For me, a holiday doesn’t begin when you throw your suitcase down in a hotel room, have your first sip of a cocktail on the beach or take your first step out on a foreign street, map in hand. For me, my holiday begins when my taxi pulls off the M8 and into the Glasgow Airport roundabout and I see the luxury billboards and planes taking off overhead. This is when I feel the the tingle of excitement at the knowledge I’m about to spend the next few hours in one of my favourite places: the airport.
Have you seen the Black Mirror episode about choosing where to spend your heaven? (can’t elaborate more for risk of spoilers). I reckon my heaven would be spending every day in an airport. Sitting at a bar, carry on case by my side, people watching. The kids excitedly towing their trunkies, the middle aged couples in garish colours flying long haul, the stag parties with one unfortunate man dressed as a nun or leprechaun. I love observing how everyone is at the airport for the same purpose, to go somewhere else, but all for different reasons and to different points dotted around the globe.
Airports are self contained. They do not belong anywhere. They are another dimension, a space between one country and the next. They act as a gateway to the world. As such, airports are standardised and the familiarity is what I love about them. I love how you will always find the following things in airports: shiny floors, glam ladies spraying perfume, luxury cosmetics and big bags of sweets in Duty Free that for some reason look so much shinier and better than they do in the supermarket. Throughout my travelling experiences I have been to many terrible airports, some which constitute only one room and a vending machine, but while these airports can be interesting to see, they are not the ones I am talking about in this article. I am talking about the modern, city ones. Out of all the airports I’ve been to my favourite is Dubai; it is huge and ultra slick with every cafe, shop and bar you could possibly want.
Paul and I always arrive at the airport hours before our flight is due to leave to maximise our time there. We find a pub (this is another thing I love about airports – it is acceptable to drink alcohol at any time of day) and a spot to settle down. When you spend a lot of time in the same airports you become familiar with them, the best pub, the best table in the pub, where Boots is so you don’t need to spend ages looking. The airports we spend the most time in are Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stansted – in Stansted we have identified our favourite table in the Wetherspoons, one close to the bar but around the corner with a plug socket underneath for charging our phones. In Edinburgh we know the best place to get something to eat is the Marks & Spencer before security, while at Glasgow it’s Tesco.
Small things I love about spending time in the airport: looking out onto the runway to see the different plane airlines, particularly the ones I’ve never flown on. Trying to get a glimpse of the colour and the gold embossing of the passports of the people in the queue in front of me to see where they are from. Walking past the different gates: a queue of people waiting to fly to Pakistan beside a flight arriving from Poland. Stopping for a layover and dipping your toe into another country, like when we stopped at Istanbul Airport and had Turkish beer. I also like guessing where people are flying to by their appearance: tanned skin, expensive loungewear and designer shades? A luxe beach resort like Marbella or Ibiza. Rowdy stag do? Usually Prague. Tall, blonde and good looking? Somewhere in Scandinavia, maybe Copenhagen.
There’s an episode of The Simpsons when as a character gets ready for a date with Marge he says: “To the most beautiful moment in life! Better than the deed. Better than the memory. The moment… of anticipation.” Maybe this is why I love airports so much. They are a place I spend time in before I begin the thing I love to do the most – to travel. I’ve been told by people who travel often for work that airports have become a place of dread for them, a place they associate with stress (this is one of the reasons I hope to never travel often for work). No matter where I am, how old I am, or my circumstances in life, I hope I continue to travel often and that airports continue to be a special place for me. And when I the taxi pulls into the roundabout and I see the planes take off overhead, I still get that shiver of excitement.