I’m going to write a few posts and include a few of the photos from last week’s Amsterdam trip. As this post is focused on the 1st day of the trip, it should have details of getting into the Netherlands at just past midday, a smooth journey into Central station, meeting ChrisB and checking into our houseboat, and meeting online friends in real life.
Unfortunately, the first flight was cancelled. This meant potentially hanging around Cardiff International Airport for six hours or so. Luckily, John came back to take me out for a pub lunch. Upon my return, I was once more ready to go with my hand luggage packed tight, tickets to hand etc. etc. Once again, it was not to be, as Schipol airport was still having weather problems, and not accepting any flights from Cardiff that day. This left me a little peeved off, and KLM put me into a taxi to get to Heathrow for their last flight to Amsterdam. Even with clear roads it would have been pushing it, but I was a little late arriving to Heathrow. However, as there were a lot of delayed flights, I didn’t end up missing it.
Finally I got into Amsterdam with most of Thursday gone, but at least I was there! Skipping the planned tram card and local SIM card sourcing, I dumped my bags at a locker in Central Station, and used TomTom to ensure I was wandering in the right direction for Nes – where I had arranged to meet ChrisB (and in fact where I had arranged to meet some friends from the Amsterdam Coffeeshop Directory a lot earlier in the day). Although Nes allows smoking in their bar, they don’t sell anything to smoke, just alcohol. ChrisB had been talking to a few people though, and one of them had gifted us a little something to tide us over until the morning. After a few beers and vodkas to sooth my frayed nerves, ChrisB pointed out the way to our houseboat, and a few hours later, we were both sleeping on a gently bobbing boat.
The Greenery In Holland
arrrrrrrrrrrrgh, lost all the text I originally entered for this post during the downtime my sites had. Will try and remember what I was thinking about roughly…
Two types of Greenery, the first are coming, the second are at the end of the post, click the Continue Reading or similar link…
1) Shot out the window of the bus to Keukenhof (having changed forms of transport at Leiden, with a stop off to Double A, a coffeeshop a little off the beaten track. Tulip fields abound in this area. May well do a separate post for Keukenhof itself, these photos are all from a collection I posted at a couple of Amsterdam Coffeeshop forums a while back.
Here we have a pretty water fountain/sculpture at the entrance to the gardens.
A shot of a man playing with his organ in Holland. Wonder if that will get me any search engine based traffic 😉
Continue reading “Amsterdam 2008 Photos #12”
See this BBC article for a rather large typo, or very misinformed journalist. Although the BBC World television report did not contain this inaccuracy, the fact that the online version wasn’t checked properly is quite astounding. The idea that the Dutch are banning people from rolling their spliffs with tobacco is laughable. In case you haven’t yet heard, the Netherlands are following most of Europe by banning smoking cigarettes (and in their case alone, joints with tobacco in) in enclosed public places. I still want to know whether they expect all smokers who prefer hash to weed to use pipes, but I guess I’ll have to wait a while before returning to Amsterdam to further my research. It is a tough job writing this blog 😉
Well it is now just 118 hours until Irina and I leave for Amsterdam 🙂
I still have quite a lot to do work to do before we leave, not least is working out what to take with us for both the Netherlands and our subsequent trip to Britain. In terms of lightweight equipment, I am trying to minimize on the gadgets and accompanying power supplies etc., and also working out the minimum amount of clothes we can take, considering we’re not likely to be using a laundry in Holland. So what am I taking? Well my HTC TyTn II is definitely coming along, as it serves as my phone, a PDA (for gaming in between flights, internet browsing whenever I can find a WiFi signal) and it also has a built in GPS device, so there’ll be no excuse for getting lost whilst stumbling from one
coffeeshop tourist destination to the next.
(Yes, I know 118 hours does not equal 424320 seconds, but by the time I wrote out this post, a few more minutes had past 🙂 )
Irina has had her request for a Schengen visa (specifically to visit Holland) approved, which is a big relief, as we had to buy the plane tickets and book our accommodation before we could even apply for the visa. It is now just 30 days until we arrive there, and after that we’ll be going back to Britain to see some family and friends before heading back to work again. I hope to be able to report back how the apartment was, and depending on my memory, any coffeeshops, museums and other distractions we visit 🙂 I’ve had a few ideas to improve the apartment-owner’s website, but I’ll keep that under wraps until we’ve actually met with him.
For our upcoming trip to Britain and Amsterdam, we ended up finding the cheapest deal was to buy tickets from two separate suppliers (travel o city and ex pedia (without the spaces, but I’m not giving them free keyword advertising without knowing how their service turns out first 😉 )).
Anyway, one supplier just sent an e-ticket, as is normal, however the other decided we couldn’t pick up the tickets from our airport, or have handy e-tickets, so we had to pay an extra 60/70 pounds to get them DHLed. DHL have just phoned Ira, and stated that the courier is on his way, so in a few minutes, I’ll hopefully have the tickets for TSE>FRA>AMS AMS>AMA>TSE (Astana – Frankfurt – Amsterdam and the return trip of Amsterdam – Almaty (the old capital, still better served by international flights) – Astana) in my hands. The AMS – CDF and later CDF – AMS (Amsterdam to Cardiff, Wales and return) tickets were electronic, so they are already sorted.
As the apartment owner in Amsterdam has already confirmed receipt of the required deposit via PayPal, this trip is slowly coming together 🙂 Just Ira’s visas for Britain and the Netherlands (a schengen visa) left now. If only Kazakhstan would accept dual citizenship, such holidays would have been so much simpler if we both had UK passports. There you go
This is the second and last post regarding my journey through Kaliningrad ‘International’ Airport. I made notes up until this point during the holiday, for some reason things get a little hazy during my time in Amsterdam….
The big screen I mentioned in a previous post was now visible to us. Wow, it was high quality, had flight numbers, destinations, and even the weather at each destination! Unfortunately it lacked any sort of column for flight times or estimates of delays involved. (Can you tell where this story is heading yet, dear reader?). I was not too worried, as there were only six or seven departure exits from the area, and you could even find a seat in the smoking section that gave a view of all but one of these 🙂 When it got to 10 minutes past the approximate boarding time for my next flight, I was a little concerned, but had seen no one leave for any flights at all. There were a few announcements, in Russian, but these seemed to be more procedural statements (don’t leave luggage unattended etc.) than flight info, so I asked the Germans if they had flown through here before (only to discover two spoke English), and if so did they know what happened when flights were delayed? A friendly shrug informed me they were currently as clueless as me.
I then decided to tour the perimeter of the area, determined to find someone who spoke English, or at least would be prepared to listen to my attempts at enquiries in Russian. (Don’t laugh too hard, several times officials (not just in Kaliningrad) who realised my Russian skills were not sufficient to conclude any conversation quickly had walked off, with no clue as to my next suitable avenue of enquiry.) I quickly found a friendly lady who pointed me in the direction of a young girl who worked there and spoke better English than my Russian. I was informed that there was nothing to worry about, that a flight from Moscow had been delayed by two hours, and that three passengers hoping to get to Amsterdam were on that same flight. And no, neither announcements nor TV screens had yet revealed this info. (Again, I mainly wanted to know so that my next time in the airport would not involve so much mystery). There were a couple of things I had not fully understood, and when Ira called me up, to check I was about to get on the plane, and hadn’t fallen asleep somewhere silly, I was about to ask her to double check them with someone at the airport, if I handed my mobile over. However, Irina had been told by the airport a few moments earlier that my flight to Amsterdam WAS on time, and that all passengers were boarding this very second. Obviously this left Irina concerned that I had mightily goofed, and was about to miss a flight involving the Netherlands once again. Eventually the lady who I had previously spoken to proved to be correct, and the person who had spoken to Ira was full of crap. I had already called Alex and Chris, to confirm that they had left Cheltenham and were on their way to Birmingham airport (more on that later). Unfortunately I found I was not able to make calls to Kazakhstan at all, though calls to Britain had obviously worked. Two hours after our planned departure, our plane left Kaliningrad, and I was most glad of the 1.5 hours of sleep I grabbed on the flight.
Schiphol, Amsterdam itself and UK trip info to follow in other posts soon.
I am going to start typing up my experiences during my trip to Amsterdam and Britain, before I forget them.
In case you happen to be a new reader, I’ll give a quick background to the trip…
I was born in Britain, and spent my first 27 years there. I met Irina back in 1998, and got to know a little bit about her home country (Kazakhstan) from talking to her. August 2001 saw us get married here in Astana, and we spent the next 5 or so years living in Britain, coming over here in the summer or winter each year. Eventually we decided to try living in Astana for a while, which gave Irina the chance to be closer with her family and friends for a while, and for me to discover her home nation, and see how life is for people in Kazakhstan now. Anyway, to skip back to the wedding a moment, Irina flew over to Kazakhstan a little before me, to start the paper work required for the marriage to take place.
As you may imagine, I partied quite hard in the last week or so before I was due to leave, to the point that a friend had to pack my luggage for me an hour or so before the coach was due to take me to the airport. My flight went via Amsterdam, so I had decided to take the opportunity to actually visit the city itself. We’ll skip most of the gory details, but suffice to say I missed a couple of flights, and spent too much time too ‘tired’ wandering around the city (I was just 22 at the time, as opposed to the responsible, mature and well behaved 28 year old who now types this post out 😉 ). A few years after we were married, Ira secretly arranged a long weekend in Amsterdam for us, so I already knew it was theoretically possible to not get lost, miss flights, and actually have a bed to sleep in!
This year ChrisD was meant to come and visit us here in Astana again, and the plan was that I’d follow him back and visit Amsterdam with him. However circumstances dictated that he couldn’t come this year, so I decided to meet him over in Holland, unfortunately Irina could not get the time off work. As I was travelling all the way to Western Europe, I decided I would check how much more it would cost me to visit Britain, and see my family and friends. As it turned out, if I used different airlines and booking agents, I could spend less than $150 and spend some time in the UK 🙂
A bit later on, AlexC decided she would like to tag along as well, as the apartment we had booked could hold four, and they had both met previously, we decided to make it a threesome. NOT that sort of threesome… Anyway, I’ll leave the rest for now, I just wanted to make sure that everyone would be at the same level of background knowledge before posting any pictures and stories.
It is Tuesday, Alex,ChrisD and I returned from Holland. Nothing bad happened, lots of good times.
I’m a little tired right now so, bye for now; more details in post over the next month or so.