Passport - Maya Even: `We eloped, bought champagne and flowers and married in Italy. It was blissful'

Your papers, please Date of Birth: 22 January 1961 Place of Birth: Libya Occupation: TV producer/presenter
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The Independent Travel
Few Western passports are marked with a stamp for China in the months immediately following the massacre at Tiananmen Square, but Maya Even's is one of those few exceptions.

"We were filming a piece for TV-am on life in Peking just four months after the trouble occurred," she says. "Because the city was still under martial law we had to film secretly. A male reporter and I masqueraded as a couple on holiday together. Tiananmen Square was completely deserted, and the guards were only letting Japanese tourists in, so we would tag along on the end of a large group of them with our camcorder. My colleague had the camcorder and I would stand in front while he pretended to film me, but was actually getting in the surrounding buildings and guards standing by."

Even back within the four walls of the Beijing Hotel, where they were staying, Maya couldn't relax. "The rooms were completely bugged - there was a smell of garlic and sweat everywhere and you knew the army guards had been checking the rooms over. In fact, the whole place was bugged. On every floor of the hotel was a `listening station'. We came across one with the door wide open. It was a roomful of bugging equipment."

Things got hairy when Maya and the crew were pulled over in the rickshaw- type vehicle they were travelling back to their hotel in one evening. Running slightly late, they had overstepped the 10 o'clock curfew that was being implemented in Peking at that time.

"Suddenly, we were surrounded by a group of these self-appointed vigilantes - just normal citizens who took it on themselves to enforce the law. They made us get out and searched us. Then they started screaming at us and the poor driver, who was practically on the floor crying with terror. It was quite frightening." After an hour the party was released.

But Maya's passport holds much fonder memories than these, particularly of her marriage to fine art dealer Count Edmondo di Robilant when they eloped to Italy in 1991.

"It's not something I'm proud of," Maya admits. "It really hurt our parents that we didn't tell them, but we didn't want all the fuss that goes with weddings. We decided to just go to Italy and get married alone.

"On the way there, we picked up a few cases of champagne, and in the morning some fresh flowers. There were just a few friends who had a house by the sea that celebrated with us on the day." For the honeymoon, the newly-weds cruised the southern Amalfi coast in a boat, then drove up to the Italian Riviera. "The whole thing was blissful, so spontaneous and carefree - just what getting married should be like."

Maya Even presents the new series of BBC2's `The Money Programme', starting tonight at 8.20pm.

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