Monday, June 16, 2008

A Day in Amsterdam

My company is notorious for scheduling trips to foreign countries where it is an active holiday. We almost scheduled a week in Stockholm where it is a "ghost town" -- their second most important holiday of the year after Christmas. "midsommardagen" -- Not really a big deal, except that we need their staff to be attentive to our needs on these trips. So scheduling this trip to Stockholm on this week would have been disastrous. I can imagine a conversation sounding like this, if the roles were reversed:

"Yes, we need you to help us work; we have some people showing up in your office on the last Thursday of November. They will be working only on Thursday and Friday. Yes, they will probably be working 12 to 14 hour work days. Yes, we need your staff on-hand during that time. That would be great. Thanks. "

Thankfully, we were forewarned by a clueful Swede, and the trip postponed. But unfortunately, that means that my trip to Stockholm is being delayed until the 22nd of June, and it isn't really that incredibly convenient a time for me.

My recent trip to Amsterdam also happened to be on a public holiday. It was not only a holiday for me while I was in Switzerland (Another holiday here I have missed! I'll rant about that in a second) . In addition, you may recall that my co-workers coming from America had their flight canceled. So stuck in Amsterdam on a holiday with all the stores closed on a hot summer's day -- what was I to do? The delay of me asking that question and this post is mostly because I had no way to get the pictures off of my camera while I was on business in Amsterdam. Now that I have uploaded and sorted the pictures, this story comes to you.

How to spend a day in a city I don't know much about. Oh! I know! Go walking and try to get lost in this foreign city. This has been a stragey to serve me well -- I found the Tokyo Dome once when I was in Japan wandering around (and watched a way-cool baseball game too). I have found wonderful places to go jogging in Stockholm. I have found the most delicious Indian food in Singapore. Why not Amsterdam, too. This is one of my favorite past-times. Along people-watching. What better way to do both at the same time.

I wandered into the big central-park equivalent of Amsterdam, and discovered that not only is it a holiday, but all the young people are out in their bikinis. Of course, I am walking around like a nerd with a pair of jeans, but this doesn't matter much to me. It is a nice park, and I'm going on a walkabout, darn it!

Slideshow of the few pictures I took

Unfortunately, the only fun I had was the first day, when my co-workers hadn't yet shown up. We continually worked 12, 13 even 15 hour days after that. There never was time for lunch. Fortunately, we filled up on a large expensive buffet breakfast first, worked the whole day through, and had a nice dinner.

My business trip's departure had been delayed twice, once with a 3 day extension, once with a one day extension. When I asked the hotel clerk for that one day extension, he managed to find room for me. But oh by the way, the rate is now a hundred Euros more than before! Oy! I was being charged the weekend rate, now this was the weekday rate. No matter. On the last night of my work day there, that was a 16 or 17 hour day. We showed up around 10:00 am, and did not leave until 2 am. I had an early flight the next morning. I asked the man behind the desk what time I had to get a cab to get to the airport on time to get my flight. 4:30. Ugh. That means I will need a wake up call at 04:00. So for two hours, I slept in the bed. I did not want to do the math that at 300 Euros a night, for 2 hours of sleeping, that works out to about 150 Euros an hour. Ouch.

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