Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Holiday Snaps
I went from this, the view from my office window in Apeldoorn:

to this, the view from my sunlounger in Cyprus:The change was much needed, I can tell you, after a year of almost continuous winter! In Cyprus, it has been 25 degrees each day, they are having a very warm winter, in contrast to the rest of Europe.

I was very lucky with my flight, since I flew on Wednesday, the one day last week when there were no airport closures or delays. I had worried that the flight would be full of people who had been delayed, but it wasn't, and there were no queues anywhere at the airport. There was even a taxi waiting for me at Larnaca, as promised, and I arrived in Limassol exactly when I expected.

This hotel, the Four Seasons, is I think the best one I have stayed at in Cyprus. All the bathrooms have a large jacuzzi bath, and the toiletries are by Etro. There are three excellent restaurants, apart from the buffet one where they serve breakfast - one is Italian, one Asian and one is Mavrommatis, the famous Greek restaurant in Paris, who have this one here as well. I had my Christmas Eve dinner in there, as well as dinner on two other nights, and I just love it.

During the day, I have been swimming in the indoor pool, as that is heated, but then going out to the sunloungers and lying there, to get some vitamin D, which has been sadly lacking for the past months. There have not been too many people around for the past week, although there seems to have been an influx today of the British, I suppose it means their airports are open again. Most of the people here seem to have been Greek, in fact, and I had boxing day buffer lunch with what was obviously the creme de la creme of the Limassol rich, judging by the handbags and jewellery. I just made sure my new Lancel Mademoiselle Adjani bag was also on display!

I have also had a course of facials, also sorely needed, as I was looking about a hundred years old, with the lack of light and the horrible harsh weather. Now I look and feel brighter, and I have some good protective creams and serums to counteract the cold in the Netherlands.

Tomorrow is the return home, and I am almost wishing for a snow storm in Paris, so that I could be delayed here for a few days, but I do also have a lot to do in Paris, as I've been home so rarely this year. Not anything special for New Year, since I'm by myself as usual, but a lot of practical things. I started making my list for the 15 new starts challenge, but did not get very far, so that is very high on the list of things to do. I found a shop in the Netherlands (the one in Velp) that stocks Needlepoint Silks, so I may put a few things that need those on my list.

Now I am off to swim again...... I hope everyone else has been having as good a holiday, I think we all deserve it!

posted by Ally at 10:04 am ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Home At Last!
On Friday, I began my journey from Apeldoorn to Paris at 11am and got home after 11pm - I was lucky to get here at all! I managed to get the bus to the station and the train to Schiphol with no incident, and it was at Schiphol that the fun began.

I had a fairly substantial lunch, which turned out to be very wise, and then I went to the Thalys lounge to ask if the trains were running OK - as there were no signs at all about trains and there were huge queues at the booking office and information desks. The woman behind the desk in the lounge told me that the last train to Paris had been delayed 15 minutes, which I later realised cannot possibly have been true. So I went down to the platform and waited there - there were only a few trains coming and going, and half an hour after my train was scheduled to depart, they told us it would not be running. Then somewhat later, they told us the next train would not be running. At that point, all trains back to Apeldoorn were cancelled as well, so I decided to get on the next train going south, because there would almost certainly be no hotel rooms that I could get to at Schiphol. That also proved to be a wise decision.

After some time I managed to get on a train to Rotterdam, although I had to stand all the way amongst hundreds of people. Once arrived at Rotterdam, I saw a Thalys there, and it said "Bruxelles - Paris", so I decided to go to the Thalys platform and wait there for a while in case it really was going to depart. About half an hour later, that train drew up to the platform, and then the real fun began. Hundreds of people waited outside that train for nearly two hours until they finally opened the train doors and let us in! No information about whether it was going to depart or not, but there was a driver - in his nice warm cabin, and he said he was expecting to depart at 7pm, so we all waited. We were finally allowed to get in at 7:30pm, and miraculously I got a seat. There was no food or drink, but they managed to get some drinks carts at Brussels, and at least I could have some water and a glass of wine. We finally pulled into Paris at nearly 11pm.

I had ordered a taxi to be waiting, which was the third wise thing I did, because I actually got one. When I walked up to the taxi desk, there were lots of people there screaming, so I was a bit worried, but a driver took one look at me brandishing my Thalys taxi slip and said "this way, Madam". He was parked right out the front, which was great, and I was home not long after 11pm. Funny thing was, it only cost 20 euros for the taxi, and normally one pays a lot extra as a booking fee for the Thalys taxis. I almost think he wasn't really one, just a driver who happened to be there and wanted a fare that was not screaming.

Yesterday I went out to the Post Office and the supermarket, but apart from that I haven't been out of the house since. My knees were killing me yesterday, although they are a lot better today, but it's also been snowing heavily, and now it is horribly windy. I slept a lot yesterday, but had to finish off some work today, so that I can have a clear conscience for the holidays.

At least I got home without major incident, others have not been so lucky, my Italian colleague Giulia has been stranded at Schiphol for two days, she has only got home a few hours ago. Apparently, Schiphol airport ordered everyone to leave the premises if their planes were cancelled, and they were in fact ejected outside by the police, straight into the snow. No trains anywhere, no hotel rooms, no help of any sort, including our work travel agent who was totally unobtainable. Fortunately she had the number of a colleague who lives near Amsterdam and he was able to help her get to his place, along with some other colleagues who were stranded there, and that's where they spent the last two nights. The police barred entry to the airport in the morning yesterday and today, as well. I can't help contrasting this with the pictures I see on the television of people sleeping at CDG with blankets provided by the airport and being given hot drinks and water - I don't understand how Schiphol can just drive people out into the snow! It's a nasty start to the Christmas holidays, and could be life-threatening as well.

Now I am keeping my fingers crossed for my Wednesday flight to Cyprus, let's hope there is no more snow and the backlog gets cleared up. Now it has stopped snowing, but there is a horrible wind blowing, so much that I have closed all the windows, which I normally have open a crack. I just hope tomorrow is not too bad, as I have to go out to work and clear up a whole lot of admin things.
posted by Ally at 8:14 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Monday, December 06, 2010
Snowing Again
Since I have taken no embroidery, knitting or interesting touristic photos, here is one of a window display in Utrecht - for an opticians shop!

I was in Utrecht a couple of weekends ago, as all the hotels in Apeldoorn were full, but I had to stay in the Netherlands. I couldn't find any embroidery shops there, but there is a yarn shop called Modilaine that quite impressed me.

I am in Apeldoorn at the moment, for another two weeks before Christmas holidays, which can't come soon enough. One good thing is that I have moved from the hotel to an apartment in the centre of town, so it is quicker to get to work - although difficult at present, as it has been snowing, but now it had turned to ice, and they don't clean the footpaths here, only the roads and the bicycle paths. I fell over on the ice the other day, but fortunately it was on the main street, just outside the supermarket, so there were plenty of people to pick me up. I have totally technicolour bruises all down one leg, and it did hurt badly for a day or so. I wouldn't want to fall again, especially if it were on a side street where there is no-one around.

On Friday I went to Paris for the weekend, which was quite a journey, as the Thalys was delayed by an hour and a half by the time we eventually got to Paris. It was so late when we got to Bruxelles that all the people who had tickets for the next train were waiting and they boarded ours and proceeded simply to sit anywhere, including the floor - the carriage was totally packed, so they could not serve any drinks (there was no food, they told us that, it was also a casualty of the snow) nor could I order a taxi to meet me in Paris, as they could not get down the aisles with the taxi vouchers. Happily I had no luggage this time, so I just got on the metro. The Gare du Nord was a total nightmare, in fact, because it seemed there were also Eurostar problems, and the station was packed with people who couldn't depart.

Coming back yesterday was fine until I got to Schiphol, only to find there were no trains to Apeldoorn and I would have to go to Utrecht and change.... had I known that, I would have got off at Rotterdam and caught a direct train from there. So I arrive at Apeldoorn five minutes after the bus has gone and wait in the bus station for 25 minutes to get the next one - I had a suitcase - and then, when we get to my street, the bus driver refuses to drive down it because it is too slippery! This is in the middle of town, mind you, it is no country lane, but I had to get out and walk down it with my suitcase. It was slippery, too, I can vouch for that. At the bus stop outside my apartment, there were people waiting, so I told them what the bus driver had said, and they all set off for the end of the street. The Dutch are very stoic, I think, they didn't scream at all, which French people would have.

In between these journeys I did spend a little time in Paris, where it also snowed quite hard on Saturday, which is very unusual so early in December. I was out and about, as I needed some new shoes more suitable for Apeldoorn conditions, some gloves and some other things, but at least it is easier to get around in Paris, and no ice!

I don't know what I'm going to do about shopping this week, if the ice does not melt somewhat along my street - one thing is sure, on Saturday when I can go out during the day, I am buying reserves of food and drink in case I cannot get out of the place during the week. But I'd like to go further afield and explore some of the other towns around, rather than just be stuck inside. Happily the flat I have rented is quite nice, in fact, very nice, and it has everything, so there could be worse places to be stuck inside. I have to say, I do miss living upstairs from a shopping centre, as I did in Tallinn, I can't remember how many times I walked round and round there when it was too grim to go out.

Roll on 17th December, when I take the Thalys home for Christmas, and 22nd December, when I fly to Cyprus!
posted by Ally at 2:27 pm ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments