Yes, it is known for its red light district and ubiquitous pot smoking, but luckily Lewis and I found out that Amsterdam has much more to offer. The journey to the Netherlands (which means "water lands") started in Delft, where I was in a week-long marketing communication training. Delft is about an hour west of Amsterdam, and it's the hometown of Vermeer and where blue-and-white Delftware porcelain is made. Within moments after getting off the train, Lewis and I were doing cartwheels, dance moves and Tiger Woods fist pumps. Delft rocks! We checked into our hotel, put our bags down and spent the rest of the night giggling and running through this super-cute town. IKEA has some of its main offices in Delft, and we were both thinking the same thing... see if I can get a job in Delft when my contract with the catalogue ends. The rest of the week, I was in class for 9-10 hours a day, so it was not much of a vacation. But I met some really cool IKEA folks from around the world: Gianluca from Italy, Vendel from Hungary and Frode from Norway. I actually think that was the best part of the training... learning from my IKEA coworkers in other roles within marketing. While I was learning about IKEA branding and other valuable bits of info, Lewis was exploring the surrounding area: namely Brussels and Amsterdam. He wasn't overly impressed with Brussels, but he came back with a big grin on his face after visiting Amsterdam. He told me it was like Manhattan with canals.
Finally, on Friday, it was time for me to see Holland's version of Manhattan. We walked around the Leidseplein area (the picture of Lewis holding his hands up) and found a terrific Tibetan restaurant called Sherpa and admired the architecture on the canal-lined streets. Canal-front land in Amsterdam has always been at a premium, which explains all the narrow houses. In the old days, you paid a tax based on the width of your house. The problem with such a narrow, tall space is that it's very difficult to move things in. That's why they have hooks attached to the roofs of all the houses. They use them to hoist furniture in through the windows. We stumbled upon someone moving this way, so you can see for yourself.
Aside from watching Lewis eat a chocolate and banana sandwich and watching Lewis almost get mowed down by a biker, the other highlight of the trip was the Anne Frank house. After holding in tears the entire visit, I was struck with her final quote before walking out the door:
March 25, 1944
I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people. And therefore I am so grateful to god for giving me this gift of writing, of expressing all that is in me.