Two weeks ago, Trish and I boarded a flight for one of our favorite conferences: Devoxx. After a brief layover in Frankfurt, we arrived in Amsterdam and took a train to Antwerp. Within hours, we'd settled into our hotel near the center of Antwerp and strolled over to the dungeonous, yet cozy, Pelgrom restaurant. We were hoping for a delicious dinner, but found much more. We ran into James Ward, Dick Wall and a number of other enthusiastic speakers from the conference. Since I had to speak the next day, we didn't stay long, but we did share a number of laughs with some great people.
Tuesday (November 12), was a University Day at Devoxx, and I had my talk that afternoon. I spent a couple hours finishing up my talk that morning, then grabbed a taxi to head to the conference. I was honored with the opportunity to speak in Room 8, which is a huge theater that holds several hundred people.
I presented a lengthened version of The Modern Java Web Developer presentation I did early this year (at Denver's JUG and JavaOne). Based on your feedback, I chose to do deep dives on AngularJS, Bootstrap and Page Speed. I've always enjoyed speaking at Devoxx because attendees are so enthusiastic and passionate about the conference. I received an immense amount of feedback, both in praises and criticisms. The critics indicated there were too many buzzwords and not enough substance. Others complained that the AngularJS Lipsync that I did was too deep.
Within this presentation, there are links to each of the deep dives. The last two are screencasts that I added audio to a few days ago.
We stayed in Antwerp until Friday, attending the conference, taking pictures, networking over beers and having a fabulous time with everyone attending Devoxx.
Thursday night, we dined at Matty, one of the best restaurants in Antwerp. The food was excellent and provided a nice start for a night that included the Devoxx Party at Noxx and a journey to Bier Central.
On Friday, we traveled to Brussels for a weekend in one of the best beer cities in the world. Trish booked us a room at the Hotel Saint Michel, which was right on the most beautiful square in Europe. Their pre-Christmas light show was spectacular. The beer was delicious, the location was magnificent and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, especially the mussels in Brussels. Thanks in particular to Stéphane and Philip for your recommendations.
Nordic Countries Speaking Tour
On Sunday (November 17), we flew to Stockholm to being the second half our trip. Nordea hired me to deliver my Devoxx presentation as part their Java Competence Network. Nordea's Jonny Berggren first contacted me in March 2010 about this opportunity, so it was fun to see it finally happen. We agreed that I'd speak at their four main locations: Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo and Copenhagen.
Mattias Karlsson (of Jfokus fame) also presented me with an opportunity to speak at his company while I was in Sweden.
I started the week delivering my talk on Monday afternoon at Nordea. Then we met up with Mattias, walked to his company and I delivered it again 45 minutes later. It was exhausting to talk for six hours in one day, but it all seemed to go well. I especially enjoyed the enthusiasm of Mattias's Avega Group.
That evening, we took the train to the airport, boarded a flight to Helsinki and arrived just after midnight. While on the train, we sat next to a Finlander, Karol, that gave us all kinds of great advice on what to do. Tuesday in Helsinki was cold and dreary; perfect sauna weather. We walked around a bit in the rain that morning and visited Senate Square on Karol's recommendation. I mentioned to the developers there that my Mom's grandparents were from Finland (Oulu and Hamina), and that I'd grown up in a rustic cabin built by my Finish grandfather, Matti Hill.
We flew to Oslo Tuesday evening, rode the super-fast train from the airport and got to bed just before midnight. Wednesday morning, we walked around the Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park, and then I headed to the Nordea office while Trish did a walkabout and rode a Viking ship around the bay. We met up afterwards at the wonderful Beer Palace for some pizza and delicious German/Belgian beer.
Copenhagen was our last stop, a city which neither of us have ever traveled to. After arriving, we quickly got a hint that Copenhagen was a special place. We did a bit of research on Wikipedia and learned it was The City of Bikes and their craft brewing industry has blossomed in the last decade, now sporting over 100 microbreweries. My last talk on Thursday morning went very well, especially since my presentation and advice was well polished by that point.
That afternoon, we rented bikes from our hotel, slowly ate sushi on the top of the Tivoli Hotel, and then rode to Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli Gardens was decorated as a Christmas wonderland and their amusement park made us smile and giggle with glee. We stayed there for hours before riding home. Biking around town with hundreds of other cyclists was really cool and fun. I hope Denver gets Copenhagenized someday, the abundance of bike-only roads is simply awesome.
Our Nordic countries tour was especially pleasant because Christmas decorations were everywhere. In the US, many folks look down upon Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, but since Europeans don't celebrate Thanksgiving - there's no reason not to ease into the Christmas spirit. We figured Abbie and Jack would have a blast at Tivoli in a future November or December. Yes, it was a bit chilly (20-30°F) in most of the countries, but we were well dressed for it. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any snow.
Many thanks to Devoxx, Nordea, Mattias's Avega Group and the hundreds of developers who listened to me talk about being a modern web developer. We had a wonderful time speaking, laughing, photographing, drinking your delicious beer and seeing all your smiling faces.