Laurel and Associates, Ltd. – Madison, WI

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

On August 30, 2013, Posted by , In Travelogue, By , , With Comments Off on Amsterdam

I am on my way to Lusaka, Zambia to conduct 8 days of business management training to owners and staff of private medical training institutions. I won’t bore you with the stress and hysteria of creating these materials on topics I know nothing about (thank goodness for subject matter experts Katie and Piotr).

Just let me tell you about my days of travel.

My flight left at 6:45 p.m. from Madison on August 29th. In the shared taxi ride to the airport, I spoke with a woman who has not needed to have her own car for the past two years. There are loaner cars parked throughout the city that you can schedule to use. The organization takes care of gas, insurance and maintenance. The price is $10/hour. I think that is wonderful!

Checking in at the Delta kiosk in the Madison airport went fine. I even got a chance to change my seat on the flight from Detroit to Amsterdam, because I wasn’t on the aisle, which I prefer.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Delta doesn’t charge for the first two bags. Given that I had just spent $1200 to send two boxes of training materials that could have fit into a large bag, that was a rude awakening. Next time, we’ll know better.

When we landed in Detroit, I needed to reset my digital watch to EDT. I absolutely could not figure it out. I worked on it for a good 20 minutes (I was in the back of the plane) and my seatmate worked on it for the same length of time. He was just as unsuccessful and I was. But he gave me stellar advice. He told me to find a teenager.

When I was waiting for my carryon luggage, I asked a young man who reset it in 3 minutes and showed me how to do it!

I discovered that my departure gate was completely across on the other side of the airport. In order to have an aisle seat, I had to select one at the very very back of the plane right opposite the toilet. I found out, however, that although I had selected an aisle seat, that is not what my new ticket was for. Luckily, the young woman sitting there was willing to move over.

What I learned on the flight that might be useful for anyone planning such a transatlantic trip:

After you select your language on the personal TV, you can’t do anything else by touching the screen. You need to use the remote.

Trying to edit and create documents on a laptop in flight in cramped quarters is difficult for many reasons, not the least includes having to keep my right arm next to my side and dealing with lots of bumps.

I worked on the materials for Zambia, I worked on a proposal that needed to go out on the 30th, I fiddled unsuccessfully with trying to watch a movie- the stewardess finally had to reset my TV from the front of the plane, whatever that meant). When dinner was served at 9 p.m., that was my second meal of the day, so I was ravenous. Not typically a messy eater, I dropped something with cream sauce on my clothing.

When we arrived

At the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, I had to get a transfer for my flight to Lusaka the next day. Then I went to baggage to get my luggage, because I had been told I had to pick it up and bring it through customs. The last time I went through Amsterdam and had to change planes I did NOT pick up my luggage, so went without anything for my first three days in Jordan. You can bet I wasn’t going to let that happen this time.

However, my bright pink (can’t miss it) suitcase never came. So I had to find a KLM/Delta customer service center, where I was informed that my luggage was already stored to go to Lusaka with me the following morning.

That was fine, except for the fact that I had been planning to take out clothing and toiletries for my hotel stay…

My next challenge was to purchase a ticket for a train to the City Center, which is where my hotel is located. I tried to do it at a kiosk, but was unsuccessful. Then I met a young college student from Vermont who was having the same difficulty. She thought we might be able to get on the train without a ticket, so I followed her down to the tracks. Feeling nervous about this, I located a conductor, who assured me we needed tickets.

So we went back up into the airport and finally located actual people who could sell us the tickets. When I tried to pay with my Visa, she told me it wasn’t acceptable because it didn’t have a “chip.” Luckily, I had some Euros from my last trip, so tickets purchased, we both went back to a different platform and got on the train. OF COURSE NO ONE ASKED FOR OUR TICKETS…

City Center is enormous and when I walked out the door (to a balmy 75 F day at noon) I had absolutely no idea where to start walking to get to my hotel. I discovered a tourist information center, had to wait my turn, and learned that my hotel was very close.

Let me tell you. The architecture of the station and the buildings is absolutely beautiful, with different colored bricks and stone- and there is a two-way bicycle lane on the streets. There were bicycles everywhere, being ridden by young and old alike in every kind of attire, from business suits to casual wear. And no one wears a helmet, not even the children.

I had to walk maybe four blocks to find my hotel, the Convent Hotel (no habit required. I know, bad pun but I’m very jetlagged so you’ll have to forgive me). The first thing I noticed was that they had ice water, with lime, with lemon, with mint leaves available at the check in counter, as well as my favorite apples, granny smith. How gracious!

My room is a tiny postage stamp, but clean and complete with everything one might need- including a bathrobe, since, as mentioned before, I wasn’t able to pull anything from my suitcase.

I had a banana and a small breakfast sandwich on the plane at 9 this morning and now it is 10:30 p.m. and I’ve decided to just eat some fruit and granola bars for my dinner. Tomorrow they serve a huge breakfast, which is part of my reservation. I’ll have to get up at 6 a.m. and get the train back to the airport by 7 am., so I can check in 2 hours ahead of time. My flight to Lusaka leaves at 10 a.m. and will arrive in Lusaka at 11 p.m.

I really wish I had been able to sleep on the plane coming here, because Amsterdam is beautiful. It would be fun to go to museums, walk the shops and neighborhoods, see more of the culture and the people. That will have to be left to another day.

So, welcome on my journey to Zambia. My next missive will be from Lusaka.

Deb/Mom

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