Yesterday’s post on A Bridge Across The Ocean, brought back memories of my amazing Transatlantic voyage on the Queen Mary 2. It was her second crossing and began in New York on a chilly day in May. Let’s go back a bit, the trip was through Academic Arrangements and the purpose was a garden expedition of England, beginning with a visit to Sissinghurst and ending in London with a special visit to the Chelsea Garden Show as well as hidden gardens and a perfect stay at the Capital Hotel (it happens to have Harrods on one end of the street and Harvey Nichols on the other, I mean really!!!!). I decided to send my luggage ahead to be on board rather than lugging it on the plane. We had a choice of hotels in New York for the night before we sailed and I chose The Waldorf Astoria I had never stayed there in all the years I had spent in New York on business and for many vacations. I had dined there and had drinks in Peacock Alley, but not a stay. The room wasn’t the best I have ever stayed in but it was only one night and it was, after all, the Waldorf! The next day a bus picked us up and took us to the dock where the majestic ship was docked. I had been on other cruises, most notably the Celebrity for a cruise of the Caribbean but never anything like the QE2! When you board you really have no idea of the size…that comes much later. When I arrived to my cabin my clothes were all hung and luggage stowed, how divine.
Pretty much the look of my cabin…not bad!
I don’t think I expected anything less. We were, of course, summoned to a life boat/jacket drill prior to departure. Our departure was delayed because there was some sort of movie being filmed around the bridge, which by the way is the only structure in New York Harbor before you hit the open sea. This delay was causing a problem since the tide was rising and the Ship had only so much clearance of the bridge. We were all either on deck to watch the skyline disappear and, of course, to salute the Statute of Liberty, or on on balconies…I was on mine with a couple of friends. All of sudden a tugboat appeared on our side of the Ship (don’t ask me what side I was on, I’m not a sailor!!!), it looked like a small bath toy…it sailed along the side of the Ship to the front….obviously surveyed the situation and gave an all clear “toot, toot” and off we sailed. When I asked could the Ship sail with without this action, I was told it could not. It could not have been more charming!
Our tugboat, looks much bigger here then from my balcony.
I was a bit concerned about being on water for so long a time, I can only tell you, I could easily live on board and feel like I had died and gone to heaven (oh wait that is yesterday’s book!!!) I got my sea legs immediately. While you are assigned dinner seating times, we didn’t have to sit with our group every evening and I made friends with different groups for each meal. After dinner, perhaps a bit of dancing or casino action, we would all end up in the Veuve Clicquot Bar…seriously, I couldn’t believe it! The waitstaff suggested if I was going to come often (were they kidding!!!) they would keep my bottle for me, the dears….. Everything, of course, is included except liquor, spa services and gratuities.
The Veuve Clicquot Bar, there were lovely ivory leather banquettes opposite the actual bar, strangely enough not too many people gathered, I loved the privacy.
My other favorite place on board was the Library, shouldn’t be a surprise to my readers, it was stunning and I spent lots of time there and naturally bought books on the gardens we were to visit as well as other souvenirs.
A small portion of the Library which was surrounded by windows, I could easily live here!
I met one of the guest speakers, Richard Bisgrove and his wife for breakfast just before his lecture on Gertrude Jekyll, The Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll, I believe I mentioned the book in an earlier post that he kindly autographed for me. Great presentation and superb book.
All the lectures were interesting and varied, some related to gardens many others had different topics, all very informative, they were presented in a huge auditorium which transformed itself at night into Broadway productions. Believe me there wasn’t a moment that something wasn’t going on and you could enjoy whatever activity you wanted. I spend many hours walking the decks and the corridors inside…it was not an easy crossing, the sea was rough so I wasn’t on deck or my balcony as often as I would have liked. Quite frankly the only thing missing for me was a shipboard romance (I have seen many too many movies!!!!)…oh well, next crossing!!!! The time flew by and when we landed in Southampton we were met by a bus to take us to Sissinghurst, I turned to say goodbye to the incredible QE2 and saw exactly how grand she really was, to say impressive would be a major understatement. I will do future post on the Garden part of the trip as well as the time in London, one of my most favorite places on earth!
Since my voyage, Cunard has added another Queen to it’s fleet, The Queen Victoria….I hope I can live to tell that story!!!
On my crossing Todd English had a restaurant on board and I ate there twice, it was intimate, elegant and absolutely delicious. There was a separate fee, but who cared…I am sharing the fig flatbread that was served with you for our Wednesday reciipe. You can get many more of this superb chef’s recipes in his many books or his New York restaurants.
FROM NENA’S RECIPE BOX
TODD ENGLISH’S FIG FLATBREAD
- Two 12-ounce balls of pizza dough, at room temperature (can be refrigerated dough)
- All-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup fig jam (from a 6-ounce jar)
- 1/4 pound Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
- 3 ounces sliced prosciutto
- 1 scallion, white and green parts thinly sliced
- Place a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°. Allow at least 45 minutes for the pizza stone to heat thoroughly.
- Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of the pizza dough to a 13-inch round. Dust a pizza peel with flour and slide the dough onto it. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with half of the garlic and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Dollop 1/4 cup of the fig jam all over the crust, being sure to leave a 1-inch border of dough all around. Scatter half of the cheese and prosciutto over the dough.
- Slide the flatbread onto the stone and bake for about 15 minutes, until puffed and golden. Transfer the flatbread to a cutting board and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make the second flatbread. Garnish with the sliced scallion and serve.
Serve with a full bodied red wine.
www.nationaltrust.org (Sissinghurst information)
www.rhs.org.uk (Chelsea Flower and Garden Show information)