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Weird But True: 2011's Most Bizarre Travel Stories

girls scooter laughWith so many natural disasters, economic naysayers and badly coiffed presidential candidates clogging the airwaves in 2011, it's no wonder people are craving something different. You know, news that's positive, and touching, and heartwarming -- or, in our case, just plain bizarre.

We intently followed the oddities of the travel world over the past year, reporting on such screwball scenarios as Ryanair eliminating all but one of its toilets on some planes and aerobics nutball (and short shorts aficionado) Richard Simmons starring in Air New Zealand's in-flight safety video.

From hundreds upon hundreds of options, we selected the top 10 oddest travel stories of 2011.

What Not to Do at the Airport

1. "I'm Not Sick. I'm Not a Terrorist. I Just Want to Pee!"
And the award for best performance by an egotistical actor in a leading role on a flight goes to ... no, not Alec Baldwin. Sure, he got booted from an American Airlines flight in December for refusing to shut down his Words with Friends game. But he comes in second to French actor Gerard Depardieu.

Refused access to the loo while his CityJet flight to Dublin was on the runway at Charles de Gaulle in Paris, a schnookered Depardieu attempted to relieve himself in a bottle. But the bottle proved too, ahem, wee, so he instead urinated on the floor. The plane returned to the gate, Depardieu was forced to say adieu (he was kicked off) and the rest of the passengers waited two hours while the carpet was scrubbed.

Then again, maybe it was better he didn't get to go to the bathroom -- he could have gotten locked in like a Finnish ferry captain did in August. (The tourist vessel ran aground near Helsinki as a result.) Next time, Depardieu should travel via commuter train in the Netherlands; in October, the national railway introduced special urination bags on its bathroom-less, short-haul trains.

2. Saintly Smuggling
A never-ending font of delight is the list of crazy things people try to smuggle in luggage. Live birds, millions in diamonds, cocaine concealed in toys, even butter, if you can believe it (there was a massive shortening shortage in Norway this month).

But the most bizarre of the year was the skeleton of a nun, found in a monk's suitcase.

In January, a 56-year-old Cypriot monk was detained after Athens security agents discovered a skull and skeleton in his bag. The monk claimed the remains were of a sainted nun. Not so, we're afraid -- just a normal, run-of-the-mill nun, who had died four years earlier. Sorry, brother, someone swindled you.

The monk was charged with theft and desecrating the dead, and was suspended from his duties at the monastery for three months for skipping town without permission.

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3. How to Put Your Wife on Notice
The equally brilliant ingenuity and sheer idiocy of this move made it one of our favorite news stories of the year.

A U.K. immigration officer found the ultimate coping mechanism for dealing with a crappy marriage: putting his wife on a terrorist watch list while she was visiting family in Pakistan. The move kept the missus from returning home for three years. He was busted in January and lost his job.

4. Hair Scare
And you thought a full-body scan that showed the outline of your nether regions was invasive. A 53-year-old Dallas woman cleared security without incident at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in September, but TSA agents chased after her down an escalator to call her back. Forget something? Oh, just to inspect your supersized Afro, ma'am.

Agents pulled aside the Dallas hairstylist before she could board the tram to her concourse and searched her hair. "Basically they said, 'We have to check your hair for explosives' and I thought they were kidding me," Isis Brantley told an Atlanta news station. "I just thought it was a joke. I was shocked. Everyone was shocked."

Just how big was her hair? Well, she said she hadn't cut it in 41 years.

5. Go, Speed Racer, Go!
Apparently, captains for Carnival Cruise Lines do their training at the Daytona 500. The Speed Racers of the sea put the pedal to the metal, piloting a ship so fast that it caused one passenger to be ill -- or so claimed Doris Beard of Gary, Indiana.

Beard filed a small claims lawsuit against Carnival, claiming that the ship "swayed terrible [sic]," causing her to bleed somehow.

Carnival's motion to dismiss was initially denied, but an appeals court ruled this past March that the lower court decision was garbage. Jurisdiction for the case should have been in Florida, not Indiana, where the case was filed. Plus, the one-year statute of limitations outlined in the cruise contract had expired, Carnival successfully argued.

As a result, the case -- perhaps like Beard's lunch during her ill-fated cruise -- was tossed.

6. Big Brother Is Listening...
This story's a real snoozer.

Staff at six Crowne Plazas in England started roaming the halls of the hotels in July, keeping an ear out for nasal buzzsaws behind closed doors. When someone's snores are loud enough to be heard in the hall, the member of the Snore Patrol knocks on the door to rouse the sleeping guest. (How would you like the job title of Snore Monitor?)

The hotel chain also started building snore-proof rooms in some of its hotels in Europe and the Middle East. The specially retrofitted rooms include soundproofed walls and headboards, anti-snoring pillows and white noise machines.

33 Secrets for Sleeping Better at Hotels

canada goose7. Roasted Goose for Everyone!
Too many geese are spoiling take-offs from New York area airports, and airport officials would like to avoid incidents like smooth operator Sully Sullenberger's US Airways landing on the Hudson River in 2009.

Animal rights groups pooh-poohed the idea of rounding up geese and gassing them, so the next best plan? Round them up and cook them! New York City said in June that it would pay for the capture and transport of the geese to Pennsylvania facilities, where they will be prepped and perhaps roasted, sauteed, flambeed or whatever, and distributed to local food banks.

8. F-Bombs Away
So, let me get this straight: It's okay for a children's book author to drop the f-bomb in print (Adam Mansbach's bestseller "Go the 'F' to Sleep," for one), but it's not okay for a children's book author to actually utter the word? Oh, Hamlet, something's rotten in the state of Michigan.

Kiddie book writer and TV producer Robert Sayegh was escorted off an Atlantic Southeast flight by police in June after a flight attendant overheard him use an obscenity during a conversation with a seatmate.

"I was just kind of talking to the guy sitting next to me. I said, 'What is taking so long?' I said, 'What the 'F' is going on?'" Sayegh told reporters later. "I could see if I directed it at [the flight attendant], but I didn't even speak to him."

Cut the guy some slack; he's from Brooklyn, after all. "We use curse words just like adjectives," he explained.

9. Botched Butt Booster
We know that cosmetic surgery tourism is all the rage in some countries. But the first sign your elective surgery might not be on the up and up? For starters, the operating room is a Hampton Inn, not a hospital or doctor's office.

A 20-year-old British woman and her friend traveled to Philadelphia in February to receive cosmetic enhancement surgeries. But Claudia Seye Aderotimi's procedure in a guestroom at the South Philly chain hotel went horribly wrong.

Less than 12 hours after receiving silicone injections in her buttocks, Aderotimi suffered chest pains and was rushed to an actual hospital, where doctors couldn't save her. According to police, the silicone used in the procedure was fatally and wrongly injected into her vascular system, resulting in her heart stopping.

10. The Cost of Flying, Minus Overhead
A flight attendant on a Virgin Blue jaunt from Fiji to Sydney was sacked in March for putting a toddler in an overhead bin. He claims he was just joining in with the boy's dad -- who was playing peek-a-boo with the 17-month-old child -- and got a little too into it.

The toddler wasn't physically hurt, though three months later he was apparently seeing specialists for anxiety. The mom claims she was so traumatized by the event that she couldn't possibly ever, ever use the three free flights the airline offered her. She's also now estranged from the hubby.

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    --written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

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