For 43 euros, a priceless day in AmsterdamAMSTERDAM — The flight from Nice was on time, if not early, and we deplaned on the tarmac still bathing in the afterglow of the French Riviera, with its Matisses and Picassos and breathtaking beauty. A shuttle bus took us to the gate, where I stepped off with two carry-ons and — “Owww!”
By: Robin Washington, Duluth News Tribune
AMSTERDAM — The flight from Nice was on time, if not early, and we deplaned on the tarmac still bathing in the afterglow of the French Riviera, with its Matisses and Picassos and breathtaking beauty. A shuttle bus took us to the gate, where I stepped off with two carry-ons and —
“My foot!” I yelled to my wife, Julia, a few steps
A ground crew member told me to keep moving. I said I couldn’t.
“Do you want a doctor?” he asked, helping me hobble. No, we replied, but
accepted a wheelchair — and a few minutes later changed our minds about the doctor. Signs saying “First Aid” led to a fully
I asked the receptionist how much, dreading the answer.
“Forty-three euros,” she said — $57 — and credit cards accepted.
Really? I thought. At that price, I’ll take grand rounds, and in a few minutes, an Ace bandage was around my foot and ankle. They didn’t take an X-ray but determined nothing was broken, with instructions to take ibuprofen and keep it wrapped for two days.
This had been a planned 24-hour layover on the last day of our vacation, and we checked into our airport hotel. There was just enough time to take a bus into town for a Concertgebouw concert with tickets I’d ordered online. Or that I hoped I bought: The website was in Dutch.
No one seemed to mind if we borrowed the airport wheelchair, and it strapped in neatly on the bus. We were let off right across from the Concertgebouw, and our will-call tickets were waiting. The concert was being broadcast live, and we were the last ones in, the usher saying we could take our ticketed seats, or, with the wheelchair, sit anywhere. We chose the front row.
With the stage height, the horns and piano soloist were barely visible, but we were practically in the laps of the first violins.
Stravinsky and Debussy and Rimsky-Korsakov were fantastic and, this being one of the world’s greatest orchestras in one of its most magnificent concert halls, an ovation was unquestionably deserved.
Except, as I pantomimed to the violinists, I couldn’t stand.
It’s OK, two of them answered back in charades. Just sit there.
High culture doesn’t get much better than this, but we weren’t done yet. The concert tickets were good for half-off at the Van Gogh Museum across the Museumplein plaza, and Julia wheeled me over. We were waiting 20 minutes with a good hour to go when a woman came out to direct the crowd. She confirmed the half-price deal but said we shouldn’t be in line.
“Huh?” we asked, and she motioned to the wheelchair: Just go right in. We did, and after Julia bought the tickets, we found hers was half-price and mine free, marked “invalide.”
The heavy crowds in the exhibit halls actually parted a bit so I could see the paintings. One woman apologized profusely for having used the handicapped restroom. We tired after two hours, had dinner and made it back to the airport in a crowded bus where we couldn’t get to the fare box. An American guy — originally from Worthington, Minn., it turned out — helped strap me in.
The next day the pain had diminished but my foot still was swollen, and I wrapped it again. The wheelchair (back in its proper home) now got us to the front of security and check-in lines.
But not once we landed in Detroit, for customs and the connection to Duluth, except for the “passengers in need of special assistance” boarding call. A TSA officer even double-checked my throwaway flip-flop.
The next morning the pain was gone and the swelling down. We couldn’t have planned this, we kept saying to ourselves.
Does that mean I think those with disabilities have it made, in Holland if not the U.S.? Hardly. Cobblestone streets weren’t the greatest with the wheelchair, and though Julia always kept control, from my perspective the tram tracks were frightful. And no one in their right mind would trade pain and infirmity, even temporary, for a museum discount.
Maybe something can be said about European health care, mine subsidized, I presume, by working Dutchmen. Faced with a more likely $500-plus charge in the States, even with insurance, we probably would have opted to bandage it ourselves and stay holed up in our hotel. But with a clinic aide doing the work as the doctor and nurse stood by smiling, maybe 43 euros was all it really cost.
All I know is our day in Amsterdam was priceless.
Robin Washington is editor of the News Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.