I've often heard that Devoxx (formerly Javapolis) is one of the best Java-related conferences in the world. I've also heard it has the best speaking and viewing facilities (a movie theater) of any conference. When I was invited to speak earlier this year, I jumped at the opportunity. When I met Trish last summer, I even used it in a pickup line: "Wanna go to Belgium with me in November?"
Last week was one of the most memorable weeks of my life. It all started with a tremendously fun Broncos vs. Chiefs game at Invesco Field in Denver. Trish's company, FishNet Security, was hosting a tailgate party and had rented a suite for the game. I was irrationally confident that the Broncos would win, so proceeded to place bets with many of her co-workers. Since FishNet is headquartered out of Kansas City, most of the folks in the suite were Kansas City fans. You can imagine my excitement when the CEO's wife agreed to chug a beer every time the Broncos scored. I talked a couple of other folks into the same bet and proceeded to giggle and grin for the duration of the 49-29 routing.
I tell this story because it put us in the perfect mood to begin our trip to Devoxx the next day.
Trish and I left Denver at noon on Monday, stopped in Chicago for a 2-hour layover and continued to Amsterdam on an overnight flight. In Chicago, we journeyed into the Red Carpet Club, where I performed a long overdue release of AppFuse. We'd both started to come down with my kids' cold, so we popped some NyQuil a couple hours into the flight and slept through the night.
We arrived in Amsterdam on Tuesday morning and proceeded on a walkabout of the city. We stumbled into Dam Square, found some breakfast and checked our bags into a nearby hotel. Our first stop was the Van Gogh Museum, where we proceeded to enjoy the audio tour and learn about the life and works of Van Gogh. From there, we headed to the Heineken Brewery for a tour and some extra cold beers. While walking back to Amsterdam Central Station to catch a train to Antwerp, we stopped in at the Ice Bar to experience drinks in sub-zero temperatures. All the brochures said it was the #1 attraction in Amsterdam, but that was obviously just good marketing. Regardless, we enjoyed the "4D" experience and cool bartender tricks.
Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in the world, offering some of the best scenes and photo opportunities I've ever seen. We marveled at a gorgeous sunset over a canal on our walk back to the train station.
On the train to Antwerp, we scarfed down delicious bread and cheese, chased it with wine and watched a movie on my iPad. Upon arrival, we were instantly mesmerized by the architecture and beauty of the Antwerpen Centraal Station. We hailed a taxi and proceeded to our accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express.
I knew that Devoxx was a great conference and I could learn a lot by attending. However, it was also my first time in Belgium and I knew there was a lot to learn by exploring too. Much to my delight, while lying in bed on Wednesday morning, I quickly realized I could get all the key highlights via Twitter. I also learned that, as a speaker, I'd get full access to all the sessions via Parleys.com. So Wednesday was spent registering for the conference and traveling to Antwerp's shopping district to explore and drink a few delicious Belgium beers.
On Thursday, we woke up early and walked the 35 minute journey to the conference to catch The Future Roadmap of Java EE talk. The session was so packed that many overflow rooms were created and we nestled ourselves into the front row of one across the hall. My talk on Comparing JVM Web Frameworks was next and I fought the crowd to get into the keynote room to deliver it. I don't know how many people attended (est. 500), but it was definitely the largest audience I'd ever spoken in front of. Based on Twitter mentions, the majority of people seemed to enjoy it and that put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
Since Trish and I didn't have time for breakfast, we walked back to the hotel, dropped off my laptop and headed downtown to find some grub. We found Madre Tierra, had a delicious breakfast and continued on to Cathedral of Our Lady. The artwork inside was amazing, as demonstrated by the pictures below.
That evening, we joined the Java Posse dinner at Pelgrom. This was a fun dinner where we got to sit with Dick Wall and Carl Quinn on one side and Mark Reinhold, Chet Haase and Romain Guy on the other. Good food, great beer and excellent conversation. From there, we met up with James Ward and other Adobe folks before attending the Devoxx party to close the night.
Friday, we slept in and tracked down some delicious Belgium Waffles at Désiré de Lille before catching a train to Ghent. We arrived at sunset, but that didn't stop Trish's Nikon D300 from capturing many spectacular shots throughout the night.
On Saturday, we began our journey back to the US, starting with taking the fast train from Antwerp to Amsterdam. We checked into a fancy hotel and snuggled in for a cozy dinner at Tibet Restaurant. We spent most of the night walking around, taking sweet photos and making our Irish heritage proud.
Traveling to Belgium and speaking at Devoxx was definitely a highlight of my life. Not only were the sites fantastic, but the conference attendees were super nice and I had the best travel partner in the world. The beers were delicious, the food was excellent and I can't wait to return in the future. Thanks to the Devoxx Crew for having me!