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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Amsterdam - Part I (Getting there is half the fun!)

Among all the odds I ends I attended to preparing for my trip, getting new luggage was one of them. I've had the same simple suitcase ever since I originally came to Toronto, which I've rarely used because I'm rarely away for more than a few days at a time. But I doubted that it would stand up to much being tossed around when packed to the gills, so I went luggage shopping a few days beforehand.

I'm almost alarmingly fond of the suitcase I ended up getting, as it represents a quantum leap over my old suitcase (shortly to end up in front of my place with a "Take Me" sign on it). Extendable handle and wheels for easy transport, internal heavy plastic bag for carrying things that might leak, multiple pockets for papers and assorted odds and ends, it's an engineer's delight! Forgive me if this is all old hat now, but I've never bothered keeping pace with luggage technology and it was all new to me.

Anyway, I was flying Air Transat to Amsterdam (Direct! Yay!) and was to head out Wednesday the 6th at 8 PM. Following the advice of friends wise to the ways of international charter flights, I was determined to actually show up the three hours in advance that the ticket tells you to. So Wednesday morning was spent packing (the suitcase I bought came with a small carry-on piece, which I actually packed empty into the large piece, figuring with souvenirs I was likely to came home with more than I left with), and I started out a little past 3:30 PM.

I wound up catching every train and bus to the airport perfectly, and arrived well in advance of my most-case schedule, checked right in with no problems, and ended up with boarding card in hand with literally three hours before the flight was to leave. At least I had plenty of time to get a decent meal at Swiss Chalet in advance, and I had a good thick book in my pocket (Is Paris Burning?, obtained at the Victoria College Book Sale).

The flight left nearly on time, and was no real problem, aside from not managing to get any real sleep on it. I was surprised to get an actual meal on it (my first such in years), and with a metal fork as well! Although the knife and spoon were plastic.

Anyway, seven hours later I get an excellent view of the North Sea, and then of a good stretch of countryside while we maneuvered to land. I was just about waved through Customs, and found a bank machine to get some Euros (something I had neglected to do in Toronto). The train station is right at the terminal, and in no time I was on my way into the city, although the view along the way wasn't much, typical side-of-the-tracks build up.

I arrived at Centraal Station (lots of double a's in the Netherlands). Central Amsterdam consists of the regions occupied by the old city, and are more or less defined by four horseshoe shaped canals, one inside the other. Centraal Station is pretty much located right between the tips of the horseshoes, and my hotel, the Winston, due south of it, just off the main drag, the Damrak. After a little walking around, sorting out the very long street names which get shortened a lot on the map I was trying to use (and being very glad I got new luggage with wheels), and found the place around noon, and managed to catch a few hours real sleep. The SHOT conference was to begin in the evening.