See Part 1 (where I actually explain how I missed my birthday and forced my way into Oz) HERE:
Once through the barrier with our visa-less passports, hospitably allowed into Oz for the day, we tripped up to airport information and asked (against the better judgement of our Scottish genes) if there was a nearby hotel that we could, for a modest sum, use for the day. Although never before having booked a hotel on a layover, by this time and two days later we needed a shower and a base. Clean, comfy, cheap and next to the train station, we were soon staring at the famed Opera House.
Although our visit fell during the height of summer, the day was grey and drab and did not reflect the city well – I am sure that the sun brings with it a startlingly effective makeover, as I’m only too aware of how drab Cape Town can look when overcast. However, people were friendly, transport efficient and it was great to wander around this first-world lifestyle city.
Nothing like a champagne breakfast with a view of Sydney Cove as a travel interlude, after which we jumped on a ferry that chugged its way around to Darling Harbor – lively with all manner of ships on display and nostalgic fairground equipment decked in primary colors – still for the day.
We took the opportunity to walk back to our station through the city center, remarking on historic buildings and colorful characters in the
older streets of the city. By this time, the inclement weather had lifted a little, allowing students to bask on the grass of Hyde Park as we listened to the sounds of visiting bands.
Our quick glimpse into Australia was over and we slowly made our way back to the airport, pausing to grab luggage from our almost-untouched hotel room. At the BA check-in counter we fell into conversation with the lovely lady checking us in (what is it with all these beautiful women working at the airport?!) and swapped stories of her native Kenya and adopted island. While chatting, she typed furiously into her computer, remarking on my recent birthday (the poor woman heard all about that too) and eventually she sighed in dismay.
“It’s just not going to work” she said. Craig and I glanced at each other, with the complicit acknowledgement that we had both been secretly getting hopes up for that all-elusive upgrade.
“Don’t worry,” we told her, “you’ve been so helpful and we’ll be fine”.
“No you’re definitely upgraded,” the angel in the blue, white and red uniform replied. “I’m just struggling to get you both next to each other in Business Class”.
Now to the one percent, the sponsored travel writers and other lucky folk, Business Class in a long haul flight is just no big deal. But to us, who had always felt lucky to have scraped together enough money or miles to fly anywhere at all, Business Class was a bit of a unicorn – absolutely unattainable and never expected.
So Craig was upgraded to World Traveler Plus, kindly insisting that I take sole and full occupancy of my bed (although I offered to swap halfway) and pampered and spoiled, we were off to Bangkok. Embarrassingly, being plebeian and not used to such amenities, I had no idea how to use any of the various screens, levers, buttons or other ergonomic comforts. I did however, manage to send Craig of vintage Bordeaux.