From our December/January issue: an ostrich delivers a birthday surprise in South Africa, a lucky piece of jewelry comes to the rescue in Thailand, a miscommunication at an Italian deli, and more.
Dream Trip Gone Wrong?
For our March Dream Trips issue, we're looking for True Stories about once-in-a-lifetime trips that didn't go quite to plan. Whether it's thinking there's a snake in your bed while you're on safari in Kenya or trying to wash your hands with a condom during Carnaval in Rio (don't ask, but these are actually from the magazine!), we want to hear your tale of woe. E-mail TrueStories@BudgetTravel.com, and include any photos.
Ireland The best response we receive between Dec. 1, 2009, and Jan. 31, 2010, wins a five-night trip for two in Ireland, courtesy of Sceptre Tours, with five nights' hotel, economy-car rental with unlimited mileage, and full Irish breakfast daily. Five nights' hotel accommodations include: two nights at the Limerick Strand Hotel in Limerick; two nights at the Breaffy House Hotel in Castlebar, County Mayo; one night at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt in County Wicklow, near Dublin. Airfare is not included. For more info: 800/221-0924, sceptretours.com.
Trip Winner: We're all choked up
December's winner is Nancy J. Shephard of Stockton, Calif. She won a 14-night trip for two to Costa Rica, courtesy of Planeterra Foundation. Her story: In 1965, I was 19 and studying in Paris. One afternoon in the Tuileries Gardens, a handsome young officer chatted with me in French. He made up a fanciful tale of a "tradition" in which an officer encountering a pretty American girl in the garden must exchange his eagle epaulet for a kiss, and he gave me the emblem from his uniform. Enchanted, I accepted it and we exchanged a brief kiss. I also gave him my U.S. address. Recently, I came across the eagle and my first passport while going through boxes at my mom's house. And then, a few months later, a postcard from Marseille arrived. I guess Jean-Claude had been reliving his youth, too. The card said simply (in French, of course), "Remember that afternoon in the Tuileries?" Oh, yes! Forty-plus years later, I still remember it well.
Can't wait to see what you do next year
During a South African vacation last April, my husband and I made a stop at Highgate Ostrich Show Farm in Oudtshoorn. A guide took us out to see and touch the ostriches, and he asked if anyone would be interested in riding one of them. It was my birthday, and I thought, What a great way to celebrate! I figured that the guide would have me climb on the ostrich and then he would lead the bird around the corral. I was in for a surprise—the ostrich took off running! Christine Kasprzak, Franklin, Wis.
Medium rare, right?
When I studied in India in 2007, we stayed at a royal palace in Dhrangadhra in the state of Gujarat. The palace was predominantly Hindu; all the food there was vegetarian. This was great for me but tough for most of the group. One day, some of the guys were reminiscing about the best steaks they'd ever eaten, and the palace staff overheard them. Before dinner one night, the cook let us know that the meat eaters were in for a treat. The anticipation was high—7 p.m. couldn't come fast enough. At dinner, the waitstaff brought out our plates, and on every one was...a can of Spam. Not quite what the guys expected, but they accepted it with good humor. Kaitlyn Potzick, Louisville, Ky.
Best jewelry purchase ever
My boyfriend and I rented a motorcycle in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and sped out of the city in search of a waterfall. Everything was gangbusters until we hit a hairpin turn on a mountain road and crashed. I smashed into the pavement. A few minutes later, a motorbike rolled up. I must have looked terrifying, all covered in blood, but the girl on the motorcycle pointed at my neck and said, "Blessed." I was wearing a jade Buddha amulet I had just bought, and the woman, May, said the Buddha had told her to stop for us. She led us to her village, where her family got medical supplies and cleaned us up. In the local temple, May gave us a special blessing. After many thanks, we left the village, found the waterfall, and went to an emergency room on the way home. My X-rays, medication, bandage, and doctor's visit came to $11! Ashley Garbin, Denver, Colo.
So that's what kids are learning these days
My wife and I took our niece to Italy as a high school graduation gift. She had studied Italian in school, which we thought would come in handy. When we had trouble changing our order at a deli, my niece offered to step in and handle it. I was beaming with pride until she shouted at the man, in English, "They don't want that sandwich!" So much for those Italian lessons. Dean Miller, Ridgefield, Conn.
Gives new meaning to "natural hazard"
While golfing on Sanibel Island, Fla., I scored my only eagle (two strokes under par). I hit my second shot on a par four hole onto the green, but I was still about 30 feet from the cup. I was walking to my ball when out from the grass came a three- or four-foot alligator. It crossed the green and slapped my ball with its tail, and the ball rolled toward the cup and...in! My partner said we'd count the hole as a two because the alligator was a natural hazard—and it was a heck of a shot for a reptile. We later asked the course pro for a ruling, and he agreed. Edward Tubbs, Boiling Springs, Pa.
Saving the world, one turtle at a time
My buddy and I were visiting the Kerkennah Islands off the coast of Tunisia and hired some fishermen to take us on their morning rounds. After a few hours of harvesting 650-foot nets (catching mostly squid), we were ready for something more exciting—and then we pulled up a sea turtle. Excitement turned to devastation when we learned that the fishermen intended to keep the turtle and sell it; apparently the risk from bringing back an illegal catch was small compared with the potential profit. My friend and I talked it over and decided to buy the turtle ourselves. We forked over about $30—then asked them to release it, to their great amusement. I'm not sure we made much of a difference to the species, but we did make a difference to that turtle! Phil Kiracofe, Baltimore, Md.