Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bristol, England: Arriving in Bristol, England (BRS)

16FEB08 Bristol International, Bristol England (BRS)

After landing, we taxied back to the jetway-less terminal and waited as we were a few minutes early and there was no one to receive us. After a few minutes, we were able to disembark.

It was freezing outside as we descended the stairs and onto the tarmac. We walked for a short distance and then went into a covered walkway which was even colder than outside. One passenger walking near to me was complaining how cold it was as he was in shorts!

We continued walking through this long tunnel with translucent panes along its sides which only allowed light to come through, but you could not see out. Then we walked across a crosswalk and down into the Immigration area.

In a few minutes, I cleared Immigration and made my way to Customs and headed out side. They are actually expanding the Arrivals area and it should be completed by this Summer, so the current area is a little make shift. To kill time, I walked over to the Departure area and looked around.

Bristol, England: Amsterdam to Bristol

KL1055 16FEB08 Amsterdam Schipol International, Amsterdam Netherlands (AMS) to Bristol International, Bristol England (BRS) F70 4:30p 4:45p PH-KZC operated by KLM City Hopper

Flying Time: 0:55

We exited the bus after a very short delay and then boarded the Fokker 70 by its own stairs; it was pretty cold outside as well. I greeted the flight attendant at the door and also showed her my boarding pass. She welcomed me on board and ushered me forward. There is a small Business Class of three rows on this flight with a 2-3 configuration and cloth seats. This configuration continued into Economy class.

I made my way back to my window seat and after finding ample space in the overhead bin for my bag moved into my window seat after asking the couple at the middle and aisle to allow me through.

More passengers boarded and got settled in as we waited. At 4:30p, the door closed; two minutes later, the engines started. The manual safety demo by the lone flight attendant commenced (one flight attendant was making the announcements in both English and Dutch).

After a long taxi to the far runway, we were airborne at 4:42p.

We were served complimentary drinks of choice (including alcohol) plus a chocolate cookie and a packet smoked almonds. Later, they gave a pack of potato chips to the guy next to me as they had extras from first class.

When we had about 30 minutes remaining, the Captain came on the PA and said that we were at 28,000’ the local temperature at Bristol was 3F and clear skies.

The view from the left was apparently better as the pilot said that Westminster and London Eye could be seen as we flew directly over Central London.

Soon after, we started our descent and landed in Bristol at 4:38p.

Bristol, England: Leaving Amsterdam Schipol

Amsterdam Schipol

I left the Lounge and headed for gate D6. It was strange how empty the airport was at this time, eerie really…

As I went through security, my water was taken away; I asked to drink it and I was told that I had to go back through security and drink it; odd I thought, so I did not bother at all; I mean, it is a sealed bottle of water that just came off a flight. It is amazing how many bottles of water we toss on a daily basis worldwide in the name of airport security. In the same time, people worldwide are dying of hunger/thirst or don’t have proper running water. How is this right?

I continued on and gave my boarding pass to the agent who told me to come back in a bit.

Boarding started at 4p for all passengers and was by bus. At about 4:10p, I got a middle seat in the rear which was changed to a window seat.

I immediately boarded the bus. We waited for a bit and picked up another twenty or so passengers. People were just running late it seems. We left at 4:20p and headed for the plane. It was quite a drive back there, but we arrived in about 5 minutes.

Bristol, England: Arriving in Amsterdam Schipol

17FEB08 Amsterdam Schipol International, Amsterdam Netherlands (AMS)

As we made our way to the gate, I saw several planes; Transavia's new fleet of Boeing 737-700s with winglets looked impressive, as did a Lufthansa Regional CRJ700 and a KLM Fokker100, Finnair and TAP's A319s and Alitalia MD80 and a plethora of others. Here are a few of them:

I deplaned once at the gate and headed for the Continental counter as I had a question for them. This guy came up and said he had a flight that was leaving right away and they were late, I let him go ahead although he was not telling the truth as he had two hours to his flight.

I got my question answered and headed for the KLM Transfer desk. On my way over there I saw a Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 with winglets; it looked quite new.

I got to the desk and got a standby boarding card, then headed for the KLM Crown Lounge. #41 was full and directed me to #52 which was full, but still had some room.

I showed my credentials and entered leaving my ticket as I needed to borrow a power plug. The Lounge has a fantastic view of the tarmac, so you can see all the planes at the gates, taxiing and landing and taking off as well.

I had some refreshments while I await the flight. I had thought of going into the city, but I have a few things I have to do online, so I will just hang out here.

Bristol, England: Houston to Amsterdam

CO46 15FEB08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to Amsterdam Schipol International, Amsterdam Netherlands (AMS) 764 7:05a 11:40a +1 Day N??059

Flight Time: 8:54

I boarded and showed my boarding pass to the greeting flight attendant. There was a passenger at the door and I joked that he should be checking my boarding pass and he laughed. I think he was waiting for his Duty Free.

I settled into my aisle seat as the guy on the other aisle settled in as well in this cabin of 2-3-2 configured cloth seats. Each seat has an individual seat back video unit and in addition, there were overhead monitors throughout the cabin. I was fortunate that my row had power outlets, but I had not brought my Empower adapter that was required to use the outlet :-(. On this plane power outlets in Economy class up to row 23.

I got on the phone to chat with a friend as I waited and was interrupted by the gate agent with a boarding pass for BusinessFirst, he may not have been happy with me as I did not sit in the bulkhead row as he had suggested, but he did not show it; I hastily said goodbye and switched cabins. The BusinessFirst cabin has a 2-1-2 configuration using cloth seats with a individual monitors in each seat plus a power plug which requires an adapter. In addition, the seats are wider and has a generous recline. You can find more details here. I was lucky to score an aisle on the left side.

I said hello to my female seat mate and settled in. As I did so, a flight attendant asked if he could hang my jacket and then a menu and an amenity kit was presented. The door was closing as I did so, so I was unable to call by my friend on the phone.

The lead flight attendant then came by and asked for my order; I chose the Tilapia and lobster with shellfish sauce, presented over steamed jasmine rice, with grilled cherry tomato and green asparagus spears plus a Mesclun salad mix and romaine lettuce with roasted yellow tomato, cherry tomato, red onion and fresh mozzarella cheese with some creamy Thousand Island dressing; the other dressing was La Flora Italian herb vinaigrette.

My other choices were:

Grilled Sterling Silver tenderloin steak with chimichurri sauce,
grilled carrots, mushrooms, red bell pepper, broccoli florets
and spicy rice with corn, jalapeƱo peppers, sour cream
and cheese

herbed breast of Chicken

With creamy mushroom sauce, grilled yellow squash, zucchini, red bell pepper and sweet plantains

Pasta Bowl

Whole-wheat tortelloni with marinara sauce, eggplant
and bean confit, fresh mozzarella cheese and freshly grated Parmesan cheese

The safety demo started in English and the pushback started a minute later at 7:01p. We had quite the taxi out and I actually fell asleep and awoke for the takeoff roll. It was a bumpy climb out as we navigated the rain clouds around the area.

As the climb continued, the lead flight attendant came on the PA with an announcement welcoming everyone on board and talking about the plane and the service to expect, he said that there are no lavs in the back of the plane (this is always helpful as this is one the rare airplanes configured with no rear lavs), 3 EUR or 5 USD for alcoholic drinks, beverages and headsets were complimentary, Duty free is for sale with prices in USD, cash, credit card and foreign currency is accepted for payment. In addition, there was also a SkyMall announcement made saying that there is a special discount if you buy with 48 hours of your flight. He continued that at 1.5 hours before touchdown there will be a breakfast service; and that an early arrival was expected at 11:20a. The announcement was only made in English.

Next, hot towels were handed out, which was a refreshing addition.

At 7:48p the captain came on the PA and said that we were at 33,000’ our initial cruising altitude; he apologized for the bumps we had on climb out and said that in 5-10 minutes the ride should improve. He talked about our route of flight adding that we would be leaving land at Gander, New Foundland and then making landfall on the other side of the Atlantic at the western shore of Ireland, then head just north of Manchester, England and then across into Amsterdam. We would cover 4,400 nautical miles at the end of the trip and the 100mph tailwind would aid our arrival at 11:15a on the ground with a 10-15 minutes taxi to the gate. Sit back relax and enjoy the flight he says; the 10-15 minute taxi meant that we would be landing on that very far runway I thought.

The hot towels were cleared followed by the lead flight attendant preparing out tray tables with a pink table cloth; the movies started at 7:53p. On tap today were:

  1. Michael Clayton/FutureCar: The Body
  2. Good Luck Chuck/The Phil Silvers Show
  3. We Own the Night/Get Fresh with Sarah Snow
  4. The Drama Channel
  5. Continental Presents HBO: Big Love, Da Ali G Show, Deadwood
  6. Things We Lost in the Fire/Cover Shot
  7. Kiss Me Kat/Lifestyle 365
  8. Continental Presents Independent Films: Paradise, Texas
  9. Continental Presents Hous
  10. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium/Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
  11. Continental Family Channel 1:Sesam Street Presents: Follow That Bird/The Road Runner Show, Tweety’s Circus, Baby Looney Tunes
  12. King of California/Ojo Criticio
  13. Bee Movie/Tom and Jerry Tales
  14. Continental Presents CSI
  15. Comedy Programming: The New Adventure of Old Christine, Malcolm in the Middle, Everybody Hates Chris, Everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens, Shaun the Sheep
  16. The Entertainment Channel
  17. Airshow

I chose “We Own the Night.”

We were then offered a beverage of choice and a small bowl of cashew nuts; I had two choices of white wine; French Chardonnay or a Chilean Chardonnay in terms of beer, they had (Heineken, Foster, Miller Lite and Miller Genuine draft)

The flight attendant came by again and dressed up my table with cutlery and a napkin, a bread plate, butter, salt and pepper some water and offered for me to try the 2005 French Chardonnay; the 2004 Chilean wine is so much better than that French J.

Finally, the seatbelt signs were turned off at 8:18p; bread followed with choices of whole grain, sesame, white and garlic; I opted to try the garlic.

The appetizers of a demitasse of morel mushroom soup accompanied by a grilled rosemary shrimp skewer and beef empanada, with Amazon sauce came next which were awesome!

Then the salad, followed by the main course at about 8:45p.

The plates were then cleared, the fruit, cheese and crackers followed.

A bottle of water was given to me and then followed up with vanilla ice cream plus strawberry topping and cherries. I also had the choice of hot fudge, caramel and nuts, plus whipped cream.

After eating all this, I brushed my teeth and went to sleep after tuning the entertainment system to the Latin music audio channel, we were just over Portland, Maine at the time. When I awoke later, i was just off the coast of Ireland with about 1:52 to go. I got up and went to the lavatory and then came back to my "bed."

I went back to sleep and missed the hot towel that was handed out at 1:24 to go, before the start of the breakfast service. Juices were offered, then a table cloth was placed on my chair table. Next, I got a tray, with a yogurt, utensils and a napkin, plus salt and pepper, butter and a fruit bowl (cantaloupe, grapes, strawberry and pineapple).

Next came a cart with offerings of croissants, cinnamon rolls or hard roll with jam plus coffee, tea and more water. I had some croissant with jam and some tea with lemon.

I then had a choice of cereal and a banana or scrambled eggs with herbs with potato gratin, grilled smoked pork loin, turkey sausage patty and sauteed button mushrooms. I chose the latter. I did not eat too much as the potato was a bit cold and the eggs were not as hot as I wanted them. I did not bother to ask the flight attendant to re-heat.

By now, were over the Irish Sea and heading for England.

With 0:52 to go, the lead flight attendant announced that there were no landing documents for Amsterdam, just a verbal interview plus your travel documents. He then started an arrival video that talked about Amsterdam and what to expect.

We commenced our descent just as we passed over Norwich, England and entered the North Sea. Th Captain, came on the PA and announced that the temp was 1C/34F, the winds were calms and it was a beautiful day out. He said we should land at about 11:20a and should be at the gate early. He said now is a good time to go to the lav., if necessary. We then had 0:27 to go.

The approach was beautiful and as we came across the sea, I could see some wind vanes in the water; I had not seen these before and I've approached and departed over this route before.

It was a beautiful day and you see for miles as we descended.

We landed on the runway that is adjacent to the cargo area at 11:20a, but it took forever to make it to the G concourse at 11:39a, one minute early.