From our July/August issue: a hot encounter with a guinea pig in Peru, doing "the circle thing" with friars in Rome, a taste of holy water in Thailand, and more.
This Month's Prize!
Costa Rica The best response we receive between June 27, 2009, and Aug. 28, 2009, wins a 14-night trip for two to Costa Rica from Planeterra Foundation. Spend five days volunteering on a sea turtle conservation project and 10 days exploring. Prize includes flights, lodgings, transport, and some meals. Trip must be booked by May 31, 2010, and must be completed by Dec. 31, 2010. For more info: 800/465-5600, planeterra.org.
How to enter: E-mail us at TrueStories@BudgetTravel.com or mail us at True Stories, Budget Travel, 530 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10018. Estimated value: $4,500. Taxes are the responsibility of the winner. Nontransferable; nonnegotiable; blackout dates may apply. Contest open to residents of the 50 United States and its territories, except Arizona. Full guidelines: BudgetTravel.com/truestories.
Trip Winner July/August's winner is Nadine Kosloski of Park Ridge, Ill. Her prize is a three-night all-inclusive trip to Los Cabos, Mexico, courtesy of Dreams Los Cabos Suites Golf Resort & Spa and Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau.
In the Bahamas, our family visited the Straw Market. The colorful displays weren't enough to interest our 3-year-old daughter, and she fell asleep on my husband's shoulder. I continued through the market with our older daughter. After a while, we turned a corner and were surprised to see my husband and daughter behind a table selling hats. The vendor had graciously offered her chair to my husband and then asked if he would watch her table while she went to the washroom. He agreed, and joined the other vendors in vying for the buyers' attention. The woman was gone for only 15 minutes, but my husband managed to sell two hats!
Attack of the guinea pig
At Pisac Market in Peru's Sacred Valley, a man was cooking something I couldn't quite see. Then I realized what was smoking over the fire—cuy, or guinea pig, a local favorite. The chef picked up a fresh-grilled cuy for our photo op. Before I could move, hot juices poured from my soon-to-be entrée onto my legs and feet, and click—the photo was snapped. Allison Koester, Seattle, Wash.
Very slow on the uptake
On a trip to Greece with my best friend, Effie, we visited relatives on her mom's side in a tiny village. The toilet was a hole in the ground. To flush, you rinsed the bowl by dumping a bucket of water in. A few days later, we left for her dad's family home. Their bathroom was also outside and I saw no way to flush the toilet, so I assumed it worked like the other one. Every day for a week, I would fill a bucket with water, heave it to the outhouse, and whoosh it down the drain. I noticed that when I would finish, Effie's family would look at me with bewildered expressions. Finally, the day before we left, her uncle pulled me aside and said, "You Americans make things so hard on yourselves—work, work, work." He took me into the bathroom and pointed up—there was a cord hanging from the ceiling to flush the loo. They hadn't told me because they wanted to see how long it would take me to catch on. Elizabeth Mary Hickey, Swampscott, Mass.
Did he punch the friars?
My husband and his twin brother have a game they've played since they were kids. It involves making a circle over your heart with your thumb and forefinger—whoever does it first gets to punch the other one. (Must be a guy thing!) The game is now played via photos from vacations around the world. My brother-in-law and his wife went to Egypt last spring and sent us a picture of themselves doing the circle thing on camels with the pyramids in the background. Of course, my husband had to have a comeback, so when he and I visited Rome in May, he had three Franciscan friars do the circle thing in St. Peter's Basilica. His brother will have a hard time trumping this one. Michelle O'Nale, Palm Harbor, Fla.
At least you got some exercise
Before I headed to Scotland a couple of years ago, a colleague asked if I could bring him back some brown sauce from Chippy's. Thus began a daylong search for a restaurant called Chippy's. I walked into a fish-and-chips restaurant and saw some brown sauce, but I thought to myself, This isn't Chippy's. Defeated, I returned to the States and met with laughter. "A chippy, not Chippy's. It's slang for a fish-and-chips joint!" my friend said. Somehow, I had disregarded the "a." I had walked past six chippies, had eaten at one, and had even seen the brown sauce, but still came back empty-handed. Lola Akinmade, Owings Mills, Md.
Newest item on the travel checklist: eye surgery
After arriving at my Miami Beach hotel, I couldn't wait to enter the warm surf that I remembered from childhood. I swam into deep water and saw a neon-colored toy a few feet away. I grabbed it and was amazed to watch it slither onto my hand and arm. Then the stinging began. I thrashed to shore, and the lifeguard ran me up to the hotel's ice machine and stuck my arm in it. "First time I've seen someone grab a Portuguese man-of-war," he noted. Back home, I scheduled the corrective eye surgery I had long postponed. Elizabeth Morelli, Richmond, Va.
If that's what a Thai blessing does to you, we'll pass
I was at a temple in Thailand with my Thai mother-in-law and my husband. My mother-in-law picked up some bottled water there. While she was in the temple, I drank one of the bottles. When she came out, she asked, "Where's my holy water?" So that's why all the locals had stared at me while I drank it! About two hours later, after a big Thai lunch, I started to feel queasy. I threw up every 20 minutes for the next six hours, and then my mother-in-law finally took me to the emergency room. After one magic pill, I was better. Guess I must have been very blessed by all that holy water! Jeanne McNamara, Zephyr Cove, Nev.
You got set up!
My husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary on St. Kitts, where we found a tiny beach bar. A man there had a monkey on his shoulder, and I asked if I could hold it. I asked what the monkey's name was, and the man replied, "Spank." I said, "Spank the Monkey is so cute!" The bar erupted in laughter. I was clueless until my husband explained it. Oops—I get it now! Micah Humphries, Rossmoor, Calif.
Terror loves company
Three friends and I, after recovering from heart attacks, decided to get in shape and took up backpacking. We went to Grand Teton and, the very first evening, heard a noise and saw a black bear approaching our camp. He sat down a dangerous 30 yards away and just stared at us for a full five minutes before he moved out of our line of sight. When we finally crawled into our sleeping bags, my friends proceeded to remove their hearing aids, and I realized I was the only one who would be able to detect any further bear noises. Not OK. So I said loudly, "Did you hear that?!" They all sat up, put in their hearing aids, and began to listen. Now that I knew we could all hear, I rolled over and had a good night's sleep. Don Glendenin, Springfield, Ohio