We left Seattle Tuesday at noon on a direct flight barely two-thirds full. It was heaven. Especially after sizing up our travel mates in the seats in front and behind us:
In the seat behind us. . . a toddler. A sick toddler. A sick, screaming toddler. A sick, screaming, inconsolable toddler. A sick, screaming, inconsolable toddler who was close to coughing up a lung everytime he shrieked and sobbed. I have nothing against sick, screaming, inconsolable toddlers -- I've traveled with a couple of my own back in the day -- but with visions of H1N1 sugarplums dancing in my head and directly into my immune system, I told Matt, "We're moving as soon as we're wheels up."
Tony's English was less than polished and he was completely, but cheerfully, flummoxed by the automatic ticket kiosks. He couldn't understand the directions, so he asked us for help. It was at this juncture we learned Tony faced an even greater ticket-buying challenge -- namely, the machines didn't take euros, just debit and credit cards. And, of course, Tony only had euros. Misery loves company -- my debit card didn't work on the Dutch machine, and my credit card pin number came across as gibberish. Thus, our fates became ultimately and irreparably intertwined: Tony, Matt and I needed to buy train tickets from a real person.
This is easier said than done at the Schipohl train station because, obviously, they'd like you to use the ticket machines. As a result, the ticket counter is cleverly hidden from most public view. But after spinning around like a weather vane several times (and a stop at a cleverly hidden information booth), we found the ticket counter, made our purchases and, with train tickets in hand and Tony chattering non-stop, clambered onto the train to Centraal Station. Tony was so excited he carried Matt's duffel.
Call me crazy, but I think European budget hotels rock, and the Citadel rock-star rocked: INCREDIBLE location, cozy breakfast room, great staff, great coffee, partial view of the 15th century spires of Nieuwe Kerk. Other amenities included a postage-stamp hotel room with thin walls, comfy beds and extremely eloquent plumbing. There were going to be no surprises as we -- and everybody else in the hotel -- took care of business in the bathroom.
And the lights. All the lights (including the bathroom) in our room were activated with our hotel room key card. Really. No key, no light. "The key controls all," Matt intoned, as we problem-solved this unique little feature.
But all in all, our room and the Hotel Citadel were quite satisfactory. And with a little freshening up, we were ready to take on Amsterdam.