Did we miss a turn?

Say, have you heard the one about the two women on a driving trip across southern Europe? No, there's no punch line; their story is more incredible than it is funny. In fact, while they may be able to laugh now, they certainly didn't see the humor in it at the time. The women, originally from the Dominican Republic, now live in Trento, Italy. They'd agreed to pick up their teenage niece (who was traveling by train from Paris) in Monaco, the tiny sovereign principality on the French Riviera. The problem: The women speak only Spanish and Italian, and Monaco in the latter tongue also can mean ... Munich. Yah, the city 145 miles away in Germany.

So the aunts set out by car across the Alps. Alas, when they arrived at the Munich railroad station, their niece was nowhere to be seen. And since she has no cellphone, they couldn't call to ask where she was. A helpful police officer came to their rescue, but even then, given the language barrier, it took an hour and a half to establish that the youngster had gone to the other Monaco. And from Munich, that is 363 miles and at least a couple of rest stops in an entirely different direction. By the time they returned home to Trento, a trip that should have been 484 miles going and coming had covered 750 miles instead. But at least the women had some beautiful scenery to look at along the way and, in the end, presumably, a nice visit with the niece.

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