If only holidays always worked out like you hoped they would. Jon Yuill, who spends most of his time being obsessed with the railways, is taking a summer break from his normal brief. He wanted others to share their summer hols misery with him. Are we there yet?
I am indebted to those of you who e-mailed me recently with stories of your holiday horrors. They made excellent reading during my daily commute, and reminded me of why it is sometimes better to be working than holidaying!
Stop smiling, kid
Here's just a few I'd like to share with you. And remember, it could happen to you.
They say that of all the senses smell is the one that stays with us the longest. Franni's experience is one way to have a truly unforgettable holiday:
We were on a family holiday in a "family" hotel in mainland Greece. I was pregnant, and unwell, so bowed out of an excursion.
The toilets were blocked - again - and while I was resting on the beach, the plumber arrived. He tapped the short wall bordering the beach, grunted and picked up a large sledgehammer. He then smashed a hole through the wall and the main sewer, thus relieving the obstruction. Six weeks of guests' excrement, now in a state of lively fermentation, poured on to the beach, where it remained for the rest of our stay. An unforgettable fragrance.
Elisa was certainly moved by her holiday experience. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite where she'd intended:
In 1997, I booked a flight for San Jose, California, where I was to be met by a friend. I was landing the day before in Los Angeles and taking an early morning local flight to San Jose - or so I thought. When I landed, I didn't find my friend, and I found myself in an incredibly tiny airport, with no information desk, no police station and everybody saying that yes, we were in San Jose. I finally took a taxi to the nearest police station, about 15 minutes away from the airport, to find out that I certainly was in San Jose - but in southern Mexico! The travel agent had inputted the wrong airport code, and I had ended up about 1,000 km farther south than I should have been.
Then there's Gill, who was trying to be ultra-cautious about pickpockets in Barcelona. Alas...
...at four in the morning on the beach, after a night clubbing, and a bit worse for wear, my bag was stolen. I never saw anyone approach and take it. It just vanished. The second night was a hen night and we all dressed as Playboy bunnies. I managed to hang on to my ears and tail, despite people trying to take them, but outside the same club, someone stole my shoes out of my hand - my feet has been hurting. I had to go home bare foot. If this wasn't bad enough, landing the next day my case didn't come off the plane. It has now been located but I will have to pay to get it delivered from Birmingham to Sheffield.
Gill Wain, UK
On to the next victim - err, traveller. Nick Harper landed himself in a bit of bother while up a mountain in Dodoma, Tanzania, where he was taking pictures of an electrical storm:
As it was getting dark my camera flashed. The next thing I knew I was surrounded by three rather large Tanzanian soldiers, babbling at me in Swahili and pointing rifles in my face. I got escorted off the hill at gunpoint and marched to a compound. There, I was accused of being a spy and ordered to hand over my camera, whereupon the roll of film was unceremoniously pulled out of it.
Where all the trouble starts
Readers of Tuesday's Magazine know I've been displeased with the traditional English holiday ritual. Having seen Geoff Gwillym's letter, I realised I'm not alone:
Just come back from Newquay. Bus driver said he could not take us on the return journey from Truro to Newquay - until it was pointed out that he was reading winter timetable. Shopkeeper couldn't tell us where to get bus information - it was next door. In Padstow, walked out of a bar when locals started making racist remarks.
In Scilly Isles, had the worst lasagne I have ever tasted. Bus driver was 40 minutes late coming back from Penzance - forcing me to miss dinner. Hotel's hyped "lift to beach" never worked once while I was there. Too many pubs catering for the "yoof" market and no comfortable family ones. Everywhere, there are leaflets and adverts for Jamaica Inn but there are no bus services there from Newquay. Apart from one pub the food was dire - "traditional" Cornish pasty anyone?
And then there's nothing like a romantic honeymoon in beautiful Greece:
We went to investigate what sounded like a festival, complete with fireworks. It turned out to be a full-scale anti-capitalism riot from which we eventually escaped, coughing and spluttering from tear gas. Next morning we discovered there was a general strike, which accounted for the mountains of rubbish everywhere and the accompanying rats. We decided to explore some islands, but there were no boats running, nor were there any buses or trains out of Athens. The tourist office wasn't much use, having been fire-bombed in the riot. After two dismal days, we booked an early - and expensive - flight home. We're still married, though.
But let's finish with Oscar, who had a truly, truly horrendous experience. Rather you than me mate:
The plane wasn't delayed. The hire car worked. I wasn't overcharged anywhere. The locals were pleasant and welcoming. I didn't get sunburn, an STI or tar on my feet. The villa was quiet and clean. My girlfriend and I were more in love at the end of the holiday. The food was delicious. What a nightmare - I had nothing to moan about for two weeks!
Thanks for sharing - and happy hols!