Tag Archives: schiphol

I’ve arrived

Forgive me reader, It’s been more that two weeks since I last posted anything on this blog.

Waiting for the Hogwarts Express at Schiphol

Waiting for the Hogwarts Express at Schiphol

Gouda

Sue guards the bikes in Gouda

The big news is that I have now arrived and am resident on Pancake Street.  Sue and I got here last Thursday. I managed to pack most things that I’ll need including the emergency rations of Lancashire Cheese from good friends, Olwyn and Claire. The train from the airport took us straight to Blaak station which is just a stone’s throw from Pancake Street. In effect this makes the cheaper slow train, faster – a great discovery

Today is officially the first day of term here in Rotterdam though my induction day at the University is not until Thursday. There is a free festival on campus this afternoon and evening which Sue and I plan to cycle over to in a couple of hours. We’ve spent the past couple of days doing practical things in the flat and being tourists.

On Friday we got on our bikes and cycled to Gouda – the home of some fantastic cheese. The Netherlands is fantastically compact and flat – perfect for cycling from city to city. I will write more about cycling and bikes very soon. Gouda is lovely and quintessentially Dutch – all fancy gables, canals and cheese – lots of cheese. We went round the cheese museum and ate a lunch of cheese. We also went to a lovely cheese shop and tried lots of different Dutch cheese before buying some cheese to bring back. Sue was really pleased to find a Dutch blue cheese. (not for me!).

A giant jigsaw puzzle

A giant jigsaw puzzle

A chunk of spare time has been spend building the wardrobe. It’s very big and covers a wall in the bedroom. I needed to do this when Sue was here as it’s really a two person job.  Between assembling what really amounts to a giant jigsaw puzzle we’ve pottered around the city, bought some essentials and tried to have a relaxing time.

Last night we went to the open air cinema in the Museum Park to see Love is Strange with John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. It’s a great film. Understated and romantic, it tells the tale of an ageing gay couple who are forced to live apart with relatives until they find a new apartment. See it if you get a chance. It was fantastic watching it outdoors accompanied by the start of a thunder storm that lasted for about six hours. As we watched, the lightening got closer and closer. Luckily the rain only started in the last ten minutes and didn’t fall in earnest till we were safely home.  We got up at 02:30 to watch the climax of the light show and downpour from the balcony.

This morning we successfully rehung the missing doors that I found in the bike store downstairs. They fit perfectly and are now in placeA magnificent door handle

For sale – a magnificent door handle

ready for painting and new door handles. That said the ones on there at the moment are rather magnificent though not quite right for a 1950s flat. I can see why they were taken off – open plan living – but I can also see why they were there in the first place. One closes off the bedroom and shower room from the living room. If anything they make the apartment feel a bit bigger. At some point they’ve both  been altered and fitted with brown opaque glass.  It’s quite nice in a 1970s retro way and goes with the apartment – or it will when the doors are painted and the handles replaced.

Sue heads back to Blackburn tomorrow, leaving me all alone on Pancake Street. Before then off to campus, coats, hats and brollies ready for the HeartBeat festival. Today has been hot and close – we maybe in for another light show.

 

Packing

I imagine that as I get used to popping back and forth between Rotterdam and Blackburn I will have my packing down to a fine art. I am already quite a good ‘light’ traveller and am often amazed at the size of suitcase people take with them for a week in the sun. (It’s going to be hot and sunny – you don’t need to wear very much). I’ve had practice on cycling holidays. A few weeks ago Sue and I sat in a café in Oxford and watched a group of far eastern tourists dragging elephantine cases down the middle of the road as if carrying out a pointless punishment – a chain gang or Sisyphus with his boulder.

Our budget airlines are working hard to get us better at packing. As they encourage us to take less hold baggage the rise of the specifically measured cabin bag market must have been significant. Each airline, confusingly, seems to have a slightly different set of dimensions. Of those flying to Schiphol, Flybe has the meanest allowance. 55cm x 40cm x 23cm and 10KG. This to me is still quite a big case and more than enough for a couple of weeks away as long as I’m not needing to take a smart suit.

My occasional commute between Rotterdam and Blackburn should normally involve no more than a modest rucksack. I will have clothes at both destinations and won’t need to carry toiletries – easy. It will become a quest to get through security with a minimum of fuss as fast as I can.

My next trip will, however, be a bit different. As Sue put it, in a fortnight’s time she’ll be taking be off to boarding school and leaving me there. I will be taking things this time that I won’t ever need to take through airport security again.

I have a packing list which contains some unusual things

  • 2015-08-14 15.46.28Wallpaper, 2 rolls – I took some wallpaper in the van in June, I’d got a really good deal and liked it. Last time I was there I realised that I’d miscalculated how much I’d need  – it has a large repeat.
  • Laptop, Chromebook and tablet – Laptop for working on, chromebook for carrying around and 7″ tablet for reading things on.
  • Clothes – Not just for a fortnight in the sun but to keep warm, decent and stylish day to day, (there are already some things there and I did pick up some shirts in a sale at Zara in Rotterdam)
  • Gifts – I’ve got some wonderful lovely friends who very generously bought me presents for my birthday two weeks ago, ‘to take to Rotterdam’. These include but are not limited to: A mug, A Minions stationary set, some Kit-kats, a pencil case, a book on failing exams, tea, a monographed pen, shortbread biscuits, a windmill, an apron, some British beer and a cravat. (A big thank you to everyone)
  • Text books – As I said last week, some of these can be rather heavy.
  • My admin file – It is amazing how many pieces of paper I’ve been collecting that need to be carted around.
  • A couple of cook books – trying to use Dutch language ones might result in a number of culinary hic-ups.

For this next trip I have booked ‘hold baggage’. My reputation for travelling light will be banished and I will be forced to struggle with two bags from the airport to the apartment.  Even with all this I shall only be dragging a fraction of what some people take for a long weekend in Ibiza.

 

 

Come fly with me

This is where my green credentials fly out of the window. I never throw a piece of paper away without writing on both sides, I compost all my food waste and teabags, I hate excess packaging. This adventure, though blows it all as it involves rather a lot of flying. I put my hands up and say sorry. As I mentioned in my previous post ” Warning this route crosses Belgium”, the ferry from Hull is eye wateringly expensive and takes an age. Driving down to Dover then up to Rotterdam is also not very sustainable.

GIven that I’ve made the dark decision to fly I seem to have three choices if I want to fly from Manchester to Schiphol. They are KLM, Easyjet and FlyBe and so far I’ve tried all three. I thought I’d try and work out which I prefer.20150628_132550

In fairness all three are OK. Our first investigative trip at Easter was with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. By far the poshest of the three. It’s going home when it goes to Schiphol and gets the best gates. This is the Dutch flag carrier. It has the most flights per day and you get a free drink and snack on the short flight. There is a bit more leg room and if you feel so inclined you can go 20150703_154528first class. I think I’d feel a bit hard done by if I’d paid all the extra gilders only to find that they just put you in front of a curtain and leave every other seat unattended. I can’t imagine that the tea and coffee is of higher quality. The Heineken still comes out of a can. I didn’t like the way that they “Especially want to thank” their Flying Blue customers. It makes everyone else seem a bit inferior.

I’ve used Easyjet before and have always been a bit of a reluctant fan. It is put in the same category with Ryanair which I hate. Have you ever managed to get a Ryanair member of staff to smile with their eyes as well as widening their mouth. (It’s a good game if you’re ever forced to fly with them but it’s hard work). Easyjet by contrast are always smiling and being friendly. They seem to enjoy their work. It’s a bit cramped on an Easyjet flight but the hop over to Schiphol is short enough.

20150628_143434_001The third option is FlyBe which claims to be the worlds largest regional airline, (not really sure what that means). It used to belong to Jack Walker who was a Blackburn metal magnate so there’s a connection to home.  The planes are smaller than KLM and Easyjet which seems to offer the passenger a bit more room. You are sitting two abreast rather than three. I’ve also noticed that the cabin staff seem to be a bit older – this may just be the flights I’ve done. They definitely smile and are really pleasant and smiley. If you can’t do the whole hour without a drink of something then you have to pay like Easyjet but you go get a free branded sweet as you disembark. Flybe definitely has the best in-flight magazine – I really enjoyed reading it and learned a lot. It has a whole business section which indicates that they fly a lot of business customers.

KLM has a loyalty scheme where you collect air miles but it would take a whole lot of short hops over the North Sea to collect enough to do anything serious.  With FlyBe you get Avois – there are lots of other ways to collect these so it might be worth looking at.

It all boils down to timetables really. All three can be booked easily online but FlyBe’s website is a bit clunky. Their smart phone app is awful. KLM and Easyjet do digital boarding passes. FlyBe seem to be working on this.

A big difference is where they operate at the airports. At Manchester Easyjet operates out of Terminal 1. This is the main one, Its enormous and there are often queues for security. FlyBe and KLM operate out of Terminal 3 which is nearer to the railway station, considerably smaller and considerably faster. There are less shopping opportunities but who buys all that stuff when they’re about to get on a plane. T3s got a Boots and a Smiths. You can squirt yourself with the latest smellies and get a Costa Coffee. What else would you want to do at an airport?

At Schiphol it was a very long walk to get to my FlyBe and Easyjet gates. We only taken hold luggage on KLM so far but loved the automatic luggage drop off machines at Schiphol.

It’s an hours flight. It’s comes down not long after it’s gone up. I suspect I will be an airline tart and fly with the one offering the best price at the best time.