This past weekend, my wife and I were talking about our upcoming trip to Istanbul and London and we started to reminisce about the great times we have had in London on past visits. During those stays, we had ventured out to a few surrounding towns using the fantastic rail system. One of these venturings made us laugh all over again at the embarrassment that it had caused and has prompted me to write about it, and even put a contest together randomly awarding someone a prize for sharing their most embarrassing moment as a tourist.

OUR STORY:

On our last visit to London, we had planned to be there for 8 days to give us an opportunity to see as much as possible. My wife had been to the UK many times and had put together a great itinerary based on her past experiences and also based on things that we had not done on previous visits to what she refers to as the home of “Sting”.

In my desire to help come up with places to visit, I had asked if it would be possible to visit this place, solely on it’s appearance:

For those of you in the “know”, you will recognize this as Leeds Castle. For those that have never heard of this place, keep reading so that you don’t make the same mistake as we did.

My wife agreed that it would be a great place to visit, so off I went to the travel map and figured out how we could get to the castle. Looking at the map, I suggested to her that it is approximately a 3 hour train ride to Leeds, and from there I suggested that we can just hire a cab to take us the rest of the way. I mean Leeds castle has to be close to Leeds…..right????

So off we went, we dedicated one of our 8 days to go see this beautiful castle and took full advantage of our unlimited first class rail pass that let us travel where ever we desired on Britain’s railways. We figured to get an early start so that we can be back in London for an early dinner. After a 2 1/2 hour train ride north out of London, we finally arrive at Leeds Station and I make way for the information booth to inquire how we can go about getting to the castle.

At this point, I know something may be terribly wrong when the person manning the Info Booth returned a blank expression with a hint of suspicion as if I were setting them up for some kind of prank. The conversation went a little bit like:

ME: Hello, can you help me figure out a way to Leeds Castle
INFO BOOTH: Leeds Castle sir?
ME: Yes, we’d like to visit the Castle for the afternoon.
INFO BOOTH: Sir, Leeds Castle?
ME: Yes, the one with the water features surrounding her.
INFO BOOTH: Sir, Where are you coming from?
ME: We just came up on the train from London….
INFO BOOTH: London, Sir?
ME: Yes…..
INFO BOOTH: Sir, Leeds Castle is not here.
ME: Where did it go? What did you do with it??
INFO BOOTH: Nothing Sir, but Leeds castle is not in Leeds!!
ME: @$&#*@()!, where is it?
INFO BOOTH: When you return to London today, go 45 minutes the other way south of London and you’ll find Leeds Castle in Maidstone, Kent.
ME: Really? @#(**$@$…..Thank you for your help. I’m glad I stopped and asked!
INFO BOOTH: Your welcome sir, enjoy the rest of your visit to the UK!
ME: Thank you! (go back to my wife who had gone to buy water)
MY WIFE: So, do we know where to go?
ME: Yep…..#&$^(@#^@#
MY WIFE: What??
ME: Leeds Castle is 45 minutes SOUTHEAST of London, not 3 hours NORTH.
MY WIFE: @*&()~*$
ME: My sentiments exactly……

A MAP SHOWING LONDON (B), LEEDS (A) and LEEDS CASTLE (C) JUST TO PUT THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE:

So, a day was wasted sitting on a train for 6 hours and accomplishing little except for the memory. We never did make it to Leeds Castle on that trip, but we have made it a point to make sure we see it on our upcoming visit. No doubt, we will laugh about this a few more times!

There you have it, what I would consider one of my most embarrassing moments as a tourist. A moment that I think could win most contests for Most Embarrassing Travel Moment. That memory has prompted me to run just such a contest!

All you need to do is to share your own Embarassing Tourist Experience that you now look back upon and laugh. Just leave a comment to this post with your “moment” and I will pick a random winner (using a random number picker) from all entries received. The winner will receive a $25 Apple Itunes Gift Card!

ONE CAVEAT: IN ORDER FOR THERE TO BE A DRAWING THERE MUST BE AT LEAST 15 ELIGIBLE REPLIES (so please Tweet or otherwise share this post with others to ensure we get enough people!). To be ELIGIBLE it must be an actual moment or brief anecdote. Simply posting a reply without a story or description of the moment will render that reply ineligible.

The contest will end Midnight Wednesday, Eastern Daylight Savings Time…..

Due to technical issues with Boarding Area preventing the post to be published, The contest will end Thursday, March 15 at Midnight Eastern Time.

Good Luck! I look forward to reading about your moments!