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When the Cheltenham-Gloucester Sports and Social Club in England offered a Christmas shopping excursion last week, 50 members jumped at the opportunity. And why not? The club had a good track record when it came to organizing bus trips, and the $300 per-person cost was going to cover two-way transportation and a full day in Lille, the popular French tourist city, to savor its famous cuisine and chocolates and buy gifts for loved ones and friends in the stores and boutiques. No room in that scenario for the Grinch, right? Wrong.
Almost as soon as they landed on the Continent some of the passengers sensed that they were off course. And when they saw highway signs showing the mileage to Eindhoven, they were sure of it. Eindhoven is in the Netherlands – in line with but a considerable distance beyond Lille ... Belgium. The driver had plotted the wrong Lille on the satellite navigation system in the bus. The Lilles are 100 miles apart, and the one in Belgium is a small town famous for ... well, for being the birthplace of landscape artist Frans Van Giel. By the time the travelers reached their intended destination they'd been riding almost eight hours and had only two left until the stores closed for the night. Although several of them returned home empty-handed, they're still hoping to get something for Christmas out of the experience: their money back.