Travelers' Tales


From our May issue: Readers share anecdotes about a surprise family reunion, mystery soup, suspicious Tunisian rocks, and a full-service Italian winery.

Funniest true stories
If you like our True Stories column, you'll love our new book, A Stingray Bit My Nipple! True Stories From Real Travelers. It's a collection of the best-ever True Stories (including a few that were a bit too risqué for the magazine), and you can buy it on or While we believe Stingray is an exceptional title, we did have other valid options, including I Got French-Kissed by a Giraffe!, There's a Grasshopper Stuck in My Throat!, and A Monkey Just Tried to Break Off My Banana! (It's a very funny book.)

New Prize: Celebrity cruise for two
The best response we receive between May 14, 2008, and June 30, 2008, wins a Celebrity Cruises sailing for two good for up to 14 nights in Hawaii, Alaska, the Caribbean, or South America (excluding the Galápagos on Celebrity Xpedition). The prize includes accommodations in a veranda stateroom and is valid from Sept. 1, 2008, to Aug. 31, 2009. For more information on Celebrity Cruises: 800/852-7239,

How to enter
E-mail us at or mail us at True Stories, Budget Travel, 530 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10018. For a complete rundown of the contest guidelines, please see

This month's winner!
This month's winner is Denise Buonocore of Milford, Conn. Her prize: a three-night trip to Cancún from Continental Airlines Vacations.

While on Italy's Amalfi Coast, my husband and I visited a cemetery in Vettica di Amalfi to look for the graves of his ancestors. We tried telling the caretaker what we were searching for, but she didn't speak English. Just then, two women strolled by. Luckily, one spoke English, and after asking us a few questions, she realized they were distant relatives of my husband! They showed us around the village and even invited us home for lunch.

So much for the what-to-say-in-the-postcard dilemma
When our van rolled into a ditch in the Serengeti, everyone got cuts and bruises, but we were most concerned about Alice, who had a bump above one eye and was very disoriented. We were transported to a lodge where there was talk of airlifting her to a hospital. Eventually, however, we discovered the source of her distorted vision: A lens had popped out of her prescription eyeglasses! A backup pair of spectacles cured her dizziness, and after a few glasses of wine to ease our aches and nerves, we continued on our adventure. Elaine Nave, Phoenix, Ariz.

Let's hope no one tells him to jump off a bridge
My husband, Ken, ordered something called otdak soup while we were in South Korea. To his surprise, another patron jumped up, ran to his car, and returned with a small white pill. He insisted Ken take it before eating the soup and explained that foreigners sometimes have an allergic reaction to otdak. Not wanting to offend the man, Ken took the pill and ate the soup. The next morning, he had a dry, itchy feeling in his throat. He searched the Internet for answers. One of the soup's ingredients was the root of the plant Rhus verniciflua. Better known as the lacquer tree, it's a close relative of poison ivy. After a visit to a clinic and a few days with a red, itchy throat, he was entirely back to normal. Karen E. Farley, Columbus, Ind.

Or maybe a baby grand
My lack of Portuguese made finding an Internet café in Rio difficult, but I soldiered on. After my queries were repeatedly met with shrugs, I resorted to sign language, miming typing with my fingers. At last, a woman nodded and directed me to a building. I ignored the skepticism in my gut as I rode an elevator with several businessmen. At long last, I entered the "Internet café." There was a man in a barber's chair getting his hair cut, and another lathered up with shaving cream. I sheepishly wiggled my fingers, and the man in charge ushered me in. Only then did it dawn on me: Everyone thought I wanted a manicure. Corinne Whiting, Annandale, Va.

Then she said, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it"
Last winter, my 13-year-old daughter, Danielle, and I took our first cruise—a western Caribbean itinerary on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas. While in Labadee, Haiti, we ventured to an artisans market, where Danielle bought a palm tree necklace. Later that night, everyone at dinner was talking about what they had purchased, so she proudly displayed her new treasure. There was chucking. Puzzled, we continued on with dinner. Finally, an older lady asked me what was on the necklace. I explained that it was a palm tree. Everyone broke out laughing. "I think it's a pot leaf, dear," she said. Jane Stanton-Turcotte, Manchester, N.H.

You need a map that shows where second base is
Every time my husband and I went over a bridge in Venice, we kissed and crossed the bridge off on our map. After several days, the map was full of X's. We had just a few bridges left when we reached a small one north of the Grand Canal. As we were kissing passionately, I noticed another couple, who seemed hesitant to cross the bridge while we were on it. I commented that Venice was such a romantic place as I absentmindedly pulled out our map. "No worries," replied the woman, smiling. "We only have a handful of bridges left ourselves." Ian and Lesley Veach, Reno, Nev.

Or you can borrow her map
I was excited to see kangaroos and koalas while in Australia with a conservation group. When we finally visited a wildlife center, my friends were jealous of how much the animals liked me. One wallaby got a little carried away, though, because the next thing I knew, he was humping my leg! Adria Saracino, Hamburg, N.J.

Is it just us, or does that look like Salvador Dalí?
It was the beginning of October when my boyfriend and I went to Barcelona, so he bought a rubber mask for Halloween. A few days later, he decided to play a joke on me. While I was using the Internet in our hotel's lobby, he drained the water from the toilet and put the mask in it. When I returned, I went to use the bathroom. I lifted the seat and freaked out. Cheryl Miller, Bloomington, Minn.

Saying "Can you show me the way?" made the matter worse
While driving home from the Florida Keys, my husband and I opted for a slower pace and turned off the interstate. On a back road in Georgia, we found an antiques shop, diner, and restroom break all rolled into one. After a delicious home-cooked meal, my husband asked the cashier, "Where do we pay?" The cashier looked at him strangely and pointed to the restroom. He thought my husband was asking where to pee. Nancy Lee, Hemingway, S.C.

Sure, blame it on the camel
While in Tunisia on a cruise, my husband, Alan, and I went for a camel ride, and Alan picked up a few rocks for our garden. Back on the ship, he placed them in our fruit basket. When we returned to our cabin after dinner, there was a foul odor. We assumed it was coming from a neighbor's cabin, but by the next morning, the stench was nauseating—and it was emanating from our fruit basket. I touched one of the rocks Alan had brought back, and a small puff came out with a scent as revolting as a skunk's spray. Those weren't rocks—they were camel dung. Tina Pate, Cape Canaveral, Fla.

And some people thought Shawn was the Messiah
Late for our excursion to Xcaret Ecological Park on Mexico's Riviera Maya, my husband, Shawn, and I ran across the hotel lobby. Suddenly, I heard a splash. Shawn was so intent on finding the tour bus that he never noticed the reflecting pool. There was no time to return to the room, so he gratefully accepted a towel from the staff and climbed on the bus. Joan Sheehan, South Weymouth, Mass.

Somewhere, Spike Lee is scratching his head
While at a fancy restaurant in Paris, I noticed actor Danny Aiello, from Do the Right Thing, sitting at another table. My friend told the waiter to bring Aiello a glass of champagne, instructing the waiter to say "Do the right thing" upon delivery. Aiello sent us a round of champagne in return and even agreed to a picture. Susan Teruel, Englewood, Colo.

Inebriation is the other mother of invention
In the Netherlands, my family and I drove to visit friends who live outside The Hague. Before our hosts opened a second bottle of wine, we asked about the best way to get home. "Rent A Bob!" they said. Within 20 minutes of our calling Rent A Bob, a nice young man pulled up on a small motorbike. He collapsed it, packed it into a sack, slipped the sack into our trunk, and then drove us home in our car. Then he unpacked his bike and went on his way. Erin Barrett, Lexington, Mass.

Now that's full service
The Goretti winery near Perugia, Italy, has a "wine station" with stainless-steel pumps like those in a gas station. Instead of gallons and dollars, it ticks off liters and euros. Just bring your empties and fill 'em up! Jean Borden, Sun City, Calif.

Prize Report
Nicole Andersen won business-class airfare to London on now-defunct MAXjet Airways for her story about getting chased in China for a lock of her blond hair. "The flight attendants were among the friendliest and most helpful I've ever met," says Nicole. "The limited number of seats on board made the plane feel spacious instead of claustrophobic, and the seats were so comfortable that I was actually able to sleep."

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