Back from Amsterdam

Just got back from a few days in Amsterdam for a conference.  It was good fun. After a mad weekend of haze and errands and taking care of Zen and work work and then also writing to put most of the finishing touches on my second book, off I went to the airport to hang out with my boss in the first class flight lounge, then to my economy class seat on the 12-hour flight to Amsterdam. In the three-seat middle aisle, but with nobody in the middle seat, it was reasonably comfortable. I tried to sleep, since I was exhausted, but I think I only managed about three hours, so I drank beer and watched a few movies – “Get Him To The Greek” and “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”, both of which were about music, but neither of which was any good.

Got to Amsterdam ahead of schedule, zoomed through customs, caught up to my boss, we took a shuttle into town, then off to the hotel, then off to the convention centre to get there before 11:00, when I had my first meeting. Whew! The first day was good, I met people I knew, I hung out, I went to a few sessions, I met the CEO of RBS and gave him my magazine, requesting an interview at some point since we’d featured the guy he had been sitting onstage with that same day, the chairman of the largest bank in India. That evening there were three parties – I took the free hotel shuttle to one of them, lugging my bags with me. It was in a great hotel next to a canal, and I met one of the global bank’s big shots, a baby-faced guy not much older than me, but I wasn’t there long. Then I went to a dinner hosted by the people who had flown me over, where I met a few journalists, it was so-so. Finally, after going back to the hotel, I went to another party that was just around the corner that was hosted by a PR agency and some other IT company. They were supposed to play Hallowe’en-themed music, but all I heard was Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” (I guess they were going to play “Thriller” – or, better yet, “Ghostbusters” – at the climax of the evening, when everybody was going to go crazy). No Misfits, no White Zombie, no Rob Zombie, no Cramps, no Ministry, no Skinny Puppy… what kind of Hallowe’en music is that?

Tuesday was a regular day at the conference, I woke up, took the 8:00 shuttle bus to the conference (it was still dark out, the sun rises at around 8:30 in Amsterdam in late October), I hung out, did a ton of interviews, and in the evening headed off to a party where I was a bit of a fish out of water, the only journalist and in an industry I didn’t really cover. But the food was good, they had breakdancers and a sexy magician, then cheese and cigars. The bus driver got lost on the way back and drover around and around the streets of Amsterdam. Ouch. I got to the second part of the evening, but it was winding down so I went to my hotel and slept.

Wednesday was another regular day, but busier than the others. Had a great lunch with cool people, then off to an event that we were hosting, and many interviews. There was a party from 9:00 to 1:00 near my place, so I first went for a stroll around the red light district, checking out the display boothes as well as the “coffee shops” where they don’t sell coffee, then to the party by 9:30 or so. It was not too bad, many people that I knew showed up, but of course the music was terrible. In four nights in Amsterdam I didn’t once hear a shred of rock ‘n’ roll – it was either techno or eighties pop. What I wouldn’t have given for even a little bit of Golden Earring…

Thursday, the last day of the show, things were winding down, I made a few new friends, I did a bunch of interviews, I had another great lunch, I hung around the place waiting for the party to start in the evening. Naturally, it was a disappointment with a squad of techno beats, and a big room full of old people milling about, eating this and that, chatting anonymously. I found a few people I liked and we hung about drinking beer until the early hours. I collected my bags, jumped in the shuttle bus, and headed back to the hotel.

Friday I got up around the same time, packed, ate breakfast, and took a little walk around the neighbourhood, looking at it for the first time in the sunlight. Took a few pictures, then got in my 9:00 shuttle to the airport, checked in, and did some duty free shopping. I had taken E120 with me in cash, along with my cards, but so far I hadn’t spent a single Euro cent since I’d landed since all of my transportation, accommodation, food, beverages and beer had been free. Great! I bought a belt for myself, and some snacks for my colleagues and family. I inquired about changing my Euros to Singapore dollars at the big ABN AMRO booth in the airport, since it’s always better to sell a currency in its country of origin, but I balked at their ripoff rates. Before I left Singapore I bought E100 and paid S$182 for it. Then I found another E20 from a previous trip and took that with me. When I asked the money changers how many Singapore dollars they’d give me for my E120, they told me S$172. I said “No, E120, not E100,” they said “yes, E120 buys you S$172.” That was less than I’d paid for my original E100. What a ripoff. Later, I changed the E120 in Singapore and got S$213. Sheesh.

The flight was okay. I couldn’t sleep, so I drank beer and watched four movies – the first three Twilight movies (I’d already read the awful first book, but was curious to see what the movies were all about – nice to get it over with in one shot) and the preposterous Wolverine movie. I heard it was bad, but I wasn’t prepared for just how awful it was. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that a plot and dialogue is really bad if the characters are at least as sympathetic as the ones in this movie, but I’m sure every single X-Men fan/Wolverine fan was disappointed with the dreck that was produced. What a waste.

The weekend was okay – Saturday I napped a few hours in the morning, then woke up and did regular Saturday stuff. I went swimming with Zen a few times and we played with the Playmobil sub that I bought him. That was very nice. Then I took him downtown to his Japanese lesson, and I went off and bought new shoes for myself and ran a few other errands. Whew. Sunday I did work for my company and also took Zen to the softball game described above. It was a nice weekend, but busy.

My hotel in Amsterdam

My hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Near my hotel in Amsterdam

Amsterdam at night

Amsterdam at night

Amsterdam after a few drinks

Amsterdam after a few drinks

The big party at the end of the conference - note the empty dance floor

The big party at the end of the conference - note the empty dance floor

...but it was crowded

...but it was crowded

See you in Toronto

See you in Toronto

Comments are closed.