Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Celebrity Reflection – Inaugural European Cruise / Mediterranean Renaissance Cruise – Amsterdam to Venice – October 10 – November 4, 2012

October 10, 2012 – Travel Day

Our flight today – United 908 – O’Hare to Amsterdam is scheduled to depart at 6:10 PM.  With all of the construction going on around here, we scheduled our cab for 2:30 PM.  This still gave us all morning to finish up any last minute items and do a thorough pre-departure check of the house.

The cab was a little early.  Also, United sent me an e-mail, a phone call, and a voice mail letting me know about a recent gate change (C9 to C11, really?). Talk about being in touch.  We didn’t experience any traffic and got to the airport just after 3:00 PM.  We checked in at one of those semi-automated Kiosks (it would have been totally automated except for the UAL agent doing all of the work).  We went through a long security line (I had the honor to being the “timer” in the line – the TSA was monitoring how long the lines took).   A TSA agent handed me a card when I entered the line which I handed to the agent at the metal detector – high tech for sure.

Our gate, C11, is just around the corner from the United Club.

We had a couple of passes to the Club so that’s where we are right now.  Eating high sugar snacks, carrots with ranch dressing and drinking diet cokes.  There’s free WiFi as well so all of the business folks are taking a breather by working.

Hanging in the United Club (Small) 

Flying Sugar High in the United Club

The United Club is very close to some of the aircraft – no more than 20 ft away.

Planes are close to the United Club (Small)

A UAL Jet Up Close and Personal

UA908 (767-300) was at the gate (and had been there since it arrived from LHR in the morning per my UAL App). 

UAL 908 Ready to go (Small) 

UA908 Ready to Go

We boarded right on time at 5:20 PM and the plane pushed about five minutes late at 6:15 PM.  The jet seemed to be an older aircraft, with noisy engines (thank goodness for NC Headphones) and an outdated entertainment system.  The movies were in LD and they ran continuously (not like the on-demand system we had on our last flight). The flight wasn’t full and I was tempted to move to an empty “economy plus) seat.  Before I could give it a thought, a passenger tried it and was busted immediately by a flight attended (“Did you just upgrade yourself?”).

We had a very good Kosher dinner (tasted like pepper steak).  I read a book on my phone for most of the flight.  The seats were so tight that sleep was impossible.  I was so happy a few years back when American gave all of its jets roomier seats – what happened to send us back to Air Sardine.

Our route took us south of Greenland and over Ireland and the UK.  On this trip sunrise was over England.

Sunrise over England (Small) 

Sunsrise over England 2 (Small)

Sunrise over England

Over the English Channel (Small) 

High Pressure Clouds over the Channel

After clearing England, the plane made a beeline to Amsterdam, coming right over the North Sea.

Approach to Schipol (Small) Final Approach Schipol (Small)

Approach to Schipol Airport Amsterdam

October 11, 2012 – Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Mostly Sunny – 50F

We cleared Passport Control very quickly and our bags arrived in just few minutes.  We took the train from Schipol to Amsterdam Central Station (8.10 Euros for both of us) (a 15 minute ride) and Tram 9 from the Station to the Artis Zoo (near out hotel) (5.60 Euros for two tickets).  You buy your ticket on the tram and then you get scanned in and out (why? I don’t know).  The tram ride was about 10 minutes.  The walk to the Hotel Parklane was about a block. 

We sat a few minutes in the lobby (our room was not quite ready) and then put our stuff in the room and headed out to walk off jet lag.  There was a lot of construction going on so we altered our usual route to the center of Amsterdam.  The city still afforded some nice photo ops.

Boat going under bridge (Small) 

Canal Near Wertheim Park – Bridge opening for boat

Ellen and the Canal (Small) 

Ellen and the Canal (I like the new cap)

Restaurant Cafe in De Waag (Small) 

Alfresco Dining in Amsterdam

When we were here last, we noticed many buildings titling a bit from vertical.  The house below has to be one of the more extreme skewed houses. 

The most crooked house yet (Small)

The Leaning House of Amsterdam

On our way home, we stopped at HEMA – a fast food place (and not a blood bank) – and got a couple of soft serve cones for 1 Euro total (do you hear that, Norway?).

Both of us are resting now before we head out to that good pizza place we discovered on our last trip.  We only have today in this fascinating city so, in spite of serious jet travel disease – we are trying to get out and do things.

I forgot to mention a vital piece of equipment that comes with our room at the Hotel Parklane

Electronic Mosquito zapper (Small)

Mosquito Zapper

It is an electronic mosquito zapper (battery operated).  There are no screens on our windows and I imagine skeeters get in during the summer.  This thing, which looks like a cross between a tennis racquet and a toaster, must zap them as you trap a bug against the zapper. It doesn’t do much to humans – yes, I tried it.

For dinner, we did go back to that Pizza restaurant about a block away.  We had a Margherita Pizza, a Mixed Salad, and a Mixed Salad with Feta.  Too vinegary for Ellen so I had a double salad.  As always, the pizza was better last time.  In any event, it was a substantial meal for about 15 Euros.  We were happy to see other customers at the restaurant because last time, we were the only people there during the dinner hour.

We walked back a different way (the street behind the hotel) and got a nice look at a typical wooded residential street (it could have passed for New York).  We also saw more examples of the hooks at the tops of Amsterdam buildings (almost every building has one).

 Hooks to haul stuff upstairs (Small)

Hauling Hooks on the tops of Buildings

These are used along with a pulley to haul furniture or other items to the top floors (the stairs are too narrow and steep).  Improvisation courtesy of the Dutch.

Back at the hotel, we did our best to stay awake until 10:30 PM so we could try to get back on schedule.

Lights out at 10:45 PM….the room seems quiet.



No comments:

Post a Comment