Heathrow Arrival Then Off Amsterdam


I do manage a little bit more rest before the cabin starts showing signs of activity and it’s obvious that they’ll be handing out the morning snacks and drinks before our arrival.  Of course, my little screen still doesn’t work properly and I can’t even call up the little map that shows our progress to Heathrow.  Guess I’ll just listen to a little music on my phone and wait for touchdown.

We finally get to the terminal and I know I will need to transfer to another terminal, that’s just the way it is at Heathrow.  After checking the board for my flight I start down the maze to the transfer buses.  If you’ve ever wondered what a mouse might feel like in one of those little mazes, this is it.  You travel down these winding hallways and down more and more escalators.  In time you will start seeing signs directing you to turn off for your particular destination terminal.  Mine is the fifth and farthest one on the trail.  So I watch as others move off and we are left with just a small line of people.  The final stop is a que to wait for the next bus.  5 is also the farthest from the arrivals terminal and the standing bus ride take a while also.

Once you arrive, it’s time for another series of lines.  If you are on an immediate flight, it is possible to get through to the express line, but even that takes time.  I’m lucky, I guess, because my flight is several hours away.  So the line is my destiny.

The first line is actually to wait in another line.  I kid you not.  They let a few people through at a time to wait in the winding que to check your boarding pass.  There are displays all around you in several languages re-explaining all the things you can’t carry on the plane.  Of course, we all just got off a plane so most of the items are things you shouldn’t have anyway.  I guess some countries don’t use the same guidelines.  There is also a gentleman standing there yelling about all the things you need to throw away before you can go through.

I make it past with no problems and then there is another winding que to get to the escalators.  This one I really don’t understand.  They could just make a straight line to them, but instead they make us walk back and fourth first.  It’s not like we’re moving slowly.  It’s actually a brisk pace to keep up.  Up the escalator now and you come to the real fun part.  The security checkpoints.  I’m not sure exactly how many there are, but it’s a lot and all of them are backed up.  There is no point in trying to find one that looks better, they all are pretty bad.

All in all, from the time I left the plane to finally arriving at the terminal it took about 40-45 minutes.  I remember from my last time through here how crowded it can be and just went downstairs and found a good spot to sit where I could relax and keep an eye on the gate announcements board.

After a few hours I see a number pop up next to my flight number.  Luckily the way down is right next to where I’m sitting.  I grab my bag and start heading down.  I once again find a spot and wait for the boarding to start.  Unlike most US flights, where they board by groups, the sign says to be prepared to board by rows.  Sounds fine to me as I’m pretty much in the middle of the plane.  When they do finally start the process, they let first class and priority customers on first.  Then the announcement come for “All Boarding”.  What?  Ok, it’s a free for all now to get in line and get on the plane.

Actually, we’re not getting directly on the plane, we’re getting on another bus.  Most of the people get on and won’t move from near the door, because they want to be the first on off at the plane.  The driver keeps asking everyone to move forward.  I don’t care, so I go ahead and move to the front to make more room for others.  After a while of this, we finally head out to the plane.  I swear we drove right back to where I was when we landed earlier.  The drive to the same amount of time and I recognized the route.  We get to the plane and the driver lines up to the stairs heading up to the plane.  Here is where he pulls a fast on on the folks who wouldn’t budge earlier.  We boarded the bus at the center doors.  The driver actually opened only the front doors to the bus, allowing those of us who were kind enough to move forward first access the the plane.  It made me smile that there was a whole group of folks who thought they were beating the system, but just got their plans fouled.

After only a few other people, I was next to start my way up the stairs.  I easily manage to find an overhead bin near my seat to place my bag.  I know it’s a  short flight, but I do like having the leg room.  It’s not a big plane and we only have a 50 minute flight to deal with.  I’m actually amazed that the are able to do, or even try, a drink service on the flight.

The pilot announced that we would be landing at a remote strip and would need to taxi to the terminal.  He even described it as farm land.  He wasn’t kidding.  It was this small strip and you could just barely see the main traffic control tower off in the distance.  We taxied so long that I heard a child ask if we were about to take off again.  If you’ve ever been to the Atlanta airport, just think of how long the planes taxi there and double it.  But, it was  nice trip through the countryside of Holland.

Schiphol Airport is not a bad one to just arrive in, just try not to need to transfer planes there.  Almost always your gates will be on exact opposite sides of the airport from each other and there isn’t much of a way other than walking (or running) to get there.  Getting to the baggage area is a walk, but no rush to wait for your bag.  Oh how I wish it had just been a little wait.

After standing at the carousel for a while and watching the monitor I saw it turn to “All Delivered”.  Um, no all has not been delivered!  This is when I see the growing line at the claims office.  Yeah, another line!  This probably takes a good 30 to 40 minutes to finally get one of the three agents trying to deal with all these people.  I get all my info entered into the computer, including my best possible description of my new backpack that I’ve never really looked too closely at and the address and phone number of the hotel where I’ll be staying.  They do have a little care package for travelers to try and help them out until their bag is returned or they can purchase replacement items.  A small favor to say the least.

After this I have nothing else to do but head to the hotel and get cleaned up and see a bit of the city before getting some sleep.

It is a bit of a walk to the hotel.  I’m staying on the Prinsengracht canal, which is one of the outer most ones.  At least I’m not having to carry both my backpack and day pack.  Small favors.  They are expecting me and I only have to sign a few papers before being handed my key and it’s up the lift to my room.  On a side note, it’s nice walking into a place and have them pronounce my last name with ABSOLUTELY no problems or hesitation.  My name is German and although this is Netherlands, their language shares some similarities and they deal with Germans on a daily basis.

My room is small.  Let me be a little clearer, my room is tiny!  I’ve had friends describe their quarters on a sea ship for the people working.  This is about what I imagined them to be.  It’s OK, I’m not here for the room, but for the city and I’ve stayed in worse places.

After cleaning up and putting back on my original clothes, since I don’t have a change, it’s time to make a quick jaunt around and get some food.

I had already planned to head up to the museum area where the IAmsterdam sign is to get a quick pic.  With that accomplished, I start my quest for food.  I settle on a small Italian place not too far from my hotel.  The ravioli is good and the beer is quenching.  I just wish the service was a little more attentive to me.  Unfortunately, the owner is entertaining some friends and both waitresses are forced to give most of their attention to that table.  After that they seem to only have time to visit the other tables with multiple people and not so much the individual guy in the corner.  After finally waving one down and getting my check it’s time to head back to the room and rest.  Just a quick stop at a store to grab a large bottle of water.

Author: Alan (Travelin' Al) Stiebing

Alan Stiebing has been traveling for over 20 years. He blogs and photographs his experiences and passions for and other digital and print outlets.

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