Sunday, February 18

Tulips from Hamster Jam

Wednesday

You may, or indeed may not, remember this. Well that was last year, and this is now. So, as is becoming the norm, I was sent all expenses paid to a European capital city for a gathering of the European ICT Team (nerds, in other words).

This year was Amsterdam, land of cheap women, expensive lager and even more expensive hotels, a veritable lardheads mecca. And there I was with my bosses.

After flying in from Durham Tees Valley airport, the only airport in Europe with a cottage for a terminal, I arrived in the city-like Schiphol. 25 minutes later I arrived at passport control, and then another 25 minutes I arrived at the front door. It is truly awesome, but more on that later.

A robbing Dutch bastard drove me to the hotel, taking me for 70 Euros - I found out soon that the train was about 4 Euros, and a free minibus would have took me the rest of the way. D'oh! Ah well, you live and learn, plus it wasn't my money anyway I suppose.

The hotel refused to accept my card, so I rang the office and got them to sort it all out for me while I enjoyed a nice cold Heineken, the first of many. I got in the room at last, found there were no english channels, so went back to the bar to await the others arriving.

3 hours later, no-one. No mobiles switched on, no answer from any of the nerds, just me in an empty hotel (everyone else was at work still, you see). The free minibus pulled up, so I jumped on it and whizzed off into the centre of the town. Walking in a perfect square, so as not to get hopelessly lost in a foreign city, I expertly found an English bar, and hopefully someone to talk to. I hadn't spoken to anyone for 4 hours, and my mouth was welding itself shut.

The English pub did indeed contain an Englishman, well a half dutch half english millwall fan, who kept me entertained with stories of Amsterdam excess. Left this bar, and completed my full circle back to the bus. Well, nearly. Walking down another indentikit street, I was startled by a knock on a window, which caused me to jump so high I nearly fell in the canal. Turning round I saw two enormous, scantily-clad prossies laughing at me. Fat cunts. After this I made off back to the hotel, for a few more beers, until I was finally contacted by a fellow nerd to go back into the centre for tea.

Tea was superb, not your usual fare at all. Back to the hotel then, another pint and bed.

Thursday

Awoke with a start due to an unplanned wake up call. Went for a shower and a shit, and noticed something weird in the bathroom. There was a phone next to the toilet. Not sure why, I never think "Ooh I could do with a pizza" mid-dump (although I believe KG does do this), so I'm not sure why it was there.

"Yes, I'd like some room service please. I have constipation."

Breakfast was eaten, and we set off for the meeting. I won't bore you with this bit, so...

After the meeting the big activity was due. We were led down the stairs of the plant to the front door, where we saw a barge arrive. We were taken on a sight seeing tour, inluding the red light district and most of the main attractions.

You know when you've been Tangoed.

We docked (parked?) next to a restaurant, and after venturing inside we found there were 4 easels set up next to our table. We had to paint for our food.

Some artists, artisting.

Split into teams of 3, we had to apply a background to our canvas, and then design and paint a masterpiece, all between meals and without ruining our appetites. The picture had to incorporate something from each of our respective countries. I would have picked a parmo, but these are notoriously difficult not only to paint, but also to explain to a Belgian. Big Ben it was then...

A true masterpiece. Not by Rembrandt.

Afterwards, the dutch staff have us a guided tour of the red light district, which was funny, but at the same time slightly menacing as well. This is what gives Amsterdam it's reputation though, and it would have been rude not to see it.

Friday

Breakfast. Meeting. Taxi to the airport, for 70 Euros yet again. We passed some awesome buildings on the way back, including the stunning ABN Amro building. Arriving at the airport I realised just how big the place was. The gates at Teeside go 1-4. That's it. The gates at Schiphol go A-H, then subdivided 1-87 (at least), then each number was divided again A-J. Fucking hell, It would be like a bastard marathon finding my plane.

And it was. At least 40 mins from start to finish, walking all the way, with a Heineken pit stop in the middle. Then the plane was delayed for an hour and 25 mins. Gutted. I was absolutely knackered, and just wanted to be home. Luckily, the pilot stuck the afterburners on and had us home in 45 minutes to meet the waiting executive taxi.

Amsterdam is excellent, a proper capital city, but the tourist bits can be quite dangerous looking, and I think it would be easy to get into some serious shit if you're the mouthy type. We shall have to try it though.

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