It’s been one of those travel days where every step was painful. Just a few of these annoyances would have been fine, but there was just one thing after another. What did not help is that I got zero sleep last night. I went to bed fairly early, dozed about an hour, and then was rudely woken by fireworks that did not stop until it was too late to go back to sleep. I was not impressed.
I finished preparing the house for my hosts, cuddled one of my charges, and headed out at about 7:30 or 7:45. It felt really weird to just leave like that without confirmation that my host had made his flight and would be home around noonish, but I emailed two days ago and haven’t heard back. They’re very laid back and were always slow to respond to my emails. So I’m sure everything’s fine, but I left the cats extra food and water just in case there is a delay. At some point, I have to say that I did my due diligence, have everything about departure in writing, and just let it go.
I headed out into a dark and bitter cold Amsterdam morning to catch a tram to a rail station that is much closer than Centraal. One came quickly and the conductor gave me a dirty look when I gave him my fare. I thought it was because it was a lot of small change, but he finally spit out that I had to get my ticket “in the back.” Well, that was news to me. This was my fourth tram ride and the first time that I could not buy at the front. Aaaaaanyway. The guy in the back was nice like my previous three tram drivers. He counted my change and thanked me for having it exact, so there’s that. 🙂
I only had to go three stops and had thought to walk, but they are stops that are quite far apart! I made it to the train station and all the ticket machines were for transport card holders only. A sign said that there was one somewhere that would sell a single fare, but that I had to find it myself. By the time I found the machine and bought a ticket (a painless process since you can do it all in English), I missed my train by literally 10 seconds, but it was only a 10-minute wait for the next one and then maybe 10 minutes at most to the airport. I was there by about 8:15.
I was flying with Flybe, a budget airline based out of the UK. I had checked in online, but did not have my boarding pass because I didn’t have access to a printer and their mobile app is UK only (dumb). It took almost an hour for a Flybe desk to open so that someone could check me in again and print me a boarding pass, and then I had to argue that I should not have to pay for that “service”! So that was rather a waste of leaving so early and I regretted not having had breakfast and coffee at home.
Next step was security, but guess what? Schipol doesn’t have one main security area. You have to go to the one assigned to your gate. And I did not have a gate number on my boarding pass and my gate was not showing up on the electronic billboards. *sighs*
I went to an information kiosk and a super sweet woman did some research and was able to find my gate number. Off I went to queue to scan my boarding pass so I could enter the secure area. Then, I queued for about 30 minutes to get to the head of the security line. Then, what happened in Málaga happened again and I found myself quite separated from my belongings, this time because no one could agree if I should keep my boots on or not. And I had volunteered to take them off from the get go and was told not to waste time…
I finally got cleared and reunited with my valuables, but my suitcase had been selected for secondary screening. My day just kept getting better!
After about five minutes, just enough time to get my boots back on and my electronics repacked, my suitcase got to the head of the queue. I was asked to open it. The guy lifted out a couple of my packing cubes, then thanked me and helped me zip the case closed again! So that could have gone a lot worse. Definitely the anxiety at the thought of having to repack was the worst bit.
Next stop, the passport control queue, which was about four times as long as the security queue because they were having trouble with their system. One woman asked me super politely if she could go ahead of me because she was about to miss her flight. She had also gotten to the airport way earlier than the recommended time. Of course I let her go!
The passport control woman flipped through my passport, sighed, and snapped, “When did you enter the EU?!” I said, “October, in Barcelona.” She then slammed my passport down and said, “You’ve overstayed by a month! That’s a 700 euro fine! Now, wait while I get a supervisor!” I knew I had most certainly not overstayed and told her, “My date is January 12th. I still have a week.” Her colleague in the next booth leaned over and asked what date I’d entered, then confirmed that I was correct. I can’t believe her computer system couldn’t tell her all of this. Oh, wait, it was apparently glitchy. And I guess she can’t do basic arithmetic. So that was pleasant, but, hey, I got a Netherlands exit stamp in my passport!
It was now just past ten and boarding was clear across the airport at 10:30. I knew I had to eat and the shortest lineup ended up being at McDonald’s, so that’s where I went. That wound up being a smart decision, believe it or not. A 4-euro children’s Happy Meal got me a small hamburger, cherry tomatoes, a bottle of water, and a fruit salad! That has to be the best deal at the airport, considering that just the water was about 2 euros at other places! But let’s not get into the price of coffee. At least, I got a full cup, with milk, for the price of an espresso everywhere else. Anyway, I got a reasonably healthy meal with a snack for the plane (the fruit) and water for 7 euros when 7 euros couldn’t even get me a sandwich and coffee at the café. Must keep in mind this Happy Meal trick for when I’m travelling in the US!
By the time I’d eaten and raced across what felt like half of the Netherlands, I made it to my gate only to have to get on a bus and drive across the other half of the Netherlands to get to our plane… where I discovered that my suitcase would not fit in the overhead bins despite fitting into the suitcase sizer. It’s only now that I realise that I could have stowed it under my seat and put my computer bag in the overhead bin, but all I could think at the moment was “Move out of the way! Move out of the way!” So I quickly opened my suitcase, pulled out my two large packing cubes, rezipped the suitcase, and shoved it into the overhead bin where it fit fine. I added my coat and then crammed my laptop bag, purse, and two packing cubes under my seat. I was really not proud of myself, feeling like one of those idiots who got on the plane with more than is allowed, but my bags had been cleared! I think that if a flight attendant had told me to switch the location of my bags, I would have been fine. But anyway, I had enough room in the end.
The flight was super quick, about an hour and I gained an hour, so I landed about 30 minutes later than I had first boarded the plane. Deplaning started shockingly quickly, so I moved into the aisle to let out my seat mate, who had not been impressed by my bag shuffle. She looked at me in surprise and said, “Wow. Thanks. I expected you to make me wait till you got yourself resorted!” No, I do try to be considerate in my lack of consideration…
I was able to take advantage of a small hold up in the queue to grab my suitcase from the overhead bin and bring it down to my seat so I could put my two packing cubes back in it. The packing cubes were a smart decision that I’m not regretting at all. I thought I’d be the last one off, but nope.
Next hurdle was UK passport control. A man passed out landing cards that we had to fill out before going to a counter. I didn’t really have much of a wait after that. The officer I went to was very thorough and I was utterly unprepared for his questions and didn’t have anything on hand to prove where I’m going, what funds I have, and that I have a return ticket. *sighs* I’m normally smarter than that, but I’ve been enjoying such lax procedures that I forgot that I was heading back into sterner territory. The first thing I was asked for was the return ticket and I had the email on my phone, but it hadn’t downloaded. I offered to boot up my laptop as I knew everything was there, but he said that if I could find an email with my host in Hebden Bridge detailing some plans, he’d let me go. I had that so he stamped me good to go. Very nice man, thank you!
Then, I needed to find an ATM, a SIM card, and the train station. I’d been told there was a Barclay’s ATM (no fee withdrawal) at the airport, but the man at information said that wasn’t true, so I decided to wait. He also told me I would be better off getting a SIM at my destination, that the free airport WiFi worked better nearer the train station (LOL), and that the train station was thataway. Which ended up being about a 10-minute walk. There, I was, indeed, able to get enough WiFi to get my walking directions from the train station to my studio. I had thought to take a cab, expecting gross weather, but I landed in SUN. So that was a huge plus to my day.
The train station had self-serve kiosks and I had no trouble buying a ticket for my destination, but it didn’t tell me what platform to go to or what train destination I had to check on the departures board. So I went to a station employee and started by… asking him if he spoke English!!!!!! That’s what no sleep does to my brain! What did not help the situation is that he was wearing a turban, so my enquiry could have been taken as racist. But instead of being insulted, he burst out laughing and asked me how long I’d been travelling. He told me where to go and then chased after me a moment later to let me know that my platform at changed. Another nice guy!
My train was on time and it was a fairly short trip to my station. I’d Google Streetviewed my route and knew how to get most of the way to my place. So I had a pleasant stroll until nearly the end where I had a few turns to make and the roads did not have signage. I just don’t get that as it makes it rather difficult to navigate. But anyway, I made it.
As expected, the place is a dump, but my room is clean and while I don’t have a fridge, I do have a microwave and kettle, so I can do breakfast and ready meals. Tesco (supermarket) is a block away if I want a small amount of cheese for a meal or whatever. I did a lot of work on finding my Manchester accommodation and I know I have a really good deal, so I’m willing to put up with a lot now that I have heat and internet. Speaking of internet…
I needed something to eat, so I headed off in search of the Tesco. As it turns out, I went in the wrong direction. Thankfully before I went too far, I passed two women out with a baby and I asked them for directions. They sorted me out. As it turned out, Tesco was on the High Street, so there were takeaway shops and places to buy SIM cards nearby. So first, I tried a few places advertising SIM cards before I found a vendor who could actually help me figure out plans and get me set up. SUPER nice man. My hero of the day! He got me on a Lycamobile package for £15 (free SIM) that has unlimited talk and text in the UK, 100 international minutes, and 4GB of data. I wanted the data since the data at the studio is crap. He didn’t take Visa, so I had to pay 5CAD for a withdrawal at the Tesco ABM (at least, they didn’t charge me a fee). Hope I can find a Barclay’s tomorrow!
Next stop was Tesco’s, where I got bread, peanut butter, and jam for my breakfasts, put a few other things, like washing up liquid (Can’t believe the studio doesn’t have that. I’m going to have to wash everything before I use it!). Grocery prices were depressingly low for a country that is apparently as expensive as England is. A jar of peanut butter that would have been $4 at home was $1 here, for example…
There was a chippy right next to Tesco, so I decided I’d earned a donair for takeaway. The cook was a super sweet guy and we had a nice chat while he made my food. He’s from Iran and wants to go to Bulgaria next year and Canada at some point! I gave him some tips. My donair ended up being amazing. The chicken was marinated in a slightly spicy sauce and I had asked for mango sauce (!) on it, so the pairing was wonderful. He gave me free salad too, usually a 50p up charge!
After my late lunch, it was time to see what I’d missed on the interwebs. Which is when I discovered that Lycamobile does not allow tethering. WTF???!!! Who cares what device I use my data on?! I spent some time doing research on how the tethering blocks are made and how to go around them. I paid for my data, so I really don’t see anything unethical about this. I finally figured out what I needed to do, but not how to do it. More Googling brought up a page in Russian that had some lines of Terminal code. I popped the text around the code into Google Translate, but what I got didn’t make much sense. So I painstakingly started to read it and there were enough words that looked like Bulgarian that I was able to make out that this was indeed the code I had to put in to get the tethering to work. I tried it and… it worked!!!! Soon as I master Spanish, I’m moving on to Russian! 😀
(Ooh, my Amsterdam host just checked in. All is good. Phew!)
I’ve decided to head into Manchester tomorrow even if that’ll mean a faster morning than I’d like, just so I can get a walking tour done straight away. That’s at 11:00 and I’m about 30 minutes from Manchester on a bus. It’s only 5KM to downtown, but there’s no sense walking there and then doing a walking tour on top of that. My knee is fine, by the way. Sore as hell if I bump it, but I’m not limping anymore. It is a very pretty shade of purple!
Manchester is considered the affordable London, so I’m looking forward to comparing the two. However, this isn’t really a tourist stop for me. So I’ll probably just do the walking tour, but who knows what wonders I’ll stumble across while doing that? 🙂
8PM and I’m off to bed. 9PM in Amsterdam and I didn’t sleep last night! BTW, all my devices were still on Belgrade time. Rather amazing that I flew across the whole of Europe two months ago and am still in the same time zone I was in three months ago!