of industry, government, and NGO voices to promote the pledge’s significance and impact.


Day 5 – See day 4, with the addition of some late-night campaign work and a suspicious dive bar dinner that I would soon regret deeply. It was a long and unpleasant night for me, mostly spent on the soothingly cold tile of the bathroom floor.


Day 6 – Lots of time spent horizontal in bed trying to keep the ginger ale in and the fever out. My deepest apologies go out to those with whom we had meetings scheduled–believe me when I say I would have greatly preferred to meet you than go through the day I ended up having.


Day 7 – Uh oh, my flight home leaves at 2:00… 

I’m sure you’ll all be ecstatic to hear that I did, in fact, make it home after a delirious 21 hours of fever-ridden plane time.


My (Amateur and Completely Biased) Food Ratings:

Now that I’m almost a full week post-food poisoning, I’d like to reflect on some of the new foods I tried in Barcelona, because what’s a trip to a new country without experiencing the local cuisine? So, in no particular order, my ratings:

  1. Sangria – 5 stars! Absolutely delicious!
  2. Liver – 0 stars. Horrible smell, horrible texture, horrible taste.
  3. Halibut – 4 stars! Nice soft texture, but its taste doesn’t quite live up to tuna.
  4. Croquettes – 3.5 stars. Quite nice, but too heavy to eat a bunch in one sitting.
  5. Bone marrow – 2 stars. I wanted so badly to like this, but the texture was just too off-putting.
  6. Café bon bon (espresso with sweetened condensed milk) – 5 stars! USA coffee shops, please add this to your menus!
  7. Natural wine – 2 stars. Tasted exactly like regular wine to me.
  8. Jamón cones – 4 stars! Basically salty, porky ice cream cones!
  9. Paella – 3.5 stars! Delicious rice, good seafood. 1.5 stars deducted for shell-on prawns that I could not figure out how to eat properly.
  10. Patatas bravas – 5 stars! I’m always here for new ways to eat potatoes!


Miscellaneous Exciting Discoveries:

  • Hailing a cab is only a little bit scary, compared to the extreme apprehension I initially felt about the experience (side note: apparently this is a generational thing. Sorry folks, the “youth” just don’t take taxis anymore).
  • Oh yeah, the rest of the world uses Celsius…
  • Europeans eat dinner SO LATE! How are you supposed to be in bed on time with that kind of mealtime schedule??
  • Some companies REALLY shell out for their expo booths! I’m talking multi-floor behemoths with projectors and full-on servers for drinks and food.
  • Catalan culture is not the same as Spanish culture, and locals will make sure you don’t forget it!
  • Seafood Excellence Awards! Daniel described these as “the Oscars of the seafood world” and the stately award room seemed to echo this sentiment.
  • A lone seagull somehow found its way into Exhibit Hall 3, and while I’m not sure if it was the best or worst day of that bird’s life, I hope it made it out safely in the end.

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