I’m stranded in Schiphol and I have a document to prove it. On top of the sheet of paper, in bold font, are the words: ‘Stranded Passenger’ which exacerbates the feeling of despair.
“You can walk around Amsterdam since you have a Schengen Visa,” says the friendly ticket clerk and the bearer of bad news: that my flight to Stockholm had to be cancelled because of extreme weather conditions.
“Where would I go? I would have no idea where to start,” I respond, my exhaustion after an eight-hour flight from Nairobi overriding my sense of adventure. Or perhaps it is the biting, unforgiving cold that made me lose my sense of wonder.
He apologises for the inconvenience. To which I respond that he is not responsible for the weather conditions.
He says that other passengers are not as understanding and I nod in sympathy and with a little guilt. Only seconds earlier, I had been ranting to my girlfriends on WhatsApp about the inconvenience but his harassed look and sincere eyes make my irritation at waiting one hour on the queue dissipate.
Luckily, I have for the first time packed an overnight bag so I quickly change into warm clothes and brace myself for the promised one-degree temperature outside the comfort of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
The ride to the hotel where we will be putting up for the night is uneventful, but thankfully the bus is heated.
But the grandeur of Van Der Valk Hotel, located just about 15 minutes from the airport, takes my breath away and makes me feel that the 18-hour delay could just have been worth it.
The complimentary dinner, a choice of either fish, chicken or vegetarian and a chef’s surprise dessert, are also a delightful experience.
I choose the chicken and chips combination. Comfort food, if you like, and it comes with some mashed potatoes, mushroom sauce, French fries, baked apples and baked pears. I ignore the last two because my palate is just not as adventurous as I would like it to be and besides, the tiny bites I take convince me I’ve made the right decision.
The chicken is as tender and tasty as it gets and the mushroom sauce gives it the zing it needs. The French fries, however, taste like sawdust despite their pretty exterior. You may want to steer clear of them. I wash down the chicken with freshly squeezed orange juice.
I don’t have room for dessert.
It’s my second time in Amsterdam and if there is one thing I know about the Dutch, it’s that they don’t play with their food portions so everything looks like it was meant for two people!
I finally retire to bed where I have a sleepless night and when I eventually do fall asleep, I have a recurring nightmare that the flight left without me.
The insomnia has nothing to do with the hotel beds, which are extremely clean and comfortable, and everything to do with my anxiety over missing an extremely important work engagement: The Swedish Design Week.
I wake up in the morning to an elaborate breakfast buffet with enough bread, meats and fruits to feed an entire county! As I dig into the grapes, cheese and dried fruits, I conclude that the flight was worth missing, after all.
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