Amsterdam and Paris Business Trip

Leveraging business for pleasure



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The Experience

When I was at Aptex, one of my duties was to assist in sales actions as required to close deals. One of our deals was with a firm called "Unilog" (not to be confused with Unimog). Unilog was based in Paris, France and some executive "presence" was required to bring the deal to fruition. So, my sales VP Scott Christie and I hopped a plane for Paris. Along the way, we had a couple of days "extra", so we decided to take the bullet train to see Amsterdam. The photos below are what we saw.

We rolled into Paris after a 12+ hour flight from SFO. Since it was a red-eye, I was totally shot. We did 2 days of business actions in Paris, then headed north to Amsterdam on the bullet train. Once we arrived in Amsterdam, we checked into our hotel and then we did "the tourist thing" and headed into the more interesting areas of town.

Scott was pleased that we had been able to arrive while it was still light, thus allowing us to head toward the city-center and see the sights.

Amsterdam is a city of canals. We crossed over many of them on our way to one of the numerous "coffee houses" near the Red Light District.

This is the train station where we arrived. I did not have the presence of mind to take a photo when we arrived, but we did have to go past it to get to our destination for the evening.

Scott, having been in Amsterdam before, had a plan. Our fist stop was a local "coffee shop" in the Red Light District. From there, we would head out on foot to explore the area. Since it was mid-summer and Amsterdam is quite northerly, it stayed light until about 1030pm. Once it got dark, people came out of the woodwork. There were rivers of people in the streets wandering aimlessly past the famous "women in the windows". Yes, what they say is true: the working girls display their wares from eye level windows for benefit of potential customers. The windows were, in many cases, in doors that would allow willing patrons entrance to small rooms where business could be conducted. While not taken back by the circumstances, I was amazed at the diversity of the product line. There was something for everybody: black, white, Asian, big, small, sports-themed, leather-themed and on and on. Each of the girls had their own "thing" to attract customers. I have to admit that a number of the women were stunningly beautiful. These girls appeared to be from eastern Europe and would have fit right in as centerfolds in Playboy. We also learned that these girls can read lips. I was admiring one from across the street and while looking at her asked Scott what the going price would be, whereupon she mouthed "twenty five guilders" (about $15 back then). I did not take any photos of things that night, but I am not sure why. The technical reason is that a flash would not have worked that well, but I am sure that the REAL reason is to prevent the existence of incrimating evidence.

The trip to the Red Light District was a smashing success. Or, more correctly, we got really smashed. There did not appear to be lasting damage, and we were up and about by the crack of noon the following day. Jet-lagged and generally fuzzy, we went back for another dose of the District that evening and then prepared to return to Paris the following day on the bullet train.

Our return to Paris was in the middle of the day, so Amsterdam was clearly visible to us as we returned to the train station. Along the way, we passed many interesting sights. "Eatinghouse" is not a word in English as far as I know, but the meaning is clear.

Back in 1999, this would be considered a radical haircut. Today, I think this fellow would fade into the background noise.

Amsterdam has an extensive network of trolley lines. Most of the major streets had tracks running on them. But, despite the presence of public transportation, there was still plenty of traffic congestion.

The buildings in the area of town close to our hotel were nice and the streets were clean. There were a number of areas that were under construction repairing various kinds of infrastructure as in the photo above.

There were a number of large, old churches and government buildings in the area.

Most of the buildings in the downtown area that we visited were classic "old european" style. The building on the right, while new, is not that much of a style violation.

One of the trolley cars is heading our way.

A large church that was visible from our entry to the train station.

The bicycle is the weapon of choice in the urban transportation wars. As you can see, there were plenty of them parked at the entrance to the train station.

All the trains in this area of the continent are electric. They are quiet, fast and non-polluting.

The conventional train engines have semi-aerodynamic styling.

The bullet train is very aerodynamic due to the speed of travel. This is our ride back to Paris.

The bullet train is fast. Very fast. So fast, in fact, that the speed blurs track-side vegetation to the extent that it induces dizziness. Many of the folks closed their curtains to block the view. Before the train ramped up to full speed, I was able to shoot the power plant above.

Back in Paris, we had a chance to see some of the city between meetings. I love the older-style architecture of buildings in Europe.

Massive stone work in many of the buildings.

On Sunday, there were not many people out and about.

Note the roof line of the building on the right of the photo above.

To complete the deal with Unilog, it required some "executive bonding time" at the Paris Country Club. A car was sent for us and we arrived for a luncheon in our honor and a round of golf. The place was really, really nice, but somewhat wasted on me since I do not play golf.

Nice grounds at the country club and right in the city too!

The main clubhouse.

Another view of the grounds. After the round of golf, we headed back to our hotel.

I was fascinated by this circular fire escape in the center of our small hotel. Given the small space, I guess there was no other choice but this design.

We did close the deal and had a great time in the process. My only complaint is that it is so far from home. The ride back in a coach-class seat was a real killer and never really getting over the initial jet lag from the trip to Paris only added insult to injury.

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