Tech-ed Amsterdam 2012: Day 0

It’s off to tech-ed again. It’s been 3 years since my last attendance. Last year, there was no tech-ed, and the year before that, my colleague was the one who could go. Technically, last year I could have gone to tech-ed in the US, but I didn’t fancy flying to LA for a 4 day event. By the time my jet-lag would be under control, I’d be on the plane home again.

Anyway, tech-ed 2012.

Some of you might remember the planes, trains and automobiles experience I had traveling to Berlin last time. Or rather, the trip to Berlin was fine, but the trip from Berlin airport to the event center was not. I have a reputation of being one of the worst navigators on earth, and I lived up to it. This year, tech-ed is in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is close, so it should be easy to get to. Right? Not quite. I took a local intercity train to Antwerp central, and there I would take the inter city to Amsterdam. I had arranged for a former colleague and friend to pick me up from schiphol station and he would drive me to the hotel and we’d go to a restaurant afterward. Despite my usual travel anxiety, I told myself that nothing could go wrong this time.

Sadly, I was wrong. I arrived in the central station only to discover that due to work on the tracks, my train to Amsterdam had been cancelled. They told me I had to wait for 2 hours, then travel to just across the Dutch border and take a local ‘stops at every hovel’ train to Amsterdam.

Instead of that, I decided to do the sensible thing and buy a ticket for the Thalys connection to Amsterdam directly. I’ll probably have to explain to HR why I bought additional tickets, but even if they would reject my expense report, avoiding all the extra travel stress and the hours upon hours spent in a local train would be worth the extra cost. I have to say that driving the Thalys is a joy, even in economy class. There are soft and comfortable chairs, power outlets for battery chargers, and an overall calm and soothing atmosphere. I suspect that my trip home will not nearly be as luxurious. Yet for now, life is good.

My friend picked me up at Schiphol, and from there we went to the RAI so that I could register myself and get that that out of the way before the rush. That took only 5 minutes. Getting out turned to be harder. When we entered the underground parking, we kind of assumed that we would be able to drive out again.

That turned out to be a mistake. We had to have a ticket to open the barrier. And then my friend said ‘look, the exit next to us doesn’t have a barrier’. And a minute later we found out why J, when we arrived at the entrance barrier from the wrong side. My friend had to drive his care backward down the spiral again. As it turns out, we had stumbled into the attendee parking, which did not have hourly rates. I had to pay 15 euros for the 5 minutes we’ve been there.

Checking in at the hotel had to be done via self service. The hotel does not have a traditional recention. It was all very modern, very trendy, and rather annoying. Call me old fashioned, but when I arrive at a hotel after traveling, I just want to go in and talk to a (preferably cute female) receptionist who will give me a key and wish me a nice stay. What I do not want is to trawl through my backpack, looking for the hotel reservation details, and then negotiate my way through an on-screen menu. Then again, it was relatively easy and the application didn’t bork, so I mustn’t grumble.

Then the hotel room. Most hotel rooms try to emulate a sense of ‘home’ with various degrees of success. Some are better than others (airport hotels are notoriously bad) but most regular hotels try to give you a sense of stepping into a homely place. Whoever designed this one decided to abandon that entire concept, and go for broke. This is not a hotel room as I know it.

The best description I could come up with is that I feel like I am in the escape pod of an enterprise type starship, year 2212. You can see the pics here.

The shower and toilet have circular milk glass walls with blue lighting at the top. They look like transporters. Everything else is either chrome or white. The lighting is well designed though. Indirect spots and hidden indirect lighting. Also, this room comes with a remote for everything, from the color of the shower lights to the tv, to the AC unit, and more. I have to say it looks nice.

The hotel does not have a restaurant. That is not a big problem because there are plenty of places to eat close by. Japanese, Pakistani, Italian, Chinese, Dutch (of course), steak houses, etc. I won’t be wanting for food. And there is a ‘Miffy’ store as well, which is good because I can buy something for my daughters.The most critical question left is what the breakfast will be like. It will be very hard to tip my breakfast experience from tech-ed 2009 in Berlin. That was the mother of all breakfasts. Given the loungy modern look of the breakfast area around here, I don’t have much hope that there will be bacon and eggs. This is probably more of a ‘yoghurt, cereal and croissant’ place. Still, we’ll see. I could be pleasantly surprised.

I’ll just finish reading through the session guide, and then I’ll turn in early so that I can start tech-ed with a clear head.

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