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Sunday, May 20

Come Fly With Me

I got the airport transfer coach to the airport. I guess that was no surprise. I checked my baggage in and the kindly lady at the check-in desk said she'd get me extra leg-room on the Amsterdam-Israel leg of my journey. Neat. For some reason she pronounced the name of my final destination - Tel Aviv - as "Tellaveee", but I didn't argue. Who cares. Well... I care, but I didn't have the need to illustrate that. I was on holiday.

I mooched my way into the departures area and got myself a coffee/breakfast in Starbucks. It turned out that the gate was next to Starbucks, so there was no pressure to do more than have my coffee, croissant and panini while reading my book. Easy work.

I had missed an evening meal the previous evening, so it was a breakfast I'd been looking forward to for a while. The company of the book helped a fair bit. I later finished this book - the Newspox blog in book form - on the plane to Tellaveeeeey.

I breezed onto the plane at some point and found myself sitting next to a young woman from Leeds. We chatted for the brief duration of the flight, during which I managed, while talking energetically with my hands, to knock coffee all over myself. I sort of didn't care. I mopped it up and continued unabated. We had an interesting conversation, why let a cup of coffee spoil it?

The woman turned out to be muslim, which turned our conversation into a "So a jew and a muslim get on a plane" set up for a joke. The punchline being a bit of a let down "and they had an intelligent conversation on a variety of topics, including being offended on someone else's behalf". It's not a keeper of a gag.

Arriving in Amsterdam, we parted company and I had to go into Amsterdam. I'd not thought this through. My English arrogance took over and I sort of breezed my way, via an English-"speaking" ticket machine, onto a train that was bound for Amsterdam Centraal, which I sort of guessed was a railway station somewhere useful in Amsterdam for tourism purposes. After the first stop, I realised that I had no indication of how long the journey might take, how many stops it would be, or where I was. The signs at the stations were not as clear as I was expecting from my arrogant British attitude that everything would be as I expected from my experience of travelling at home and that everything would be signposted in English.

I asked a man who looked like a railway guard about where the central station stop was. He told me clearly and then sat down. Just because he was dressed in a manner which looks like an English railway guard, doesn't mean he's a railwayman in Amsterdam. In fact, he was just some guy. Oops.

Anyway, it was easy enough to work out how to get off the train at its last stop and go into Amsterdam. I left the station by a door marked as an exit and was near a canal in something Amsterdam-looking-like. I wandered aimlessly for a bit, decided to go on a boat on the canal, bought a ticket and sat on the boat for an hour or so as we were taken around various random places where there was something touristy to tell us. It was pleasant and relaxing. It's not a bad way to break up a long-ish journey.

As I got off the boat they were putting out the cards they made from the digital photo they take of each person as they get on the boat. I stayed around to see what mine looked like. I looked good. It was a nice photo of me. I almost bought it. Then I cursed myself for my narcissism and stopped myself from buying something I had no use for whatsoever. One point to me, I think.

I was hungry, so wandered round in search of lunch. I was trying to work out what might be a suitably authetic Amsterdam thing to eat. I couldn't. I wandered some more and eventually went for a steak at an Italian restaurant on a side street. It was ok. Nothing special. The salad tasted like it had been dressed with Dulux. I didn't eat so much salad.

As I was leaving the luncheon place, it started to rain. I had no particular need to be around Amsterdam, so considered returning to the airport, rather than get wet. First I got an ice cream and wandered around a C&A, feeling like I ought to maybe have more shirts than I'd taken with me in my suitcase. I decided C&A was not my thing, nor particularly nicely priced. So I left.

The train back to the airport was easier - I had experience of trains in Amsterdam now. I like the fact that they're double-decker. Neat.

I somehow killed some time in the airport with food and then made my way to the gate. There was a mini-check-in at the gate, a full-on security check, and I was early for that. In fact, even that time was two hours prior to the flight. As luck would have it there was an Israeli guy chatting with a young german woman and I joined in the conversation, which lasted us until we reached the plane.

At some point we got to the bit about religions. The german girl was a christian and myself and the Israeli were both jews. She didn't get it. "We're jews, you know, jewish?". Nope. It didn't register. How do you quickly tell a german what a jew is? "Don't you remember? Your people killed about 6 million of them?" We didn't say that. In the end, she got it. We were three people communicating in English, though her English wasn't very easy for her and the Israeli guy was also communicating in a second language (asking me occasionally for the right word or phrase to describe something). It's not a surprise that a particular word didn't register for her. I guess that if we'd pointed to some of the black-hat wearing brigade with long beards and curly hair and said "Jews" she'd have known what we meant. Me and the other guy were just dressed in jeans and shirts. We don't look like a caricature of a jew might.

Anyhoo, during the conversation the gate opened and we went through security checks. I was slightly fazed by the way the person questioning me talked about my arrival in Israel in the conditional form:

Her: If you get into Israel, how will you get to your final destination?
Me: (If?) I'll get a taxi. (If they exist!)

I didn't back-chat as indicated. I just answered the questions, a bit worried that a wrong word might suddenly disbar me from being allowed on the flight, or, at the very least, earn me a rubber glove up the bottom. She quickly stopped asking and let me go through.

The flight was uneventful in the end. I had extra leg-room and a rather oddly behaved religious English girl from Salford at the other end of my row. In the end, she disappeared and left me on the row on my own. Loads of leg-room, no company. I was in a good place. I had my book, which I finished, and my mp3 player, which managed to feed me "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" until we landed.

Landing I went through passport control, a few easy questions, finding my bag, which proved to be easier than with my previous suitcase - a very anonymous and hard to identify creature. The fact that I had a matching ruck-sack really helped me to remember what this bag looked like. Good trick.

Then I found a taxi to take me to my hotel. I agreed a fixed price with him. It turned out to be more of a trek than he'd hoped, but I turned out to have paid more than the perfect going rate for such a journey. So, swings AND roundabouts.

I got to my bedroom and was impressed at the lavishness of the hotel that my family had chosen to put us all up in. I can cope with such treats, I think. I don't think I've very often treated myself to such a class of hotel - certainly not for extended periods of time, like longer than a night. (I've never booked a hotel by the hour, not even in Amsterdam).

It was 4am and I had to sleep. So I did. I dreamed that my hotel room was a mistake and that I was going to be transferred to a grimy cellar room with a dirty duvet.


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