Hans is in the air and Di is in Amsterdam...
Today, Hans flew to England, got a haircut and then flew back again to the Netherlands. Oh, that's right, he also finally sorted out his passport issue, well, at least temporarily for the duration of this trip anyway. The renewal of his Swedish passport now will have to wait until he is back in Australia. And that will be the end of his whinging about European and Australian red tape during this trip.
Early out of bed before 6am and onto the 361 bus that goes all the way from Noordwijk to Schiphol Airport.
The bus takes 1 hour and 20 minutes, but at least you don't have to change transport anywhere. Sunrise in the Netherlands.
As you can see above, Di joined Hans for this leg of his trip but then she left him at the "Kiss and Goodbye" gate. Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...
A couple of pics around Schiphol Airport and inside the EasyJet plane. First, clogs and more clogs were for sale inside the terminal, despite hardly anybody seem to be wearing them here. Tourist money perhaps...
There was no need to rush to the gate which was supposed to close 30 minutes before departure at 9.55am. Well, the plane arrived around 9.40am and with disembarking passengers first...
Now, Hans had been allocated a really crappy seat at the far end of the plane, but when he was asked to use the front stairs as they were closing the back door, he overheard somebody else being offered a seat by the exit doors. A single person. Always the opportunistic, Hans asked the air hostess if he could sit there as well, and he could.
The result, Hans had 3 seats for himself, as did the other 3 singles who were given the other exit door seats. Cool.
The actual flight from Schiphol to Southend London Airport only took 35 minutes, but the whole exercise end to end with taxing in and out took the scheduled 1 hour. Slightly late arrival, but who cares. Hans was only going to kill time in Southend anyway.
And yes, it was a very provincial airport and yes, they were building and expanding it there too (we have a theory that pretty much all airports of any decent size in the world has some construction work done to it or around it).
Hans was soon outside and decided to wander to Southend's town centre, a walk that should and did take slightly less than an hour. The weather was cool and sunny and really nice, but the afternoon forecast was a bit bleaker, so public transport back was his plan.
Hans entered into Southend town centre and saw a long pedestrian mall, finishing off by the water that you probably can't see in this picture.
Yep, we are in Essex and wealthy it did not look. Lots of dubious characters around and lots of "one pound shops", which we do like but they also tells you a fair bit about the local demographics.
At the other end of Southend's pedestrian mall, you suddenly see this. Southend Pier. Very long, but with a price tag attached if you want to walk it. £3.50. Hmm... Shouldn't these piers be free?
Around the Southend Pier, there were rides, lots and lots of them. And rides. The whole waterfront here looked like an amusement park.
Now, this is a noble idea. To maintain the old boardwalk, you can adopt a plank and get your name on a plaque here. It probably appeals to some people.
No strolling the pier for Hans, but instead lunch. Where else but a little hole in the wall greasy joint serving fish and chips by an oversized matron. It was good enough for these construction workers so it should be good for Hans too.
Hans got an idea. On his way to Southend, he went into the commuter train station to check out whether he could take the train back to Southend Airport (there is a train station just outside the airport), and yes, you could. 2 stations, £2.80. Ticket bought.
Inside the station building was a barber, advertising male haircuts for £8. Why not? Hans needed a haircut and at least he can make himself understood in English rather than Dutch or German later.
Before shot... Yes, it was a female barber.
After shot... Hans thought that it was well worth the money.
Hans then went back to the shopping district for a cup of Pike's Place coffee from Starbucks. He had become quite fond of it during our stay in the UK. Good value and big cup for £1.50.
Here is the commuter train arriving, which incidentally goes all the way to Liverpool Street Station.
Hans arrived back at Southend Airport to the sound of... Jackhammers. Quickly through the security, punting on that it would be quieter on the other side of the building. And it was.
The flight back to Schiphol in Amsterdam was a bit more rowdy. For example...
- Behind him, Hans had "Dumb and Dumber" cracking marvelous jokes and comments like the "toilets are now closed as we are preparing for landing" being met by "öööööööööööööö", "boooooooooooooo". Loud and decidely unfunny.
- Next to Hans were 2 Russian lesbians, one was clearly a "he" sitting with her legs wide open and they were cuddling soooo close together
- A whole bunch of black guys who looked very fit and were perhaps on a sports outing, but now had brought big bottles of liquors which triggered displeasure among the air hostesses. The guys had fun and were belly laughing a lot and some others seemed to join in
The plane arrived at Schiphol perhaps 5 minutes ahead of schedule at 5.25pm and it was now crunch time for Hans. Will he get a Schengen entry stamp into his Australian passport?
Well, the young immigration officer immediately picked up on that Hans was born in Sweden, so he asked about whether Hans had dual citizenship; yes.
So, Hans gave a short synopsis as to why he wanted the stamp in the Australian passport instead, and after a couple of more questions like "do you know where you're going?", "do you know when you will be leaving?"... Hans got his stamp.
They probably do a pulse check to see whether you stumble on these questions, Hans thought.
The stamp outside the airport and inside Schengen. Crisis over.
The bus from Schiphol to Noordwijk departed like clockwork at 6.07pm and Hans took the opportunity of the 1 hour and 20 minutes bus ride to write his side of the blog for today. After all, it was dark outside and it wasn't looking that interesting anyway based on this morning's trip to Schiphol.
Di had dinner timed to perfection - and Hans walked in the door - and we ate a quick meal of rice with Indonesian Beef Curry.
Meanwhile we shared our stories of today's events. Di's was a little bit simpler and colder...
After some searching for a train ticket that could be purchased with cash she bordered a high speed train to Amsterdam Centraal Station. No problem.
The library is new and very very cool. It is a lovely building inside and purpose built. Lots of natural light, plenty of space to lounge, use computers, listen to music, even a radio station broadcasts from inside.
What makes it cool? Space, different collections on each floor, sculpture and art everywhere and a fantastic 7th floor cafe with great views.
The entry foyer.
One floor is just dedicated to DVDs and CDs. This is about 1/3rd of what can be borrowed.
Another floor has art, design and sheet music - a random sample Di picked was Henry Mancini.
Student study pods looked very cool and space age too.
Di explored inside for a while then decided to brave the elements and go to Nemo (the green ship shaped building). Nemo is a science centre, like Questicon in Canberra, and costs €13.50 to get in so Di just wandered around the outside.
Across the water was the Maritime Museum with lots of old barges and sailing ships floating outside. A few photos to show what Di saw.
The museum and their ships.
The wind was biting, and it rained intermittently, so Di decided to call it quits in Amsterdam.
On her way back to Centraal Station she had to give money to this pathetic busker. Could he have chosen a worse place to busk? Completely exposed to the elements, no through traffic and it was raining when Di reached him. Maybe he was counting on some soft hearted suckers? It worked - Di was not the only one to donate.
Back on the train to Leiden and a little bit of grocery shopping before Di took the bus (the long route) back to Noordwijk An Zee.
A lazy afternoon followed with soup making and watching some TV cooking shows from Australia. They seem to like MasterChef and Poh's Kitchen here. Nice to hear some Aussie accents and Neil Perry was a guest chef of Poh's and gave Di a new recipe idea. All good.
After dinner with Hans, Di went to see Anneke, a neighbour and friend of Brian and Doro's, to ask for help in finding a plumber as the upstairs bathroom drains are still problematic. Anneke has nicely offered us showers at her place and given Di a spare key to her place. All good for being clean tomorrow.
Earlyish night followed so from us now it is good night.