Starting today we’ve stopped counting down. Because what do we need to count down to? The suitcases are packed already since yesterday. Miriam was in shock… Where she’d normally have to pack, remove and repack due to over packing, she now stayed well under weight. And that makes her worry… â€œDid I forget anything?â€ But I convinced her quickly (and that takes bravery on her part) that if we did forget something, they’ll surely sell it in the USA!
This morning she obviously, as every day lately, woke up way too early. And there is no chance of further sleep, as the travel jitters really got hold of her, fluttering around her stomach!
So it finally came, today our trip to America will truly begin.
The kids (and we ourselves obviously as well) are really excited about it and Geordi confirmed it again this morning in his own inimitable way by literally bouncing around the living room!
We understand though. He’s extremely excited and not just because we’re going on vacation. Today one of his big wishes comes true!
Geordi is plane crazy. Whenever we pass Amsterdam Airport (and that is every Saturday) he is always on the lookout to see whether any planes are landing or taking off. Preferably KLM airplanes. This because I regularly travel with KLM for business travel. And now, finally, today Geordi gets to be a passenger on a KLM bird (777)
Miriam and me decided – despite only leaving by plane at 2PM â€“ to go to Amsterdam Airport very early and take our time and leisure doing it. The idea stuck, so shortly after 8am the car was packed and we drew the door shut behind us.
We drove our own car to the airport. Unloaded our luggage at the departures terminal and then I drove on to Amstelveen, so I could park at the office. Just over half an hour later I rejoined my family, so that wasn’t too bad, time-wise!
We checked in online yesterday afternoon, so we only had to drop off our luggage. I travel a lot for work, which isn’t always fun, but does have it’s benefits. We didn’t have to join the long queue for the baggage drop-off. We got to do that at the Business Class counters. No queue, nothing, instant service. Despite having plenty of time today, that still is a bonus.
De stewardess at the counter labeled the suitcases and Geordi… checked whether she did it all correctly. *sigh* ;o)
Yesterday we found out that we didn’t have any more priority/airmail stickers or international stamps in house. So to be able to mail an envelope we quickly had to go to Jill&James in Arrivals 4. Here we could quickly mail this envelope before we left for our vacation!
A little further on there is a KLM shop. Just outside it is a real cockpit from a KLM plane. There you can have a picture taken of yourself as a real captain. Really something down Geordi’s alley! He was dressed up as a pilot and the shop assistant made a really nice picture of him. He was totally overwhelmed.
Miriam sometimes picks me up from the airport with the kids. If it is in any way possible she always takes them to the â€œPanorama Terraceâ€. A bit of airplane spotting. Today we went there with the four of us. All at a leisurely pace, we still have plenty of time!
It was very enjoyable, especially the kids. And the weather was great.
What was less enjoyable was that the zoom lens of our SLR camera stopped working. Miriam was pretty pissed! Luckily Simon, one of my colleagues and a real Nikon hobbyist, had a few useful tips. After passport control we would take a second look and take a bit more time to test the tips.
With a â€œbeat-the-queue cardâ€ (AKA SkyTeam Elite Plus Gold card) you rush through customs as well. We sat down to take a good look at the zoom lens and see what we could do about the malfunction. Miriam hoped we could fix it, because we’ll definitely use it a lot in the USA. Luckily, as per Simon’s suggestions, cleaning the contacts sufficed. Thanks for the tip Simon!
We shopped around a bit more in duty-free and then slowly headed for the KLM Crown Lounge. Another perk thanks to my frequent travel. ;o)
It wasn’t extremely busy in the lounge. We could relax a bit and have a free bite and drink. What else do you want?
What was a bit less pleasant was a guy a few seats down, who had fallen asleep and was sawing like a chainsaw. It was really loud. The kids (and Miriam too) had a good snicker on his expense.
Miriam was working on the blog on the laptop, well, Samantha’s netbook she’s borrowing for the vacation, so the time went really fast.
Time for some food. I went first with Samantha, but we quickly returned to let the other know that the gate was already open. So Miriam started packing some of the stuff while we went to get food… that way we can quickly depart for the gate after the food to go through security.
It definitely wasn’t busy, so our turn came quickly. The kids were through security before us! They security agents nicely asked us whether we agreed with the (obligatory) pad-down for the kids. Not a problem, obviously. Geordi though it was a hoot! The security agent told him he was going to tickle him. Well… according to Geordi it didn’t tickle at all. He shouldn’t have said that, because he got a good tickling in return! Another bout of laughs there.
After some 5 minutes boarding commenced and with the â€œbeat-the-queue cardâ€ we could board together with Business Class. Gotta love them perks.
About 2 PM we pushed back from the gate and around 2:15 we were airborne. We have pretty decent seats in the plane. We’re in the row behind Economy Comfort, which gives us some extra legroom. Only when the seats in front of us recline does it become a bit cramped (especially if you’re trying to type a blog).
The stewardesses in the plane aren’t the youngest, but extremely friendly. The kids have already charmed the attendant in our isle.
The entertainment systems in these 777’s have a lot of choices. Miriam watched, just like the kids, the movie â€œHow to tame your dragonâ€. She says it’s a great movie!
We didn’t think of ordering kids meals, but I do not think they really minded. We could chose between pasta (what else) and fish in sweet’n’sour sauce with rice. Miriam and I chose pasta, the kids opted for the fish. For an airplane meal it wasn’t half bad.
We’re really proud of Samantha and Geordi and how well they’re doing this again. It’s a big trip and especially a long sitting. But they’re either reading (we made sure to bring enough â€œliteratureâ€), playing on their NDSs or watching a movie on the heads-up screens. You’d hardly know they’re there!
The flight went very well and quiet. Sometimes we had a littel turbulence, but that could be discarded.
Around 4 PM we landed on JFK Airport. Great, we made it!
Because we were pretty much at the front, we could get out quickly and head for Immigrations! Well… we surely weren’t the only ones trying to get in to the USA, it was pretty busy.. But due to the way it was set up (with barriers and zig zagging queues) things went pretty well. It was a lot better anyway than having to figure out by yourself which queue to chose, or so we thought. But not Geordi… Geordi was tired and semi-collapsing. But a few pure sugar candies later he quickly recovered and chattered away. We almost reached the end of the long queue. One of the greeters clearly liked to have things go quickly. We were escorted to one of the booths for US citizens! A friendly Border and Immigrations officer quickly scanned and stamped our passports and… Welcome to the USA!
Our luggage was quickly gathered and nowe we could head for the exit and call the limo service! Our driver from Accord Limousines was already making circles and just when we came outside, he came up at the pickup area. The kids were, as we had expected, happily surprized!
Sam almost cannot wait to tell this to her friends and classmates. So cool to be driven to New York City in a limousine! And Geordi was also completely hyper because of it! This surprise was certainly a hit.
The driver didn’t talk much, but was very helpful and friendly. He quickly drove us to the hotel at 42nd street at Grand Central Terminal. We’re not completely satisfied but certainly not dissatisfied eitehr about Accord Limousines an have to admit that, after all unanimously positive reviews on the Internet, we expected more. The limo was not very new or in best repair, but did bring us quickly and comfortably to the center of New York. It was, especially for the kids, a unique experience by itself!
|*Grand Central Station, behind it our hotel, behind that the Crysler Building*
At the hotel the Bell Boy quickly and correctly got our luggage. Saves us a lot of dragging around.
At the check-in we were helped quickly and friendly. We got a room upgrade. Not a double bedroom, but an Executive King suite (with sofa bed for the kids). Unfortunately no view of the Chrysler building. But you obviously cannot win them all ;o)
Our room is on the 23rd floor and has a view of Grand Central Station, which isn’t too bad either. It isn’t super big, but we really hadn’t expected that either.
Of course we went in to New York City for a little bit. It was very warm outside and we felt a few raindrops here and there. The original intent was to go to the Rockefeller Centre (Top of the Rocks). But because they were expecting thunderstorms, and also since we’d seen there was a lot of haze over the city, we though it better to try our luck the next day.
None of us were very hungry, but we were very thirsty. So at the McDonalds Cafe we got some drinks which we drank outside on 42nd street.
Over 5th Avenue we walked to 46th Street, where the biggest Build-a-Bear Workshop in the world is located. Now the kids went super-hyper! Because if there is something they love, then it’s Build-a-Bear. Samantha was instantly smitten with a Miss Liberty outfit and Geordi was taken in by a New York Police Department uniform.
BABW had a very nice offer: any animal, any single outfit and any pair of shoes for a single (sharp) price.
Samantha chose a lovable puppy and Geordi a cheeky monkey. Of course they got to help stuff their new best-friend-forever. They loved it (again).
Samantha’s puppy is named Patch and Geordi though Tommy was the name for his monkey! And obviously dressed in a New York theme!
By now we noticed we were very tired, and it was past time to head back for the hotel. It had been a long day. We walked back through the Grand Central Terminal, which proved a very wise decision, as we noticed when we emerged on the other side that rain was falling from the sky in a deluge!
Once back in the hotel room we quickly went to bed. All four of us were very tired…