Next Stop: French Riviera

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Sadly, we had to depart our wonderful floating home, the Queen Mary 2. We had a marvelous time dining, dancing – and becoming engaged! What a memorable week.

We have lost some of our travel savvy ways from being pampered on the ship and were a little out of practice on our flight to Nice. It seemed like the whole world was flying past us in a huge hurry. So we took our time and were all alone when we finally made it to baggage claim and customs (like our own private airport). We had arranged a taxi to meet us, and they were already calling the company to see if we missed the flight. Then we had too much luggage to fit in the taxi, so had to carry some on our lap, before, exasperated with us, the driver let us off (along with our pile of luggage) on the street corner outside of our building with no way in – not the most glamorous entrance to the French Riviera.

But soon our wonderful French contact, Anca, came and helped us into the building. We’ve rented an apartment for two weeks to live like the locals. It is in a Belle Époque building on the main strip – the Promenade des Anglais. It has many of the original furnishings, incuding a teeny tiny lift that can hold two people who stand very close together. Needless to say, if we didn’t fit in the taxi, we definitely didn’t fit in the teeny tiny elevator. We were like a comedy routine having to send a couple of bags up and send the lift back down while trying to understand that the “first” floor is really the second floor and ouvert means “open.” Whew.

But we were rewarded with a gorgeous wrap-around view of the Mediterranean and a very beautiful (albeit quirky) apartment. It is very Art Deco with many original antique furnishings, marble and parquet floors, and elaborate curved walls and built-in curio cabinets. We can just imagine the soirees that were held here in the day. Noticeably, the kitchen area is very plain, which we think was because in the old days, only servants went there. So a lot of character – we feel like we’re in a 1950s French film.

We haven’t actually made it very far. Frank and I ran out to a little market on the corner last night for bread, cheese, and wine – which was our Thanksgiving meal. And we had that for breakfast this morning (substituting coffee and tea for wine).

So stay tuned adventures from Nice!


Life on QM2

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We got a little behind blogging because we have been so busy relaxing.  We have had a very nice life on the QM2, but need to keep our wits about us because we land in Nice tomorrow, where we are on our own.

However, to catch everyone up, here’s a synopsis of life on the QM2:


9:30ish (or wee bit later) – Wake Up

10:00 – Frank – Breakfast Buffet & Morning Rounds

10:30 – Christy – Breakfast at Tea Salon (sometimes with Mom & Dad)

11:00 – Frank – Gym & Indoor Whirlpool / Christy – More tea and catch up on emails

Noon – Captain’s Briefing & 8 Bells
Officer rings original bell from the first Queen Mary 8 times to signal noon.
We all advance our clocks forward 1 hour since we are moving slowly to GMT.

1 pm (which is really Noon) – Meet for Lunch – Anything from formal 3-courses in main dining room to sushi in King’s Court

2:30 pm – Depending on day – Planetarium, bridge visit, waltz class, Texas Hold ‘Em tournament – or just Commodore Club on the bow with good book and view of water

3:30 pm – Afternoon Tea (Frank discovers he loves scones; Christy already knew this)

4:30 – Frank – Nap / Christy Walks Deck – 3 times around Promenade Deck = 1 mile

6:00 – Rest / Dress for Dinner

7:45 – All meet for cocktails at Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar

8:30 – Formal 4-Course Dinner – Table 31
We sit at the same table with the same fellow passengers and waiters every night, so we get to know them.

10:30 – Dancing to Big Band Orchestra in Queens Room

Midnight – Bedtime (unless we move to the disco for more dancing . . . )

She Said Yes!

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We have tried to update the blog, but the clouds and distance from land have kept us from being able to obtain a good connection. So a little late, but what a wonderful few days we have had! Our biggest news is that Frank and I are engaged! It was very romantic, and I was completely surprised (Frank did a great job putting all this together – especially at sea!).

We all had met for a fancy afternoon tea, where the waiters march in at the same time with teapots, scones, cucumber sandwiches, and tarts. Frank gamely attended tea with me and my parents but said he was tired and went back to the cabin while the rest of us walked around. I came back to our stateroom to find a huge bouquet of red roses and thought how romantic Frank was.

As we dressed for dinner, which was formal night, Frank told me he was having champagne delivered to our room for a pre-dinner toast. I thought that was a little unusual, but maybe he was just getting into the spirit of things and happy to go along. Then the champagne arrived. Frank sat me on the sofa, got down on one knee, told me he loved me, and asked me to marry him. I got a little teary and shaky and said, “Of course.” Then we laughed and kissed – and took a picture for the blog! We called my parents and asked them to join us for champagne and when they arrived, shared the wonderful news with them. There were congratulations all around, even at dinner, where all the waiters seemed to know, and my parents toasted us with more champagne. We ended this special celebratory evening with dancing to Big Band tunes in the ballroom. It was more perfect than I could have even imagined. The ring is beautiful, too – a platinum band with a classic and elegant diamond solitaire setting with diamonds all around the band – exactly what I would have chosen.

The next morning, we dialed up the ship’s satellite phone and were able to call Frank’s son, John, and my sister, Cindy. Then the clouds conspired to halt all access, including to Wifi (a news blackout so to speak), but we are closer to land with clear skies, so we are back online and sharing the news.

We will figure out plans later. Right now it’s fun to dream, be happy, and just enjoy the moment.


At Sea on QM2

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I will try to update the blog from the middle of the North Atlantic – but, as you can imagine, WIFI is a little slow here. So we will see how it goes.

We are having a marvelous time and getting used to our days at sea. The crossing to the UK will take 7 days. We lose an hour every day until we are on UK time so can gradually adjust to jet lag. They do this at noon, when they ring 8 chimes and everyone changes their watches. So all of a sudden it becomes 1 pm and everyone scurries to lunch.

Today we are passing the Grand Banks and will exit at the Flemish Cap – I recognize these places from “The Perfect Storm” movie! We will then cross the Gulf Stream, where it may get a little rough. The Captain announced that we will pass just north of where the HMS Titanic rests, but we are safe this time of year from icebergs. The Titanic sailed in April, when apparently icebergs were farther south.

On board, we have all been busy. It’s perfect because we split up and do our own things and then meet back for tea or dinner. Frank likes the pool and health club – and is watching a Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament today. My parents head to ballroom dance classes and went to a classical piano concert yesterday. And I have explored every inch of the ship and discovered that they will let you visit the Bridge (where Captain drives) all day long, which I find fascinating. I can also go back to my stateroom and rest throughout the day, which helps me keep going.

Last night, we all met for the formal Black & White Ball, the men decked out in tuxedos and dark suits and the women in black and white cocktail dresses. It was beautiful. We danced the night away to a big band orchestra and then, when they ended, moved to the lounge next door and danced to a fun band playing popular tunes. We went to bed at 1:30 am! (Which was really 12:30 since we had adjusted our clocks.) I mostly blame my parents for keeping us out so late – Frank and I will have to rest this afternoon to keep up with them!

I am about to have a light lunch and tea with one of my new friends – a very nice Scottish lady named Una, who has been back and forth on the QM2 about a dozen times and whose niece lives on a boat on the Thames. A perfect afternoon.

On Board the QM2!

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We are on board the Queen Mary 2! It is quite impressive, and we haven’t even ventured out of our cabin. But our cabin is very nice – with king bed, sofa, lots of storage, and even a big balcony that is protected from the elements (important on the North Atlantic). Our friend Janet, who has traveled the QM2 many times – and is also our housesitter – sent chocolate covered strawberries and pink champagne truffles, and the Captain sent a bottle of champagne – all waiting for us when we arrived. We think we’re going to like it here!

Our ship is docked at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Frank grew up in Brooklyn and is amazed to be sailing out of his hometown. And we will sail right by Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Frank’s parents came through Ellis Island from Sicily. Our travels will eventually take us back to their hometowns in Sicily (Canicatti & Castrofilipo). My parents are just a few doors down from us on the ship, and starting this journey with us. So we feel very connected to family as we start this new adventure.

We will be on the high seas for the next week, so it may be a few days before I post – I’m sure we will have lots of good stories!

Love, Christy, Frank, Edith & Sherman

Waldorf Towers Pizza Party

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Waldorf Towers Pizza

We made it to New York City!  My parents flew up from Charlotte, and Frank and I took the train from BWI.  We were all a little bedraggled when we arrived – trying to pull bags, heads down against the fierce wind, and trying not to bump into the busy New Yorkers with all our stuff.  I had booked a promotional deal through American Express at the famed Waldorf Astoria.

In what was like a comedy show, we all arrived at the same time and almost literally fell into the lobby with all of our luggage and hugging each other.  My mother exclaimed in her Southern drawl thank goodness they made it and she always felt at home at the Waldorf.  She told this to the bellman, front desk clerk, and everyone in the lobby – if you know my mom, you know she makes fast friends of everyone in the room.  Maybe to quiet us down, they escorted us to a special hidden lobby, which turned out to be the exclusive Waldorf Towers.  While waiting to check in, we got to know everyone again.  Our rooms weren’t ready, so we decided to have lunch in the hotel (since, as we told them, we had finally made it to safety).  We dined on delicious Waldorf salad in the famous Peacock Alley.

Either we were so friendly – or maybe so entertaining (and there’s a chance my mother had explained to everyone at some point that I had breast cancer and was now traveling around the world) – but they upgraded us all to suites!  We went to Mom and Dad’s first – amazing.  They had a huge bedroom AND a huge living room with crown molding, antique furniture, and 4 sofas.  My mother exclaimed, “It’s as beautiful as the Vendue Inn in Charleston!” (which we love).  I think the bellman thought we were charming – he showed us all the sights from the windows – they can see straight down Park Avenue and also Radio City Music Hall.

Then to Frank’s and my room – even bigger!  We have 6 rooms, including a grand foyer with tapestries on the wall, wet bar that is actually its own little room, living room, dining room, dressing room, and bedroom.  We couldn’t even find each other at first.  It is so big that it takes up one whole side of the building, so we have views on 3 different sides.  My favorite (and the picture here) is the Chrysler Building, which we can see from 6 windows and even when lying in bed.  I could hardly sleep for watching it all night – like a movie.

Since we had such fancy digs, we canceled our dinner reservation and decided to stay in and order pizza.  We started in my parent’s suite for cocktails and then migrated up to our room for pizza and Chianti from room service.  What a night!

This morning, I got up early to see the sun rise over my new favorite Chrysler Building and guess what I saw?  Very small in the distance – the Queen Mary 2 has docked.  Our adventure has begun!


Night Before Departure!

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We are super excited.  My parents from South Carolina are joining us on the Queen Mary and in France and have already left to make their way to NYC, where we pick up the ship.  They are tons of fun and always liven up any party – plus they are expert dancers, so will fit right in on the QM2.

Frank and I leave tomorrow (Tuesday) and take Amtrak to New York.  We are busy packing.  Frank’s approach is much more organized than mine.  He sets out just what he might need in orderly piles by his suitcase and is already packed in one rolling duffel.  I, on the other hand, put everything I possibly may want in the middle of the bed and start trying on things and eliminating.  I have already gone out and bought a new suitcase that will hold more!  Fingers crossed it will close!

One Week Away!

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photoTwo Fools In Love

We are two fools in love, and this is our new blog. Frank just retired as a rocket scientist from NASA.  Christy just finished up treatment for breast cancer and got the green light from her doctors to travel, while finishing up rest and recovery.  After these two big life events, we decided there is no time like the present and are leaving our “normal” lives and running away to Europe for a year.

Frank’s family hails from Sicily – his parents emigrated from there, came through Ellis Island, and settled in Brooklyn. We will spend a few months in Sicily getting back to his roots (along with other places around the Mediterranean).

Christy has been living on a boat for the last 10 years in Annapolis, Maryland, where she met Frank, and is ready for another adventure they can take together. She is lucky to have a very progressive law firm, so she will continue to work a reduced schedule while on the road.  She specializes in all aspects of HIPAA (believe it or not, that actually is a specialty).

The boats are hauled out of the water for winter storage, the housesitter has moved in, and we are off! Please join us on our adventure!

Next stop: NYC to board the Queen Mary 2 for England!