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  1. Maybe the two of you should book a stay on Cold Mary, late Spring it should be glorious and there is so much more to the ship than our photos show. It certainly has bags of character.
  2. Friday 28 December Day 15 ~ exploring Queen MaryFrance ~ Sunday 17 February 2019 Good night's sleep but didn't want to get out of bed, and how brave have you got to be to wash in this cool cabin. Then it hit us, use the hair dryer in the bathroom. Bingo! the bathroom was the place to be with the hair dryer going full blast constantly. Made us laugh to think of the power surge there must be onboard if everyone has the same idea when they woke. Off to breakfast with a striking view across the mouth of the Los Angeles river to Long Beach, almost matches riding in an Amtrak diner. Rosie picked up on the restaurant staff were working with fleece jackets and scarves on, so it wasn't only us then. We make a plan, Milton and I take the bags across to the car so our rooms are empty, then spend the morning looking around Cold Mary. From the QM car park, a stately ship indeed Seen on a beautiful clear day the ship looked at it's best. Lots of nooks and crannies, history and craftsmen workmanship to be seen. The interior design was started in the late 1920's, building started in 1930. That the ship is pure Art Deco is no surprise, it was the very peak of the Art Deco movement. The bridge is possibly the most notable difference between the two Marys, here is the QM requiring quite a few seamen to handle the ship. The QM2 had computer screens, keyboards and no discernible wheel, the QM had 3 wheels and all the equipment seen here. The bridge (when at sea) on QM2 has 3 people sitting on high backed bar stool type chairs mainly chatting. No expert but expect computers steer that ship? View from the starboard side looking across at Long Beach and beyond to the mountains, notice the snow on them thar hills this far south, and so close to the ocean. For you PVD... rivets! A few previous passengers and Miss Snooty as well (I just love this photo) Couldn't leave out Milton and his 'girls' After a couple of hours we are off back to the San Fernando Valley, Milton declined any help from Gertie. It will take a week or three for Rosie and I to make comparisons of the two ships, so much is happening we haven't time to think yet. It hadn't really occurred to us until leaving QM that it had only been 5 days and about 3000 miles since we stepped off Hot Mary to boarding Cold Mary, and the intervening days had had their own excitements too. Rest of our day was siting, talking, planning, eating and drinking, and not doing much. Plus the discovery of a Mexican bakery to die for.
  3. I didn't explain it well Ed. It wasn't air conditioning, it was the warm air system blowing out cold air. The main public spaces were cold to very cold as they had these entrance ways on the port side of the ship without doors, the openings were about 25 - 30 feet wide. Also have to say that LA was going through a real cold spell, for them a very cold spell as you can read about at the Rose Parade a few days later. Looking around the grandstand we were sitting in we could have been in Berlin in winter going by the clothes people were wearing. The cold weather added to the fact the QM had no heating over the 2 days we were on board. See the next day's comment on the dress code at breakfast. The lamps were part of what looked like a lot of original Art Deco fittings, but the rivets won out for attention.
  4. Thursday 27 December Day 14 ~ Another QueenFrance ~ Saturday 16 February 2019 Milton had suggested way back that it would be interesting to book a night on the Queen Mary at Long Beach CA, we agreed but thought about the cost, we had just come off of one of those. After persevering found a superb deal for a Thursday night, Friday and Saturday were a different kettle of fish. Up early as we had to pack a lot in. First down to Laguna Woods to take a look at Norma's soon to be new home, then drive back along the coast to Long Beach park that is across the water to the Queen Mary. From there we could see the ship in it's full glory, then round to a restaurant 'The Reef' for a late lunch before booking into the QM. The new old home was just right for Norma's needs, in the largest gated community we had seen. Once everything was done Norma would be in heaven, good for her. Next, along the coast road from Laguna Beach heading north to Long Beach, neither Norma or Milton had ever driven it as they were freeway and interstate freaks. We all really enjoyed the drive, although a little busy, but nothing like LA freeways. I had previously written the route through to the park then onto the restaurant and QM parking for our GPS, but something went very wrong as we approached the park. We were on the right road but heading into the traffic the wrong way on a one way road, no exit or place to turn. Milton (the driver) didn't panic at all, and that was scary. Eventually after what felt like hours he managed to find an exit to turn around in, and in a hurry too. Well done to Milton. Gertie the GPS did get a right telling off though. Never saw the park but did get to The Reef, phew we were all relieved. Milton thought it deserved a round of Root Beers, but he was the only taker. The Reef is a very nice restaurant, good service, great location right on the water and nice atmosphere. We had a late lunch with plenty to talk about, and we could see the Queen Mary across the car park. Sitting in the restaurant just pleased we had made it in one piece Fabulous setting with good food Milton showing us what he really wanted to do when driving the wrong way The view in front of us as we walk back to the car Then round to the QM car park, but what is a Russian submarine doing there? It's busy checking in but not too bad. We are allocated our rooms all on the same deck but get three very different rooms. Ours had 2 single beds with the bases touching, Norma had an outside room with a view across the water to Long Beach, Milton had the cupboard under the stairs, all were the same price. The entrance as you come aboard. In it's own way as magnificent as the one on the QM2 What a red carpet We all find our cabins cold, there is air coming out of the heating ducts but's it's cold. We check with the others and all are the same, so up to reception to ask for some heat. The next part really happened. Two sets of people in front of us, we all have the same problem cold rooms. The clerk performed this. "OK, I'll get onto maintenance, which room number is it?" Picks up phone and says quite loudly "Maintenance, we have a cold room", at which point he takes three steps away from the desk, his voice drops to an unintelligible whisper. After talking and listening for maybe a minute or so he steps back to the desk. They are onto the problem and heat will be coming through, it will take up to 20 minutes though so be patient. Customer, pleased it may just be warm enough to take their coat off in the cabin "Thanks for helping". By the time we are up with the same request, can we have some heating please? I've worked out what the clerk was doing, he was miming into the phone, a bit like when a young child talks to an imaginary friend. So we go through the pantomime and say thanks, it was an interesting performance but out hopes sink of getting any heat. From then on this ship is known as 'Cold Mary' It's now evening with a stiff breeze, two of the decks are open amidships to the outside, permanently. Fresh air is one description. We take a stroll around the promenade deck, what stands out is the amount of rivets that were used to build this ship, must have been millions. It's decorated with lots of lights and Christmas trees, very pretty too. Go to dinner in the Chelsea Chowder House restaurant, a good meal we all agreed. Check all our cabins... freezing. One by one I turn all the heating ducts off. Some are closable if you hit the right spot, some need pullovers, or some such pushed into them, it all helps. So that made for an early night, everyone kept their coats on in bed... Beautiful teak decks, just like her younger sister Corridor to the cabins, wider than QM2 and more decorative. A lot of real wood is used. How about these, what looked like original Art Deco lamps above the bathroom sink
  5. Part of our criteria when looking at hotels is can we make tea. There appear to be fewer microwaves and more hot water machines of various types.
  6. Jennifer, for the last couple of years we have tried to cut back on bags and weight, have stopped bringing our hook on the side-of-a-cup water heater. Also means we don't have to have 2 china cups either. This year as we had extra clothes for the QM2 we said why not take it, but it had a fault and only found out on the day before we left. As we are mostly in sleeper we get 6 cups of tea each day with meals, for the rest we buy in the café car. As Ed and Mr Potisch mention, tea water should be boiling, it makes a difference. Like Ed we carry tea bags with us too, just a different make, Yorkshire. We have never been to India but we all know Ed has a lot, he has obviously refined his taste for tea there. For travelling we are happy with Liptons Black or Breakfast tea when drinking out. In agreement with you on tea Ed, but have not got your high taste. My granddad was a soldier in India about 1900 on, he was there about 10 years. He taught all the grand kids how to make tea properly just as he had my mum and her siblings. The homeless we have talked with in western US say they live on the west coast for just that reason, and the people are more liberal which gives them an easier time. No never DA, I'm not a writer and in effect only write here as I was asked to. So many people get help on this forum even though we ask some pretty dumb questions of the experts and experienced. Personally have always had so much help whenever I asked which has always enhanced our journeys, so how could I not try to write about our little adventures if it pleases people here. Giving something back. Have to add quite enjoy writing now but it takes a lot of time as we still work, and we are living in the strange world of Brexit too. After having a conversation with anyone, the last thing they will think of is it will be written about for others to read. Except for friends I always try very hard not to identify anyone, just not fair on them. I'd like to add. We meet quite a few extraordinary people, and they don't have to be famous, rich or highly intelligent to be extraordinary, but we all know that. There is something interesting in everyone if they are prepared to talk. Some of the most memorable people in our travels were poor, that's sometimes very poor or in a bad situation. Don't know how it happens so frequently, but perhaps this is the reason? When travelling we always have time for other people, we don't have a lot of money but when on a journey we are rich in time. Most people travel for work or need to get somewhere in a hurry. We are prepared to modify the next hour or next day's plans if the circumstances warrant it, and we are interested in everything and every one at one level or another. How do you meet people? Where did you learn that?
  7. Wednesday 26 December Day 13 ~ Arrival in Los AngelesFrance ~ Wednesday 13 February 2019 We were told that freight didn't run on Christmas Day, apparently the only day it doesn't run? This must be the reason we were early nearly everywhere and had longish stops at places there were not supposed to be stops. Almost at the stroke of midnight the freight started, so we waited in a siding? which feels normal. That happened a couple of times in succession. Even though we were at the mercy of freight schedules again we still arrived in LAX Union Station 40 minutes early, at 07:20am. We had really enjoyed our Amtrak Christmas train journey, not so different to any other winter journey except the amount of people travelling to be with family, this seemed to lift the atmosphere to jolly. Very pleased to have reached LA, it's our favourite station in the US. The sky was bright southern California blue, palm trees just outside, and our dear friend Milton was standing waiting for us clutching a board with words on, but in code... He was a scientist after all and obviously likes to mentally challenge us. Have to admit Rosie broke the code 'Rosie and Jamie welcome back' She a primary teacher, me only Uncle Jamie We subsequently learnt that he had to drive to 3 different Wal-Mart's to get all the correct letters too. We did wonder how he managed to know when to get to the station as we were so early, he used a tracker but not sure which one. Milton is not a morning person, but must have got up very early and to make sure to meet us, it's about an hour and a quarter drive on a good day. We did write for him not to worry about meeting us as we knew early mornings were not his strong point and it was easy for us to get to Chatsworth his nearest station. From there it was a single bus to within 100 yards of his condo, no big deal. But he decided we'd like to be met and we did, a very happy reunion. By 9 o'clock we were drinking tea at chez Milton, much to catch up on, 9 months of news and tomorrow we were all off again. Contacted Norma, Milton's friend for 50 years and we all go to breakfast at Mimi's. Some of us over-ate, some were more reserved. It was a lovely breakfast eating with these two people who are so full of life. The busy section of the large table Both Norma and Milton had big news indeed. She was moving after living at her home for more than 40 years, moving to the south of LA as it's not so built up. She was doing this with gusto, organising her new-old place to be remodelled, selling her existing home and arranging all sorts of other things, she's 89 looks 75 and acts 60. Milton had very big news. He was giving up active farming and will just mow his 500 acres that are not woodlands, he wont grow any more crops. We had worried about him for the last few years as all his part time hands/friends are nearly as old as he is, and a haystack had fallen on him last year too. He can't give up his farm, it's where he was born and wants to stay the rest of his life, and doesn't want to watch out the window seeing someone else farming it either. It was his parents farm, he took it over when he retired from rocketing, paid them for the place and bought back all the pieces his mum and dad sold off to put all the kids through college. Now he will buy the easiest large mower he can, attach it to his largest tractor and poodle around 3 times a year to keep it looking good, we told him it was a splendid idea. Not much else today as we had to be off early tomorrow, another Queen Mary awaits.
  8. Mr cpotisch, now you are embarrassing us, but thank you very much all the same ps: Didn't mean to be ungracious, just don't handle praise very well
  9. Tuesday 25 December Day 12 ~ Christmas Day on the rails - continuedFrance ~ Tuesday 12 February 2019 Rosie up well before 7am, me later. Just getting into one of our favourite areas of the US. Colorado round the corner into New Mexico and Arizona. We never tire of travelling through here, ever. We breakfast and Jimmy turns up before we're done, this starts a more or less non stop conversation ending as Jimmy gets into his sisters car at Albuquerque about 6 hours later. Now this man has had an extraordinary life, not all good but extraordinary by any standards. First there's a pause as we arrive a little early in Raton NM and have chance to take some time outside, where lo and behold is Santa Claus. Why he and his Elf helper are there we'll never know, but it made the few children happy, and some of the grown-up kids too. What doesn't this Raton store sell. To us it looks so American west as though it were a movie set. We're on the move again in the Sight Seeing Lounge (SSL), Jimmy starts to tell his story but jumping backwards and forwards so sometimes difficult to follow. Basically he's a professional musician, plays guitar usually on someone else's recordings. His speciality is blues music, I think Delta Blues if I have that right. It's ok to mention this but he is an alcoholic too, but has been dry for 10 years now. His other passion is cars, in particular Ferrari. His dad was heavily involved in getting Ferraris to race at Indianapolis, he was involved in a couple of race teams including a team that raced in the 24 Hours at Le Mans, and won the junior class 3 times too! He grew up with music, his whole family were artistic or musical, his dad was mad keen on Italian fast car engineering. Jimmy went everywhere with his dad, met lots and lots of very famous people through racing. When he started playing music professionally music and fast cars often cropped up in the same place, he spent time with a lot of famous people. He and I had European cars in common, me not anywhere near to his experience but a little. At least when he mentioned a race, a driver or a car there was a good chance I'd know a little too, but although I like blues music that's where our similarity stopped in music. I'm not going to name drop on his behalf but he mentioned so many people we all know of, they were all in passing as he appears to exist in a very transient world. I was impressed he played with Muddy Waters though, he will have been fairly young too. While Jimmy and I are in deep conversation we arrive at Las Vegas NM, where Rosie caught this scene. Happy Christmas Rosie turns off and day dreams if there is too much car talk, but didn't forget we had to go to Christmas Dinner (lunch) in the diner. The three of us eat together and talk non car, but as soon as the meal is over it's back to life again. Who you bump into at AA, have you driven a Dino Ferrari, families etc etc etc. View from an Amtrak diner window, just perfect Christmas Dinner, which was different but still tasty Still intense As we neared Albuquerque Jimmy became preoccupied and a little edgy, he was worried that his mum wouldn't recognise him at all, she barely did 6 months earlier as she has full dementia. At 97 it wasn't a surprise, but still very upsetting. We arrive at Albuquerque he is ready to leave, I offer to walk out to the front of the station with him to wait for his sister to arrive, he's almost unsure of himself. As we get to the road his sister turns into the parking area. Say hello to her, big hand shake from Jimmy and then I have to go. People that you meet on trains... We receive a Happy Christmas text from friends in NYC, very nice they thought to send that. Rosie thinks it feels slightly bizarre riding on a train through the high plains of New Mexico looking at semi desert and receiving a message on Christmas Day from an American city a long long way away. We've got to try harder to keep up with the modern world girl. Scenery is really good, mountains away to our right some with snow, and varied plain and hill to mountain country to our left. The Adobe buildings from time to time are a favourite of Rosie, it is a very good day. A few photos of New Mexico at sunset on Christmas Day. The golden trees were exactly that colour, quite amazing. Dinner in the diner. Sat with two women, elderly mother and daughter from Santa Monica. Mother was from Galway, Ireland and left when she was 18. Travelled alone by ship to NYC, 13 days on the ship. Then found her way onto a plane to fly to join her sister in San Francisco. She said all her brothers and sisters left Ireland, either to London or the USA. We told mother that we had visited both Cobh near Cork where she had sailed from, and Ellis Island where she thinks she arrived at. She did mention seeing Liberty as they arrived and what a wondrous sight it had been. Not sure how the conversation started but they talked about homeless people in Santa Monica. The daughter told us various stories and situations about those people who sleep on the beach but must move away when it's light, and those that sleep in various corners near to housing, as they feel 'safer' in Santa Monica than other areas. They said the numbers keep rising and no one appears to have an answer. Homelessness is our passion so will leave the conversation there, don't want to politicise this thread. Back to our room, each had a good shower, last cup of tea and we're ready for bed and arriving in LA in the morning.
  10. Got to see this now, especially before I start introducing myself as Uncle Jamie!
  11. Tuesday 25 December Day 12 ~ Christmas Day on the railsFrance ~ Sunday 10 February 2019 Blue sky on Christmas morning. Santa Claus welcomes us all to Raton NM, now we all know where he really comes from. His helper Elf is to his left carrying his stash of presents Thanks for being so sweet Jennifer, this post is for you from Rosie and me.
  12. Monday 24 December Day 11 ~ leaving ChicagoFrance ~ Sunday 10 February 2019 Amtrak 3 Southwest Chief - Departing CHI at 02:50pm 24 December 2018 - Arriving Los Angeles Union station (LAX) at 08:00am 26 December 2018 ~ Roomette We get precise directions to our platform, are we becoming old hands at riding Amtrak trains as it all feels so effortless. Happy with our roomette, polite Sleeping Car Attendant (SCA), we are doing well. Later he mentions he was asked to work at very short notice as someone had called in sick, didn't mind as his mum was working too so no one at home anyway. The atmosphere through the train felt jolly and light hearted, the dining car was good too. We get to eat with a two doctors from Lawrence KS, their 3 teenage sons were at the table across the passageway. They were a happy group of people who had spent a couple of pre Christmas days in Chicago and were returning home on the stroke of Christmas Day. He and she also had a real sense of humour which came out when they heard my name. Did I have nieces and nephews, "yes?". So you are Uncle Jamie "well yes I suppose I am". Roars of laughter including Rosie, what's going on. Bet they like you though? "not sure but hope so", more laughter but I'm none the wiser. Am I the only person who hasn't seen the movie 'Love Actually'? Good company, good diner staff, real cutlery and fabric napkins, what more could we want, we are very happy. Christmas Day in the morning.
  13. Monday 24 December Day 11 ~ arriving and leaving ChicagoFrance ~ Saturday 9 February 2019 As we wake the Cardinal is crossing flat open farmland and the sky is blue. Rosie is off to breakfast early (last call 08:00am) where she eats with Jimmy, he talks about music, Le Mans and Ferraris, I remain in bed and miss this. Jimmy is also headed south on the same Southwest Chief, he's off to visit his 97 year old mum and sister in Albuquerque. Jimmy will feature often on that part of our journey. The woes of that Cardinal trip didn't end last night as now business class car rest rooms were full, out of use. Had to use a coach car rest rooms, but soon that was full too, what's happening Amtrak? Rosie said the mood of the dining car attendant hadn't improved with the new day, barked at Jimmy as he questioned something, not something we had come across anywhere in the US. We'd mostly only heard good things about the Cardinal so put all this down to a one off trip, everyone can have a bad day, or two... Pleased to arrive in Chicago, we like Chicago a lot. Off to the station Metropolitan Lounge, is this the best Amtrak lounge in the US now? Upstairs is an oasis of quiet and comfortable seating, we both enjoy the artwork on the walls too. At the lounge desk waiting to check-in a lady behind Rosie started talking to her, she was also travelling to visit her mother and sister, in Fargo ND. She was travelling on the Empire Builder later that day, it left about 40 minutes before ours. As we all moved into the lounge she and Rosie continued talking in the downstairs seating, I was introduced to Jimmy and we talked for a while but I had to catch up on emails so moved upstairs. An hour or so later returned downstairs and meet Marilyn who had travelled up from Tennessee. She explained she was born in Fargo and grew up there until she married. I asked are the people there weird as seen in the movie and tv series, she said 'yes' then came out with this memorable line. "When I lived in Fargo I thought people from everywhere else were strange, after I left and had lived away for a while I realised it was me and the people of Fargo that were strange". This is music to our ears as we love all the Fargo film and tv, and to meet someone who was born and lived there was such an exciting moment. That she said Fargo really was weird makes it all the better. Rosie and I had planned to eat at Lou Mitchell's a couple of blocks away, it would be our second visit and asked Marilyn if she wanted to join us but she was too nervous as she might just miss her train. We guaranteed she had no problems as LM's isn't that far and we would personally put her on her train, that did it and good company she was too, We get a nice booth in the center of the diner, good waiting staff and Marilyn recommended Denver omelettes which we had never heard of, very good choice for hungry people. The place was packed and as in New York quite a few families with children too, very happy and jolly atmosphere. LM's is another great recommendation from this forum. THE Lou Mitchell's We learn that after Marilyn and her husband spent 25 years teaching in Japan they settled in Tennessee, although both are from Fargo. She has an extraordinary family which at times sounded like a tv sitcom. She was a very positive person but a little anxious about travelling on her own. She was such a nice person to have lunch with and she was born in Fargo! At the end of our meal she started to get a little anxious about her train, she couldn't walk far or fast and that bothered her. So we left with plenty of time to make her train, Rosie holding one arm and I the other. Well us three amigos made it back to the lounge in time, recovered Marilyn's case, she said her goodbyes to Rosie then I walked her to the correct platform. After helping her board in the right car she smiled and thanked us. That made my day, gave Marilyn a little hug and off back to Rosie as we were leaving soon too. Back at the lounge Rosie produced Marilyn's shawl, spoke with the staff in the lounge and they said it was too late to run back there, the train was just about gone. Marilyn had given Rosie her address, we'd send it to her from LA. Rosie took these photos while I escorted Marilyn, think most people reading this know of The Polar Express and it's customs. Not sure if the parents or children were the most excited. We didn't get to have our walk to the lake but sometimes you can't have everything. We had blue skies, used the lounge, a memorable lunch, met someone from Fargo, it's Christmas Eve and we are soon to be on the Southwest Chief heading to LA, how fortunate can you get. To be continued...
  14. Sunday 23 December Day 10 ~ leaving New York CityFrance ~ Friday 8 February 2019 Our first Amtrak train ride of this journey, even though we only got 4 hours sleep we were excited. At 5:15am it was an easy Subway journey to Penn, although like all world cities they never sleep and plenty of other riders. Arrived at New York Penn (NYP) station and already knew the lounge wouldn't open until our train left, so just stood out in the concourse watching the world go by and waiting for our train platform to be called. The station was busy even though it was early Sunday, many fellow travellers had bags too. Guess they were going somewhere for the holidays. Amtrak 51 Cardinal - Departing NYP at 06:45am 23 December 2018 - Arriving Chicago Union (CHI) station at 10:00am ~ Roomette NYP station, busy with people waiting for platforms to be called We are so pleased to be back on an Amtrak LD train, have never ridden the Cardinal before and looking forward to the ride. Make ourselves comfortable in the roomette and immediately off to the diner for breakfast, it's only 07:00am very early for us. On our way back to our sleeper a couple in Business stopped us, they had heard us talking and wanted to chat. An hour an a half later we were near Washington and they get off there, they had a couple of days of 'meetings'. They were perfectly charming, extremely interesting and fascinating to talk with. Not sure who they were but they were very high achievers in banking, Wall Street and insurance. He had created a new form of finance insurance, she had some memorable 'firsts' on the Wall Street trading floor and in the boardrooms of banks. The only problem we had with them was if we mentioned any form of social care or universal health cover. At the very mention her entire being changed to the point I thought of her as the mother of Attila the Hun, an amazing transformation. He sat there grinning but saying nothing, he looked a bit like Jack Nicholson. It was a fascinating meeting and one we were very pleased to have had, apparently they stopped us as they had operated in Europe too and recognised our accents. The people you meet on trains... After this we collapsed into bed until 1pm, we woke to the lovely Virginia scenery. Pity the room windows were too dirty to take photos as there were many beautiful sights and settings. It's probably hard to keep the windows clean in a northern winter. Staff all had Xmas clothes on, a pullover here, a hat there. When asked if it was ok to work so close to Xmas most said they would spend time with family just a few days late, no complaints. The diner had a grumpy server and only 2 meal options. In our travels if the food doesn't look appealing we go for anything veggie, but there was no veggie option either. We both ate very little as the quality and preparation was very poor, first time have ever written this about Amtrak. To cap it off the heater in our room wasn't working, the catch on the door wouldn't lock and flew open from time to time. We would have liked another room but looked as though the car was full, maybe we just are a bit grumpy ourselves as so tired? I managed to tie the door mostly closed and wedged bags into it so it didn't move, not too bad a night's sleep but we slept with our coats on.
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