How I was stranded in Geneva by the Icelandic volcano: Entrepreneur tells

Melbourne-based cosmetics entrepreneur Gillian Franklin is sick of smelling the same. When she set out for Europe last week, she travelled light and only packed one bottle of perfume. Nine days on, she jokes that the Prada scent is starting to wear a bit thin.

Franklin, who owns the Heat Group, has been stranded in Geneva since April 15. She was supposed to fly to the Italian city of Bologna on April 16 for a conference and then arrive back in Melbourne on April 20, but the Icelandic volcano eruption has left her trapped in the Swiss capital.

“Geneva is beautiful, but it is one of the most expensive cities in the world,” Franklin laughs.

“It’s costing me a fortune.”

Franklin’s story is similar to that of many travellers stuck in Europe. Told on April 15 that her flight to Bologna the next day would go ahead, Franklin checked out of her hotel and headed to the airport only to find her flight was eventually cancelled.

She was lucky enough to get back into her hotel – she knows of many other travellers who have ended up without accommodation.

After trying to find a way to hire a car, get on a train or get to an open airport somewhere else on the continent, Franklin has finally found a way home that will see her leave Geneva on April 21, fly to Paris and then onto Malaysia before returning to Melbourne on the evening of April 23.

The latest reports from Europe suggest the giant ash cloud created by the volcano is starting to diminish, although the eruptions continue and the situation remains volatile.

Franklin says her frustrations at being stuck have been compounded by the fact her iPhone has stopped working.

“That’s been very frustrating for me so when I am away from the hotel no-one can reach me.”

Her typical day consists of four or five hours of work early in the morning, when she checks her emails and talks to her team back in Melbourne.

She then goes for a walk – “I’ve literally explored every inch of Geneva” – before returning to the hotel for a few more hours of work.

Franklin says she has been able to keep in close contact with her business, but has missed some important meetings in Italy and back in Melbourne.

“I’ve missed the personal side – emails can be very cryptic.”

“But all I’ve missed is business. There have been people who have had weddings and funerals and those once-in-a-lifetime family events that would just be awful to miss.”

Franklin is looking forward to heading home and says her biggest concern now is the fact she has run out of medication.

“I only brought enough tablets for the trip and a few extra. I am now out of my pills. To try and find a doctor here, get a new script, etc, etc would be a pain in the bum.”

She’s also annoyed with Qantas’ decision to delay restarting its European flights until April 21 at the earliest.

“That is going to be hurting a lot of Australians. You may be able to fly to Paris, but what do you do from there?”


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