The Case for a Queen : Exploring the RMS Queen Mary

You can almost see the crows as they waved nostalgic goodbyes to their beloved. You can almost taste the sea salt in the cold, crisp air. You can feel the exciment as the beautiful new ocean liner pulled away from safe harbor. It drips with history, in every step you take on it’s wooden boards, in every photograph of Hollywood legends and every display of war time heroism. The RMS Queen Mary now lives in the eastern corner of the Long Beach Marina in the place furthers from what it could have imagined, in the sunny shores of California. There it has docked for many years, long before I knew of it’s existence, before I was even born. Many would say it’s outdated for our modern times; yet, it’s allure is eternal, and the history it carries of better times is far greater than any we can forge now.


The truth is I’ve been aboard the magnificent vessel quite a few times, some for sightseeing, some for field trips, for food or drinks but last week with nothing to do on a gorgeous Spring day I drove down the whole 5 minutes it takes from my house to the ship and decided to be a tourist for one day. 

The attendant at the booth said that we could choose a complimentary tour, either the classic history one or the ghost one. I often for the history one because even though we can read every specification of how and when it was built nothing beats walking the cabins where generations before me had walked, where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor traveled to New York, and where Winston Churchill in turbulent times would drink his troubles away. 


The tour took us through ballrooms, and cabin rooms, and told us about life aboard the Queen Mary.  The guide a chipper and threatically inclined fellow made the one hour of walking seem shorter and we ended on the deck just below the beautiful shops.


After resting for a few moments on the comfortable chairs, we toured the three main souvenier shops. One boasts mainly food, tea and British related gourmets. The second one is clothing and gifts and the final one if full of items you could take home from your trip to California, teddy bears, mouse pads, cups, glasses, flasks and adorable captain caps.


After wandering and not really buying more than cookies, because we had already and somehow inexplicably bought the whole photo package from the photo op room. (Oops) We wandered out onto the outside deck for coffe and fresh air.  Much to the envy of past generations they now server Starbucks coffee inside and we sat down to rest some more. 


Yet there is much to do aboard the Queen Mary, no one ever rests for long here, or so the ghosts say. The ghost myths come from its service during WWII when the British government called for it to stop being a civilian cruise liner and drafted it into service. It was painted grey, earning it the nickname the Grey Ghost, and it transported hundreds of soldier during the war years. 

Perhaps those years changed it, just like they changed the world. A person is never the same after fighting battle, why do we expect things to not be affected? On the outside the beautiful lady of the seas was painted and restored to it’s pre-war glory.  And it carried on transporting the luminaries of politics, music and arts. From the workers who steered the ship 

To the staff who prided themselves in knowing the likes and dislikes of the passengers, to the Captain who carried the ship through troubled and calm waters alike the staff lived to serve. It’s almost magical imagining what life aboard a luxury liner would have been. It’s like a time capsule of better times, when everyone dressed up for dinner, cocktails included champagne and men would escort the ladies on walks around the observation deck.


Sure today we have sophisticated cruise ships, with dinning venues, wifi in every room, childrens camp, water slides and mobile apps but back then the calm of the water was all you had, a good book and the company of your fellow travelers.

And nothing but sea stretching out for days until the shore peaked through and you knew the journey had ended.


Doesn’t it sound quite fascinating? I think it does. 

Perhaps that’s why I was truly sad and when I read an article about the financial struggles to cover all the repairs. What made me sadder was the comments of people saying that it had lived it’s years, that it should not be rescued, that after all this years we should just throw it out because it wasn’t popular anymore. As if all the history contained in it was not part of our history too, perhaps people don’t appreciate culture enough, perhaps they can’t comprehend the rate at which our world is vanishing. I don’t just meant physically, I mean all of it; history, traditions, cultures, families.


That day, last week pretending to be a tourist sacheying across the deck of this worldly lady, looking out onto the beautiful shoreline was one of the best spent days I’ve had lately.  This boat has crossed oceans, bridged distances and saved the world in a way and we have the privilege of being for a few hours passengers of it.

Go visit the Queen Mary … It’s cause for celebration

Population 70,000 : visiting Buena Park

It was vastly different from the hustle of the city, the constant traffic that droned out conversation, the smog clouds that vanished into asymmetrical skyscrapers and the people, oh so many people. The little unassuming city of Buena Park, California was vastly different from my hometown and even though I didn’t know it back then it was perfect to grow up in. When we moved there 23 years ago the population was 70,000.

The cars are few and far apart ~

It was beaufituly peaceful in a ways we weren’t used to. The stores all closed before 10, and the silence perpetuated our nights. Our biggest claim to fame was Knotts Berry Farm, a western themed amusement park with Snoopy and Charlie Brown to boot. My favorite activity was to walk around the outside stores during Christmas time. The mall was a barely noticible hub of staple American stores and food court basics but we went every Sunday nonetheless.

Decorations at Knott’s

Up toward the hills the houses sprawled like miniature mansions and the silence during a morning walk becomes eerie, as I grew up I used to run there every morning and every evening. After rush hour the passing of cars is still far and few except for those leaving the food store that now sits hilltop.

During the summer mother would let me run down the long sidewalks of our suburbia utopia as the sprinklers bloomed in all their glory before California had a drought and when global warming was just being born. Every generation thinks that they are last good one, but in our case I think it rings true. The last to see non hipster mom and pop stores, that belonged to long time residents, to get to know them, and treat them like family. The couple who used to own the dry cleaning behind our apartments had lived there for over 50 years. They used to play jokes on me and I’d ask about their daughter who lived in Oregon. I used to go to school with the son of the guy who owned the grocery store and my favorite store to go back to school shopping was ‘Teacher’s Supply’ nestled right at the exit of the freeway and owned by locals too.

Beauty at Medival Times

Nowadays Buena Park is still that peaceful city I grew to love, although it has kept up with the times and the competition. There is now big modern building a few blocks from Knotts Berry Farm and a big electric guitar sculpture purtrudes from the new ‘Rockign Brew Restaurant’. It has plans, big plans to draw investors and become a destination.

I haven’t been to Rocking Brews because I got distracted by the library that still looks the same as it did when I used to go everyday after school, it has a tiny bookstore of used books run by volunteers that makes you think of grander times as you browse letters and pictures bound in pages that are used less and less.


If you get tires of the ritz and glitz of featured Orange County tourism come to Buena Park.  It will give you a feel of what Southern California really is, go to the historic sites along Beach Boulevard, visit the library during tea time,  walk down Knotts Berry Farm and up to the upcoming Butterfly Pavillion. It is worth a day visit, just as much as it was worth growing up in it.

Little Town Dreams ~ 

I’m a big city girl. I always have been. From the 20 million people in Mexico City to the streets of LA. I love them, the many places to eat, the shows, the hustle, the bustle the energy. Yet, I’d trade them in a heartbeat for small town calm, for charming, for mom and pop, for no traffic. And no place enbodies a more picture perfect small town than Solvang, California.

 Hiding away in the slopping hills of central California it is part secret tourist attraction and wine town. 


Solvang gets its roots from a Dutch community that settled there in the early 1900’s . It is filled with bakeries, Danish restaurants and little stores. There is a bookstore with a complete story on Hans Christian Andersen and a replica of the Little Mermaid statue. 


It has an all Christmas store open year-round and the walk down town is littered with small boutique food & art shops.


Doesn’t it sound dreamy? 


It is smack dab in the middle of the Santa Ynez Valley which is a major wine area, so if you feel like wine tasting … go right ahead. There are tours offered that depart from Solvang or you could plan your own, it is also a very short drive to the Santa Ynez mission, a historical site of Californian history as well as an Ostrich farm if feeding birds is more your thing.


Solvang is only about a 4 hours drive from Los Angels or for a more relaxing trip take Amtrak to Santa Barbara and then the connecting bus that drops you off right in the center of town. 


Many happy returns here !