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From Utrecht to Paris : the longest day

I explained to Alice that organising travel tours are highly stressful as you need to cope with unplanned eventualities calmly. Yesterday was a prime example. The plan was to arrive in Amsterdam in good time and to take the 11-17 Thalys, a high tech express train to Paris. Well at least we arrived in good time but then we rapidly found out following a breakdown in a generating plant there was only an emergency  supply of electricity in North Holland and the shops, trams, even hospitals and crucially trains had no power. No one knew when power would return.

In such circumstances Bob Tickler comes into his own. He established a command centre at a large table in the  first class lounge conveniently close to a free bar and large wine in hand got to work. The first thing he said is to establish our own line of communication as this lot won’t be telling us the truth. He formed an immediate relationship with Joop whom he appointed as his Director Of Communications, reporting to him alone, but he added two other subordinated information gatherers to the team. All 3 used their mobiles to power the connectivity of their laptops. Joop reported  that Rotterdam newspapers were online and even Schiphol airport was not functioning. So Bob said if it takes two hours to recover the power you will need another two to sort out the mess on the lines (4 if it was Southern Railway) and be assured the network is operationally safe. Although he proved right to the minute he had Polly looking at a minibus reservation which he booked as a contingency and began to work on a plan B, getting to Brussels.

A train official recommended international passengers went by bus to Leiden. Bob, who was now the spokesman for all the groups and nationalities including some Americans who semed more concerned about their claim, rejected this out of hand. He said they are trying to empty the station as the backlog will be immense and there are still passengers on reserved seats. Joop reported that Schiphol was now up and running. Bob predicted the service would return soon and went off to find some food .

A train to Paris was notified for 15-17. Bob got our group down to the platform, calculated where the first carriages would be, and told us to occupy the seats whatever the stewardess or any passenger holding a reserved seat said. At Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels he told every passenger claiming our seats that we were not moving – “find another seat”.  By Antwerp passengers were sitting on the floor or standing but Bob held his ground. I explained to Alice that in these circumstances you could be under pressure from clients to find an expensive solution e.g. taxis or they might even find one themselves and claim. It’s vital to consult with the group and keep them on side, in effect to share and support.

We arrived at Gare du Nord at 8-15, too late for Alice’s tour of the Musee D’Orsay. She did tell us Van Gogh once walked 90 miles to see a painter, on the door decided not to enter and walked back the same distance. It was typical of a man who was utterly useless at anything except brushstroke at which he was a genius.

Bob of course had an old flame in Paris he wanted to see. Even Daffers, never one to hold back, had to admit the 10 hours it took us get from Utrecht to Paris  normally accomplished in under 4 had exhausted her and we left the Paris  cavorting to Bob as we all retired after our dinner of which Daffers approved.



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About Nancy Bright-Thompson

A widely-respected travel editor, Nancy is a past president of the Guild of Travel Writers (GTW). She and her husband Phil now run a horse sanctuary in East Sussex. More Posts