Mikki Williams in The Netherlands

It was March, and I would miss the proliferation of tulips, but how could I resist the invitation to speak? My significant other is from Holland so it was the opportunity to see the "homeland", meet the family and gain another international client. Dutch, herein referred to as SO (significant other), (did you expect his nickname to be Duke or Butch?), was utterly thrilled that, in his words, I finally got the invitation to speak in Holland.

I was already working in the UK and would fly over and he would come in from the States at the same time to meet me at the airport with "the family". And so it came to pass. There they were, with a big sign, flowers, lots of flowers, Dutch chocolates and genuine hospitality so characteristic of the Dutch. I know, I know, I'm prejudiced! If you experienced as many airports as I have, especially internationally, then you'll breathe a sigh of welcome relief when arriving at Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam, coincidentally, it was just voted the best in the world by several travel publications.

My client took us to tea at the famed Amstel Hotel and I indulged in "slagroomsoezen" and "tompoezen". It was easier to eat then to pronounce. It truly is a magnificent structure and one that the Dutch are quite proud of.

Out of all the international clients I have, I would have to admit that the Dutch seem most inclined to understand and speak English, making that part of the international challenges, one less to be concerned about. We spent time in Amsterdam, seeing all the prerequisite tourist attractions; Anne Frank's house, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum,(where I posed with some famous Dutch folk such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh and even Queen Beatrix, a ride on a boat through the canals, the van Moppes diamond exchange where I actually got to see the diamond cutters do their thing (and I got to put in future requests, better known as female hinting). We stopped on the street so Dutch could eat those oh so smelly herrings that I always heard so much about. Whole! Then we walked, and walked, and walked, and walked which is what you do in Holland if you're not riding one of the innumerable bicycles.

We strolled past all the quaint Dutch houses lined up in a row as if the Delft Blue china had come to life. Water, water, everywhere and warm, friendly people to compliment the extraordinary scenery. Of course, I had to stop and take a picture at every windmill. I couldn't find any wooden shoes with rhinestones on them or with heels high enough or colors bright enough to match my wardrobe. Oh well! We stayed at the Amstel for my client engagements, a few days at "family" and then to the piece de resistance. Since becoming a world traveler, I live with the Zagat guide in one hand and the Relais and Chateaux Guide in the other. If you thought Michelin, 5 star, AAA, or any other rating systems for hotels and restaurants were de rigeur, then you haven't discovered the Relais venues. Truly the world's best lodging and dining establishments.

First stop, De Arendshoeve (literal translation-the eagle farm) no, there were none in sight. An absolutely first class hotel and restaurant built in the tradition of the old Dutch farms with all the appointments of The Ritz Carlton. It was in the town of Bergambachd, I often tease my SO about the Dutch words, saying they take the whole alphabet and just rearrange all twenty six letters to come up with a single word.

On to the next town of Voorburg, which in our terms would be called a suburb of The Hague, home of the government and my SO and another Relais and Chateaux property, Vreugd & Rust. In the evening, we drove to Vaassen, where SO lived in his later years and where we dined at the old castle, De Cannenburg of which the carriage house was turned into a restaurant. Driving through the little Dutch towns and seeing all the canals and fields where all the famous flora and fauna were just hinting of their Spring emergence, I was once again humbled by the unique experiences this career has afforded me.

Our last night there, we went out for a Rijsttafel, which translates as Rice Table. A feast of Indonesian dishes, about 20 plus with rice being the main ingredient for many of them. Indonesia was a Dutch colony and the Dutch have embraced this native dish and the customs surrounding it. A great way to end an incredible trip and a greater appreciation for the SO, my weekly tulips, the Indonesian spices which adorn my pantry and remembrances of a land of great beauty, in its people and its natural grandeur. Till the next time, from afar, as the Dutch would say,"Tot Ziens!" © 1995 Mikki Williams Unltd.

Mikki Williams,CSP is an inspirational humorist and business motivator. Her company, Mikki Williams Unltd. specializes in speaking, training and consulting in business dynamics, professional development and personal growth.

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