Atlantis Alumni

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sunday At Sea On The Queen Mary 2

Saturday was our first full day at sea on this Atlantic Ocean crossing from Southampton, England to Brooklyn, USA. It was a nice, sunny day, so after breakfast we took a two mile walk on the outside promenade deck. Then we attended an interesting lecture given by a nautical engineer, one of the designers of the ship we're on, the Queen Mary 2. However, his lecture, entitled "Titanic Revisited," focused on his research and that of others relative to the famous ship sinking. He concluded that the sinking was inevitable under the circumstances, and he explained in detail the fatal facts that contributed to the disaster. He is a good speaker and we're looking forward to two additional presentations that he is scheduled to do. At lunch we met an interesting couple from Wisconsin who shared our dismay over the current occupant of the White House. In the afternoon we attended a piano recital given by an accomplished classical pianist. The rest of the afternoon was free for napping or a visit to the beautiful, large ship's library here on board the QM2. Dinner with our group was very festive as it was on the first of three formal attire nights scheduled for the week.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Having Boarded The Queen Mary 2

Friday we left the interesting Marble Arch neighborhood in London checking out of our quaint B & B, The Sumner hotel. The hotel was adequate but in need of some work. The building consists of two structures combined that probably date from the mid to late 19th century. The interiors have been modernized and the hotel is clean, however there were a few problems such as a non-functioning lift on our side of the hotel. Staff provided assistance with our heavy bags. Our room was small and comfortable with a sleek, modern bathroom, however it did not have separate heating and we had to rely on a space heater provided by the management. The best feature of the hotel is the daily full English breakfast buffet included in the room rate. We liked the neighborhood, which is convenient to shopping and a short ride by tube to the many attractions in central London. However, we would not recommend the hotel since there are so many other options available. Our coach ride to Southampton where we were to board the Queen Mary 2 took longer this time due to heavy weekday traffic in London. We left London at around noon but we did not arrive at the ship until around three in the afternoon, with a comfort stop enroute being necessary. Then there was another hour or more delay in boarding the ship due to the check-in process. Eventually we made it on board and settled in to our lovely cabin port side amidships. After the obligatory emergency drill we rested up a bit, then joined our cruise party of about a dozen for cocktails followed by a delicious dinner in the beautiful Britannia dining room. Today, Saturday, we have plans to attend several lectures and we won't miss afternoon tea, a daily highlight on board this amazing ship. The ship is gently rocking now but perhaps it may still be possible to walk around the outside promenade deck, we shall have to see. Rougher seas may lie ahead, time will tell.

Friday, December 15, 2017

London, December 14, 2017

On Thursday, a nice, sunny day, we headed to the National Gallery in the morning. A revelatory Degas exhibit was followed by visits to see great Old Master paintings from Leonardo and Rembrandt to Caravaggio and beyond. After an absolutely marvelous lunch at the café (featuring a true English Christmas pudding,) we saw 19th and 20th century works from Turner through Van Gogh. Then we took the underground to a far stop called Ravenswood Park on the Thames River. The houses date from the 18th and 19th centuries and we visited the William Morris Society, though his fragile house, next door, was closed until March. Thursday evening w attended a performance of Handel's masterpiece "Messiah," by the Hanover Band, using period instruments, at King's Place. - Dan

London, December 13, 2017

Wednesday morning we took the Tube to St. Paul's Cathedral, but it was closed for TV cameras preparing to televise a special memorial for those lost in the London tower fire several months ago. We then travelled to the Victoria And Albert Museum to see the exhibit "Opera: Passion, Power And Politics," which featured pictures, costumes, manuscripts and recordings of operas from the 17th to the 21st centuries. Afterwards we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the museum in a beautiful 19th century room decorated with stained glass, tiled columns and an elaborate stone mantle. After leaving the museum we headed to the Handel And Hendrix House Museum; the two houses adjoin each other and gave good insights into the lives of these two very different musicians. In the evening we dined at the Balconies Restaurant at the Royal Opera House before attending a performance of Rossini's "Semiramide" featuring fames mezzo-soprano Joyce di Donato. - Dan

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

London, December 12, 2017

As Dr. Samuel Johnson famously said: "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." Despite the cold spell here, we had a fascinating afternoon. After checking in to our hotel, which is near the Marble Arch and beautifully-appointed Portman Square, we headed to lunch at Kurobuta. We dined on pumpkin and shrimp tempura, sautéed mushrooms, "flaming edamame," and a rolled eggplant dish, both tender and flavorful. Then, guided by Jim's trusty cell phone GPS, we walked to Hertford House, home of one of the great London museums, The Wallace Collection. In addition to first-rate paintings by Rubens, Velasquez, Hals, Watteau, Van Dyke, Bonnington and many other Old Masters, the collection is one of the most outstanding repositories of decorative arts, from clocks to china, and snuf boxes to armor. After the Wallace Collection, Jim wanted to see the colorful holiday windows at Selfridges huge department store. They are campy, and some window dresser's idea of Nirvana. We're looking forward to another exciting day tomorrow. - Dan

Saturday, November 11, 2017

"Glass House" Train Trip To New Canaan

We left on a 6:45 train to Stamford, Conn, on Thursday, November 9, so we had to get up at 5:00 AM. It was a very long day. The train traveling north was only late 10 minutes, as was the returning one, but the second train left Stamford around 5:15, when it was supposed to leave at 4:58. From Stamford Jim's friend Brad Kaplan drove us to his huge house in New Canaan. They have two guest rooms, each child has a separate room,there was a suite (now closed off) for the Nanny, and there are two dining rooms, with Brad's Lionel trains in the basement near the home movie theater. That gives you an idea of the size of the house. It has a beautiful location. We had lunch at a lovely Italian restaurant on the main street in town, and for that Brad's wife Julie joined us. (The kids were in school, one is 8 and the other is 5 and 1/2.) New Canaan is a town for the ultra wealthy, since another Phillip Johnson house is currently on the market for $15 million. After lunch the four of us toured Phillip Johnson's amazing Glass House, the main tourist attraction in New Canaan. We had reservations and the tour was limited to 14, including the guide. It's really more of a huge outdoor setting with various small buildings: the Glass House, Brick House, Gate House, Gallery (to show paintings), Gallery for sculpture, Gate, etc. The grounds are beautiful and November is the perfect time to see the foliage in Connecticut. The main house (Glass House) is quite small, but remarkable. Johnson used it only on weekends since his office and apartment in New York was his main place of residence. The modernist look of his sleek architecture is still smart and concise. He also built another house for his partner (a man who was a gallery dealer) nearby, but that is not open to the public. Right after the two hour tour Brad took us to the train station for the long trip back to Philadelphia. It was an exhausting but very rewarding day. - Dan