Amsterdam

Europe, my love, I have missed you dearly.

It feels so good to be back. The easy, fluid exchanges of language, the thick, rich espressos, the beautifully ornate buildings old as time, the names and places that resonate from history, good, quality wine, the charming cobblestones that make stumbling unavoidable and the streets that twist, turn and stop short, laid out as if by accident.

We wake up each morning and sit together, focusing on each other, our whole-milk cappuccinos and breakfast rather than snagging a skim iced coffee and a banana to go. In cabs and on walks, I lose myself in the ornamentation that intricately detail every shutter, every gable. It feels so good.

Our week in Amsterdam was a whirlwind. I departed my red eye flight on Sunday morning, exhausted and slightly disoriented but thrilled with the idea of being back in Amsterdam, and headed straight to the RAI – Amsterdam’s largest convention center. There, I joined forces with all of my friends and soon-to-be colleagues from rAVe at the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) tradeshow. We set up our booth and took preliminary videos Sunday and Monday and worked the trade show from Tuesday through Thursday with little time or energy to do much else other than grab dinner and a drink or two afterwards.

The trade show itself was a wild ride. Until I lost my voice, I was part of what they call ‘the game’ and distributed decks of promotional playing cards while chatting with 5,000+ attendees and exhibitors from all over the world. We worked long, hectic days but it was super cool to see the future of AV technology and to talk to people from such a wide variety of places. The digital signage blurred the lines between image and reality, the Tesla coated in projections was unreal and the virtual fitting room and holograms were literally out of movies. It was an exhausting experience, but rewarding. With that being said, one of the best parts of the entire experience was the group we went with – I genuinely appreciated spending time with everyone who came with and loved getting to know those I didn’t already know well.

Although rAVe and ISE kept us on the go, we did manage to fit in almost everything we wanted to see. I love Amsterdam. It’s a quaint city that feels comfortable – walking around leaves you constantly in awe, but never overwhelmed. On Friday, we began by exploring the Van Gogh museum. I’ve always loved he impressionist movement and appreciated Van Gogh’s work, but the museum really was fantastic. It laid his work out in a time line that gave you a complete understanding of how his artistry developed, from painting peasant imagery like The Potato Eaters to scenes like Sunflowers and Wheatfield with a Reaper. They told his story alongside his work, and featured examples of his acquaintances and influencers, which provided context for the twists and turns he took along the way.

We made our way to a funky little cafe called Cafe ‘t Gasthuys that felt like it belonged in Memphis, decorated with dark upholstery and playing the blues, and had the most delicious brie and pancetta sandwiches. We followed that up with a wonderful Rick Steve’s self-guided walking tour that took us to the Jardin district. Here, the adorably intricate and quaint houses that give Amsterdam its charm were coated in delicate greenery – something that seems scarce throughout Amsterdam although you don’t realize it’s missing until you see it. It was a beautiful day and a lovely walk that showed us the odds and ends we might have otherwise missed. Along the way we stopped into a niche fluorescent art museum and met an older Parisian woman, who moved to Geneva, settled in Amsterdam and dates a New Yorker from Brooklyn. It’s meeting people like that that helps to make traveling so beautiful.

We set off for dinner (over the course of our nights we had traditional Dutch, Dutch-Indonesian, and Turkish) and then joined our rAVe crew for a beautiful and romantic canal tour. Lit up, quaint Amsterdam becomes classy and glamorous.

We ventured out to the red light district later that night and explored. While this attraction is iconically Amsterdam, and is absolutely something to see, I found that I was more unsettled than I expected to be as I recalled all that I’ve learned and come to understand about things like human trafficking. It’s scary stuff when you get thinking about it but it’s also interesting to explore the idea of legalized prostitution and what that really means.

The next morning, Mary Frances and I woke up early and made it to the Anne Frank house and museum. I explored this museum the last time I visited Amsterdam but barely remembered it. I’m glad I returned – it was an intense experience, but an important one. Although Amsterdam is great for its beauty and party scenes, it, and the rest of Europe, is rich in a history that has been stained with violence not to be forgotten. The Anne Frank house got me thinking and remembering and reminded me of the important things in life.

We met Jess at a local street market, bought traditional dutch stroopwafels to take home as souvenirs and made our way back to the airport to join Kristin, Sarah and Emily for our trip to Prague! My time in Amsterdam was a wonderful ride, but I’m bubbling with anticipation and excitement to experience a place entirely new.

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