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Amsterdam Weekend Feb 2016 - My first go at a trip report

Amsterdam Weekend Feb 2016 - My first go at a trip report

Old May 15, 16, 2:15 pm
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Amsterdam Weekend Feb 2016 - My first go at a trip report

This is my first go at a "proper" trip report on FT. I realise I've got a lot to learn about doing this, so please bear with me!

Anyway, I managed to use the Alitalia status match promotion to get top status in their MilleMiglia programme, based on my BA Gold status. That means Im now SkyTeam Elite until the end of March 2017, so I immediately started thinking about how I could use it for a quick weekend away. The logical place to go on SkyTeam from Glasgow is Amsterdam, so I was quickly on to the KLM website to see about booking a return for a quick weekend away. I found the flights I wanted for the last weekend in February and tried to book on the KLM site unfortunately, however, it wouldnt accept details of my Alitalia card and I ended up booking on the Air France site instead. I later worked out that the problem was that I needed to add a couple of zeros to the front of the number actually printed on the card thanks Alitalia for being so user (un)friendly.

It was to be out on the first flight to Amsterdam early on Saturday morning and back on the last one on Sunday night meaning a very early start on the Saturday. I booked a room to stay at the Holiday Inn next to Glasgow Airport so that I could get up and walk for five minutes across to the terminal in order to be there in time for the 6.05am flight. Straight through security (Priority, thanks to my SkyTeam Elite Plus status) and to the refurbished airport operated lounge.
I presented my phone with my KLM boarding pass along with my Alitalia card to the woman behind the desk who proceeded to tell me that I couldnt come in as Alitalia dont fly from Glasgow. That misunderstanding out of the way I went in to the lounge and grabbed some water. I hadnt been here for a number of years and certainly not since it was refurbished, so it was a pleasant improvement over the old version. There was a reasonable selection of food and drinks and incredibly even at about 5.15am there were people ordering alcoholic drinks from the bar

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The Upperdeck Lounge at GLA (it used to be called the Skylounge)

As someone who flies on British Airways and oneworld airlines almost exclusively (with the occasional easyJet and FlyBe flight thrown in), it felt a bit strange to be getting on to a KLM plane. Still, the flight time from GLA to AMS is only just over an hour (pretty much the same as going down to London) so it wasnt too bad even though I was in economy. The flight was, after all, at 6.05am so I just sat down and fell asleep. My friend had the snack on offer available to view below.

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The flight was over quickly and we jumped on the train into Amsterdam Centraal. Not my first time in the city by any means, but for some reason its been about five years since I was last here. A quick hop on the metro (using my newly acquired Chipkaart a new innovation since I was last here) and I was down near my destination the Intercontinental Amstel.

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The Amstel

I am a Spire Elite Ambassador with IHG Rewards (sadly not a Royal Ambassador anymore..) and find that the Amstel and the IC Grand in Paris are some of the best uses for points, given how much the hotels usually cost.

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On arriving at the Amstel I was greeted by several receptionists - the place seemed very quiet, but thats not entirely unusual.

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The lobby in the Amstel

The hotel is physically large but relatively small by number of rooms - something that is exacerbated by the larger than normal number of suites. I had booked a the most basic room but was upgraded to a City View Executive Suite. A really beautiful room, with a corner/street view - Ive had a bigger suite before and Ive had a river view before (the hotel is right on the banks of the Amstel) - but given I was using points to pay I cant really complain.

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My Ambassador welcome gift in our suite

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The seating area in the suite

After a short nap (which was more than justified due to the very early start) we headed out for a bite of lunch. I always like to use public transport wherever possible when Im travelling, and the Amstel is relatively well connected. Theres a Metro station about 2/3 minutes walk away and a tram stop adjacent to it. A quick hop on the tram over to [Spuistraat] for lunch at Brasserie Luden on Spuistraat. Every time Im in Amsterdam I seem to end up having something to eat at Luden. Over the years it hasnt changed inside much, but the menu has become less Dutch and more international.

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Our lunch at Luden - I know, other than the croquettes we could be anywhere!

After lunch and a bit of a wander round, we headed back to the Amstel (having picked up a bottle of wine on the way - cheap or what) and to the pool. The health club at the Amstel isnt huge, but it is a pleasant place to spend a couple of hours (or more) reading, dozing or (heaven forfend) being healthy. There is a small pool, a small gym and a nice spa area (which has recently been done up). The best thing about the space in my opinion, though, is that it opens straight out onto the river bank. That means that in summertime when the doors are open you can sunbathe next to the water - and on a cold February weekend you can watch the boats sail past on the Amstel whilst you relax in the jacuzzi.

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The pool area also offers complimentary coffee, tea, juices and water for you to enjoy whilst you are relaxing - and you can order whatever you like from the bar menu.

In true total relaxation mode we decided we didnt want another big meal, or indeed to leave the building (and our suite). To try and feel less lazy we did nip down to the A Bar off the lobby for a couple of swift G&Ts - theyve got a great selection. One of the things Ive always noticed is how quiet the Amstels public areas are (outside of the Michelin-starred restaurant, La Rive, which Ive been to previously - it has similar views out onto the river as the Health Club and the food is great with a particularly good (and generous) wine pairing for the tasting menu).

The A Bar was no exception - we had it to ourselves for a while and then a few other folk turned up. Gin time over, we retired to our suite and ordered room service (and drank the bottle of wine purchased earlier) and chilled for a while before turning in.

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The A Bar - Gins and Snacks

Breakfast wasnt included in my redemption rate. I wasnt bothered about that because (a) I dont really like much at breakfast (unless its a proper fry up); and (b) the hotel had already lived up to expectations by upgrading me to the suite.

So that we didnt starve we nipped across the road to the local cafe - Bar Lempicka - and had some coffee and croissants. As the weekend was all about relaxation, we had a quick walk and then went back to the Health Club for some more arduous relaxation.

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We had booked an early dinner (at 4.30pm) and didnt feel like a big lunch right beforehand, so sated our appetites with some delicious croquettes by the poolside.

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We went back to the suite around 3.30pm (having taken advantage of the 4pm checkout offered to Ambassadors) and got freshened up. Another quick pre-prandial G&T in the A Bar followed, before taking our table in the Amstel Brasserie (again, downstairs with views onto the Amstel River) for the newly instituted Amstel Sunday Roast.

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Sunday Roast in the Amstel Brasserie

Billed as a Dutch interpretation of a British Sunday lunch, it was three courses (soup, roast and desert) for 45 per head. It was really good, though the meat was served with a herby salad and non-roasted veg - and I wont even discuss the Yorkshire Puddings. Suffice to say theyd have been better getting hold of a bag of Aunt Bessies finest

The Brasserie remained quiet throughout - only one other customer - but we didnt feel uncomfortable. Upstairs was by that stage heaving with people having afternoon tea, but still the hotel felt quiet and calm.

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Changing from Metro to Train at Duivendrecht - easy when you know how!

And then it was time to leave. We decided (using our highly developed knowledge of the Dutch capital and its transport system - cough!) that rather than taking the metro to Amsterdam Centraal to get the train to the airport that we would be quicker going the opposite direction and changing on to the airport train at Duivendrecht. To be honest it all worked out fine, though were caught out slightly by the Chipkaart system.

To move from the GVB (Metro/Tram/Bus) network onto the NS (Dutch Railways) network with your Chipkaart, you need to tap out on a GVB reader and tap in on an NS reader. What I now know is that you cant tap in to NS unless you have a certain level of credit on your card (reflective of the fact that you can use it to travel all across the Netherlands). A helpful chap eventually explained that to me and we ran to a ticket machine to top up our cards, missing an airport train in the process. Being Amsterdam, though, there is always another train to Schipol on the way so we only ended up losing 10 or so minutes.

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The KLM Crown Lounge (Non-Schengen) at Schipol

On arrival at Schipol we headed straight to the SkyPriority security queue and were through airside quickly. Flying to the UK from Schipol means youre going from a Schengen country to a non-Schengen one. (For non-European readers the Schengen area is a group of countries - not all of them EU members - who have no borders and consequently no passport controls between them. The UK and the Republic of Ireland are not members (amongst others) so you need to show your passport to travel between them, although British Citizens travelling into the Republic of Ireland and vice versa have special rights to do so without having to have a passport).

As someone whos normally a BA flyer (including from AMS) I automatically went to the Schengen border and used one of the eGates to move across into the non-Schengen section of the airport before making my way to the KLM Crown Lounge there. What I didnt realise is that the non-Schengen KLM lounge is miles from the passport checkpoint - a good 10/15 minutes walk. On a subsequent trip through (coming back from Warsaw - watch this space!) I went straight into the KLM lounge in the Schengen zone and learned from a friendly agent there that it is generally better for UK flights to stay in there and only go through passport control at the last minute when you go to your gate as the UK flights are much closer than to the other lounge. Lesson learned.

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KLM "treats"

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Bar area

The KLM lounges (having been in both now) are massive and nowhere near as good as the BA lounges at LHR. There was a very limited food offering - not much better than what is available in Galleries Club (if at all). Mainly biscuits, peanuts and cubes of cheese. It was fine for spending a short while waiting for a flight, but didnt feel particularly premium to me. I cant complain, though, given I was only in there due to a status match. It didnt make me suddenly want to move all my business from oneworld to SkyTeam though - especially since there is no obvious equivalent to Galleries First at Heathrow.

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Time soon passed and we walked the long walk back to our gate. Again Id managed to reserve economy seats on either side of the aisle (so neither of us had to endure a middle seat) and the flight went quickly. I know that people complain all the time about the new high density seating on BAs A319/320/321 fleet - and I know that more often than not Im in Seat1C (TM) - but I noticed what I pretty much always notice when flying on a 737 in a six across layout, and thats how little room there is. I suppose it must be a function of the narrower fuselage than you get on Airbus planes. Elbow room certainly was at a premium but was fine for a flight time of just over an hour.

And finally:

We had a great weekend - simple and relaxing. Flying on KLM was fun, as its not something I do regularly - and its also a trip I probably wouldnt have made without the Alitalia status match. (Id have gone on easyJet or BA). Ive already used the status again on a weekend away to Warsaw and I really have to say I like the convenience of being able to go via Amsterdam. From Glasgow you can generally get to a destination fairly early in the morning (albeit with a 6am takeoff) and then a late afternoon flight back via Amsterdam, letting you make the most of your time at your destination. I dont think the planes are as comfortable, or the lounges as good, as with BA but thats not to say theyre bad.

Anyway, this is my first attempt at a trip report. I know its not up to the standards of SFO777 or Jermyn, but I can only get better!
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seat1C is offline  
Old May 15, 16, 3:09 pm
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Good old Amstel:-). Know this type of suite well, perhaps even stayed in yours.
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Old May 15, 16, 7:13 pm
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Originally Posted by seat1C
Anyway, this is my first attempt at a trip report. I know it’s not up to the standards of SFO777 or Jermyn, but I can only get better!
Hey I enjoyed it and thought it was pretty good, and far better than my first TR!

I have yet to make it to Amsterdam. It's perpetually on the list though.
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Old May 16, 16, 7:50 am
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Great TR. Thanks for sharing
DL17 is offline  
Old May 19, 16, 8:03 am
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Thoroughly enjoyed the TR with good expressive writing and lots of lovely photos, very good first attempt.^
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Old May 25, 16, 12:19 pm
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Thanks to all who've read the report and especially to those who've made such positive comments. On a trip just now over to the States and on BA1 tomorrow (having snagged Sequence No 1!) and will try and report soon....
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Old May 26, 16, 12:27 am
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Nice TR! Congrats on the status match. BA1 with Seq 1? Nice! F or J?
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Old May 26, 16, 5:57 am
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Looks like it was a great weekend away to Amsterdam. Some very tasty food too.
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