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Woman's Weekly (NZ)

1 August 1994

What A Nightmare

Scanned by Roger

Holiday disasters can happen to the most experienced travellers.
Just ask TV presenters Lucy Lawless and Alexandra Smith

It has happened to nearly every tourist at some stage. Despite the best-laid plans, meticulous organisation and double checking, things can easily go wrong on holiday, sometimes drastically.

We've all heard of luggage that goes to Singapore when you're bound for Sydney, suitcases that rip and spill their contents, including your dirty washing, on to the baggage carousel, and hotel rooms that are double booked, forcing you to walk the streets in search of a bed for the night.

Disaster can strike even the most experienced travellers, and while you can look back years later and laugh, at the time it can seem a major catastrophe.

Lucy Lawless, presenter of the TV travel show Air New Zealand Holiday, has travelled extensively, both with the programme and as a teenager in Australia and Europe. She admits to suffering her fair share of holiday hiccups. She will never forget a nightmare experience in the Italian port of Brindisi, which has a ferry service to Greece.
Lucy, then 18, and her travelling companion, arrived in town to catch a ferry to Athens, or so they thought.
"The second our bags came off the train, a little old man hoisted them on to a cart and barrelled off down the road with my companion and me in hot pursuit," recalls Lucy. "He led us to what must have been the most expensive dive in town, which we turned down flat. Then he took us to a more moderately-priced hovel around the corner which we accepted through sheer exhaustion.

"Not having learned the first rule of travel - "know your currency" - we tipped the old geezer about $US60 and he scampered off, gleefully, of course." It transpired they had been sold tickets for a ferry to Athens on a day when there was no sailing so they were stuck for three days in Brindisi, which Lucy describes as a "hostile wee town".
The local travel agent was no help whatsoever. "We pleaded and yelled to no avail The travel agent just gave the infuriating little continental shrug indicating, 'What are you going to do about it?' "

Lucy says Brindisi was a tourist trap full of rip-offs too numerous to mention. "So, despite having a real love affair with the rest of Italy, I will never return to Brindisi."

Lucy's fellow Air New Zealand Holiday presenter, Australian Alexandra Smith, says one of her worst travelling experiences happened at Tel Aviv Airport, ironically when she was with Lucy working on the show. "We flew into Israel from Frankfurt just five days after the Hebron massacre, and the security was a lot tighter there than usual, and that's saying something," says Alexandra.

"Lucy and I were both interrogated separately, for about an hour, about what we would be doing there. It was really quite scary.

"Then they opened our luggage and went through everything, papers, clothes, [video] tapes. They asked where every bit of paper came from. Then this woman was doing my suitcase up and she broke the zip. So I was there, in the middle of all this, trying to fix my suitcase with masking tape. It was a nightmare."

Another time, on her first working visit to London, Alexandra was told the guest house where she would be staying was just around the corner from Victoria Station, so she decided to pull her ample luggage on a small carrier rather than catching a taxi. "Just around the corner' turned out to be about 4km away and an exhausted Alexandra, who'd just flown for 24 hours, had to push her way through crowds, stopping every 30 seconds to adjust her bags.
She finally reached her room to discover it was so small she could lie in bed and turn the taps on in the bathroom. To cap it all, the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night, but the clanging bells and stampede of people rushing down the corridor weren't enough to get her up. "Even if there were a fire," she says, "I wasn't going anywhere."