Late last year, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam announced it would be presenting an exhibition containing the largest amount of known paintings by Vermeer. Known as the “Sphinx of Amsterdam,” Vermeer’s history is little known, and his entire output is estimated at less than 60 paintings, many of which gain and lose official provenance, depending on the whims of art historians. I was immediately intrigued and filed the idea of attending away for future consideration.

We haven’t been to Europe (or just about anywhere for that matter) since the spring of 2020 when our planning for a trip to Italy came to a screeching halt when that country was among the first to suffer the consequences of COVID. I was just compiling a list of possible apartments in Milan when we looked at each other and said, “Let’s wait and see.” That decision resulted in a 4-year gap airline travel gap for me and a reduction for MLW to a couple of Texas and Oklahoma work trips. We thought hard about heading out for our regular March trip this year, but with China re-opening, the thought of a million Spring Festival travelers was simply too off-putting. So this past January, I didn’t even bother looking at apartments.

However, the thought of that Vermeer exhibition lingered in the background. Given that it was running from February to June, we figured we could wait and see how Europe responded to unbridled international travel. Virus outbreaks? We stay home. Virus stability, we go.

In February, I went looking for exhibition tickets online and was immediately stopped in my tracks – no tickets remained. I did a bit of online searching and discovered that every one of the thousands of tickets had sold out within hours. The museum profusely apologized for underestimating the demand and promised to try and create some additional opportunities. Night-time showings perhaps. Their response was finally articulated late in the month with a promise of additional tickets hitting their website starting on 6 March. The possibility existed for a second time!

March 6th found us in Tucson having dinner at our favorite pizza place with our favorite cousin. After dinner, we returned home and I logged into the ticket site. “Please try again later” was the message. Figuring we’d missed out again, I “tried again later” by attempting to log in couple more times, and 3 was a charm – not only were tickets available, but we had our choice of the last week of April, and the entire month of May. Credit card in hand, I booked us 2 for the second weekend in May, assuming we’d have enough time to book plane tickets and an apartment without paying too steep a price penalty.

The plane seat turned out to be the easy part, the accommodations less so. We usually rent apartments – none were available. Moving on to hotels, the prices naturally became stratospheric on the 1st of May. That was our only option so we paid.

And now, here we sit in the Admiral’s Lounge at DFW waiting for our flight to Amsterdam. An easy travel day so far, the only hitch being an incredibly stuffed parking garage at the Albuquerque Airport. I’d go on a bit about how airport lounges have changed in the last 4 years, but I don’t want to sound whiny. Suffice it to say it’s much different than it was back when I was an International Businessman of Mystery, and the change is not for the better. Cell phone abuse in particular.