Sunday, 10 April 2016

Amsterdam in Tulip time and a stay at the Hilton

Visiting Amsterdam in April as an ECCMID speaker I stayed in the iconic Hilton Hotel, I walked round South Amsterdam and enjoyed the new Rijksmuseum hanging.

I was invited speaker at this year ESCMID conference which had relocated from Istanbul to Amsterdam because of security fears. I was sorry not to go to Istanbul but happy to go to Amsterdam again and reconnect with friends there.

I stayed in “The Hilton” a fine 1930’s building with a huge, elegant, clean lined atrium. I had a room with a nice view over the canal and Amsterdam. The room had modern furniture and dark red walls.   John and Yoko’s “love-in for peace” in the 1972 put this Hilton on the map. Their suite has been preserved as a suite for renting. I was woken in the morning by a woodpecker drumming away outside my window. South Amsterdam was designed as an area with house and communities and I had a fine walk down to the conference centre past interesting family houses in estates and with courtyards.  In contrast the conference centre was a 21 st century with a modern corporate feel and one could be anywhere in the world.

I lectured on leprosy in a session that included talks on scabies from an Australian and leishmanisis.  In the afternoon I listened to talks about migrant health and TB.

Later I met my friend Iain who moved to Amsterdam over 20 years ago and since then by visiting him I have become closer to my Dutch roots. Over an excellent Basque meal I updated him on the current state of the Labour party.

On Sunday morning I was up early and into the Rijksmuseum as soon as it opened. The museum has been rehung very well with an overview of Dutch art century by century but with all the Dutch Golden Age work hung together. I had a lovely hour enjoying seeing the Rembrandts and Vermeers; the Night Watch is beautifully hung at the end of a long hall, there were rooms with Rembrandt’s earlier work. I loved the Rembrandt self portraits and the one of his son Titus when I saw it 40 yrs ago. There were 3 Vermeers (“The Milkmaid”, “Reading the letter”, “Delft houses”), again a delight to see again. I wandered the galleries enjoying the Dutch landscapes and the snow scenes. I could easily have stayed another couple of hours browsing the collection. I'll make it a priority for another visit. I also honoured my Dutch roots by buying Dutch food, muisjes and chocolates and ginger cake (gember koek) in an Albert Heijn store. 

At the conference I heard our HTD SpRs present their posters. I chatted with Stewart Cole about leprosy politics and heard a paper on endemic leishmaniasis in Italy. They were surprised to hear that we were seeing cases in London from the Mediterranean. I took the train to Schiphol with Sarah Logan and enjoyed Belgian beers in the very trendy modernist Stedilijk cafe at Schiphol.

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