Leaving on a Jet Plane

Holland may be a small country with a large amount of rainy days and grey skies, but no one can argue Amsterdam’s prodigious Schiphol Airport makes escaping pretty easy and, dare I say, enjoyable. With over 63 million travelers passing through its colorful corridors each year, Schiphol, (pronounced skipple) built in 1916, is at the top of many organizations’ lists of best airports in Europe and the world. With 108 airlines represented and 322 direct destinations to 95 countries, you can easily find a path to “get outta Dodge.” Flight specials on KLM and discount airlines such as Easy Jet, Transavia and Vueling, make it even cheaper to explore your world.

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Your bags are packed, you’re ready to go, but expats be prepared. Schiphol promotes itself as a city,  Airport City. And this particular city is BIG. It can easily take 30 minutes or more to get to your gate AFTER security, hence the notice you’ll receive to arrive early, especially if you’re checking a bag. Even with the seemingly endless treks to gates and baggage, the fast, efficient and extremely thorough security check system, friendly border control officers (who want to chat and see how far your Dutch is coming along – be ready with some Nederlands to surprise them), numerous tempting restaurants, a playground for your antsy toddler, Duty-Free shops and VIP lounges, Schiphol’s smart and impressive design makes the hassle of flying breeze by. Schiphol even has a library. And heads up frequent travelers who hold a European ID card, the Schiphol’s Privium card fast tracks you through security and border control, allows access to priority car park spaces and the Privium Club Lounge. We’ve come a long way since John Denver made flying sound so painful and lonely.

 

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As an expat living in the lowlands, escaping – I mean travel, is a mainstay of the assignment abroad, especially when in search of sun, or just the absence of rain. Chances are Schiphol will become very familiar. I have come to appreciate Airport City as being so much more than just an airport. I’d describe it as a mecca of food, shopping and travel. Before living here, I never thought about shopping at an airport. I just wanted to get from point A to pint B as quickly as I could. No time for shopping or viewing art at the Rijksmuseum Schiphol (located at Delta’s customer service desk on the second floor). Arriving at least two hours ahead for an international flight, I almost always have time on my hands before I need to be at my gate.

 

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Look around walking through the Departures Hall. After quenching your thirst at the fancy champagne bar, you’re bound to spy the many inviting luxury duty-free shops for items you want – like Hermes, Rolex, Burberry, luggage, fine foods, cosmetics, alcohol, cameras, sunglasses and clothes. On a recent trip back to Boston I spied a sale sign at the handbag store (directly across from the Delta Gate 2). I scored some pretty big savings there I haven’t seen elsewhere. You know those Dutch treats you want to give to those back home like chocolate, especially Tony’s Chocolonely, stroopwaffels, cheese, bulbs and the like? Get it at Duty Free. It’s fresher and easier to carry in a plastic bag without fear of getting squished. And misplaced or lost your favorite baseball cap, gloves or jacket? Have no fear. You most likely can find a replacement at a decent price as well. I always tell visitors if they can’t find what they’re looking for while sightseeing, they can find it and much more at Schiphol.

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I’m also a big fan of grabbing a freshly prepared salad or sandwich and some little snacks for long haul flights at one of the many food court options with to-go items. While airline food has gotten much much better in recent years, still having something substantial to eat – just in case, for me and my kids goes along way in preventing grumpiness due to hunger. No one enjoys traveling with grumpy kids, no matter how old they are.

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At Schiphol’s Arrivals Hall back in Amsterdam, tired and dreading a trek to a grocery store, most likely in the rain, I now pop into mini Albert Heijn and grab the essentials I need to tied me over. I also love the Nespresso shop where I can buy my sleeves that will last me a long while. I always need that caffeine. Talk about convenience. Should I take the train? The 197 bus, an Uber or grab a taxi? Look down. The floor guides you to trains, taxis and busses.

So, kiss me and smile for me, tell me that you’ll wait for me, hold me like you’ll never let me go. Actually, just take me with you! I’ll be the one packing an extra Tony’s Chocolonely.

 

 

 

Tony’s Chocolonely Isn’t Lonely Anymore

Those who know me well know I’m a bit of a foodie and one of my most highly cherished foods is chocolate. So imagine my great surprise when I found possibly the most amazing chocolate I’ve ever tasted made by a Dutch company in The Netherlands in the form of a really big chocolate bar. No, really. It’s true. Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate bars have won me over heart and soul. And no, it’s not because my husband’s name is in the title.

 

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After arriving a year ago as an expat, for the second time in Holland, I spied these bright and boldly packaged chocolate bars with “Tony’s” written in giant letters on the front at Marqt, an upscale organic grocery store that carries a select inventory of food and household items. I have to applaud their marketing in a “point of purchase” display because it didn’t take much for me to grab a large sized Tony’s Chocolonely bar immediately, eager to try at home. And it only took one mouthwatering bite for me to become obsessed.

 

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Like Charlie hoping to find his golden ticket to enter Wonka’s factory, each time I buy one, I eagerly open the back paper wrapping and find the creator’s mission “Crazy about Chocoloate, Serious About People” and “100% Slave Free in Chocolate” slogan. Then after peeling away the tin foil to the actual chocolate bar, I giggle at the pieces of chocolate you’re supposed to break apart. The design is definitely unique, giving you, or better yet, someone you’re sharing with, a chance to have a large piece or a tiny piece. I’ll take a large piece, dank je vel.

 

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You cannot help but be wildly impressed with Tony’s Chocolonely. This chocolate company has been committed to abolishing child slave labor in the African countries of Ghana and Ivory Coast for the last 12 years and responsibly produces organic, fair trade DELICIOUS chocolate. The orange bar made with milk, caramel and sea salt is my favorite. But I will happily eat any of the bars they make, including milk chocolate, white chocolate, extra dark chocolate, dark almond sea salt, dark pecan coconut and dark coffee crunch without the guilt of knowing child slave labor helped produce it.  And if you are a chocolate milk fan, Tony’s makes that too!

Expats just arriving, you can find these chocolate bars all over, at the Albert Heijn, Marqt, candy stores, etc. But, beware, you’re likely to become hooked once you’ve tried them. And then family members will spy these bright and boldly colored bars too and start to invade your stash.

Move over Lindt, Lenidas, Godiva and Ghiradelli cause Tony’s Chocolonely will surely give you a run for your money. And your trade practices.