I was not too impressed when I saw that we were flying back on an MD11. It is an older plane, and I thought that it probably would not have all of the bells and whistles of more modern jets. Unfortunately, I was right.
It did not have the head stabilizers on the seats (or foot rests). It did not have personal video screens, but rather it just had a few big, clunky monitors in the ceiling. Even worse, the audio for the video program did not work, so we couldn’t hear what was on the monitors anyways.
On the other hand, it didn’t really matter (as far as the video/audio went), as I was planning to sleep most of the way back. It was tough, but I managed to not doze off while we were sitting on the tarmac and while we were flying to Dar Es Salaam (less than an hour away). I even stayed awake long enough to have a post-midnight dinner. Then I took an ambien (probably unnecessary) and dropped off for the long flight to Amsterdam.
I felt like I would lie there for only a few minutes and then shift positions, but after a half-dozen such cycles, 4-5 hours had gone by, so I guess I was sleeping more than I thought I was.
I had breakfast on the plane and now I’m in Amsterdam, and our group has finally split up. We missed Andrew and Kevin, but Laurie and Cindy were sitting in the row right in front of me, so we left the plane together. We said our farewells, and went our separate ways.
Now for my mini-adventure—seeing Amsterdam for a few hours during my layover. I just put my carry-on in a locker, except for the camera, which I’m taking with me.
I had a fun time wandering around Amsterdam. It definitely beat staying holed up in the airport.
It was fairly cool and overcast—sort of a dreary day, but it warmed up a bit by the end. I was more worried about rain, but it stayed dry.
The train is very convenient to get from the airport to the center of the city and back. It wasn’t too expensive, about 6 Euro, ran about every 10 minutes, and it only took about 15 minutes to get to the central station. Like most local trains in Europe, it ran sort of on the honor system. They only check for tickets rarely, although I guess there are big fines if you don’t have one.
I really had no idea where I was going when I left the
train, so I just started walking.
I ran across the remains of some sort of
carnival / roller coaster, which they were
I guess it had been
running over the weekend.
I saw a sign for the Ann Frank house, so I headed off to that. I passed over a number of canals, and eventually I found it and went in.
After that, I wandered back towards the center and then paid a visit to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. At one point, they had a mirrored wall that was very clean and un‑distorting. It was really freaky looking at myself looking back, but not to see any signs of a mirror. I had to reach out and touch myself in order to find the mirror.
It was also sort of freaky being surrounded by these “people” who weren’t real. I kept feeling that I was in someone’s personal space, but then realizing that it wasn’t a person.
After visiting the wax museum, I decided that it was better safe than sorry, so that I should head back to the airport. I was somewhat confused by the times on my boarding pass. My itinerary said that my flight left at 2:55pm, but my boarding pass said that boarding began at 1:16, which seemed awfully early. So I figured that I needed to get back to the airport early enough so that I could get through security and be on time for the boarding.
I found a pedestrian shopping walkway that headed towards the train station and went down it. I found on it a small coffee shop that served desserts and sandwiches, so I stopped in. I ended up getting a very nice French-bread style pizza, which they heated up, for my lunch.
Then I headed back to the train station, where I just missed one train that left as I walked up to it. So I caught the next one. I probably got into the city around 9:30 or so. I tried to head back at 12:00, but I caught the 12:14 train, which got into the airport at 12:30.
Amsterdam is known for its red light district. Either I didn’t go through it, or it was the wrong time of day. In any case, I didn’t see anything. I did see a number of windmills, including a line of them, but they were of the modern type and not of the old-fashioned “traditional” type.
Interestingly, at the airport while I had to go through passport control, I didn’t have to go through security of any sort in order to get to the concourse. Being used to the US, I found this to be really strange. I traded in my Euros for dollars, got my carry-on from the locker, and headed for my gate. Now I have to go through security at the gate, what fun.
I just got through security uneventfully, which is always nice. They asked me about my checked bags, and I forgot to mention that they had been in the van out of my control while we were walking around Arusha and while we were eating lunch. I hate to think what kind of a stink that would have made.
I also figured out the strangeness between the “boarding time” and the flight time. It turns out that the security was not for an area of the concourse, but only for that one gate/flight. The “boarding time” was when they started feeding people through security. Then we remained in a secure area next to the gate until the real boarding of the plane, which began around 2:25.
So I had been assuming that I would have to get back to the airport *and* get through security before the “boarding time”. In reality, I just had to be back by the boarding time, or actually a bit after that, as that was just the time that they started with security, and it took rather a while to get everyone through.
I just had a very special and memorable flight to Boston. I managed to get a right hand window seat, fairly far forward (forward of the wing). We took off through solid overcast in Amsterdam and eventually came out above the clouds. I closed the window shade and watched a movie. When it was over, I opened the shade and looked out. I saw what appeared to be icebergs down below me. There was a slight chance that they might be clouds, but then the pilot came on over the PA system saying that one could see icebergs to the right of the plane.
Soon thereafter, the mountainous eastern coast of Greenland came into view, with a great view of its glaciers. Even better, the peaks of the mountains were illuminated by the low sun. It was very pretty and special. On one hand, I wished that I had a camera on hand, so that I could photograph it. But since I didn’t (I didn’t want to disturb the person in the aisle seat, dig out my suitcase, and dig around in it for my camera), I could just sit back and enjoy the view.
For some reason, maybe due to storms or turbulence, we took an excessively northern route. We went up near Iceland and over Greenland, then came down through Canada crossing near to the Hudson Strait, coming in through northern Maine, and then coming down to Boston from the NNE. This seems a rather roundabout route, but it had some great views, particularly at this time of day.