My latest jaunt to Japan began yesterday – and the journey to Tokyo will probably take a few posts to cover!
I left London yesterday lunchtime, after squeezing in a couple more productive hours in the office. I ‘checked in’ via British Airways First Class section in T5 and made my way straight into the First Class lounge. Security was the fastest I’ve ever experienced at Heathrow – thanks guys! – and cheerful too.
The lounge was super-busy, but not in the champagne bar. Which is where I made my home for the next three hours, while waiting on my flight to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam? Not Tokyo?
No. As I set out in my earlier post, I’m getting to Tokyo via a rather circuitous route. Via Amsterdam, Helsinki and Seoul. Gotta get those air miles and tier points! And starting the journey in continental saves a packet.
I had a lovely selection of food from the buffet and, of course, some of the delightful champagne on offer. This was followed by coffee and cake, because I was in full holiday mode after three weeks of being ‘good’ on the diet and exercise fronts.
My flight to Amsterdam with BA was, of course, delayed. I’m not sure I remember the last time I was on an on-time BA flight. So my expectations have been revised and it’s not at all stressful.
Except this time, I found myself seated next to a precocious little brat and her disinterested mother. The mother spent our delay and entire flight nose into mobile phone, while the daughter moaned, cried, sang, kicked and farted. Yes. Farted like a middle-aged man.
She had an iPad, a bag full of snacks and several drinks, but nothing would please her. She kicked the seat in front, kicked me, continued to far and tugged at her mother. All while the mum studiously ignored her.
She quietened down one I started watching ‘Star Trek‘ on my iPad, but only for about ten minutes. Thankfully, our delay on the ground ended after thirty minutes and I submerged myself into the adventures on the screen in front of me.
We landed in a very damp and drizzly Amsterdam Schiphol, but I was out in record time as I only had a backpack and small duffel bag with me.
Did I mention that @TheFrankFlyer has headed off to Tokyo via Hong Kong, carrying our combined luggage with him? This has made life so much easier for me!
I navigated the unending corridors of the airport, only to get stuck behind a ‘hen party’ from Liverpool at passport control. Who all waited until that point to go rooting around for their passports in their massively oversized handbags. I got waved through by an obviously exasperated border guard.
Travel plans meant I had to stay overnight in Amsterdam, so I tried out the Citizen M hotel, a quick five minutes walk from the terminal. It was my first visit and it was quite good! My room was very small but comfortable, with all amenities controlled via an iPad mini next to the bed.
A toilet and shower sat behind smoked glass – so this was only a room for sharing with someone you know really well. And even then… Well, you get the idea.
Service downstairs was friendly, if slow. I had to wait thirty minutes for a tiny plate of bitterballen, while all the time, the beer I’d bought went warm. I took both up to my room and watched some Netflix before a decent sleep.
Incidentally, the various TV channels advertised on the iPad mini failed to work – it was like someone was kicking or pulling at a connection somewhere and I didn’t get more than ten seconds of clear sound before the screen was scrambled again. I was glad I had my own iPad and selection of downloaded content to keep me entertained.
My room looked out onto the motorway, but actually, it was quite nice to lie there and look up at the sky while I drifted off to sleep. Less lovely to be woken by sunrise, way before my alarm! And possibly not great for the people in the building opposite who got to see me lying there like a naked skydiver.
Note to self: next time, close the blinds the night before.
All in all, the hotel is a great option for a night or two if you need to be near the airport. It was surprisingly quiet, given the long corridors and busy nature of the place. The bed and pillows were really comfortable and this morning’s shower was fantastic.
My major gripe was the lack of coffee-making facilities in the room. I personally find it hard to get going without a coffee before I even shower, so I was relying on some sparkling water (no fridge in the room) and Berocca to get my brain firing.
I’ve had better starts to my day.
I really don’t like Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. There, I’ve said it. I know a lot of people find it convenient, and it is a great hub with some many connection options. But the long, unending corridors to get anywhere are exhausting.
I don’t think I’ve been here so early on a Saturday morning before. It was like they were giving away free flights! Queues for everything and anything. I managed to get stuck at security behind some people who had apparently never flown before. This wasn’t helped by the insanely unhelpful and rude security staff barking at them to remove belts and toiletries etc.
My incandescent anger at the inconsistency of security rules across airports is basically the hill I’ll die on. It’s madness. People in front of me were passed through despite not having toiletries in plastic bags, or removing laptops. I was ordered to remove my iPad etc and had my clear bag of toiletries examined like it contained uranium.
I just don’t get it.
Much, much later, I’m now in the Aspire lounge. I’m not a fan, but it’s free and there’s a coffee machine. People all around me have their shoes off and are lying on the couches, which, when I become a being dictator, will be a capital offence.
My flight leaves in ninety minutes, so I have time for more coffee and maybe a pastry. Finnair are getting me to Seoul, via Helsinki and I’m looking forward to the experience. I’ve taken this route a couple of times before and Finnair’s Business Class service is really great.
My only question,though: will it be too early for them to serve their delicious ‘Blue Skies’ champagne cocktails when I get on board…?