Diggin' technology every day

May 21, 2012

Off to Amsterdam next week

Filed under: General — Tags: — Nate @ 7:58 pm


Well next Saturday at least. The project kept getting delayed but I guess it’s finally here. Going to Amsterdam for a week to build out a little co-location for the company. Whenever I brought up the subject over the past 7-8 months or so people almost universally responded with jealousy, wanting to go themselves. I suppose this may be a shock but I really don’t want to go. I’m not fond of long trips especially on airplanes (don’t mind long road trips though, at least I can stop whenever and stretch, or take a scenic route and take pictures).

The more I looked at Amsterdam the less interested I was in going there – or Europe in general. It seems like a very old, quaint, cultured place. Really the polar opposite of what I’m interested in. I traveled a lot around Asia specifically growing up(lived in Asia for nearly six years), and had a quick trip down to Australia. So I feel that I can confidently say that I have traveled a bunch and really don’t feel like traveling more, I’ve seen a lot – a lot of things that I am not interested in and am not (yet) aware of other things that may interest me. I also don’t like big crowded cities either. I swear I’ve spent more time in Seattle than San Fransisco since I moved here almost a year ago (not that I enjoy Seattle – but I have a few specific destinations to go to there, where I really have none in SFO at this point).

People of course obviously bring up how certain things you can do in the Netherlands legally that you can’t do here legally at least (like that stops anybody from doing it here). So it’s really not a big deal to me. I actually looked quite a bit at the red light district, and didn’t see anything that got me excited.

The one thing I did sign up for when I was booking the trip on Orbitz (my friend’s site directed me to Orbitz), was a canal pizza cruise, which seems up my alley – if only they served the only alcoholic drink I order. I really can’t stand the taste or smell even of things like wine or beer (or coffee or tea while I’m at it – I’m sure there’s something wrong with me in that dept…). I’ve looked around for other things but so much of it seems culture related and my attention span for that stuff lasts about 60 seconds. I also don’t know how much free time I may have there, maybe little. My two trips to Atlanta for the build out there I had a COMBINED maybe 7 hours between the two (total time there about 12 days), and many 15+ hour work days, with more than one dinner at a gas station well past midnight.

I would like to find a place like this over there, since it’s so close to Germany. I asked one guy that is over near Amsterdam (runs a VMware blog), though he didn’t have a whole lot of suggestions. I have a good friend from when I was a kid that lives in Denmark, which I thought was close – not close enough though (~700km away), haven’t seen that guy in maybe 17-18 years.

I emailed a two of my very well traveled friends who know me well, know what I like, and neither of them had any ideas either.

In the remote chance that any of the 9 readers I have knows of a good place(s) to visit or thing(s) to do in Amsterdam let me know.

So I suspect short of that little canal cruise I’ll spend all of my time at the Holiday Inn and at the data center. Save my cash for my next trip – I intend to spend a week in Seattle towards the end of next month. My company has a satellite office there so I plan to work during the day and have fun at night. Much celebration will ensue there. I’m obviously very excited to go back to my favorite places, neither of which I have not found replacements for in the Bay Area.


  1. I spent a year in Amsterdam in 99 before moving to SF. Amsterdam used to be Europe’s Internet hub, with the main connection to the US back when it was an academic playground, and it still has RIPE, the EMEA equivalent of ARIN. The population is tremendously Internet-savvy and culturally it is very close to SF (gay-friendly, tolerant, that kind of thing). As befits a trading nation (50% of the GDP is from international trade), almost all the locals speak English fluently, you stand a better chance of understanding them than in the UK with its impenetrable regional accents. Amsterdam has a thriving nightlife (but only in specific central neighborhoods, most of Amsterdam is dead at night), and traditionally companies leave the office on Friday afternoons to go together to a jenever (gin) bar for a drink.

    You picked the best time to visit, as Amsterdam can get quite chilly in the best of times. The city itself is remarkably compact, you can walk completely around it in a couple brisk hours. It is a great place to just walk around (no hills). Rather than take a tourist-trappy cruise, for a reasonable fee ($30/hour, IIRC) you can just rent an aluminum boat with an electric motor and get a DIY canal cruise. It’s a great way to experience the city, but of course only in the daytime. The Concertgebouw is a world-class orchestra, far better than anything we have in the US, but it is also quite small and seats for worthwhile performances are all taken by subscribers.

    Food-wise the Netherlands is nothing to write home about. Like the British, the best food available is often from their erstwhile colonies, Indonesia in this case (Nasi Goreng, called Rijsttafel in Dutch). The Dutch eat a light lunch, usually bread rolls with cheese or ham, and have a coffee break seemingly every hour or so. They do have some interesting specialties, like mustard soup (did you know Dijon mustard is made in Dijon, France, but from Dutch mustard seeds?), the delicious stroopwaffels (waffels made with apple syrup) and bitterkoekjes (chewy bitter almond macaroons). You could try raw herring with diced onions if you are adventurous, kreeftensoep (crayfish soup) or erwtensoep (split pea soup with smoked eel).

    D’Theeboom, the one restaurant I could recommend wholeheartedly closed down, unfortunately. Luden is OK, but not in the same class as SF fine dining. De Struisvogel is less expensive and worth having a look at. Many cafes will serve inexpensive dinner fare like the one I mentioned above, and it can be quite relaxing to unwind in a cozy cafe while it is raining or blustery outside. If you don’t like coffee, keep in mind the Dutch invented cocoa powder, and many places serve decent hot chocolate.

    Two practical tips: if you suffer from air sickness, make sure you get a window seat, flights into Schiphol are usually quite bumpy due to wind patterns. And make sure you get euros at an airport or major downtown locations, many ATMs in the city won’t work with US debit cards because they lack security chips.

    Comment by Fazal Majid — May 21, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

  2. I personally love Amsterdam, but i don’t know your tastes. Some of the things I enjoyed while there:

    1. Anne Frank House Tour (Seeing the reality that I read in the book as a kid, was humbling)
    2. Heneiken Tour
    3. Boom Chicago (Its an American comedy troupe from Chicago in Amsterdam… i know you can get this in the US, but for some reason its a favorite activity for me there)
    4. Rijksmuseum (I”m not a huge art guy, but they have some cool stuff, and i have to say the Architecture of this place is awesome)
    5. Diamond cutting – I did find this interesting although there will be a heavy sales attempt at the end of your tour
    6. Naval Museum is quite good, the science center is ok, but OMNI in portland is much better
    7. There are ton of argentinian steak houses and there are a couple of great asian restuarants i’ve found. The best steak place was Toro Dorado and i’ll look up the chinese place and send it to you later
    8. There are a ton of datacenters there and some are VERY unique, including being housed in former missle silos etc, You could probably do some research and check them out, several of them are brand new just built in the last 2-3 years

    Also, there are really only three beers you can readily find there, Heineken (Which if you dislike from the states, i recommend you try it there, as its amazing there, it must be the water or something), Amstel (owned by Heineken) and Grolsch (Also owned by Heineken). The bar will have a sign on the outside that will indicate what form of beer they sell, and they only sell that one type. The Heineken museum I hear is quite good and you’ll be suprised at how many beer brands heineken owns (I can’t personally vouch for the museum, as i haven’t done it but co-workers have)

    The Canal tour is a good choice, its a nice way to see a lot of the city, i’m not sure about the DIY canal tour, I realize that its a relatively simple canal system but i’d still be concerned that i’d get lost.

    Comment by Justin — May 22, 2012 @ 7:15 am

  3. Thanks for the tips! I will research them before I go to see what they are about. I’ve never liked the taste of any beer I’ve come across going back 15+ years including many international ones so I don’t expect to try any over there.

    For Fazil – you say I picked the best time to visit, it looks like the temperature will be pretty comparable to where I’m at now which will be nice!

    Those sound like some interesting soups, I’m generally not too adventurous at trying new things, maybe I’ll be able to find a place that has small portions to taste.


    Comment by Nate — May 24, 2012 @ 9:32 am

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