Airports are a modern necessity - but it doesn't mean they are fun to spend long amounts of time in. Prolonged layovers are a fact of life for long-distance travel these days, and if the chance arises to escape the airport for a few hours if can be a great relief. There's only so many times you can look in the same Tie Rack, after all. So it was this feeling of temporary freedom that caused me to be standing in the arrivals area of Sydney airport at 7am on Saturday, scanning the crowds for a woman I'd never met.
I was looking for Jean, a college lecturer from Blackpool who is a friend of my Dads. Flying back from a trip to New Zealand, she had an 8-hour stop over in Sydney and wanted to explore a bit, so I was hired as a guide for the morning. According to her text message, she'd be standing there 'in a pink jacket, looking confused' - although thanks to my colour-blindness a 'beige jacket, looking confused' was nearer the mark.
Her lightening visit left me with a problem - where do you take someone who only has four hours in Sydney? Well, the Harbour is the obvious answer. So we hopped on a train to Circular Quay and walked around to the Opera House. It was a glorious day, and I deluged poor Jean with facts about Sydney as we walked around the Opera House and back to the Rocks. Being a marine biologist, she wanted to go on the water, so we took the ferry to Manly and admired all the Saturday yachties out for a sail. When we docked at Manly wharf I asked her what she wanted to do in the half-hour we had there - 'Let's go for a beer' was the answer. So we ended up sitting in the beach-side beer garden of the Manly Wharf Hotel looking back across the shimmering harbour, with not a Tie Rack in sight...