Chills ran up my spine as I stood on the gangplank and looked up at the red-orange smokestacks of The Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, California. I was fulfilling a dream of mine to visit her, after I took a transatlantic crossing aboard the Queen Mary 2 from New York to England, two winters prior. What would she look like in comparison?
With my press pass in hand, I slowly walked into the ship, my heart fluttering. I was here to attend SuperBook Weekend, put on by Adventures by the Book,* a book event planner located in San Di-ego. They were hosting a literary event of 22 Best Selling authors on Super Bowl Weekend, Janu-ary 31-February 1, 2020. This is what I need to feel like a writer again after my dry season. There would be panels by authors, keynote speakers, a delicious Super Bowl-themed lunch, and an op-portunity to buy best-selling books, all Saturday morning.
Held in the historic Queen’s Salon, resplendent with Art Deco artwork and fixtures, I was inspired and motivated to write again, after listening to these successful writers tell of their writing journeys, their research and story-line tips, and their rejections and successes. Laughter rang out in the for-mer music room that once held famous Hollywood stars and royalty.
I met my new favorite author, Kristin Harmel, who writes historical fiction. I gushed about her lat-est book, The Winemaker’s Wife, which I was currently reading. Interested in my own stories as a writer, she suggested an idea for publishing my children’s books. Toward the end of our chat, she handed me her card, asking me to send her my thoughts on the fate of a favorite character of mine in her story. This type of personal exchange between author and reader is what Adventures by the Book is known for.
As a travel writer, I knew the Queen Mary would have a story for me to tell, but what would it be?
I was spellbound. Not by the supposed ghosts on board, but by the decor of this great luxury liner now docked in the harbor since 1967. That Friday morning, as I stepped off the elevator into the Main Mall on Promenade Deck, I drew in my breath, and softly exhaled. The Mall was designed to look like Piccadilly Circus in London. My eyes cast over original 1920s Art Deco artwork and ar-chitecture made with different types of beautiful wood. As an artist, I was in heaven, and joy leapt in my heart. The Golden Days of Hollywood were a favorite of mine, wanting to run away and become another Marilyn Monroe as a teenager. Snap, snap went my iPhone camera. I stepped into one of the shops and spoke with the young saleswoman.
“What did this store used to be?” I asked.
“It was the first class library. There is a picture of what it looked like when the ship took its maiden voyage in 1936 outside the door. It was also used for religious services for first class Protestants.”
“Hmm…how interesting,” I mused.
My next stop was at the tour office, which used to be the first class bookstore. I bought a ticket for the Glory Days Tour at 1:15pm and then went for lunch. I walked down the inside wooden prom-enade, with its creaking, uneven floors, the sea breeze caressing my face through the open win-dows. I could imagine the ghosts of past passengers walking beside me. The walls were graced with full-length pictures of Hollywood stars and notables, such as King Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson, Liberace, Fred Astaire, and Elizabeth Taylor with her dogs.
On the tour, we peeked into most of the first class rooms. My favorites were the nursery, with miniature steamer trunks filled with doll clothes, and its pastel-colored painting of Noah’s Ark; along with the curved Observation Bar at the bow of the ship, with its original Art Deco painting of dancing guests hung over it. “Clark Gable used to sit on one of these bar stools and drink his whiskey,” the tour guide said.
“Wow, I’ll have to come back for a drink.” I laughed.
The sun had started to set, so I took my leave of the ship. This was my first trip to Long Beach, and the warm weather and beauty of the town lifted my winter blues from cold San Francisco. My hotel was located downtown in the East Village, with many cafes and art galleries within a block or two of walking. My favorite was the French cafe, Creme de La Crepe. I had the most delicious cafe macchiato, made by Fanny from the south of France. Little gifts like these, were extra blessings to my weekend stay. Sunday morning, I took my camera and shot pictures of the Art Deco buildings and murals of the village.
As the plane took off through the orange, sunset-tinged clouds, I reflected on my adventure. God had met me in so many ways: The lovely book event that filled my depleted writing well, and the majesty of the now silent Queen Mary, all made this writer’s getaway one I would remember.
Oh, and the story idea she promised me? A historical fiction picture book. Surprise!
Miriam Sarzotti is an author, travel blogger, and artist who loves to share her faith in her writing and art. Her blog, C’est La Vie, highlights her travels and everything French! Currently, she writes children’s picture books. She loves the beach, and lives outside San Francisco.