I set my alarm for 04:30 this morning, just in case the impossible happened. It didn’t. I was awake at 04:00 and ready to start My Big Adventure. It did occur to me that I should call it something else because we called our original trip to Sweden Our Big Adventure. Maybe Gaz Goes North.
Having pottered around the house for a couple of hours and checking far too many times that I had everything I needed, I set off for the station at 06:30. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to make the 07:30 train. As it turned out, it took me half an hour. Though it turned out to be a good thing because, according to an old chap on the train, there was a very long queue for the ticket machine.
The train was on time and I settled back into a bit of air conditioned bliss when we were given an announcement by the guard. For reasons not explained, the train from Farnham to Wimbledon was ‘running slow’. Of course, that meant I missed the train to Vauxhall by 5 seconds.
Now, there’s a reason I don’t like electronic tickets. On the train to Wimbledon, there was this guy whose phone wouldn’t connect and he had to explain to the train guard that he did have a ticket he just couldn’t see it. The guard was going to give him a paper ticket so he could use it at Waterloo.
I have a question: How come Wimbledon passengers don’t let people off the train first? A whole bunch of them just barged on as the train arrived, blocking the way for about ten people who wanted to get off. Later, on the Tube, at every stop, the driver yelled for people to let passengers off first. What is wrong with people? Is this what happens when you become a third world country?
Reaching St Pancras, the queue for Eurostar was so long, you could have walked to Paris by joining the end of it. I joined it, relieved I had a good buffer. A lovely woman, noticing my stick, told me to come back in 30 minutes and they’d fast track me. And that’s exactly what happened. I was whisked through. I felt bad for all the people queueing, particularly the ones who thought I was the head of the queue. But not for long. The Eurostar staff were marvellous. And extraordinarily patient.
Then there was the family who thought they were included with my Fast Track service. I’d been talking to the father and I think the Eurostar woman thought he was my carer. Kind of like what happened with Weasel John in Naples. Unlike Weasel John in Naples however, the father and his family were told to queue with everyone else.
As it turned out, the train was delayed by about 20 minutes and there were some worried people fretting about not making their later connections. One couple was heading for Marseilles. There’s a TGV train direct from Lille. We reached Lille with plenty of time for them to make their connection.
Another couple, standing near me, were convinced their connecting train would wait for them. This was based on nothing at all. I was so glad I’m stopping in Amsterdam overnight rather than hopping on a second train straight away.
I’m also glad I’m leaving the heatwave behind. There’s warnings everywhere about how hot it’s going to get in the south of England. Death, riots, destruction, complete anarchy. I don’t mind missing that stuff.
In the end, the trip was pretty much on time. Somehow the driver made up the difference and we pulled into Amsterdam Central about five minutes late.
And Amsterdam was ridiculously full of people. It was a Sunday after all. Amazing crowds wandering, enjoying life, amazing. I took a while to find my hotel but, eventually, I dropped my bags off and hit the mean streets of dope infused Amsterdam.
The last time I was here was back in the 1990’s and I remember it differently. Of course, back then I was a mere slip of a traveller and didn’t suck everything in. This time, I was much more mature. I wandered around looking for bitterballen.
I’d never heard of bitterballen before a few weeks ago when Sabrina Gayhour posted a photo of some on her Instagram page. They looked excellent. I seriously had to try them. And try them I did. I sat at an outside table at a place that boasted real Dutch food (as opposed to the many places that advertise that they sell full English breakfasts).
They were brilliant. Like croquettes but better. Mirinda would love them.
Having wandered around a bit of Amsterdam and had a few drinks (and the bitterballen) I decided it was time to head for my hotel for an early night before tomorrow’s journey to Copenhagen.