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True Stories

updated February 21, 2017
Proving once and for all that travel is stranger, funnier, and more heartwarming than fiction

The winner of our April issue's contest is Teresa F. Baker of Metairie, La. Her prize: a six-night trip for two to Rome, courtesy of EuropeASAP. After lots of planning, my dream trip to New York City was finally going to come true. My husband and daughter were both excited because I was able to get us a terrific discount rate at the famous Plaza Hotel. Then I learned that I had breast cancer, and we were forced to cancel. After a yearlong battle with cancer, I decided my family really needed that trip. Unfortunately, the discount rate was no longer available. I wrote to the Plaza explaining why I had canceled. The manager called me and offered the original rate. Upon our arrival, we were escorted to the manager's office. To my surprise and delight, we were given a key to the Central Park Suite on the 15th floor! This was the suite--overlooking Central Park--where Home Alone 2 was filmed. And we were given the royal treatment. It was an experience that we'll never forget.

The winner of our May issue's contest is Cliff Slinkard of Hogeye, Ark. His prize: a 15-day First Class Eurail Flexipass, courtesy of Railpass.com. On a business trip to China, my associate and I were really hoping to go scuba diving in the South China Sea, so we dragged our diving gear halfway around the world. In Hong Kong, the night before the dive, I called to confirm our departure--only to hear, in a pleasant but heavily accented voice, "Boat no go out." "Whaddya mean boat no go out?!" I said, sharing some of my heated southern accent in return. "Boat no go out," she replied. "Shok eat customa."

Two Amazing New Prizes: Buenos Aires & Ireland

Because this is a double issue, we're happy to announce two prizes. The best response we receive before July 29 wins a five-night trip to Buenos Aires from Escapes Unlimited. The prize includes round-trip airfare for two from Miami to Buenos Aires, five nights at the Regis Hotel, a half-day city tour, airport transfers, and breakfast daily. Valid for departures from September 20, 2005, until November 30, 2005, and in 2006, from mid-January through May 31. Blackout dates apply. For more info on Escapes Unlimited: 800/243-7227, escapesltd.com.

If yours is the best response between July 30 and August 30, you'll win a seven-night trip to Ireland from Brian Moore International Tours. It includes first-class hotel accommodations in Dublin and Killarney, all transportation, breakfast daily, and a tour of the Waterford crystal factory. Valid for departures October 9, 2005; November 6, 2005; and from April to October 2006. Blackouts apply. Airfare not included. For more info on Brian Moore International Tours: 800/982-2299, bmit.com. How to enter: TrueStories@BudgetTravelOnline.com or True Stories, Budget Travel, 530 Seventh Ave., 2nd Fl., New York, NY 10018. Guidelines are at BudgetTravelOnline.com. Sorry, we can't return photos.

Gross food story of the month

I was in Mazatlán, Mexico, for the first time, when my husband took me to what he said was the best roadside taco stand. I love to be adventurous, and so I ordered myself two--one taco de la cabeza (cow's head) and one taco de la lengua (tongue). On the first bite of the tongue taco, I bit into what felt like a rock. I spit it out. It looked like a tooth. No, it was a tooth--and, unfortunately, not one of mine. I calmly put the taco down, trying not to upset the cook, who stood right across from me, showing pride in his tacos with a big smile. Yipes! The smile had a gap. I may have been brave enough to try the tacos, but no way was I brave enough to find out if the cook was the original owner of my find. --May Morrisroe, Atascadero, Calif.

Wait'll he puts his bifocals on

My husband, Donald, and I were celebrating his retirement with a trip to Alaska. We had stopped outside of Fairbanks to look at a portion of the Alaska pipeline, when I spotted the perfect photo op (left). What better way to memorialize the event? --Georgia Reilly, Vienna, Va.

In other words, you played the belize version of craps

Our family took a spring break vacation to San Pedro, a town on Ambergris Cay, a beautiful island in Belize. During the day there were a hundred things to do. But nights were pretty quiet, at least until residents began the World Famous Chicken Drop. Tourists and natives alike bet one Belize dollar (50¢) for a numbered square on a board set into the beach sand. A chicken is waved in the air, its tailfeathers blown on, and then dropped onto the board. The crowd cheers and clucks. Once the chicken relieves itself, the lucky winner of the chosen number wins the whole pot ($100 Belize). But in order to collect, the winner has to wipe up the board! --Lynda J. Wilson, Corvallis, Ore.

Someone clearly never finished reading the sheltering sky

This is the unbelievable but true story of two lovers who set out to enjoy a fantasy camping experience in the Libyan Sahara, only to get lost in the dunes. My companion and I left our guide to explore the vast red sands on our own. Despite warnings from him, we carried no water or food, confident we'd shortly return. But we became disoriented by the shifting dunes, and we lost sight of the camp. Then, as if the proverbial Arabian genie had granted us a wish, I looked down and spotted binoculars in the sand. Was it a mirage? Lucky for us, no. We found our camp and rejoined the guide. We gave him the binoculars, hoping they'd come in handy, perhaps to save some other foolhardy romantics from death in the Sahara. --Laurie Pallot, Coconut Grove, Fla.

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