25.01.2013 - 26.01.2013 20 °C
The very end of my last post had this picture and indicated it was my destination.
For those who don't know, this is the Queen Mary: there's a story that she was supposed to be called Queen Victoria but when her owners went to King George V for permission to name her after the "greatest Queen", he naturally thought of his own wife. Oops: awkward! She was built in Scotland in the 1930's, took to the seas as Cunard's most glamourous passenger vessel in 1936, was commandeered as a troopship during the war (and still holds the record for carrying the greatest number of people) and was then put back into service as a glamourpuss until 1967. During her war service she never came under attack (was too fast for U-boats) but did manage to run over one of her own support vessels, with fatal consequences. Her last voyage saw her fetch up at Long Beach, the passenger terminal for the Greater Los Angeles area, and when she went on the market, the City of Long Beach snapped her up for $3.5 million, just a bit more than the scrap merchants were going to pay.
The City had bigger plans than to just have her sit and be gawked at by tourists like me: they put her back into service, using her bars, restaurants and staterooms as an elegant, old skool floating hotel. I have the feeling she might not be very seaworthy - I noticed quite a sagging when I looked up one of the corridors.
Since cruising at this level is a bit out of my league there is a Queen Mary 2, which the New York Times was kind enough to write about recently), I opted to spend a night here. I had gone for the cheapest option, an internal cabin, but they give out all spare standard staterooms on a first come first served basis, and so I had a great view of Long Beach.
I had quite the walk around the Queen Mary, and came to the conclusion that with all the wood-panelling, it was a bit like living inside an old-fashioned radiogram.
I thought I should take advantage of all she had to offer, so went into the Observatory Bar for a cocktail
before going in to dine. I didn't get any photos of inside the dining room, but here are some random shots I took on the way.
In the morning, I made a near fatal mistake. After a really good walk around all levels of the ship
I decided to have one last coffee. Now, the poor old cheapest car in America had been dumped outside the ship's carpark, because I wasn't paying $17 when I could park for free: I carefully avoided the pavement with red paint on the kerb and parked between parallel lines. Still, I was a bit worried, so before I went in here
for my coffee, I did look to make sure he hadn't been stolen. By the time I'd had coffee and strolled over, I was a bit disturbed to see a Police car parked beside my car, but did note the Policeman was yelling into his PA at some poor woman who had got stuck in a one way street and was trying to back out. But then I saw the towtruck, and he was coming to get the cheapest car in America: I had failed to notice the no parking sign. So he has his apparatus under the front wheels of my car and the cop is yelling at the bewildered driver going the wrong way and I'm wondering if the cop is noticing what's happening to my car but he's totally focussed on the lady and the towie is getting more ready to go. Yikes! But the cop stopped him, was really quite polite, although he (quite properly) hit me with a $49 ticket, something I couldn't pay by cash, credit card, gold, whatever: only a cheque would do. By the time I worked out how to pay by cheque, I'd lost the ticket (I think it went to Hertz when I returned the car, along with the paperwork they'd given me).
I had been blaming the Queen Mary for the ridiculous announcements, whoops, bells and other attention grabbing sounds which had started on the PA at about 7:00, but I'm pretty sure it was the Carnival boat tied up behind it which snuck in overnight which was responsible.
I took a short walk around the beachfront of Long Beach before leaving (making very sure to put some money in the parking meter, as another Policeman seemed to be ready to pounce. Its funny - I'd popped into town the night before just to see what I could see: my main observation was how many Police seemed to be about, but I never thought I'd be leaving town in fear of them).
I like the older lighthouse more than its replacement.
My other ship is a bit different; although it bears the name of a famous ship, it is more in the nature of a space-ship. She first flew in 1992 and after 20 years and 25 missions, she was decommissioned. After quite a contested process, the California Science Center was the lucky recipient - which is a bit odd really, as everything else there was really for kids, and most of the kids I saw there didn't really seem to care about the Endeavour. Here she is, in all her glory (except that I couldn't quite get the nose, given the size of her enclosure).
One of the things the crew ate was tacos - the toaster has been taken out and put on display
I never knew that the Endeavour was made of cardboard!
Most of the engineering work was actually done in California: the engineers (I think it was Rockwell) had their own control centre to monitor the engines as she flew, apart from the NASA control. This control centre is also in the Science Centre
Of course, we couldn't even touch her, let alone take a look inside, which would have been cool. But one thing I really liked was the video they made of getting the Endeavour from the airport to the Science Center.
I bet Toyota is very proud that its Tundra ute was chosen as a tow vehicle
But my favourite scenes were those featuring the Endeavour being inched very gently through suburbia