Norwich Airport can claim to be international on the strength of just one scheduled destination; there is talk of starting a service to Paris, and there are chartered flights to Spain, but the one regular flight is to Schipol in Amsterdam. The airport has been open for fifty years, but until this year I had never used it. This is odd, because most of the other members of my family have. Both my son and my daughter have flown from Norwich, and even my father flew from there to Guernsey when it had only been open a few years. I have flown from Gatwick, Stansted and even Manchester airports but not the nearest one at Norwich; but what could be more convenient than an airport that is only three miles away from our front door? Unlike Heathrow or even Stansted, there is no noise pollution because the flights are so infrequent. I should have travelled from there years ago; but, as I intimated, I now have – twice!
Molly and I were delayed in leaving Norwich by a thunder-storm over Amsterdam, but once we took off the journey was very short, about 35 minutes in the air. The airline was KLM, the aircraft a Fokker 70 holds about 80 passengers and it was full. The design is only 20 years old but the Dutch aircraft company that made it went bankrupt shortly afterwards. However, all 47 aircraft are still flying. A group of young men was sitting in the seats in front of us, off to a stag party. One of them had dropped his passport onto the floor. He was oblivious to this disaster, and was very grateful when my wife picked it up and returned it to him.
We were met at Schipol by our son’s girlfriend’s parents. They are Dutch, and although we had never seen them before it all passed off without a hitch. They live in Hilversum, a town some 35 km east of Amsterdam. It has some elegant houses as well as pretty terraces along the many canals. The 17th century Dutch Admiral who fought the British in the 3rd Dutch War lived there. The main difference between old manor houses in England and Holland is that the latter are all moated. There is so much water; I think of the Norfolk Broads as wetlands, but they are nothing like Holland. This is particularly apparent from the air.
We arrived on a June evening and went to bed after supper. The house we stayed at was built in the 1960s, but was a pleasant enough example of the style. The neighbours complain that the flat roof makes it look hideous, but the surrounding woods keep it mostly hidden from view. We were housed in the annex, a self-contained building that included a bathroom and a kitchenette, although all the catering was done for us by our hostess.
The next morning we spent in the centre of Hilversum, first going to the twice-weekly market. We went to one stall where we got the fish we had later in the day and another that ha a large variety of cheeses – but all of it Dutch. That was a great way to pass the morning and in the afternoon we were taken on one of the many canals in our hosts’ boat. There were six of us – 7 if you include Charlie the dog – but the boat had space for at least double that number. We moored in wide part of the canal and ate cherries and drank glasses of rosé. We were surrounded mostly by trees, but in one corner a flock of sheep grazed down to the water’s edge. Charlie is quite the opposite of our dog Wesley, who hates anything to do with water. Charlie will jump in at the slightest excuse and had several dips in the canal. As you can see from the picture, he wears a life jacket.
We were due to fly home on Sunday afternoon but there was still time to go on a canal tour of Amsterdam. We were so fortunate that the weather was warm and sunny but not over hot. We had coffee at a street café in the old quarter of town and had the local residents to show us the sights. After the canal tour we had lunch at an outdoor restaurant which was part of one of Amsterdam’s museums. Then it was back to Schipol airport. We were home and reunited with our dog Wesley before 6 p. m.
The second trip to Amsterdam was the initial leg of a much longer flight to Canada, and things went far from smoothly. The assistance we had booked failed to materialise in Canada, and on the return flight there were problems at Amsterdam too; the lift needed for my wheelchair was out of action. It was ten minutes after the advertised departure time that we finally boarded the plane, but at least it was held up for us. My experiences have put me off flying, and if I need to go to the Netherlands again I think I will try the ferry from Harwich. I think a night crossing with a cabin would be much more restful than flying, although it would take much longer.
CLICK HERE to read my blog on the history of Norwich Airport.
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