Amsterdam - June 2016
I can't deny it, I love Amsterdam.
I'm British and, as as most of the rest of the world tends to speak at least some English, I have never needed to learn another language in great detail. Okay, I studied French and German at school and I can just about get along if I absolutely have to but, in Amsterdam, the locals speak English almost as well as they speak Dutch; and that makes life so much easier for a lazy-bones like me.
Lots of good things have happened to me in Amsterdam; not the least of which was having my proposal of marriage to the woman who became my wife accepted. That happened 14 years ago but it's a memory that is as fresh today as the day it happened.
We've been back to Amsterdam a few times since - usually in Spring or early Summer. This time it was summer, during the fateful week when the UK held a referendum on whether to leave or remain in the EU. That week the UK was also plagued by some of the freakiest heavy downpours and thunderstorms for many summers. An unfortunate consequence was cancellation of our flight back to the UK. This was unfortunate on many levels, not the least of which was that it took us almost four hours to find and retrieve our bags (they'd been checked in hours earlier), exit departure and wait in a massive queue of people trying to find out which flight we'd get the following day and where we might sleep that night.
At 01:30 we finally got to speak with a representative from the airline who informed us that there were no spaces available on the flights back to our preferred airport (just 12 miles from where we live) and the best they could offer was a flight to another airport which was 75 miles from where we live. Getting home from there was, apparently, our problem. In addition, they would not arrange accommodation for us and said we'd have to either go back to Amsterdam (in the early hours of the morning!) or get the shuttle bus and take our chances that one of the airport hotels might have a room.
So much for the Easyjet motto of "We like to help". What I believe that translates to is "We like to do the absolute minimum that we can get away with". To be fair, I have no issue with the fact that it was deemed unsafe to fly. What I will never forgive Easyjet for is the utter lack of communication on their part. Aside from the flight being flagged as "Cancelled" on the Departures board, we received NOTHING from Easyjet. They never lifted a finger to help anyone on any of the flights that had been cancelled.
After a brief discussion, my wife and I decided to stay at the airport, find a quiet corner and kip on the seating / benches. I volunteered to stay awake (to ensure no-one wandered off with our baggage while we were asleep). This is the view I had for about the next 5 hours as my wife did her best to get some sleep, propped up against me. The bloke had just as uncomfortable time as we did and there were more around us.
At least there were toilets. We had regular visitations by security staff who whizzed around the place on those stupid Segway things. These were a blessing and a curse. At least there was someone keeping an eye on the place but whenever they arrived, my wife woke up and wondered if we were being moved on.
As the following day dawned, we hunted down some breakfast. The choice was limited, the standard was mediocre, at best, and it was definitely not cheap. We were supposedly departing for home mid-afternoon and, therefore, we decided not to lug ourselves and our baggage back into Amsterdam. Tedious hours dragged by while we tried to find something remotely interesting to do. Eventually, we were put out of our misery when we were called to the boarding gate. By now, we were delirious at the prospect of going home but were dealt yet another hammer blow when told that our new flight was also "delayed". It remained delayed for a further two and a half hours until we were finally told to get on board 'cos we were going home. Well, not exactly.....
I mentioned previously that we live only 12 miles from our local airport. Consequently, it is cheaper to get a taxi "to and from" than pay the exorbitant parking fees if we take our car. We'd cancelled the return taxi, for obvious reasons, but we still had to get home from our new destination. I had a brainwave. There's a National Express coach that shuttles between our local airport and the one we were heading to. Getting this would avoid having to either travel into London and back out again or stump up £150 for a taxi fare. Once we knew our ETA at our local airport, we re-booked our taxi home.
Neither my wife nor I have ever been so glad to be home. It'd taken almost 40 hours and we'd been variously travelling, sitting around and queueing and I'd been awake the whole time. To say I was feeling incredibly let down and angry isn't an overstatement by any means.
Anyway, we still love Amsterdam - but it will be a cold day in Hell before I use Easyjet's services again.