From our March issue: Readers share anecdotes about a missing wedding dress, the prodigal suitcase, and (huh?) friendly French waiters.
New Prize: New Zealand
The best response we receive between March 1 and March 31, 2008, wins a five-night trip for two to New Zealand from ATS Tours. The prize includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles International Airport to Auckland Airport, two nights' hotel in Auckland, three nights' hotel in Rotorua, an Auckland harbor dinner cruise, two full-day bus tours, airport transfers, and more. For more info: 888/423-9181, atstours.com.
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TrueStories@BudgetTravel.com or True Stories, Budget Travel, 530 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10018. For a complete rundown of the contest guidelines, please see BudgetTravel.com/truestories.
This month's winner!
The winner of this month's prize is Christine Sacco of Wakefield, Mass. Her prize: a three-night trip to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, from Delta Vacations.
While in Savannah, I was obsessed with visiting every site mentioned in John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I was taking a photo of the town house owned by Lee Adler, the main character's archenemy, when an elderly gentleman (pictured at right, in glasses) stopped to sit on the stairs. As I explained to my husband why Adler was bitter toward Jim Williams, the gentleman perked up and said, "I hated the son of a bitch." He claimed to be Adler, but I was afraid he was pulling my leg--until I caught a glimpse of his mail. It was him!
In some ways, it's better to get married without baggage
Traveling to Dubrovnik, Croatia, for our wedding, my fiancée and I arrived on schedule, but our luggage--including the wedding dress, the bridesmaids' dresses, and my tuxedo--did not. We spent three days trying to locate our bags, but with just three days until the wedding, we had no choice but to replace everything. The people of Dubrovnik bent over backward to help. We found a beautiful wedding dress at the only bridal store in town and an excellent tailor who fitted my new suit and altered the bridesmaids' dresses. Our wedding went off without a hitch, and no one seemed to realize anything was amiss. Jason Kelly, New York, N.Y.
She's gone and ruined the reputation of French waiters
My girlfriend and I went to Europe with our friend Bobbi, whom we lovingly call Eeyore since hardly anything makes her smile. Even after a perfect lunch at a Paris café, Bobbi wasn't showing signs of happiness. She hates being photographed even more than smiling, so when I whipped out my camera, she said, "You'd better not take my picture!" Not missing a beat, the waiter stopped, leaned in, and gave her a big kiss--and me the perfect shot. Ruth Mitchell, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Sure ain't the Easter Bunny
For the holidays, my husband and I took our kids to Sunriver Resort in central Oregon. In the wee hours of the morning, we all awoke to the "festivities" of the couple next door. Our 4-year-old daughter must have fallen asleep with visions of Santa, because just after the man exclaimed his delight, she sat up in bed and said, "Daddy, is that Santa?" Kathleen McLeroy, Newberg, Ore.
Ask him to paint your house
During law school I clerked for a law firm in Saudi Arabia. One evening after work, I had plans to visit a friend. I walked outside and saw a car waiting. I told the driver where I wanted to go and asked if he'd take me. He was unresponsive, but I persisted. Eventually, he relented. He was reluctant to agree on a price, but in the Middle East you haggle for everything, so I insisted that he tell me his price--but he wouldn't. Frustrated, I finally decided to get in the car, knowing that I'd likely be ripped off. When we got there, I asked how much I owed. He shook his head. Confused, I asked again. "Look, this isn't a taxi, and I'm not a taxi driver," he replied. "I was just waiting outside of your compound to pick up my wife from work." Josh White, West Palm Beach, Fla.
He's a bellhop?
I was on a back street in Milan when I heard my name. I turned around and saw my father--with whom I hadn't spoken in two years--leaving a hotel and loading bags into a taxi. We hugged and cried, but we were both so shocked that we didn't say much. Back home, we reconnected, agreeing that such a chance encounter was a sign. Lisa Jacobson, Providence, R.I.
It is very Rei Kawakubo
I was prepared for the mosquitoes and the heat while at the Okavango Delta in Botswana, but not the gnats. On my first evening, I was swarmed. I spent most of the game walk flapping my arms and waving a handkerchief in front of my face. (I think the gnats were feasting on the DEET.) There was a six-hour walk the next day, so I searched my gear for a solution. Finally, I spied my camping towels inside their netted bags. The next morning, when the swarm appeared, I pulled the towel bag over my head--instant relief! Maybe I'll start a fashion trend. Donna Chauvet, Rockville, Md.
"Je voudrais une photo de les coconuts, s'il vous plaît"
In Moorea, there was a beautiful palm tree that leaned out over the lagoon. I went to take a photo, remembering two rules from photography classes: Use something to get a sense of scale, and if you use a person, always ask permission. So I approached the French couple lying beneath the tree and asked if I could take their picture. The man sat up and started screaming at me. I quickly realized why he was so angry--his companion was topless. Matt Klausner, North Aurora, Ill.
The prodigal Samsonite
While my husband and I were in Nova Scotia in 2002, his suitcase fell off the top of our vehicle, and we never located it. More than four and a half years later, the Nova Scotia police called: The suitcase had been found (my husband kept ID inside). Two days later, the bag arrived at our door--and remarkably, the contents were still in perfect condition. Carol Else, Lakewood, Wash.
Look, it's Milli Vanilli!
In Tahiti, our group was admiring our guide Mata's "swimsuit," so he offered to show us how to tie one. He used my husband, Mark, as his model. Mark was a good sport--but I was laughing so hard I could barely hold the camera steady. Hoku Gilbert, Kaneohe, Hawaii
Nothing odd going on here
A highlight of my trip to Vietnam was having clothes hand tailored in Hoi An. When I was measured, however, my two seamstresses couldn't stop giggling. When I picked up my order the following day, I persuaded them to try on my new duds. Alec Pleet, Odessa, Fla.
You think Stella got her groove back all by herself?
My sister got me to try scuba diving while we were at Breezes in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. During the introductory course at the resort, I asked our instructor if there were any great whites where we'd be diving, and he replied, "No, just great blacks." Paulette Mottl, Oconomowoc, Wis.
Good for back, bad for tips
My husband and I arrived at our hotel in London with three weeks' worth of luggage, including two large suitcases. We were assigned a room on the fourth floor, so we asked if there was an elevator. There wasn't, but the hotelier offered to bring up the bags. Within 30 seconds of delivering the first suitcase, he was magically back at our door with the other one. We wondered how he did it--until breakfast, when we met his identical twin. Joanne Raffel, Newark, Del.
Stacy Dungan won a Caribbean cruise from Disney Cruise Line for the trick photo she took of her son at a baseball game. "We had a wonderful time on the Disney Wonder," writes Stacy. "Our son loved the Oceaneer Lab, our daughter liked shopping in Nassau, and my husband and I enjoyed sitting outside on our veranda at night. Everything was smooth sailing!"