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Is This McDonald’s?

One nice thing about cafes and restaurants in Europe is that they don’t rush you. No one scurries over to haul off your plates after your fork clinks down from the final bite, and nobody immediately hustles you for dessert or slams down the check before you’ve even had time to digest. I like that. Upon returning to the states you instantly notice the waitstaff (and their cheery grins) hovering about with the upsells. The air of urgency can be annoying. However, if you’re in Europe, and you’re in a hurry, sometimes you just want to “fill up” and dash. It’s not always easy to for me to express my desire to dine and dash. Rather I just expect a solid hour commitment when I sit down at a local place to eat.

While showing my Mom around the Netherlands we were hungry. I’d taken her to a few of my favorite local spots but today we were en route to a museum, and didn’t want to languish in a corner table from noon til three.

We saw a McDonald’s, made the usual jokes, and walked in for a burger and salad. I was schocked. This McDonalds was really, really nice! I can’t believe I’m writing this but I enjoyed being there! It seems I’m way behind the times, and over the past rew years McDonald’s has rebranded some stores in a Starbucks-eque cafe style chique. And what they’ve done is pretty aesthetically appealing.

I figured it was a Europe thing. I’ve read McDonald’s maintains nicer, larger restaurants overseas, and some locals actually do make the arches a destination for a Big Mac, or “Royale” as it’s called in France.

The location on Kalverstraat, a pedestrial shopping mall in the heart of Amsterdam was clean, well maintained, replete with comfortable chairs cozy spaces. A week later, departing Schiphol airport, I had coffee, milk and a croissant while killing a few hours awaiting my flight. Location? A beautiful, quiet and modern mezzanine overlooking the departures/transit area. You guessed it – it was a McDonald’s.

Upon my return home this week, my newfound McDonald’s curiousity brought me to the Belleview and I-25 location near my work. Sure enough this one was just as nice as the two Amsterdam locations, with soft leather chairs, WiFi and soft orange and yellow lighting. The staff was wearing jet black shirts and looked well kept and professional. I had a sausage biscuit and coffee before biking over to work.

Unfortunately the food is still the McDonald’s from my youth, and smells just as bad when carried onto an airplane. But without getting into fat and calorie counts I’m certain a Quarter Pounder and a Diet coke won’t induce any more heart attacks than a Starbucks triple mocha latte with whip cream, downed with an oily muffin.

There it is – three McDonald’s restaurants in two weeks. Good job McDonald’s on the rebranding. I may not return often but it’s a nice look. Sorry it took me three years to notice it.

Airport Heaven in Schiphol

With apologies to Chicago, a city I love, but it takes some time away and a refreshed eye to realize that the cramped corridors, filthy corners, and lackadaisical employees shuffling listlessly about in certain U.S. airports to make me realize that we could do so much better.

In fairness I’m writing this while the agonizing stories of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 are making news, and the U.S. certainly has some newer airports to be proud of as well: Detroit is a wonder to walk through and extremely efficient. Denver, now 13 years old is more crowded than ever but still maintains an airy, open feel and has plenty of room to grow. And many regional airports are a breeze to navigate and showcase local flavor of their area.

However in contrast many of our international gateway airports like Chicago and LAX appear straight out of the Soviet era when compared to the gleaming gems of other ports. (And I haven’t even considered Asia in this.)

After spending a few days solo in Amsterdam I returned to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport to pick up my sister and our guide Lili. Fretting about being late as always I arrived early enough in the morning to wander around and explore the facility. Some things that stood out to me:

This great idea. What’s the first errand you need to complete after a long stay away from home? Pick up some perishables of course. Schiphol has a full supermarket, allowing you to stock up your (tiny European) fridge upon return. And an adjacent liquor store too!


Left: In pier three I noticed dual jetways, although not used for our United flight. These were implemented at a few United gates in Denver for a while last year, but abandoned after a rear portion collapsed onto the wing of a plane. For some reason they work here.

Right: Almost ridiculously large signage everywhere. Arrival areas 1, 2, and 3 all exit into the same central hall, with ramps and elevators to the below train station. After clearing passport control departing passengers are treated to an enormous transit lounge with a plethora of restaurants and shops under one roof.


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