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What are some of your memorable travel experiences?(24 posts)

What are some of your memorable travel experiences?AllisonHayes
Jun 26, 2002 5:45 AM
You might appreciate this:

Recently on a connecting flight from St. Louis to Chicago on American, my 45 min flight turned into an 8 hour fiasco.

Boarded the plane, an MD80, every seat was full. I am in the back surrounded by a family of 9 returning to India. There is an old patriarch and matriarch, a couple and a bunch of kids ranging from 9 months to 15. I can't understand them; they can't understand me.

(An MD80 sits 2 on the left and 3 on the right; it is very cramped. We are all on the right side in 3 rows with another member of the family several rows ahead.)

So, a cumulonimbus storm drops by just as we pull away from the gate. WE'RE TRAPPED! The Captain says, "Well, we have to wait this out, just a few minutes folks." YEAH RIGHT!

Minutes turn into hours. The Indian family is worried about whether they can make their connecting flight and try to use the onboard phone which is in my seat behind me. Only the phone is stuck. They are pounding my seat BAM BAM WHACK WHACK BAM. I am bouncing back and forth like a ping pong. So much for trying to read. I had all I could take, so I offered them my cell phone to use. They looked at me politely and smiled, said something I didn't understand, and pulled out their own phone and made a call. Hmm, I thought, "Now, why didn't they do that in the first place?"

After an hour on the ground, the air conditioning stops. It is hot & humid in minutes. The Indian family decides this is a good time to eat lunch. The family matriarch pulls out a bunch of plastic containers. They pop the lids off and a moist pungent odor immediately overwhelms the cabin. (There is something about strongly spiced food that has been in plastic at room temperature for too long that is pretty nauseating.)

I have to get up. By this time I am close to becoming claustrophobic. OK, I am in the aisle to stay until we take off; its bearable.

Finally, we take off after 4 hours on the ground. Only we are diverted around the storm. We now have a 4 hour flight ahead of us: west then north then east. The family is leaning over the seats both fore & aft having lots of conversation, pulling my seat back as they lean over, jostling me as they turn around. (They are, obviously, very close very talkative and very gregarious.) Brother! I just keep smiling to myself knowing that this is better than a redneck taunting me in a SUV; I focus on my reading.

We finally land. The patriarch climbs over me to get into the aisle (Second time--he also did this when he sat down which should have been a clue for what I had in store. doh to me!).

But its over. Terra Firma!
Jun 26, 2002 6:04 AM
You haven't experienced anything until you've crossed the country on a Greyhound bus. Picture your scenario for 4 days straight. Winos puking next to you. Hair grease (afro sheen?) all over the seat back. Stopping every 20 miles across Kansas in the middle of the night. Babies wailing for hours straight. A pure waste of a chunk of your life.

I'd much rather bike across the country.

Cairo, 1979, 110 degrees.................Len J
Jun 26, 2002 6:14 AM
taxiing out to take off, Captain is trying to beat the Moslem Prayer hour, doesn't make it. We are forced to stop on the Tarmac (facing Mecca), He shuts down the engines (which shuts down the air conditioning) and we sit for one hour while most of the passangers do their prayers. Middle easterners are not known for their hygeine BTW. Couple this with sitting in an oven for an hour & you can imagine what it was like. Finally, we are cleared for our takeoff. It was the longest, and worst, 2 hour flight of my life.

Cairo, 1979, 110 degrees.................DougSloan
Jun 26, 2002 6:55 AM
picture that happening in the U.S. -- an airline captain stops a plane to recognize Christmas or something like that -- it would make national news and there would be an outcry to fire the guy.
Strong body odors & AmericansAllisonHayes
Jun 26, 2002 7:13 AM
Are we the only ones who seem offended by this?
Americans and hygieneColnagoFE
Jun 26, 2002 8:57 AM
yes I think americans are most offended by this. in europe it is just not that common to shower daily as most of us do here.
Mistakenly took the local bus in Montevideo, Uruguay...Spinchick
Jun 26, 2002 7:21 AM
from the airport to town. We meant to take the express bus but got on the wrong one. This one took us through every little village in northeastern Uruguay - over dirt roads, stopping every 5 miles, no with our luggage, locals staring with faint smirks on their faces at the disheveled gringos. My attempts to communicate in Spanish with the bus driver went to hell when I realized he was speaking Portuguese. It wasn't ALL bad, but definetely memorable.
Memorable, indeed!AllisonHayes
Jun 26, 2002 7:41 AM
What were you doing in Uruguay? There has to be a story (or several stories) here...

Speaking of villages, we are talking places of 100-200 people. In these villages they have no police and justice is determined by the elders. In one village, a local youth was drunk and accidently killed his best friend. The elders decided that for his punishment he was to be buried alive along with his friend.

The kind of place where things can spiral downhill in a hurry if something were to go awry.
Our idea of a honeymoon...Spinchick
Jun 26, 2002 12:32 PM
the first half of which was spent trekking around the rainforest in NE Argentina. Now THAT was fun.
Jun 26, 2002 7:44 AM
I get on a train in Granada, Spain for a 14-hour journey to Barcelona. It's an overnighter, so I can catch some sleep most of the way. I grab a compartment, and end up sharing it with an old man and probably his daughter. The train starts, and before long, the people open a bag and take out a bunch of food. Bread, cheese, and some kind of smelly sausage thing. They are very nice and offer me some. I decline. We attempt to converse, but all I could remember from Spanish class were mostly numbers.

The next few hours are uneventful except for one thing. The man keeps consulting his watch, and suddenly jumps up and pulls down the window. Right at that moment, another train passes on the opposite track. What a coincidence, I think. But this happens a couple more times. As far as superpowers go, I'd rather have the ability to leap over tall buildings, but predicting the passing of trains is pretty good!

It gets dark, so I try to drift off to sleep. Then I notice that we have been sitting in the same station for quite a while. The old man with train-oriented superpowers is getting jumpy, so I know something is wrong. There's not much I can do, so I try to drift off again.
The train finally moves. Maybe ten minutes later, we pull into another station. Again, we stop for a long time. Way too long.

I dig out my Thomas Cook Continental Timetable to check the schedule and see we are already two hours behind. It's now about midnight. Just then, the conductor comes by and hurriedly shouts something in Spanish, which I don't understand at all, but the other people do. Everyone starts grabbing their stuff and getting off. My compartment mates make feeble attempts to explain what is going on. I get the general idea and blindly follow them. I wish I had paid attention back in Spanish class!

The station is some small town somewhere in the middle of Spain. I never found it on a map. Outside are several buses. Oh great. Buses. Everyone loves a bus ride. I grab a seat near the front. At this point, I have no idea what is happening. All I know is that apparently, the train broke. But could this be a train hijacking? I really, really wish I had paid attention back in Spanish class!

As soon as the bus moves everyone pulls out cigarettes and lights up. I am horrified because I am very sensitive to smoke. For me, cigarette smoke equals instant throbbing painful headache, and a busload of cigarettes means cerebral edema. The only person on the bus not smoking a cigarette is the guy sitting in front of me, who lights up the most disgusting cigar ever made. I swear, there was some kind of animal feces in it. A thoughtful man, he kept turning around so I could share the full aroma. Wonderful. Is this what Sartre meant about hell?

Many hours later, daylight has arrived, and I finally know where I am. Valencia! A major city! If there was a hijacking, the ransom was paid! The bus door opens, and I practically dive out. All the trapped smoke escapes and instantly the city is covered with smog. Okay, that part didn't actually happen, but I still don't know how the driver could see out the windows.

I grab a seat on the next train to Barcelona. I am absolutely exhausted and looking forward to a nice smooth ride for two hours or so. Yeah, right. The train is a little rickety thing that obviously was banned from the main line. And the tracks were probably never fixed after being damaged in the Spanish Civil War. My teeth are coming loose, but I don't care. Just get me to Barcelona!

Finally, Barcelona. One of my favorite cities. An amazing town. And only ten hours late. It took me 24 hours to get here from Granada! What an ordeal. I've hardly gotten any sleep, my head is still throbbing, and I want to scream. But I'm here, and in a few hours I'm meeting a wonderful girl that will make me forget all about my troubles. Whatever it took to get here, it was worth it.
Jun 26, 2002 9:09 AM
I'm with two friends visiting Strasbourg. We've seen all there is to see, had our fair share of fun, and now we are kind of bored. Let's go somewhere! We find a small town to the south called Ribeauvillé that has some kind of castle. The guide says take the train to Bergheim, then catch a bus to Ribeauvillé.

We get off the train at a station in the middle of nowhere. Usually train stations are downtown, but not this one. There's a station master, so we ask him what time does the bus get here. "Bus? There's no bus here." The bus to Ribeauvillé, we said. He almost laughs, "There's no bus. Never was a bus. Never will be a bus."

We take a quick look outside. "When's the next train back to Strasbourg," we ask. "Four hours," is the reply. Wonderful. This is going to be fun, I think to myself.

We walk outside to figure out what to do. Off in the distance, about a mile away, we see a town. This must be Bergheim. We have four hours, so we decide to go into town and get a beer. We try to hitch a ride, but there are few cars and no one is stopping (unusual for the French countryside).

We walk instead, and arrive in a cute little medieval town. Thankfully, there is a pub. We walk in, the place goes quiet, and all heads turn, as if we were outlaws in an old Western movie. There's a bunch of old men sitting around talking and drinking. We say bonjour, order a couple of demis and sit down.

A couple of the old guys come over and ask us nicely what we are doing there, they don't get a lot of tourists. We explain about the train. They are surprised we speak French so well, and they sit down with us. For about an hour, we drank beer and talked with them about Alsace, the war, life, America, etc. A good time was had by all, but eventually they had to kick us out because they were having some kind of town meeting.

We killed two hours, but we still had two more. We walked thru the rest of town, which didn't take long. Walking past one house, we noticed a strange plant. We stopped to examine it, and suddenly the window above us opened. A guy stuck his head out and said "it's a choufleur."

We end up getting in a conversation with this guy about choufleur and choucroute (basically sauerkraut). At one point he says "hold on a second," closes the window, and disappears. The front door opens and he invites us in. He takes us down to his basement, takes out a few glasses, and pours us each some Mirabelle, the local Alsatian liquor. We toast, drink, he pours some more. After a tour of his home, we head back to the station just in time to catch the train back.

What should have been a disaster of a trip turned out to be one of the most memorable travel experiences I've ever had. Whenever people start bitching about the French, I think back to some of the friendliest people I've ever met....
Nice of you..PatC
Jun 27, 2002 8:00 AM say such pleasant things about French people.
But your memorable experiences are probably due to your speaking good French.It is usually appreciated here in Europe when tourists speak the national language and it makes all the difference.
But more often than not American tourists don't speak French or Spanish or whatever at all although they seem to expect Europeans to master English quite well. Strange, isn't it ?
A good example to follow is Lance Armstrong's. He has really improved his French over the last two years - actually he had to if he wanted to become popular in France.
Jun 27, 2002 8:38 AM
I was sitting outside a cafe in Florence, Italy eating lunch. The Italian name for Florence is Firenze, which baffled two obviously American tourists that walked by. I heard them say "Why can't they call it Florence, like everyone else?"

You are correct. I often hear that the French are rude, but that totally conflicts with my experience. We made an attempt to speak French wherever we went, with varying degrees of success. I never went anywhere and just started speaking English. THAT is rude. If I couldn't do the French, I asked, in French, if they spoke English.

On the other hand, my experience living in Paris is that it is a terrible place to learn French if you are American. The people seem to want to speak English. In fact, the young people insist on speaking English. Once I got out of the big cities, I found that I had to speak French.

There is an expectation, primarily by Americans, that someone will speak English, wherever they go. In Europe, that's not an unreasonable expectation. Almost anyone born in Europe since WWII will know English well enough to communicate. Almost anyone born in Europe in the last 20 years will be fluent. Scandanavians are famous for being fluent in multiple languages. A classmate of mine knew seven languages!

I struggled with French. I never really became fluent, but I could converse well enough. The phonetics were so hard. We would go down to the 13th to these phonetics classes and repeat things like "Louis, lui" and "au dessus, au dessous" into tape recorders and play them back. I knew I would never be good at French when I couldn't distinguish "au dessus" from "au dessous," which could end up killing me someday!

I was much better reading and writing it, but I was glad I did it. I went down to Greece one time and tried to find a train to Mycenae. In most languages that use the latin character set, you can guess if you don't know the word. Greek has a totally different alphabet, and there is no guessing! Luckily I found a schedule on the wall that had one side in Greek, and the other side in French! There was no English anywhere.
Jun 28, 2002 4:56 AM
The least I can say is that your English is fluent !
And you seem to have done a lot of travelling..good for you.
How long did you live in Paris ?
Did you do any cycling there, in Longchamp or Vincennes ?

There's one point on which I must say I disagree with you...not many Europeans speak fluent least not southerners : Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French people are notoriously bad at speaking foreign languages, especially French people ! I should know since I teach English to French kids !
Jun 28, 2002 10:42 AM
Yeah, that's true. Southern Europeans are different than their northern counterparts. Siesta is a concept I never got used to.

I've been to Europe several times, and been all over Western Europe. I lived in Paris for about 10 months, and before that I lived in Antibes for about a month. If you have to live on the French Riveria, it's tough to beat Antibes!

I wasn't a cyclist at the time I was there. If I were, you can bet I would have been standing in the mud for Paris-Roubaix and as many other classics and races as I could get to.
How about a list?PaulCL
Jun 26, 2002 7:47 AM
In college, shared a taxi home to school with a really cute girl. As I sat in the taxi, my pants were getting soaked?? I commented about it. The driver laughed and said "Sally did it again". Huh?? Apparently some regular customer, a drunk customer, pees in his taxi on her way home. Lucky me. He didn't get a tip.

While in Grenada, my wife and I drove up into the mountains for a tour. While at an "intersection" of two dirt roads, a local ran out of the woods and jumped into our jeep. He had been hunting dinner for his family so he was carrying a large slingshot and a big machette. And he smelled. Really bad. Long story short, this guy ended up giving us a tour of the island for the next six hours. We visited every spot on the island no tourist has ever seen. We had lunch at his mother's house. We saw private waterfalls (he wanted us..or wife to strip down and go swimming. NOT) We saw monkeys, we climbed a dormant volcano, we saw beautiful lagoons, we ate wild nuts and berries off the trees (Grenada is a 'spice' island). We gave a ride to as many as ten locals at a time hanging onto the Jeep driving down the mountain. We gave him $60 - more than he earned in a month. Only problem is that he figured he hit the motherload, so he tracked us down on the island, and appeared the next morning a 5 am for round two. He didn't take no for an answer very well. I have a general rule: don't piss off a guy with weapons in his hands.

If you go to Grenada, you will notice that all of the local men carry machettes everywhere. We ate dinner with some of the medical school professors (remember the US invading Grenada??). They recounted a story of some locals who came into the ER with machettes, a headless body, and the head in a bag. They wanted the MD's to re-attach the head like they had done for their buddies finger a month before. Once again, arguing with armed men can be dangerous. Paul
re: some memorable travel experiences?sctri
Jun 26, 2002 8:47 AM
High school type trip:
Basically, it was decided that 125 kids (think best and brightest BHAHH) from around the country (canada) should be pooled together in Ottawa, our capital for a week of intensive political/current events/ history/ civic.. etc etc education..

SO yah, we are do our thing, not sleeping much, long days, long nights, bu the friday, we have been getting 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night, and we are off to "the museum of civilization"... lets be clear, we are tired.. we dont care about civilization anymore... if it isnt a girl, a beer or a bed it does not matter.... (well at least for the guys!)

The plan is pretty simple, we had been to enough of these types of places to know the layout, and that somewhere there was a bathroom, and outside of that bathroom there would be those little leather sofas...

Yes, the plan was to sleep for the better part of 2 hours on those sofas... someone suck in some nachos i think.. we were chillin... ('bout 6 of us)


Wow, what an irriating noise, definitally disturbing our slumber
We figure its some neglectful tourist mother who has letter her child run about in one of the exibits, and triggered the alarm, and after wishing death and damnation upon them, we try to ignore that blaring noise...

It continues... so i eventually look out and see what is going on...

well... isnt that special, hundreds of people are streaming out, and they are doing that quickly.. wow.. thats nice, we had better go i suspect so we head for an exit

backgound on ottawa in the winter... hah, damn cold... damn damn damn cold.. not impressed, oh, and guess where the coats were
two points for inside the supposedly burning building..

Conclusion: No fire, but i spent 2 and a half hours in the quite sub-zero ottawa night..

good times
West Berlin, 1980.Len J
Jun 26, 2002 9:04 AM
A West German suggested that if we really wanted to understand what the Iron Curtain relly meant, that we should rent a car and drive from West germany to West Berlin. Sounds OK, so here we are on a beautiful, sunny Saturday Morning, when we turn onto the only road between West Germany & West Berlin.

Picture, 50 miles (or more) of road, with little traffic, and Double Chain Link, Barbed wire Fencing on both sides with Machine Gun Manned Observation Towers every 1/4 Mile or so. Now add Guard Dog Sentries, and just for effect, Regular, Continual Helicopter Gunship overflights the entire ride. Even though there was not a cloud in the sky, it felt like the further we traveled, the Darker it got. When we finally got to Berlin, we were all emotionally exausted.

After a Weekend in Berlin, living a sense of "Any moment our lives could change", knowing that the city was incredibly vulnerable to being overrun, and yet interacting with some of the most honest, real people I have ever encountered, we began our ruturn to West Germany. Again, not a cloud in the sky, but (& you'll never convince me otherwise) I swear it got brighter as we made our way towards the West.

I learned, in that short weekend, what freedom was.

Fall of the wall.Starliner
Jun 26, 2002 6:15 PM
I was on a train travelling from Paris to Amsterdam the day after the wall came down. There was a real buzzy energy among the passengers as everybody was talking about it.
Too many to recountStarliner
Jun 26, 2002 7:07 PM
From your post, it sounds as if you want lousy experiences. Well, there have been many, so I'll choose one...

I went to university in Oregon, and periodically would drive the 600 miles to my family home in CA. Before one trip, I bought this old Rambler, and soon had to replace the rear end. This Rambler had what was called torque-tube drive, where the driveshaft was enclosed in a tube bolted to the axle. So, I went to a junkyard and bought a used axle/shaft assembly, and proceeded to change the axle.

To do this, one must disconnect four bolts which fix the tube to the rear of the transmission. However, when installing the replacement, I couldn't quite tighten the top two bolts which were wedged high up in the tunnel area blocked by the exhaust pipe. Hurried to get on my way back to California, I decided to tighten them later....

The trip to California was fine. After a few days I set off to return to Oregon up I-5. Four hours into the trip, travelling at 65-70mph just south of Weed, I felt the car quiver and heard a loud boom in the rear. The rear end lifted up and suddenly WHAM! it crashed down on the pavement, with sparks flying everywhere. Having lost control of the steering, the car went spinning out of control. Then something weird happened. In the chaos outside, I glimpsed a couple of wheels connected to an axle and driveline tumbling by me in what seemed to be slow motion. It sure looked familiar because it was mine!

The car skidded to a stop in the middle of the freeway facing rearward, while I helplessly watched the campers and semis behind me screeching to a halt. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

Lucky to be alive, I unbuckled my seatbelt and got out, and went over to inspect the axle. I noticed that one of the tires was flat. Neither tire had much rubber to begin with, so I concluded that I somehow got a flat, causing unbalanced rolling resistance between the two rear wheels, which led to the driveling shearing off at the point where I had insufficiently connected it to the transmission.

A tow truck came and towed my car to a junkyard where I sold the car for the price of the tow. I had been bringing back to Oregon things like my tool chest and my bike (a red Schwinn Continental). So, here I was, by myself, 250 miles from home in California and 350 miles from home in Oregon. I decided to take my chances hitchiking, and to continue on to Oregon with whatever I could bring with me. So, I took the tools, but had to leave the Continental behind as well as some other things.

That was just the beginning of my odyssey. The events which happened afterward is another story for another time.
Great stories!!!!AllisonHayes
Jun 27, 2002 7:08 AM
I enjoyed reading everyone of them. What a wealth of experience; what a diversity of experience.

Memorable stories: good and bad. Also, funny & heartwarming as well as sobering and thought provoking.

Thanks for sharing,

The incredible chicken pox, unplanned, forest-fire camping tripOutWest
Jun 27, 2002 4:21 PM
Four years ago my wife, our 3 boys and I were to meet her sister and family and camp for a week in the Okanagan (B.C.). The girls had planned the trip which meant they hadn't decided where to stay but we had lots of food. My brother-in-law and I arranged to rendevous and find a campsite. Two days before we left my oldest came down with chicken pox, aside fronm the itching he was OK. After much driving we ended up at a new provincial campground called Fintry. Formerly a private campground it was really open without tables or firepits but we decided it would do.
After we set up we went down to the beach and were blown away, it was beautiful. Warm water, gradual shelving sandy beach, private. The more we looked around the more impressed we were. The second day there our second son came down with chicken pox, but we all were really enjoying ourselves. The hot item on the news was a big forest fire threatening Salmon Arm about 150 miles away, the local news was a bear and cub roaming around the area. My son and I went for a bike ride and I stopped at one point to wait for him. As I looked back I saw the big bear walk out of the bushes behind my son then walk across the road with the cub behind her. He still doesn't believe me.
On day 4 the youngest started getting chicken pox so we looked like a family of plague victims. The next day we saw heavy smoke drifting out over the lake and asked the park operator about it. He said that there was a small fire burning at the top of the hill and down the highway. At 4:00pm I laid down for a nap and was awakened by my wife saying that she could see the forest fire at the top of the hill. Sure enough it was coming our way. Small fire? Not by my standards. Conferring with our fellow campers we decided we should get going soon as the 2 kms of tight twisty narrow road from highway down to the campground was right in the path of the fire. We loaded the kids in the van and I ran to a few unattended campers and down to the beach to make sure nobody was unaware. By now the fire was coming down the hill and I would never have believed it could travel that fast. What really scared me was how strong the wind feeding the fire was, I saw a small tent rolling along into the fire. As we drove out of the campground I heard a roar over my head and our van was bombed with fire-retardant. Pretty red on our nice blue van. We got to a point down the road and stopped with all the other campers and watched the fire travel into the peninsula. Finally we headed into town and found a hotel room for the night. I had to laugh because my wife had thrown all the clothes and food into the van and stuffed the bikes into the tent along with the camping gear. As long as my family was safe I didn't care. The next day my brother-in-law and I went to see if we could retrieve our stuff. I was interviewed while waiting and was on TV later that night. After 5 hours we were allowed into the campground, to find our stuff intact as the fire had been stopped 60' from our campsite. The only casualties were the tent my parents bought when I was 10 years old and was still in perfect shape until embers burned through it, a tarp and 2 pillows that embers had also burnt through.
I have a video that I started when we left on the trip and it is a classic. Family packing, singing while heading down the highway, meeting in-laws, setting up camp, swimming, chicken pox, forest fire, water bombers, smoke, ending with the boys sleeping in the hotel room and the TV playing my interview.
hey outwest, are you from BC? (nm)sctri
Jun 27, 2002 5:23 PM
You betcher lovin' Liberals I am! You? nmOutWest
Jun 28, 2002 11:17 PM