Amsterdam Stories and Tips

A long wait in Schiphol

Observation Deck at Schipholl Photo, Amsterdam, Netherlands

You think the thought of having to spend 21 hours in an airport would scare most people unless they were Mehran Karimi Nasseri or Tom Hanks. Both these chaps have spent hours, days, weeks, even years in a terminal. You may remember Mehran Karim Nasseri lived in Terminal One in Charles de Gaulle Airport for eighteen years and Tom Hanks starred in a film roughly based on this man’s life. I have always loved airports so I wasn’t that worried when I knew that we would have to spend the total time of 21 hours waiting in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. Both journeys to and from Shangahi included a long wait.

The thing is with Schiphol it is a lot of fun to spend time in. For a start the airport is huge with lots of activities to keep you occupied, it’s well organised in the way of signposts. You won’t get lost. The first things that were immediately on my mind were lounge areas and food halls. I was tired and starving having only had a light snack on the flight from Warsaw. I needn’t have been concerned about food as there are at least 45 bars and restaurants selling food not forgetting a shopping complex that sells a huge variety of Dutch delicacies as well as everyday foodstuffs like sandwiches, cakes, biscuits and chocolate. There are many lounge areas, some you have to be a club member others are for everyone to relax in. As we had already come off a flight from Warsaw and our luggage was being transferred to the flight for Shanghai we went straight to the top level of the airport where we found a relaxing oasis known as the Airport Park Area.

This is a quiet are where everything is green. There are large squashy, olive bean bags, reclining seats, wooden benches shaped like huge tree trunks and covered with a log patterned type of carpet. There is a circular area of green seats with arms encompassing a small garden area with trees and ferns. The trees are artificial but look good enough; all the other plants including ferns are real. Once you have sat down you will hear birdsong and ducks quacking. These birds aren’t really in the park area; it is a tape playing and sounds pretty convincing. I had to move away from the duck area as the quacking was too loud and couldn’t concentrate on reading my book. It was actually more pleasant sat on the recliners listening to the tweeting of small birds except that after a long sit down my bottom got a bit sticky due to the recliners being made from plastic. I am not sure if it was my imagination but I could smell cut grass and foliage when plants have been watered. I mentioned this to my husband but he said he couldn’t smell anything, that’s quite normal as he has no sense of smell. My theory is that the management releases these smells into the air of this area to make it authentic so that you really believe you are in a park.

Just outside the park there is a door which leads to an observation area. Here you can look through the telescopes at planes landing and taking off. Coloured tables and chairs are available if you want to sit outside with food.

We decided that we would stay in this park area for the duration of our wait as my husband was very comfortable on his bean bag on the floor. He was able to stretch his body out and sleep. He didn’t want us to move away because the bean bags and recliners were in demand and as soon as we left we knew they would be snapped up. We kept taking turns to walk around the airport, have a sleep, read, and go for a drink and a bite to eat.

Luckily there was a café/snack bar close to the park which we did use. This was one of the cheaper cafes. Here we bought a large cup of tea for 2.70 Euros and a sandwich which was 4 Euros. A breakfast roll with everything on it like bacon, sausage, egg and tomato cost 6 Euros. Bottled water was expensive the cheapest being 2.50 Euros from one of the delicatessen’s. I did wander around the food halls to check out the prices and what was on offer but seeing that we only had 50 Euros on us and didn’t want to mess around changing money we decided to have a sandwich and a cup of tea.

I found the shopping areas fascinating and wanted to buy lots of souvenirs. I particularly liked the Tulip Garden; a shop selling wooden tulips, windmills, potted plants, clogs in various colours. You could even buy fridge magnets from these shops which were really pretty but at 5 Euros each I decided not to. I don’t really need any more tat but I just love looking.

Walking around the two floors of the airport I got the feeling that it was a very relaxed airport. Police and security guards were around but their presence wasn’t as dominant as in Warsaw and UK.

I noticed that Schiphol has a policy of recycling which pleased me. Re-cycle bins are placed in all seating areas for travelers to throw their plastic containers, paper and cardboard in. In the toilets paper towels and toilet rolls are made from recycled paper. Toilet areas and baby facility areas are cleaned regularly and are spotless as are all other areas of the airport.

If you do have a long stay and you aren’t feeling lazy like we were there are so many things to do. There are internet centres where you can use the internet for 15 minutes and pay 5 Euros. I think there is a full business centre also where you can fax, print, photocopy etc.

In Lounge2, level 2, Lounge 3, level 3 and Pier D which is near the Transfer Kiosk there are Express Spa services if you want to pamper yourself. A foot massage will knock you back anything from 22 Euros to 57 Euros. Neck and back massage cost the same. A hand and arm massage is cheaper and if you want the cheapest option then opt for the Massage lounger. This costs from 12 Euros to 30 Euros.

If you feel the need for a special quiet moment you can go to the meditation centre which can be found on the upper level of Lounge 2/3 between Piers E and F. I came across the centre on our return trip from Shanghai as we decided to try out a different lounge than the park. The lounge was in front of the centre. There are three rooms in the centre; a Quiet Room for individual prayer, meditation and reflection, a Reading Room and a Meeting Room where you can drop in and talk to members of staff.

Just to the left of the Meditation Centre is a Medical Centre so if you have any injuries while you are in the airport I suggest you go along. I was sat very close to the centre and kept hearing the bell ring as I dozed off. The medical staff seemed very helpful and friendly.

On this floor also there is a picture exhibition informing visitors about the history of Schiphol and aviation in general which is interesting especially the old photographs of planes.

Just around the corner is an XD theatre that has special motion seats. I didn’t fancy this experience as I had had enough sensations for one day. Apparently, once your seat belt is fastened you feel the G forces of acceleration breaking and high speed turns. Not good for my hair and I’m not mad on 3D glasses either. Still, I am sure there are plenty of folks and kids who would love this experience.

My husband managed to sleep for hours in the airport park on both stays in the airport. On the return journey we decided we didn’t like the upper level lounge area near the meditation centre so went back to the park. I found it difficult to rest because of the announcements. I couldn’t believe how many passengers couldn’t get to the boarding gate in time and were threatened with their luggage being off loaded. It was very entertaining listening to the announcers as some couldn’t pronounce names properly yet others were brilliant and could probably speak about 10 languages. I loved listening to all the Latin names like Paulo Nascimento and Martinez LeBoeuf. It makes a welcome change for me not to hear too many Polish names which are unpronounceable.

So after 21 hours spent in Schiphol would I do it again? Oh, definitely especially if it meant getting a cheap flight to China. It’s a terrific airport – I could live there.

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