An Almost Christmas Vacation: Intro + Travel to Amsterdam

Part 1: Intro + Travel to Amsterdam
Part 2: Amsterdam
Part 3: Cologne
Part 4: The Rhine + Trier
Part 5: Luxembourg/Belgium
Part 6: Paris
Part 7: Return Home


The return to Europe; with the work entering a relatively slow period (hint: its not really that slow), I figured that now would be the best time for me to take a week-long vacation to recharge and relax.  I had not taken a full week since March 2011 when I went to Japan.  Sure, I managed to go to plenty of places since that time, but all were either weekends (short or long) or for my job.  I needed to get away for an extended period of time and since I had not been to Europe since 2009 (not counting two layovers in Amsterdam earlier this year), I figured I would head across the pond.

I wasn’t set with where I wanted to go exactly, as I was going to see where I could find availability on Delta for a low Business Class award in December.  I left my dates fairly flexible too and ultimately found an offering to Amsterdam and leaving from Paris that spanned just over a week.  I would be leaving on a Friday morning, which is something that I had been trying to avoid (in order to minimize paid leave), but with that being the only option, I jumped on it and starting making my plans.  Since I had never spent much time in Western Germany, I figured I would visit Cologne and then swing up through Luxembourg and Belgium – two countries that had eluded me in my three previous trips to Europe.  From there I would take a train to Paris the day before my flight and spend the night before catching the flight home.

Friday, December 7

The night before I had been distracted by some coworkers who lured me to Hofbrau in Pier Park, meaning I was up a bit later than I intended trying to finish my packing.  I was a little worried that I wouldn’t get up at 5AM to get ready and catch my flight, since that is precisely what happened in 2011 when I went to Japan.  Luckily I did get up and out the door (although a bit later than I wanted), but when flying out of Panama City, that doesn’t not present much of an issue.

Delta Air Lines Flight 2011
Panama City, FL- Atlanta, GA (ECP-ATL)
Aircraft: Dougas DC-9-50
Class: First | Seat: 2B

Delta Air Lines DC-9-50 In Panama City

The first flight of the day, was the standard ECP-ATL flight, this morning being on a Douglas DC-9-50, as what seems to be more and more common here (versus the MD-88, which used to be the primary mainline aircraft on this route).  I knew a few people from work on-board this morning, so once landing in Atlanta we all headed over to Concourse F to grab an early lunch; I however did not take advantage of the Sky Club, even though I could have got them in.  Not sure why I didn’t, but the Concourse was relatively quiet.

Delta Air Lines Flight 400
Atlanta, GA – Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN (ATL-MSP)
Aircraft: McDonnell-Douglas MD-88  
Class: First | Seat: 2B

Eventually we all headed back to Concourse A and we split off to catch our respective flights.  For me, I would be heading to Minneapolis-St. Paul, which thankfully is just beyond the 900 mile rule on Delta for a meal in First Class.  Today there was a choice between a Roast Beef Sandwich (one of my least favorite options on Delta) and a “Texas Salad with Chicken.”  I went with the salad; which consisted of lettuce, tomato, corn, a seasoned chicken breast, tortilla chips, and some sort of non-ranch salad dressing.  Overall, it wasn’t too bad, plus there was the usual desert.  The rest of the flight wasn’t anything special; I pretty much just kept myself entertained with the in flight wifi.

Delta Air Lines First Class Meal – Salad With Chicken Breast (ATL-MSP)

Arrival to MSP was on time and I headed straight for the F/G Sky Club to wait out for 45 minutes.  I made a few phone calls and did some last minute catch up on email before heading over to gate G8 where my flight had already begun to board.  Making my way to the front of the queue, I made my way down the jet bridge to the aircraft door and turned left into Business Class.

Delta Air Lines Flight 258
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN – Amsterdam Schipol (MSP-AMS)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Class: Business | Seat: 3C

I found my seat, 3C, and started getting out some of my gear and getting everything stowed away.  Once I got settled in, a flight attendant passed through the cabin offering Orange Juice, Beer and Champagne.  Although I rarely drink the stuff, it just felt more appropriate to go with Champagne for my pre-departure beverage.  It took a while for Coach to fill up, but we still managed to depart from the gate on time.  We had to go and get de-iced, and then sit in what felt like a long line for takeoff.  But we finally made it and the aircraft started to roll down the runway…or so I thought.  Less than 30 seconds after throttling up, the pilot slammed on the brakes and aborted our take off.

Delta Business Elite Seat 3C – Airbus A330-300

Pre-Departure Champagne

The announcements were vague, but once we returned to the gate we were all instructed to remain seated while the Police came on board.  We sat there for at least 20 minutes before an individual was removed from the aircraft.  Another 45 or more minutes passed until we could get back into the queue for de-icing.  That again added to the delay and by the time we took off we were over 2.5 hours behind schedule.  Instead of arriving in Amsterdam relatively early, I was going to be hitting the ground around the same time as many other flights.

Anyways, on with the flight, once in the air the flight attendants started working to get the service started.  This means going through the cabin and passing out the hot towels before serving the warm nuts and beverages.  You could tell that at first they were rushing a bit; the delay I’m sure had everyone a bit annoyed and if they were like me, a bit hungry (since I really only had that salad earlier in the day).  They had already taken our orders on the ground and I had selected the Seared Beef Tenderloin with bearnaise sauce, gremolata risotto and broccolini with garlic.  But before that could be served a first course of Curried Crab Salad and Cream of Vegetable Soup as well as a second course of a salad were presented.  The beef was ok; nothing to write home about, but it sure would beat the two options being served in Economy (based in my experience).

Dinner – First Course

Dinner – Second Course

Dinner – Main Course

Once I wrapped up with those items, the desert cart came down the aisle and I of course went with the Ice Cream Sundae….I mean how could you not?  I pretty much got everything on it minus the strawberry sauce, despite how much I like strawberries.

Ice Cream Sundae

Once dinner was finished, I changed into a t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts in an experiment to see if that would help me sleep better on the plane.  The seats on Delta’s A330s are not truly lie-flat, so sometimes you feel like you are falling out of the seat when you try to sleep.  I find sleeping on my side helps, but at the same time, when you have your day clothes on I find that they just get all in the way.  The good news is that my experiment worked and I slept for about the next 4 hours, which took us to about 1.5 hours outside of Amsterdam.

It was also just in time for breakfast, which today there was an option for Muesli or a Quiche with Sausage.  I always prefer a warm breakfast, so I went with the quiche.  I thought the eggs benedict I had in January were better, but hey – variety.

Soon enough we were on approach to Amsterdam; a look outside the window showed that snow had covered the ground.  The sun was rising, so I wasn’t going to be able to watch the sun rise from the KLM Crown Lounge for a third time this year, but that’s ok anyways because I almost didn’t make it in.

I’ll pick up from here in Part 2 – Amsterdam.

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