My first trip out of the country was in 1991 when we took a British Rail package deal to Amsterdam. We’d got married on the Friday, caught the train to Waterloo, then the Tube to Harwich. Our ‘bridal suite’ was the inside cabin on the overnight ferry to The Hague (very interesting night as it had bunks), then another train journey to Central Station.
As accommodation was not included in our deal, through Amsterdam’s tourist information desk we managed to get a room in Hotel England, about a mile outside the city and enjoyed 3 days seeing the sights, travelling the canals, and sampling the food. Chips and mayonnaise was a specialty!Language was not a problem and it was absolutely terrific. That was until it was time to come home.
There was a train strike. OK you might think, not the end of the world. No, not OK. If one form of public transport goes on strike in Holland, they all do. Our problem was our tickets. They had a deadline, and in order to meet all of our connections, we had to get to the Hague for the midday ferry.
Now many of the other passengers decided to just sit around and wait, thinking a train would eventually come along. Funnily enough, most of those were Brits, and it just didn’t register with them that there would be no trains for 24 hours. We had a quick conflab on the pavement for an alternative plan, and as the coach office was shut (transport) we opted to hire a car. The people in front of us were having a lot of problems using their credit card, and seeing as we would be using one too, we started sweating. As it happened, ours was obviously the right colour or something as the transaction went through smoothly, and we were out of the door, keys in hand, in less than ten minutes. The other couple were still being processed as we drove off.
Hubby had already driven on the continent, so a left hand drive vehicle didn’t worry him. We sort of got confused coming out of the city, but once out on the autobahn, we were cruising along nicely. Our instructions were to take the car to the hire company’s office in The Hague, and they would arrange a taxi for us to the port. When we eventually found their office, it was just after 11.30 and traffic was almost at a standstill (public transport on strike, everyone in their own vehicles). The port was on the other side of town, but the taxi driver was brilliant, getting us there by carving up just about everyone on the road, including cyclists, and we learned that “Sh**” and “B*****d” are the same in Dutch as they are in English. He got us to the (wrong) gate with only 4 minutes to spare, did a Sweeney style handbrake turn and slid sideways into the right dock. Grabbing our holdalls (we always travel light) we rushed up to the ticket office to be told the ferry sailing had been postponed for an hour to allow people like us to get there.
Knock on effect…….. nothing in the UK would be delayed by an hour for us though, so we weren’t off the hook yet.
We had a much needed pint on board and made sure we had everything immediately to hand for the other end as we would be cutting things extremely fine. Duly fed, watered, somewhat refreshed, and now sporting a carrier bag each of duty free, we were ready for phase 2 when we disembarked in Harwich.
We got on, AND OFF the wrong tube quickly, eventually getting the correct one and once in Waterloo had less than 5 minutes to get to the opposite end of the station for our train home. If we missed it, our tickets were void. The doors were about to close as we threw our gear into the end carriage, dived in after them, and the doors shut within inches of hubby’s feet. There were no seats available and it was 5 carriages (and umpteen obstacles in the aisle as no-one moved anything out of the way) before we found somewhere to sit. We honestly felt we’d walked halfway home, and it was a miracle that none of our wine bottles had broken or popped their corks. We rang father in law who had promised to pick us up at the station and were supping a very welcome cuppa by 11pm.
It was certainly an unforgettable experience, and I bet not many honeymoons are spent rushed off your feet!