So it’s been 5 months since you last heard from me but the good news is that I am back for the next 12 days. I have decided to blog my current overseas trip. It includes time in the Netherlands, UK and the USA and encompasses both work and time off for a family wedding. I thought it might be interesting to blog at least for my own amusement and to keep my sanity especially as it is a relatively long time away from my family.
Last night I left on the BA flight for London and then to connect on to Amsterdam. Paul & Tina (work colleague and wife) were also on the flight with me. Tina was in economy class, Paul in business class. Paul not interested in spending any money on his wife’s travel comfort. The flight was pretty uneventful and we actually landed slightly earlier at Heathrow. Just over an hour to kill in the lounge turned into about 2 hours as our flight to Amsterdam was delayed by 45 minutes. Paul caught up on the breakfast he never had on the plane because he was sleeping. I have never met a person that can sleep as well as Paul can. I once traveled around the world with him on a business trip and I reckon he slept 90% of the flying time we did (and he was still jet lagged when he got back).
The Amsterdam flight is only long enough to recline your seat only to have to put it back into the upright position again. You can just about sneak in a toilet visit between the seat belt sign being turned off and on again. We landed at Schiphol Airport and then had to walk about a mile to find the rest of Holland. I am used to walking in airports but this was a very long walk into Holland. I managed to get through passport control and then waited for about 15 minutes while Paul & Tina caught up with me. Tina was complaining about how slowly Paul was walking.
We then had to wait for their luggage and of course it was about the last piece to come off. By this stage Paul and I both reckoned it was lost or left in Cape Town but Tina was full of faith. I (of course) was traveling only with hand luggage – another example of why checking in luggage is such a waste of time. We then had to find the train station to take the train to Den Haag. While we managed to end up on the entirely wrong platform on the first attempt, our second attempt was much more successful and we found the platform and the train. We had bought tickets before boarding and Paul had paid almost double my ticket. We couldn’t understand why. But then we realized I have pushed the Discounted Ticket option. Paul said he had tried to press it but had missed. I thought he was either an idiot or drunk. Turned out he was lucky because when the ticket conductor came around he asked me for my ‘discount card’. I said “What discount card?”. He said, then why did you chose ‘Discount ticket’. I said because I thought I could choose discount, how was I to know you had to have a discount card. Incredible that they just expect you to know that! He said he would normally have to give me a fine and ‘write me up’ but he would let me off this time. I doubt he will ever see me again for a next time. He was happy to see that Paul and Tina had also not cheated them of precious revenue.
The train journey took 30 minutes from the airport to Den Haag Centraal. Through pretty countryside of farm lands, the odd windmill and no hills to be seen. A reminder of how flat Holland is. I just hope that kid still has his finger in the dyke. Fortunately I am staying on the 11th floor of the hotel so I might be safe. From the Centraal station we took a taxi to our hotel and got in at about 1:20pm. Paul is staying at the Crowne Plaza which is billed as a 5 star hotel but everyone I have met so far said maybe really a 3 star at best. Someone described it as City Lodge without the regular daily clean. I am at the Novotel (4 star but more like a 3 star Garden Court).
My first meeting was at 2pm today so not really time to do anything except change my shirt and go to the meeting. It was scheduled from 2-6pm but we actually managed to exceed that and ran on until 6:15pm. It is amazing how much time can be consumed on so little. It was on professionalism. At one stage the French guy got so confused over an English word (standard) that it took 10 minutes to explain to him that he was misunderstanding it’s use. He didn’t seem to believe the English native speakers and clearly thought we were trying to do a ‘dirty’ on France. He later criticized a research paper from SA saying that the author had answered the wrong question. Only issue was it was an independent paper that the author wrote to answer the question he wanted to answer. The French guy clearly thought he should have referred to him before doing the research. Clearly the earth revolves around Paris.
This evening the Safricans had a dinner together at the famous Mazie’s Restuarant (http://www.restaurantmazie.nl/). The waitress told us that we would be having a special meal and would we like 5 or 6 courses. We opted for 5. We could have opted for 4. They asked what we didn’t eat and then delivered 5 courses that matched our desires. They brought about 3 courses before we started with the actual first course. We were confused by that which the waitress thought very funny. We gave up counting. The first 3 courses were fish (one raw and the other 2 cooked) and then beef and then desert. In between the beef and desert they served us another desert as well (ingredients of apple pie but not as apple pie but in a shot glass). We started at 7:30 and left at 11:30pm. And for the privilege we paid about R800 per person. It was very good (actually exceptionally good). The service was excellent – they were very pleasant. The food was even better and the wine at least matched the food (I chose the wine!).
It is 12:15am and I have a breakfast meeting at 7am. So I better get to sleep now. Until tomorrow (I’ll try and take some more photos – the one you see is of Den Haag approach my hotel on the right).