Amsterdam: Day One
I am arrived! Amsterdam is as pleasant as I remember. What’s especially delighting is that I know no one here and have no demands, responsibilities or requirements on me whatsoever. It’s like a cool breeze… that might be an aftershave advert.
Of course I really nearly didn’t get here at all. My pre-planning is meticulous – it’s a good way to manage anxiety. I have an absurdly detailed list of things to pack and bring with me, including a tick list of the things that go into the pockets of my jacket. Seems insane, but is very helpful. So I’d been packing stuff into a box (pre-bag prep!) and by Tuesday morning I only had about three things left to sort – boarding pass, and the stuff that ends up on me (like my hat – yep, that’s on the list too). And then it all started to come apart…
I’d no intention of spending two hours at the airport prior to the flight, so I checked in online and planned to have an hour there before my flight. And then Skylink happened (not Skynet, though that seemed entirely credible yesterday). Or rather it didn’t. The bus runs from Mecca (bingo) straight to the airport, it’s incredibly convenient what with running every twenty minutes. Or forty-five minutes waiting in my case.
The Drugs Work, They Really Do
The amitriptyline I’ve recently started taking during the day were champions – even as the bus failed to arrive, cutting ever more savagely into the clock, I was aware that the freaking out and roiling anxiety were simply failing to blossom. Sure, I was concerned, but vastly more sanguine than I normally would be. When it finally arrived and Marilyn waved me off, I must confess a tendril of tension wrapped its thorny grip about my heart and stomach. But even then… Mainly I was cursing the interminable flow of senior citizens using the bus to get to and from the shops. Why this bus…? Why?!
Finally we arrived at the airport – at 12.19. My flight was at 13.00, the gate closes at 12.30 and finally at 12.45. I ran. First up, security. A winding queue of glazed meat people, thankfully moving quite fast. Through friendliness and desperation I got shunted into the express lane and dumped all my gear in the boxes. Then I got scanned. I’m not made of metal, I swear, but I got scanned all over and touched up by the nice gentleman. He asked after my moustache; I felt we were more than friends.
12.29: they lost my hat. My beautiful new corduroy hat. I guess I needed the time to put my boots back on and repack my rucksack. Even during this I was relatively calm – none of that anxious sweating horror. They found my hat: crushed flat by the cocking scanning machine. It is now more versatile. I took it and ran.
Miracles! The gate I needed was the first one – all I had to do was get through the baffling labyrinth of duty free shops clotting the route. Again, a number of mindless humans, their minds gorging on the prospect of goods fractionally less expensive (if not more) than in a supermarket. 12:39 – boarding in progress. I joined the queue and celebrated by eating crystallised ginger.
Ah it was a tiny plane, just 88 passengers. I got an aisle seat right at the back, next to a business-business sort of fellow who constantly wanted to get out and go to the loo. I spent the flight grinding crystallised ginger and scribbling in my writing book. It was a good flight, only the landing made me feel especially awful. Watching the clouds and boats below was quite cheering. After that we got through Arrivals quickly, though they don’t stamp passports anymore. Bastards.
Welcome to Amsterdam
Schiphol airport has a nice train station which confused me immediately, but I bumped into an entirely bonkers but lovely Dutch lady who was also confused but had the benefit of language to resolve our perplexity. In return I helped lug her enormous luggage filled with Italian wine on and off the train. We got on famously.
It’s a quick enough ride to Amsterdam Centraal Station. I’d spent too much time sitting down all day already, so I decided to walk to the apartment. It would help me get my bearings, provided I didn’t get completely lost on the way. I didn’t. Just barely, though it was further than I thought. The brilliant and unexpected sunshine and blue sky was an added bonus to a nice walk through the town and across three of the canals down to the apartment. I was maybe twenty minutes later than I thought I’d be, but I made it! All on my ownsome too.
The apartment is up three flights of steep stairs (which I’m enjoying bounding up and down enormously). I was greeted by one of the owners who showed me how to turn lights and the oven on and then left me to it. Very friendly. This place is lovely – kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and a large living room with a daybed. Exactly what I’m seeking for a few days of solitude and relaxation. Oh, and a balcony for staring at strangers and smoking.
Time to explore and then hit the opera!