Travelers' Tales

0902_truestoriesHow to create a vegetarian

From our February issue: Readers share anecdotes about eating mountain oysters, a honeymoon with 11 people, an unexpected encounter at a dairy farm in Ireland, and more.

Next Prize:
Aruba The best response we receive between Jan. 31, 2009, and Feb. 28, 2009, wins a trip to Aruba, courtesy of the Aruba Tourism Authority. It includes air from New York, five nights at the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort Aruba, transfers and a snorkeling trip by De Palm Tours, and a tour by Aruba Off-Road. For more info on the Aruba Tourism Authority: 800/862-7822,

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

Cruise Winner February's winner is Lorena Aguilar of Woodbridge, Va. Her prize is a 14-day South American cruise, courtesy of
My husband and I went to Caiazzo, Italy, to see my relatives. They don't speak English and my husband doesn't speak Italian, so I was the translator. On our first night at my cousin's house, she handed me two towels and a small box labeled INTIMO. My husband assumed it was for "intimate" purposes for the two of us and tried to rush me off to the bedroom, yelling, "Grazie! Grazie!" That's when I realized he was excited about a box of soap for the bidet. As I explained things to my relatives, they laughed hard, and for days the men in the family kept nudging my husband and giving him the thumbs-up.

How to create a vegetarian
Last summer, our family spent a night in Amarillo, Tex., and ate at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. Our appetizer platter had mountain oysters, which we enjoyed thoroughly. My wife and I and our daughter assumed they were breaded seafood. Three weeks later we heard the name again—and learned that mountain oysters are actually fried bull testicles! Someday this photo will be great blackmail material. Alan Freed, Ambridge, Pa.

Isn't it illegal for 11 people to go on a honeymoon?
When my husband and I were engaged, his parents said they would give us a honeymoon to remember. We instantly had visions of Hawaii or Mexico. Not quite. They told us we were heading to Disney World in Florida, then added that they'd always wanted to go themselves and were coming along. "That's great!" I told them—what else could I say? In the end, my mother-in-law invited two friends, the friends' three kids, and my sister-in-law and her husband. I can't say a lot of honeymooning went on, but my in-laws did give us a trip we'll never forget. Cristina Beitz, El Cajon, Calif.

It really looked like a rifle?
My husband and I went to a rental-car counter at the airport in Cancún. Before we signed the contract, I noticed that if we returned the car with even minor damage we would be charged $1,000. We decided not to get the car, but the agent wouldn't give us the contract, which had our credit card number on it. The conversation got very heated, and the agent mentioned calling the police. I thought that was a good idea and went looking for an officer. I saw a man in uniform holding a rifle and explained the situation to him in Spanish. But slowly I realized that his uniform wasn't quite right and his rifle was...a broom. I was speaking to the janitor! I felt ridiculous. Luckily, my husband had managed to snatch the contract. Bonnie Worthen, Pendleton, S.C.

Fuel up at the grass station
In Rotterdam, a friend and I parked our car and wandered around the city. Later we realized we had forgotten the location of our garage. We found our starting point, which was the site of an outdoor environmental exposition, and asked a few people where the nearest garage was. Finally one guy said, "You mean the car park? I'll take you." We were relieved—until he walked us to an artwork in the exposition. Next time, we'll mark our map. Jill Mazur, Los Angeles, Calif.

Then the fog rolled back in
After months of planning a trip to Machu Picchu, I arrived at the magnificent site. The weather was not cooperating, and most of the area was under heavy fog. Finally, the cloud cover lifted, and I hurried to pose for a photo so I could prove I had been there. But a llama decided he wanted to get in the picture too! Jodi Resch Brownell, Crandon, Wis.

Ever heard of Tide to Go?
My wife and I visited her brother in Mozambique. The first night, I was feeling crummy and lay down, but everyone else had a huge pasta dinner. The next day, we went to meet members of my brother-in-law's church. My wife had forgotten to pack a dress, but after searching for an appropriate outfit, she appeared in a white linen shirt and a yellow wraparound skirt with a brown and red design. As we toured the town, what seemed like every dog within 50 miles came and followed my wife closely. Finally we got away from them and returned to my brother-in-law's place to change and eat lunch. Before we sat down, my wife brought out her skirt and spread it across the table. Turns out the dogs had not missed the previous night's spaghetti sauce splatters, which looked like part of the pattern of the tablecloth. Erik Asbjorn, Bayville, N.J.

We wanted a picture from the day before
Last year, my wife and I were at the beach on Hilton Head Island, S.C., when I noticed a teenager staring at a spot behind me. I turned to see my wife in her chair, topless. Her bikini top had come untied and she hadn't noticed. Oops! As a joke, a friend gave her some caution tape to fix her suit. My wife wore the tape the next day to ensure that she didn't lose her top again. Patrick McCue, Naperville, Ill.

But the beer is getting warm!
My husband and I were certain that we had everything our 6-month-old son, Owen, could possibly need on a camping trip to Norway and Sweden. We had packed his baby travel gear, toys, and warm clothing. After a few days, however, we realized something was missing—his bathtub! My husband came up with the perfect solution: We emptied our cooler and filled it with warm soapy bubbles. Owen had way more fun than in his boring bathtub at home. Ann Kobiela Ketz, Landstuhl, Germany

The revenge of the W.C.
At a train station in Europe, several people in my group needed to use the restroom. So we wouldn't all have to pay the fee, I suggested we hold the door and just follow one another in. After the first person exited, it was my turn. As soon as I closed the door, jets of water and disinfectant shot from the wall until I was ankle deep. The water drained immediately, and I went to sit on the toilet, but it rotated into the wall and I almost landed on the wet floor. A newly cleaned toilet swung out from another wall. Finally, I was able to do what I was there for. As I rose and started to fix my clothes, the door opened, and my group, along with several locals, got quite an eyeful. Lesson: A few cents is not too much to pay to use a clean restroom! Sue Hess, Casselberry, Fla.

We know how those Italian men are...about cars
On a trip to Italy last year, my cousin and I borrowed a friend's car to go shopping. On the way back to the car, we were approached by three men who tried to talk to us. Since we didn't understand Italian, we said, "No, grazie," and started driving. They followed us in their car and kept gesturing for us to stop. Then they took their money out and asked, "How much?" in English. Of course we were offended and upset. Our friend called us at that point, and when we told him what was going on, he just laughed. He had put a for sale sign with his phone number in the rear window, and the men had called to say they were interested. Boy, were we embarrassed. The men did buy the car—they said that seeing how it handled while we were maneuvering to get away was what sold them. Tamara Abramyan, Burbank, Calif.

Just call him Cheeky George
My kids and I were on a cruise and went to Gumbalimba Park on Roatán Island, Honduras. We were excited to see the capuchin monkeys even though a coworker who had recently been to Honduras told me she'd had only limited interaction with them. Almost as soon as we got to the park, a monkey jumped on my shoulder and grabbed my nose. He then began to climb down my chest—and the next thing I knew he had stuck his head down my shirt. Everyone was laughing and taking pictures. That was a bit more interaction than I'd expected! Ana Rand, Bronx, N.Y.

And your friends left you there to take the picture?
In 2004, two friends and I spent a day on a dairy farm near Ennis, Ireland, visiting a farmer my friends had met on a previous trip. We walked for hours across his land, avoiding mud and cow patties as we went. Near the barn, we kept to the edge of the path to avoid the muck, but I lost my footing. Imagine my shock and horror when I sank to my thighs and realized that it wasn't mud! I turned to a friend to help me out of the manure, but she said, "I'm not touching you." After I was free, we asked the farmer if he would tell his friends about the crazy Americans. He said no, because they wouldn't believe it—"Even the cows know better!" Gail M. Davis, Virginia Beach, Va.

Prize Report
Roger and Claudia Hirsch of Dundee, Ore., won a four-night trip to the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort in Jamaicafor their story about a car repair in Belgium. "It was not hard to get relaxed," says Claudia. "We loved the beach and the warm Caribbean water. And we had a room with a balcony and an ocean view. Thank you, SunSpree, Air Jamaica, and Jamaica Tourist Board!"

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