Thursday, October 28, 2010

Seeing the sights at Schiphol


‘A new-record 24 hours on flights from the US to Heathrow this week.  50 mph winds in the midwest forced flight cancellations and delays: the ticket agents advised me to hit the phones to Delta and see if I could get more help than they could give.  A routing through Canada and the Netherlands turned out to be the solution, long way around, but avoided paying an extra hotel night and racked up a few more moles (currently 111K towards the 125K I need for Diamond status).

I dropped into Schiphol bone-weary and jet-lagged; rather than head for the lounge, I decided to check out the sights along Holland Boulevard, the new Dutch Tourist area set up between concourses D and F.  Unfortunately, it’s too early for the annual Christmas light display, but there are lots of new features along the moving walkway that can really help pass time (inexpensively) during a layover.

DSC00753aThe Rijksmuseum art display is still a popular stop.  Tucked between the first and second floors, it has a small rotating collection of works gathered around a theme.  Generally, the displayed works are high quality and feature recognizable Dutch names (Rembrandt is always there somewhere).

DSC00752The new Airport Library is a sprawling collection of books about Holland’s history and culture.  Books can be checked out or read at worktables; there is a small set of computer workstations also available.  Books can be checked out and I imagine the collection will grow as passengers leave their travel reading as donations.

DSC00754Adjacent to the library is a ‘living room’ – dimly lit comfy-seating with backlit wall art.  More books and magazines, although this seems to be a favored place for napping, replacing the Quiet Area with lounge chairs and nature sounds that was formerlyDSC00753 located directly upstairs.  My favorite bit is the simulated fireplace, flickering red against the blowing blue background.  There is a Delft theme along the walls, along with pictures of Dutch scenery, that make this a nice retreat from the bustle elsewhere.

DSC00755The restaurant, located beyond the living room, has a variety of typical Dutch fare.  For an expat, the offerings are unremarkable, although they will charm visitors looking for an escape from the fast food along the concourses.  I like the tulip-tables and Delft-cup booths;  the whole Boulevard is a little slice of Netherlands hyperreality.

There is also a massage area, the Holland Casino, and numerous opportunities to sign up for a tour or buy a local souvenir.  It’s all good for about an hour between flights, and beats the average Chamber of Commerce display by a mile.

Then it was on to Heathrow, then a meandering bus ride across East Anglia towards Cambridge.  My luggage, unfortunately did not arrive alongside: despite the traveler’s maxim that bags never transfer on-time at Schipol, the problem was US-based.  Somehow, it was headed to New York as I winged over the Atlantic, another 30 hours before it, too, arrived home.

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