I’ve just attended the 2nd Annual Automattic VIP Grand Meetup in Rotterdam, Netherlands!

I’ve travelled to a Grand Meetup every year while working for Automattic. I went to San Francisco and Santa Cruz for my first, then a couple years in Park City, Utah, and then a couple of years in Whistler, British Columbia. Last year, the division of the company I work in, VIP, split off and hosts our own Grand Meetup. I had to miss it last year when it was in Montreal, so I could start chemotherapy. This year, I was not going to miss it! Especially being in my grandparents homeland!

I opted to travel early, to cover support for our enterprise clients while the rest of the team travelled. I think my entire travel time, my door to my hotel in Rotterdam, was 42 hours! Mostly that is exaggerated because we only have one flight out of Dawson each day, and it almost always requires an overnight stay in Whitehorse before the next flight leaves for Vancouver.

It was snowing when I left Dawson City, and the airline wasn’t sure the plane would have enough visibility to touch down in Dawson. Ahhhh!

But it did! Whew!

Air North is the best airline in the world! Free sandwich of my choice, fresh cookie, and a drink.

I was about to miss Thanksgiving (again) for a work trip, so while in Whitehorse for the night, I at least found a restaurant serving pumpkin pie, but it turned out to be pretty horrible 🙁

The next day I flew down to Vancouver, and then boarded a KLM plane for Amsterdam. My first time flying KLM. The free Heineken and a stroopwaffel was a nice touch!

While I was flying, I knew my sister was in labour! I was sure the flight would have Wifi, but nope! Trust me, I checked every 20 minutes!

I didn’t sleep a wink flying over the ocean. I watched 3 or 4 movies, no idea which ones, and then the sun was up and we were getting off the plane. I dashed into the closest bathroom stall and connected to wifi to find out I had a new niece and my sister was doing well! Here are the lucky new parents!

Baby Selinah Marie shares my middle name! Isn’t she the cutest baby?

After hearing the news, I gathered my luggage and headed through passport control. Then I had to navigate to the train station, which is below the Schiphol airport, and hop on a direct train to Rotterdam.

I found a cab and made my way to the hotel and crashed into a deep sleep for a couple of hours, then forced myself to stay awake until bedtime to get adjusted to the time change!

The next morning I was up by 4am and waiting for the sun to arise. Even when really tired, sleeping with stitches in your head is a pain in the … head.

The first view I saw of Rotterdam in the daylight:

I had a lovely room in the Bruno hotel for a couple of days while waiting for the rest of the team to arrive.

Look what I found at breakfast! Mousies!!

Yes I swiped a couple little boxes to take home.

The conference hotel had … interesting? rooms. The bathroom was all glass with the shower in the middle of the room. Kinda fortunate our company doesn’t require sharing of rooms with coworkers! Everything about this room was a little off – like someone designed their first hotel rooms and flopped miserably.

The door to the bathroom area was glass and had two positions, either closing off the smaller toilet room, or sealing off the larger bathroom area. At night time, you had to walk with your hands in front of you to prevent walking into the glass.

There was no where to prop open a suitcase, the closet was too small, the hanger for a wet towel was a suction cup that couldn’t hold the weight of the towel. There was no desk. And the TV was inside a glass/mirror wall. And how could I forget the ridge in the floor going into the bathroom to seal the water from escaping into the rest of the room. If you stood on that in your bare feet, you wouldn’t forget it (trust me, I only did it once!)

At least there was a view! Well not straight out, but to the left and right was nice!

Check out the view from the breakfast room in this hotel! This is the Erasmus bridge looking over into the downtown area of Rotterdam. Unlike Amsterdam, Rotterdam is modern looking with interesting new architecture. Most of the city was flattened in the second world war so everything had to be rebuilt. As a result the city looks modern, and is so clean! There was a noticeable effort to be green and environmental in Rotterdam. And bikes everywhere!

Our hotel was right beside the cruise ship terminal. I can’t believe the size of the cruise ships that would dock here! It looked like it would take the width of the river to turn around!

Sunsets here were amazing!

Our opening dinner was across the river at the Boompjes event hall.

I had so many new coworkers to meet. Since joining the VIP team, I have only had a smaller team meetup in Lisbon, and we’ve hired a ton of new people since!

And it is always nice to see good friends again who I’ve worked with for several years already!

The week was full of chats, speakers, workshops, a few flashtalks, and coverage shifts. Our team project led us to this small market, cheese shop, and stroopwafel shop.

My wonderful coworker Sarah had some nursing experience and took out my stitches after breakfast one morning! I sure could sleep way better after that! Thanks Sarah!!

The food was terrific. I ate too much everywhere. So much of it reminded me of my grandparents, with the mousies, fresh bread, gouda cheese, apple cake, and jams.

Here’s my steak supper at the New York hotel one night:

I couldn’t eat more than half the steak, or the cream puff, but they were delicious!

The hotels here seem to all offer a huge breakfast spread. Here’s a gallery of our breakfast spread:

One afternoon, I even co-lead a workshop about Elasticsearch! Here’s a few more random pics from the week:

On our final night, we took water taxis across the river to our dinner in the Euromast tower. It had a 360 view of the city – gorgeous! Someone was even setting off fireworks in the distance while we dined!

I am not quite the same Lisa who used to attend these Grand Meetups. I was exhausted and had to go to bed at 9:30 some nights. I didn’t drink much. I used to be able to drink until the wee hours with coworkers, and get up for breakfast, and do it again the next night. This year I was quiet at times, didn’t always feel the energy to make conversation. I was even light headed and a bit dizzy at times. Am I still recovering from treatment? (Probably.) Was I drastically behind on sleep? Jet lag? (Maybe.) Side effect of stitches in my head? Whatever it was, I was so grateful to be there, it is okay to me that I wasn’t able to join all the parties.

Actually it was kinda neat to see the people I used to party with at these Grand Meetups have aged too, some now have a family back home to keep in contact with, and I wasn’t the only one sitting far across the floor from the loud karaoke we set up, or grabbing a coke instead of a beer.

I’m really excited about the future of our little division. So much growth potential, so many possible exciting new clients, and I left with a greater understanding of some of our current clients, and techniques to support them. I made great new friends across our squads and teams, which will help me be more efficient and communicative in my work. I’m eager for what is ahead!

But first, Jeff is going to join me here in Holland for a week long vacation. More on our adventures soon!