15th September 2012
We do say about Essex Days Out that it covers days out in and around Essex, rather than concentrating entirely on our fair county. Generally this means the odd foray over into Suffolk or Hertfordshire, or up to London, but we have just paid a flying visit to Amsterdam this week, travelling via the spanking new London Southend airport (owned by The Stobart Group), whose deal with Easyjet has seen their annual passenger numbers rise from 200,000 to a projected 1million.
We’ve travelled from Stansted many times, but thought we’d give the new airport a go. It’s handily placed to get to off the Southend arterial and easy to find. We chose the long stay car park the furthest away from the the terminal building (£10 a day), and it’s all so compact it took all of four minutes to walk to the terminal!
The terminal and the new railway station sit opposite each other, and the railway station looks quite futuristic in a retro-1930s kind of way (if you get my drift). Helpfully, for disorientated arrivals, there are big signs pointing to London and to Southend on the front!
The airport terminal is quite compact, which a checkin desk, currency exchange and bar this side of the departure lounge. The departure lounge was large and airy, with a couple of departure gates, and a couple of shops. The passengers were called to queue up w-e-l-l in advance of any likelihood of getting on the plane, so we decided to stay seated, and did so for 30 minutes before the passports and boarding cards were checked and passengers let through the departure gate to board the plane.
Except, that they didn’t, as the airport has a cunning long run of covered walkway, which moves the queue from inside the departure lounge to outside on the tarmac. And when I say covered, it’s covered above, but not on the sides, so I’ll reserve judgment on that until I’ve spent 10 minutes in freezing weather with wind-driven rain lashing me from the side.
The advantage of a small airport like Southend is that you can get into the air quite quickly (once in Stansted when headed to Amsterdam we spent as long taxi-ing on the runways than we did in the air). We did indeed get airbone quickly and we had a great view as the plane flew inland and up the coast, spotting Clacton, Frinton and Walton before turning east and over the North Sea. With flying time only about 35 minutes, it wasn’t long before the Dutch coast was coming into view.
Schipol is a great airport, and getting from the Easyjet terminal to passport control didn’t take long, and with the train terminus fully integrated, getting onto a train didn’t take long. The trains to Amsterdam run every 10 minutes or so, and lots of them are double-deckers, which are great fun. The journey into Amsterdam Centraal is 15 minutes or so.
We’d booked accommodation with the Easyjet flight, taking into account some TripAdvisor comments, and the CC Hotel was only 5 minutes walk from the train station. It’s a conversion of four old apartment buildings, and our room was one of the nicer we’ve stayed in (we tend not to spend too much on hotels!) – nicely decorated, comfortable bed, smart bathroom, and the all-important tea and coffee making facilities!
However, after dumping the bags it was off into the city for a walk around the canals, a visit to some shops, and then heading off for our evening entertainment. No nightclubbing, ‘coffee bars’ or discos for us, it was straight into our favourite bar In de Wildeman, centrally located and with about 20 beers on tap, and hundreds of bottles.
Having sampled a few of the beers, a substantial meal was in order, and an Argentinian steak house about a dozen paces opposite seemed by far and away the best idea. Great steak, frites and sauces, with the somewhat hapless (hopefully a new staff member) waiter providing some diversion.
Back to the nearby hotel, taking in some nighttime views…
The following morning we got up and packed (didn’t take long as we were travelling light) and checked out. The return flight was at 18:40, giving us plenty of time to look around some shops, take in some historiche sights, and get some bulbs for the garden from the floating flower market.
Lunch was at our second-favourite Amsterdam bar – De Bekeerde Suster, a characterful bar which brews their own beer. The large coppers they use to brew the beer are at the back of the bar, and one was steaming away merrily, being tended by the brewer, over the lunchtime. They also do a lovely club sandwich, with yet another portion of frites with mayonnaise. It’s always a treat to eat abroad, with service at your table rather than having to place your order at the bar, and being trusted to settle the bill at the end without doing a runner!
Having done a lot of walking an hour-long canal cruise enabled a change of pace, leaving us back near the railway station for the journey home. Having a flight delay of 90 minutes wasn’t the ideal end to the short trip, but there was a very quick 33 minute flight back, a speedy exit from the terminal, and a quick drive back home on quiet roads.
So, if you fancy a quick visit to Amsterdam, why not try Southend Airport? Flights for 2 and the hotel came in just over £220 and (leaving aside delayed flights!) it’s quite an easy journey. You can get a flight at 7:30am, so could do this as a day trip at about the same price as two people travelling peak on the trains from Colchester to London!