We are to meet for pick-up at the Grand Café by Track 2 in Central Station at 4:30. And we arrive ten minutes early. Immediately, we are asked if we are guests of European Waterways by a man who turns out to be our captain, Jules, and a pretty lady called Lea who will be our land guide. But though we wait for another 20 minutes or so, the other couple who is supposed to be met here does not show up. Not until we go out to the vans – shiny brand new blue vans with the European Waterways logo on
them – do the other couple appear. They had decided that it was too difficult to get their bags into the station, and had sent their driver to the meeting place. But somehow we had never connected. The transport vans are brand new, attractive and roomy.
A further delay as we collected their baggage, and then as we were slowed by heavy traffic, meant we arrived at the Hotel Pulitzer more than an hour and a half later than scheduled. Two couples are waiting there, not in a very happy mood.
But Jules and Lea are apologetic, even though the delay was not caused by them, and everyone is mollified.
A thirty-minute drive brings us to Haarlem, and the canal where Le Panache is docked.
The voyage begins!