True travel tales: The drunken mistake I’ll never regret
I was sitting at a pub in Melbourne, three drinks in, when my friend called to demand I fly to Sydney for the party of the year. My calendar was empty the weekend in question. I finished my drink as I Wotif'ed flights and booked the cheapest ones, without thinking twice. Dutch courage.
I sent the "flights booked" screenshot to her and received the high-five, champagne bottle and dancing lady emojis. It was on.
Two weeks later, I was in the office, my carry-on packed to perfection and my workday timed around the Skybus-Tullamarine timetable. I began online check-in feeling particularly smug. I glanced at my phone as it flicked to the seat selection screen. I froze. My heart stopped. I swiped back. Dear God, no...
The word stood out like the red gates of hell: Avalon.
It was every Australian's worst nightmare. With its deceptively alluring name, Avalon entices passengers from around the country with cheap domestic flights to its dusty bowels, like sirens to sailors and certain death.
Only 50 minutes from the CBD (compared to Tullamarine's 30-minute drive), it may as well be in Perth.
Panic mode. I googled "how to get to Avalon" and saw a direct Skybus *with free Wi-Fi* was only $22, 50 minutes and the arrival lined up exactly with my flight check in.
But I was too far gone down the wormhole of accidental-airport hysteria and legged it home for the car to risk my life on the freeway.
Once I was over the Westgate I found the drive surprisingly relaxing. I cranked the radio and the stress of my drunken mistake was left behind with the smell of the city as I transcended into the flat Victorian countryside.
In what seemed like only minutes, the tips of the hangars appeared like icebergs on the horizon and I turned off the freeway toward my destination. I pulled up to the gate. It was $72 to park for the weekend. I cursed MANY times, took my ticket and parked in the huge lot that was a third full.
I walked through the automatic doors, past the random artworks when a strange calm fell upon me.
The vibe inside Avalon was unlike any airport I had been in before. It was chill. I was greeted by security and staff members with smiles. The bag-check lady made a joke about the Straddie Island sticker on my bag. Her colleague laughed and I chuckled along.
The drug-patter-downer-er told me about his kid's spelling test, told me to enjoy my Sydney party and then suggested I try the red velvet cupcakes from the cafe.
The waiting area is the size of about three basketball courts. With a kids' play area, a Game Zone section, massage chairs (many), a newsagents/restaurant/bar, cafe and a view of the runway, it offered all things necessary before boarding.
I bought recommended cupcake. The cream-cheese to sugar icing ratio was a mathematical masterpiece, the moist cake to topping ratio, a miracle. With tears of joy in my eyes, I asked the attendant where they came from - heaven? "Nah, they're Cayley's Cakes - she used to work here". I made her promise to tell Cayley she was a gifted chef. "We get that a lot," she replied.
I wiped my eyes, licked the icing from my fingers and took out a $2 coin for the massage chair. I drifted off into airport bliss, a state that I had never known existed.
They called my flight. My fellow passengers and I lined up, a feeling of camaraderie between us all. We had made it out here, over the bridge, beyond the factories, passed the cattle trucks and dived into the dust-bowl of this no man's - a place whose reputation was totally inaccurate.
Avalon was not the heinous hell-land I had believed it to be. It was a place of cheap flights, friendly staff, car parks, arcade games, massage chairs and cupcakes. As I buckled myself into 23A I smiled at the mystifying tin shed that had once been such a pariah. I was a new person. Now and forever I will be an Avalon flyer.
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