tourism


Q.E. 2 Makes Final Visit to New York – NYTimes.com

In a parting embrace under the lady lighting the harbor, the Queen Elizabeth 2 slipped beneath the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at dawn Thursday to pay a last visit to New York and a grander new sister ship, before sailing into history after nearly 40 years of luxury transatlantic travel as the fastest passenger ship afloat.

For her final visit — her 710th — the venerable liner, which was sold last year for eventual use as a floating hotel in Dubai, was joined by the four-year-old Queen Mary 2, the latest flagship of the Cunard fleet and a throwback to a golden age of ocean travel before jets, when, as the company slogan had it, getting there was half the fun.

My parents sailed on the QE2 in the late 1970s. As part of my mother’s first and only trip outside North America, she agreed to fly over to London if my dad would bring her home on the QE2. My mother had a deathly fear of flying — to get her on the plane over took at least one Valium and a few drinks.

While she loved her visit to England and riding lots of trains (my father went for a train conference/tour), it was the trip home that really made it for her. I’m not certain what she loved most — the excellent food, drink and service or the large pool of willing bridge partners at her disposal (she was a terrific player).

Based on her tales from her crossing, I’ve always wanted to take the journey myself. I guess I’ll have to settle for the Queen Mary 2 of the Queen Victoria. Shucks.

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Some People Would Die To Wind Up at This Museum – washingtonpost.com

Normally I would shamelessly plug my own museum (and I need to do that soon) but this one caught my eye today. It’s right in the same neighborhood and I didn’t realize that it was happening. The National Museum of Crime & Punishment opens today on 7th Street NW here in DC – just a 1/2 block from my museum. Here’s a bit from the Washington Post review in today’s paper:

You know the names: Jesse James, Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger . . .

And the men who chased them. Wild Bill Hickok. Wyatt Earp. Eliot Ness. J. Edgar Hoover.

The prisons where their kind were locked up: Rikers. Attica. Leavenworth. Alcatraz.

And the ways they died: Bullets. Ropes. Firing squad. Electric chair. Gas chamber. Lethal injection.

These are the stories at the heart of the District’s newest tourist attraction, the National Museum of Crime & Punishment, which opens today on Seventh Street NW in Gallery Place. The for-profit museum — admission is $17.95 — gives an eerie gloss to these true-life tales of cops and robbers, almost as if you’re walking through a high-toned coffee-table book.

Throughout the three-story building, the museum presents a number of interactive displays. You can learn how to crack a safe, watch clips of famous movies such as “The French Connection” and take an electronic quiz to see if the movie squared with reality. In a simulator, you can learn how to drive police vehicles. Then you can stand in a police station lineup or step into an Old West jail cell.

That’s where the simulated experience stops. There are no pretend executions.

That’s right — $17.95 per head. YIKES! I find the price just a scary as the content.

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Seeing the Light at Last – washingtonpost.com

This weekend saw the opening of the courtyard at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture (aka the Old Patent Office Building and home of the National Portrait Gallery). So far the reviews have been good. The link above is for the Washington Post article. I won’t post one for the Washington Times – they hated it.

Staff were given a coupon for a free “non-alcoholic” beverage from the new cafe so I went over and got a hot chocolate and sprang for a chocolate brownie, too. It was good hot chocolate but could have been a touch richer in flavor. The brownie was thickly iced and very fudgey – and expensive at $3.85.

The courtyard is quite stunning and I’m certain it will be the place that parents will bring their kids to run and burn off energy. I just hope they don’t wipe their grimy fingers on the cases in the galleries – just another thing to clean in the morning.

If you are in DC, I recommend dropping by to see the courtyard but please stay to see the collection, too.

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As Stagehands Strike, Broadway Shows Don’t Go On – New York Times

Is there something in the air? First the Writer’s Guild strike and now this one. This is probably a popular (and potent) time to strike since the holidays are beginning and we are nearing the end of the calendar year.

The dispute has largely been over the rules in the contract that govern how many stagehands must be called for work, how long they work, and what kind of tasks they can perform. League members say the current rules invariably result in groups of stagehands on the clock with nothing to do.

This year the league, an organization typically weakened by its natural divisions between producers and the theater owners to whom they pay rent, has been determined to gain more flexibility in those rules.

Union officials have said they are open to changes as long as the new rules come with benefits of equal value in return. The league has proposed a package of raises, but James J. Claffey Jr., the Local One president, has said there is no way to determine the amount of stagehand work that will be lost under the looser rules that the producers are proposing. About a quarter of the 2,200 active members of Local One, who build scenery, maintain props and install and operate lighting and sound equipment, work on Broadway.

Stagehands fall into four wage categories. The highest-paid, like head carpenters and electricians, currently earn a minimum of $1,600 a week on a running show; stagehands in the lowest-paid category make a minimum of around $1,225. With overtime, additional work assignments and certain premium payments, wages can end up being quite a bit higher.

$1,225 per week is over $63,000 yearly and that’s not bad – at least not in DC. Perhaps in NYC that’s poverty level considering rents and all.

OK – so I don’t know all the details but I feel bad for all the people who are visiting NYC and may not get another chance to see a show.

Oh yeah – Happy Veterans Day.

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Facing Down The Status Quo – washingtonpost.com

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is slowly lifting the curtain on how it will approach the multitude of stories about African Americans. The museum is years away from opening on the Mall. Today its first exhibition opens at its Smithsonian sister the National Portrait Gallery, whose rich materials it scoured to present images from the past 151 years.

“Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits,” surveys 100 photographs, from a 1856 ambrotype, an early technique of photography, of Douglass to a 2004 snapshot of musician and composer Wynton Marsalis with a microphone in front of him, not a trumpet.

The faces are powerful and gorgeous. Their poses telegraph dignity and warmth. Their stories tell how they made steps forward as individuals to forge an image of a resilient, talented people.

We received a great review from the Washington Post for the exhibition that opened last Friday.

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Museum Math: Their Number Is Multiplying – washingtonpost.com

The Washington Post ran a special section on museums in today’s (Sunday) paper. The National Portrait Gallery got a lovely plug about the reopening of our courtyard with it’s new roof (see artist’s conception drawing above). I had completely forgotten that it’s supposed to open next month. (How did I miss that one? Oh right – I’m completely over worked these days.) I have been watching the progress from the windows of the galleries. The two below are from official pictures of a ficus tree being lowered into the courtyard through the last remaining opening.


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NPR : As Change Nears, Coney Islanders Keep Dreaming

From the top of the world-famous Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island, riders can see white-sand beaches, the Astroland amusement park and New York City’s skyline before they take a heart-stopping plunge.

For 80 years, the view atop the wooden coaster has changed with the amusements and arcades below. But this weekend could be the final view of most of Astroland, the oldest amusement park at Coney Island. Development is encroaching upon — or rescuing — other parts of the district, too, depending upon your point of view.

I’ve always wanted to visit Coney Island. My brother lived in Brooklyn Heights for 11 years but I only went up to visit twice (I’m a terrible sister). At least the Cyclone is a historic landmark so it won’t be dismantled.

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