Afternoon tea at The Villa Augustus

The Villa Augustus is a hotel and restaurant located on the fringe of Dordrecht city centre. The buildings are beautifully set in a lush garden that runs all the way down to the water’s edge.

This is the building housing the restaurant & bakery
And this is the main building of the hotel.

The garden is just so nice and quiet. It still a bit early in the year this time around. Even so, some of the tulips are already showing off the brilliant colours.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that the flowers were not the main reason for my visit. The Villa Augustus does a lovely afternoon tea.

First tier: canapés with smoked salmon, crème fraîche, and pesto; and spinach quiche.
Second tier: polenta cake, carrot cake and chocolate cake.
Third tier: scones (without raisins) with real clotted cream and an unidentifiable but excellent jam.

The afternoon tea at the Villa Augustus is completely unpretentious and feels very comfortable. The staff are all very friendly and drop by regularly to top up my pot of tea. To drink I have a pot of their house blend of Early Grey tea, and it really is very good.

Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk gets its name from a legend dating back to the St. Elizabeth floods of 1421, in which a basket was swept ashore containing a small baby and a cat that had both remained unharmed. Today, Kinderdijk is a large open air museum close to the city of Dordrecht. It houses a series of restored windmills that were originally built as part of an elaborate water system aimed at managing and draining the wetlands.

Getting to Kinderdijk

From Rotterdam, Kinderdijk is only about 25 minutes by car. It is not possible to access the museum directly by car. So your GPS will likely navigate you to the visitor centre with its large car park. From there a shuttle bus runs to the actual museum every fifteen minutes. Or you could rent a bike and ride along the river. From the visitor centre it’s only about five kilometres by bike along a very scenic route.

Where to get your tickets

The visitor centre is also where you get your tickets to enter the Kinderdijk. Alternatively, you can also purchase your ticket and access to the parking online. The parking tickets includes the use of the shuttle or bike rental.

Review

I visited Kinderdijk at the end of April 2022, and althought there were quite a few people around, the place did not seem overly crowded. The bike ride was good fun. The place really is flat as a pancake, so you easily get by with just the one gear on the bike. Having a bike is also useful for getting around the museum, as it sprawls over quite a vast area. Other than that, it was a lovely day when I visited. The flatness of the Netherlands allows you glimpses of these really big skies that you rarely get in a place as hilly or mountainous as Switzerland.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Zürich to Amsterdam

Introduction

It’s the end of April and the last week of work before my sabbatical starts. My second attempt to go on sabbatical, that is. I arrive by train at Zürich airport at 16:15 with a little over one hour to go before my departure to Amsterdam. Online check is now possible again, after it had been suspended during Covid for them to be able to check certificates. So I bypass check-in at the airport and head straight fro security. Landside everything seems normal enough.

But the monent I step through the electronic gates to enter the security checkpoint, it’s a complete mess. There are people everywhere, and you can actually watch the queue getting longer by the second. Usually there’s a separate queue for First & Business Class passengers. But with nobody from the airport there to manage the queues, it’s just chaos and nothing else.

Airside

By the time I‘m through security, there‘s only half a hour left before boarding. In Zürich KLM uses the DNATA lounge, which is really nothing to write home about. So, I figure I might as well go sit outside on the terrace of the airside sports bar.

Boarding

As the result of the Covid pandemic, Zürich airport recently shelved its plans to demolish and reconstruct the A pier, which is a real shame because the place is just about bursting at the seams right now.

KLM’s handling is done by DNATA, and I‘m impressed by how religiously the gate agents stick to the boarding process, starting with zones 1 and 2. Mind you, I’m in zone 1, but I still wait until everybody elses has boarded to get on the plane.

Literally the moment I pass through the gate, an alert pops up on my KLM app, informing me that my return flight has been cancelled. But this is KLM, so I’m not really too bothered. Their irregularity team is great, so I’m confident they‘ll find a solution for me.

Boarding takes for ever, and by the time we push back from the gate, we’re running just over thirty minutes late. We depart from runway 28 and then make a wide left hand turn of 180 degrees to point us in the direction of Lake Constance, bringing us back over the airport.

The cabin

There are two rows of Business Class, for a total of eight seats. On row two, all four seat are occupied. However, on row one only the window seats are occupied. I’m on 1A, so I have a whole row of three to myself.

The crew

The purser is working the Business Class cabin. She’s in her late forties I’d say, and she really is brilliant. She’s very funny and an excellent hostess. For example, shortly after she serves me my tea at the end of the meal, we encounter some pretty severe turbulence. She immediately comes to clear everything away before I’ve even touched it, to prevent it from spilling over and scalding me. Later on, once the turbulence calms down, she brings me a fresh cup of tea without me even asking. That’s excellent service.

The meal

The meal begins with the drinks service. I ask for a Coke Zero, and the purser asks me if I’d like that with ice and sugar.

KLM’s Business Class meal tray service appears to have been permanently replaced with the cardboard box they previously only served on the Cityhopper flights.

Catering on KLM tends to be somewhat experimental, and that’s not always a good thing. The salad is fine though. However, as part of the cost cutting measures they no longer serve bread, which I think is just a bit of a shame.

The dessert is revolting. It’s basically a flavoured blob of gelatinous goo. Why can’t they just serve something normal, like a biscuit?

Arrival

Eventually we land with only a few minutes delay, after a flight time of one hour and fifteen minutes. The flight ends at gate C5, at the very beginning if the C pier.

Getting to Rotterdam

There are regular direct trains between Amsterdam Schipol airport and Rotterdam, where I will be spending the weekend. The regular trains take about 55 minutes to make the journey. However, there are also intercity trains which run nonstop in just 26 minutes. For those you need to pay a supplement though.

Conclusion

I suppose the tragedy of the airlines is that their customer base is so diverse, and different people appreciate or pay attention to different things when they fly. The food on this flight was a bit of a mixed bag, and then dessert was just… no. Having said that, the cabin crew were stellar, which is what I have come to expect from KLM and which they consistenly deliver. The cancellation of my return flight is of course inceonvient. However, with KLM consistency also means that I can rest assured they they will find the best alternative for me. And by alternative, I do not mean simply offering me to refund the half-return price of my ticket.