Personal Journeys


January 11, 2004|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Amsterdam soothes frustrated traveler

By Jeff Kendrick


The trip to Tanzania to meet a friend and start a safari was supposed to be easy -- long, but easy. I would fly out of Washington around dinnertime for Amsterdam, Netherlands. Then, after a short layover, continue on to Dar es Salaam.

But a dense fog rolled in, shrouding Amsterdam and preventing landings there. My flight was diverted to Brussels, Belgium, along with other planes bound for Amsterdam.

When would we be back in the air? What about connecting flights? The flight crew didn't have answers. Air traffic control couldn't offer much information, either. All we could do was wait and wonder, eating the sandwiches that flight attendants offered.

The wait seemed interminable, but the passengers remained patient, awaiting word that we would continue the flight. Finally, after nearly four hours, the pilot got on the intercom: The fog had lifted over Amsterdam. We would be on our way again.

The flight from Brussels to Amsterdam was a short hop, but the wait to reissue my ticket for the next day's flight was another test of patience and endurance.

After another four hours of waiting in a disorganized swarm of unhappy travelers, my ticket was reissued. I took a few minutes to rest my aching back and legs, and then I sent word to Tanzania that I would be arriving a day late.

That accomplished, the next question was, what to do for the evening? Sure, there were hotels near, and even inside, the airport, but the city was only 20 minutes away.

With a few hours of daylight left, how could I not venture into Amsterdam? I exchanged a few dollars for euros, bought a train ticket and boarded the train for Amsterdam Central Station. I found an inexpensive place to spend the night, grabbed a map and hit the streets.

I left my hotel about the same time that most people were leaving work. The careful coordination among pedestrians, bikers, trams and cars (far fewer than in most American cities) made the streets seem alive, yet less stressful than negotiating downtown U.S. streets. Most impressive was the number of people on bicycles. Balancing briefcases and groceries, the cyclists, not cars, ruled the roads.

As dusk fell, bicycles were set aside, and the cyclists became pedestrians. The conversations of people gathering for dinner, shopping or taking a leisurely stroll around this beautiful city filled the air with a pleasant sound.

Wandering through the crowded streets, the frustrations of the day became a distant memory. I relaxed, knowing I would get to my real destination the next day. I was eager to be on my way but pleased that I had added a few hours in a great European city to my itinerary.

Jeff Kendrick lives in Arbutus.

My Best Shot

Jennifer Armstrong, Glen Burnie

Shining example of Japanese architecture

On a recent excursion to Japan, my husband and I had the great fortune of visiting the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. This stunning structure is covered in layers of gold leaf and sealed with lacquer. It sits in the Kyoko-chi, which means "mirror pond." The Golden Pavilion represents the architectural beauty found throughout Japan, and its pristine location demonstrates the dedication the country shows in preserving its forests and traditional gardens.

Readers Recommend

Cruise from Baltimore

Bob Conkwright, Towson

My wife, Elle, and I just returned from a cruise from Dundalk to Quebec. What a pleasure not to have to fly to and from New York or some other port to go for a cruise. At Bar Harbor, Maine, the first port of call (above), we took a motor launch from the harbor to the pier and toured Acadia National Park, one of America's most scenic spots. On our way home, we stopped in Boston, where we saw Bunker Hill and historic Faneuil Hall. The cruise was a wonderful way to see America.

Turks and Caicos Islands

Dave Valente, Relay

I spent a week on the beach recently at Grace Bay in the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British Crown Colony just north of the Dominican Republic. In the off-season, the beach was almost deserted. I felt like I had my own private island. The 12-mile stretch of sandy coves along Grace Bay was perfect for a dedicated beach potato like myself.

Let Us Hear From You

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* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

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* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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