I planned routes, booked hotels, then lockdown happened. We were confident everything would be fine by May. Then we rescheduled for September. Then we gave up for a while. This weekend, the trip finally happened.
Originally we were going on motorbikes, but in the interim David had taken his private pilot licence and suggested we fly in the Cessna 172 he shares with a group of other pilots.
We took off from Elstree on Saturday morning and flew south, with me in the copilot's seat and Howard in the back unconcernedly reading the paper, all in lifejackets as we would be crossing the Channel. We did this by the shortest route, Dover to Calais, seeing nothing of it at all as we flew above the clouds. When we dropped below them, the landscape was flat and the town layouts unmistakably foreign. We landed at Ostend, had our passports checked and ate in the airport restaurant, which was very fancy. I started the weekend as I meant to go on: with chips and sauce.
Howard and I swapped seats so I was in the back, which felt somehow more relaxed; if anything went wrong there definitely wasn't anything I could do about it. We flew via Bruges just to take a look, then all along the Belgian and Dutch coast. Kite surfers, wind farms, a pier. The unexpected and gorgeous sight of tulip fields, long swatches of white, red and purple.
The second leg took us to Lelystad, our destination. We were directed to park in front of the chubby red-and-white-striped control tower, and once the aircraft had been put to bed and the paperwork completed, we summoned a taxi to our hotel. (Taxis turned out to be outrageously expensive, possibly because the Netherlands has a decent living wage, and became a running joke for the weekend: "That's almost as much as a taxi ride!")
We were in Flevoland, an area reclaimed from the sea, and our hotel, although just off the motorway, backed on to a nature reserve. We went for a walk after dinner, encountering a swan who took such exception to me that it looked me dead in the eye and did a massive poo.
Some of us were more excited about Sunday's trip to the Aviodrome than others, but Howard was very tolerant and patient. The indoor part of the museum took visitors through the history of flight, with particular emphasis on Dutch aviation. Outside, there was a replica of the old Schiphol terminal full of period gear and KLM-branded Delftware, which I loved, a Boeing 747 to walk through and a selection of aircraft to nerd over.
I know nobody is as interested in this as I myself am, but I would like to mention that they have a Saab Viggen and an Antonov AN-2, the Twin Beech from Octopussy, and also I got to pose next to the Fokker Triplane in my Fokker Triplane T-shirt.
We'd joked about being at the museum from opening time to closing time, but it almost did come to that.
We departed on Monday morning soon after 11, and I took the opportunity to photograph the Air Museum from the air.
Stopping in Ostend again, this time we walked into the town and had lunch at a bistro, where I seized my last opportunity to have chips and sauce. The weather was better than expected, and we headed out over the Channel with Dover in view before we left Calais. (French and English air traffic control talk to each other to make sure you don't go missing along the way.)
Breakfast in the Netherlands, lunch in Belgium and supper safely back at home. Undoubtedly the coolest way I've ever spent a Bank Holiday weekend.