My vacation is quickly drawing to an end, but at least it will be a gentle re-acclimatisation. Yesterday I arrived in London from Japan. So theoretically today I could simply fly home to Basel and that’s that. It would even give me enough time to go to the gym and work off some of the calories of that lovely Japanese food. Or I could return to Amsterdam first for a day of shopping.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I spend the night at the Sofitel Heathrow adjacent to Terminal 5. It’s a five minutes walk – if you’re walking slowly – from the hotel lobby to the departure level of Terminal 5, which is on the fifth floor.
I checked in using the BA app yesterday evening in the hotel. So no need to use the check-in counters. In Terminal 5 there is a Fast Track for security.
I never would have thought I’d see Heathrow looking so empty. Security is a breeze. There is only one woman ahead of me and that’s only because she’s taking her time while she’s busy doing some heave duty flirting with the security guy.
There are two Galleries Lounges in the main building of Terminal 5. I’ve never been to the North Lounge, so I decide to check that one out first today – new year, new habits.
Eventually though, I decide not to stay at the lounge. Somehow it doesn’t feel quite as cosy and comfortable as the South Lounge. It’s very bright and looks a bit sterile. So the new habits go flying out the window and I head for the South Lounge instead, my usual haunt in Terminal 5. On the downside, half the toilets are out of order – half the toilets!
But the food selection in the lounge is simply amazing.
Incidentally, the lounge is equipped with electric sockets for all kinds of plugs.
The first boarding call is for status card holders and Business Class passengers. I’m surprised to see that today’s flight has been upgraded to an Airbus A 321. And from what the flight attendant tells me, it’s going to be a full flight.
It’s quite windy today, you can feel the aircraft lightly shaking while we’re still parked at the gate. We take off form runway 09R, and I figure I might take some interesting shots of the line up of exotic heavies gracing Terminal 4. But as soon as we get airborne the aircraft starts shaking violently with the wind and all the pictures I manage to take are seriously blurred and de facto useless.
The seats on this bird look rather worn, but apart form that I’m assuming that this must be either one of the newer aircraft of the type in the British Airways fleet, or it’s something BA inherited from BMI.
The Business Class section takes up the entire space between the L1 and L2 doors, which means 7 rows of Business Class with a total of 28 seat, although I think two seats remain empty on this flight.
I count five ladies working the cabin this morning. They’re all of them a very friendly bunch. The purser takes her time to welcome everybody aboard, and even finds time to give the many kids on this flight a special welcome.
Despite the full cabin and a very short flight time of only 40 minutes, the crew still manage to serve every passenger a hot breakfast in a very unrushed and unhurried manner.
Service begins on the ground with the distribution of scented hot towels.
The main event! Breakfast consists of a small plate with fruit, and a hot breakfast with button mushrooms, tomato, omelet, bacon and a sausage. I take a croissant and a warm bun from the bread basket.
Fortunately the weather in Amsterdam is slightly better than what we left behind in London. At least the sun is trying to break through the low cloud.
We make our approach for runway 18R, the infamous Polderbaan. Ahead of us is a Saudia Boeing B 747-400 freighter.
GETTING INTO TOWN
The first thing I do once I arrive in Amsterdam is find a locker to put all my stuff in. I don’t much fancy carting all my junk around the city for a whole day. The lockers are located in the basement of the shopping plaza. Lockers are available in different sizes. A medium sized locker will cost you 18 Euros for 24 hours.
And then from there I head into town by train. The journey from the airport to the city takes 17 minutes by intercity train. There is a train departing for the central station every few minutes. A return ticket will cost 8 Euros. If you’re planning to stay in Amsterdam for a longer period, I would recommend that you get yourself a chip card, which works the same way as the London Oyster Card. The chip card can be used on all public transport in the Amsterdam area.
Train tickets can be obtained either at the ticket counter of the Dutch railways or from one of the many ticketing machines in the plaza. The machines take either cash or credit card, but not both. Also, it is worth pointing out that the machines only accept credit cards with a four digit PIN code.