As I write this I am flying home from England on British Airways at 34,999 feet in the air with an outside temperature of 56 degrees below zero. We are coming home physically exhausted but quite mentally refreshed.
We went to England on the great liner Queen Mary 2 as a treat for Bill and me, and we recommend it to everyone. There are not many liners still just crossing the ocean and not leaving as part of a cruise, but this 10-year-old queen, flagship of the Cunard Line is a queen indeed.
Not having been on a liner or cruise ship for several decades, and having seen the TV ads showing questionable behaviors aboard cruise ships, I was wary of what the once elegant Cunard ships might be like. True to their reassurances, it is still elegant and their standards have been kept, even though the Cunard Line, the Carnival Line and the Princess Line are all owned by the same company, I was told.
There isa dress code at dinner in the main dining room, but they really are not too picky. If the dress code is tuxedo and cocktail dress, they are happy with a dark suit and a good looking pants suit. They just want to keep T-shirts and shorts out of the dining room at dinner. They also have such a mix of nationalities and religions traveling. There were several ladies swathed in black burkas and a happy group of 19 Mennonites from Lancaster dressed in their little hats, homemade dresses and suspenders holding up their trousers.
On three different evenings there were formal balls for those who love to dance on a rocking ship.
The food was mostly excellent. It wasn’t always as good as a top restaurant, but they feed 2,500 passengers and 1,400 staff members three times a day. With that in mind, I guess they deserve a rating of excellent, as some of it was definitely top of the line.
Other than the Britannia, the main dining room, there are another eight dining venues for passengers, all tended to by eight chefs from around the world and over seen by a German executive chef. For a typical transatlantic crossing they use 50 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables, 12 tons of meat, eight tons of poultry and 13 tons of fish and seafood. In addition the use two tons of cheeses and dairy products, two tons of sugar, 5,000 gallons of milk, 32,400 eggs, four tons of flour and two tons of rice.
One day, a half hour before lunch, passengers were invited to come see the kitchen. It was so spotless it shone while a gang of their 85 Utility workers from galley cleaners to dishwashers were cheerfully working away. My favorite, which I almost missed, was afternoon tea with wonderful little sandwiches and pastries. There were so many activities from which to choose, I kept missing tea. Bad mistake -- as it was fabulous.
Among the daily activities from which to choose were lectures on art, astronomy, American medicine as seen through TV, and spy organizations, bingo, bridge, paddle tennis, shuffle board and darts tournaments, watercolor classes, hat trimming, ballroom dance classes, casino games,trivia tests, karaoke films, concerts by a classical pianist, world class guitarists and dancers and Broadway stars, just for starters. There is also a 10,000 volume library with a gorgeous reading area, book signings, and a book club, the Canyon Ranch on Board, a fitness center, two heated swimming pools and a lot more activities I didn’t attend. If you are bored, it might be your fault.
As we had a stateroom with a balcony, I had visions of sunbathing on my own balcony, but that wasn’tto be. We began with three days of pea soup fog with the fog horns punctuating the conversations like a lost banshee. They were kind enough to point out where the Titanic hit the ice berg and went down. The waves were never really bad, just bad enough that I was pleased I had a goodly supply of Bonine.
It was rough enough that one day we were all told to not go on deck. What I learned was that there were two styles of balconies. The ones on the high decks have screening around so you can lie out in the sun. We had the other kind on a lower deck. These were built to take the buffering of high waves and looked more like a metal coffin with a large opening in the metal so you can see the ocean if you stand up. Sun would never find its way onto this balcony, but then neither would salt water. There wasn’t any sun anyway.
If you have gathered that we had a wonderful time, you are right. How could we not enjoy ourselves? The staff has been trained never to say “No” to any lame brained request: they are supposed to find an alternative that will keep the passenger happy. I do like that attitude!.
The Kennett Symphony of Chester County will show off its fabulous brass section this Saturday, June 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Longwood Gardens in the Open Air Theatre. (rain date Sunday, June 23.) After 25 years as Director/Conductor of the Kennett Symphony Maestra Mary Woodmansee Green will be retiring from the orchestra. Those of you who have enjoyed Green’s informative and sometimes amusing explanations of the music to be played will have only one more concert that she will conduct. For tickets to this almost farewell performance call 610-444-6363.
Alligator Zadeco Band will return under the auspices of the Hadley Memorial Fund due to popular demand. They appeared for the Hadley Fund in 2002, 2007, 2008 and in 2011 in Nixon Park, where they will perform again in the park on Wednesday, June 26, at 7 p.m. Be sure and bring a lawn chair or a blanket with you.
Alligator Zydeco was formed in 1995 by Greg Trolano and he daughter Laura. They play Louisiana music with authentic instrumentation such as Cajun, three-row diatonic and piano accordion and washboard, as well as guitar, bass and drums with major influences from Cajun-French and African music combined with Caribbean, Mexican. Texas swing and country, this is about the most danceable music possible. The concert is free.
The Brandywine River Museum is celebrating the start of summer with a concert on Friday, June 21, by the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus at 7:30 p.m. The concert is free for members or with museum admission. Refreshments will be available for purchase.
Curator’s Tour of Jamie Wyeth/Rockwell Kent and Monhegan Exhibition will be given by Assistant Curator Amanda C. Burden on Wednesday, June 26, at 2 p.m. Free with museum admission.
The Delaware Museum of Natural History has just opened a new exhibit that explains how water travels, drop by drop, cleaning itself on its journey to the ocean and back to the clouds for another try. Several highlights include a 24 foot zip line you ride that transforms visitors into a water droplet on its way to the ocean, an explanation of how only 1 percent of the water on earth is available for drinking and animal habitats in the interactive maze. This show, with many other special exhibits, will be at the museum through Sept. 2.
Ever wanted to watch a top artist finish a painting? Now’s your chance this Friday, June 21, at the Chadds Ford gallery from 4 to 8 p.m. Director Barbara Moore has lined up artists Jacalyn Beam, Roger Dale Brown, OPA, Valerie Craig, Beverly Ford Evans, Paul Scarborough and Robert Stack to let us watch what they do as they finish their paintings, all done at sunset. A portion of proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross Oklahoma Relief Fund.
The Delaware Museum of Natural History will give free admission on the Sunday morning, June 23, from 9:30 a.m. to noon. This is the third of three at the museum for the 2012-2913 school year and is part of a grant from PNC Bank.
The Chester County Historical Society is offering one of the more interesting tours this coming Saturday, June 22, from 2to 5 p.m., as they tour the historic pubs of West Chester. The history and lore of these pubs, as well as the pints and appetizers will be shared. There will be a test of trivia about the pubs and their stories that are a part of the rich heritage of these local businesses. Admission is free of charge but the society would welcome any donations. For this fun tour meet at CCHS, 225 N. High St. in West Chester at 2 p.m. for the first stop. If you can’t meet them there, join them at Doc Magrogans Oyster House until 3:30 p.m. for some half price drinks and appetizers.
The Chester County Historical Society is offering a summer workshop called “Locations in Time” on Saturday, June 22 from 8:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The workshop is $29 for a CCHS member and $35 for a non-member. Please make reservations at 610-692-4800. You could attend this and then go on the Pub Tour.
The Broadway smash hit “Wicked” about the good and evil witches in the Land of Oz and how they got that way has all the characters from “The Wizard of Oz” only cast in darker hues. The show will be at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia June 26 through Aug. 4. For tickets call 215-893-1999.
The 11th Hour Theatre Co. will present “The Last Five Years,” the contemporary musical by Jason Robert Brown June 20 through 30. This story of the heart break and hope that is a part of every marriage will be presented at the Caplan Studio Theatre, University of the Arts, 211 S. Broad St., 16th floor, Philadelphia. For tickets or more information call 267-987-9865.
Jonathan Edwards – Friday, June 21at 8 p.m. –This is a veteran performer who is neither grizzled nor nostalgic, but still looking forward. He is one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. $33.
Heather Maloney – Saturday, June 22, at 8 p.m. Her sharp, poignant lyrics in clever acoustics with operatic overtones lift her out of the folk and pop tunes. $15.
Glee – Monday, June24 at 6 p.m.
Caryl Huffaker lives in Kennett Township.