Day 32 – Amsterdam
- Mike: Detour
- Jen: Grounded
- Mike: Arrivaderci, Italia!
- Jen: Belgian ponies
Three or Four Words
- Mike: Sneaking into The Netherlands
- Jen: Mr. Pushy ShortsInaBunch
- Mike: The fanciest digs of our entire trip come courtesy of KLM and a canceled flight.
- Jen: Sure, I’ll spend an extra day in Europe.
There is nothing left to do but get to the airport and on our planes. On the flight here, we met Barb in Minneapolis and flew the rest of the way together, but this time she’s on her own the whole way. Her flight left two hours before ours, so we went with her as far as the security checkpoint and said goodbye.
And then we waited. Air travel isn’t as fun as it used to be, what with the security hassles, class segregation, and sardine seating, but I still rather like how I’m essentially forced to do nothing thanks to a lack of connectivity and being prone to motion sickness.
The first leg of our journey took us to Amsterdam. When we arrived and checked the board to see where to proceed for the next leg, we found that our flight to Minneapolis was canceled. We were told to see the nearest KLM customer service kiosk.
You can imagine the kerfuffle: the confusion, the anxious and angry passengers, the long lines, the unanswered questions, the harried and abused service reps. The explanation for the cancellation was that there was a mechanical concern. Far be it from me to argue with that: Safety first. Lucky for us, our schedules didn’t demand we be home at any particular time. We were re-routed onto a flight from Amsterdam all the way to Seattle the following day, and then from Seattle home to Anchorage. We had checked our bigger bags this time, and KLM would keep them overnight and (in theory) get them on the correct plane tomorrow.
Thankfully, airlines still accommodate passengers when flights are canceled. We got dop kits and dining vouchers from the airline and were sent to the shuttle area for the Van der Valk Hotel Schiphol.
The hotel wasn’t especially near the airport, nor was it near the actual city of Amsterdam. It was, in fact, in the middle of a giant farm field. To get into Amsterdam for a walkabout and look-see, we’d have to take the shuttle back to the airport and take a train to the city. It was already late in the afternoon, and we decided to not make that effort.
But old habits are hard to break. We couldn’t just sit there. So we did what we’ve been doing for the past month: We walked…out the back door and straight ahead.
Here we are in the middle of nowhere. And how comfortable it feels, well, except for the brutally cold wind. Belgian ponies greeted us down the way, but the sheep ignored us and hoped we’d go away.
We saw the canals that make Belgium’s wetlands and swamps liveable. Did you know that Amsterdam was built like Venice, with buildings on wooden piles? I didn’t.
And we laughed at street signs that sound funny to our American ears. Say these words in different tones: as if you’re scolding a toddler, cheering for a sports team, horrified, etc. It’s great fun! (What do you mean I need to get out more?)
Dinner and breakfast were extensive buffets in the hotel dining room that looked every bit like American buffets, particularly in the quantity of food that was available, i.e., too much.
Getting back to the airport and onto our plane was slow but easy. Security personnel in Amsterdam interview all the passengers getting on a flight. I wonder how many languages those six or eight security folks speak between them. I counted four within earshot.
We had wonderful views of mountains, fjords, glaciers, ice, and ocean as we flew over Greenland.
Catching our connection in Seattle, however, was a bit of a scramble. Oy. First, there was customs, and we truthfully declared the carrot sticks and cheese we’d brought along for the flight and hadn’t eaten. We coulda shoulda thrown out the carrots, but there was a good bit of cheese, and we were allowed to keep it; we just had to go through the rigamarole.
Then there is Mike’s name which he apparently shares with someone on some watch or most-wanted list. On the Galapagos trip, he was removed from the family and taken into a back room. I wondered if we’d ever see him again. Seattle let him off with just a phone call, some whispering amongst the customs peeps, and a good hard look.
And then there was picking up our checked bags and getting them to the luggage handlers on the other side of customs. KLM didn’t change our bag tags, and the clueless, uncreative, and unmotivated luggage handler was hopelessly stumped and unable to contrive a solution in spite of the fact that we had boarding passes and could tell him what flight the bags needed to be on. Fine. We’d handle it ourselves. At this point we had about twenty minutes to get to the gate; the guy probably wouldn’t have gotten the bags to the plane in that time anyway.
Our bags are carry-on size (hooray!), so we’d just take them with us. I had to collect liquids and gels and divide them between two quart Ziploc bags to get through security, and then we had to do the awkward, time-consuming security dance: empty pockets; remove jackets, belts, shoes, laptop, Kindle, liquids and gels—that is, unpack—step through the magic gateway and repack.
We weren’t the very last people to board. But there would be no room for our bags in the bins; we knew that. We tucked in the handy-dandy backpack straps and handed the bags to the gate-check guys.
We were rewarded with seats in the pay-more-for-extra-room section. Suh-weet! It was a pleasant flight home.
In Anchorage, we caught the shuttle to the parking area; we didn’t have to shovel our car out of a mountain of snow; the battery was not frozen or dead; and the roads were clear.
How’s that for way-yonder more than you wanted to know about our boring flight day? Can’t. Stop. Blogging.