Vacation: The Grand Finale

At last A Reader’s Respite reaches the grand finale of our three-part vacation saga.

Now for those of you who have ever flown trans-oceanic flights with children in tow (or if you’ve ever been stuck within a ten row radius of children on one of these flights), you’ll understand our reluctance to herd the kidlets on a long flight back to the States.

In fact, the idea was so abhorrent to us that we scrapped our plane tickets and turned our car south towards Southampton, England.  Because if you can’t bear the thought of an oceanic crossing in an airplane, your only other option is a boat.


That’s right.  The Queen Mary II was leaving Southampton for New York.  So we packed up our steamer trunks and herded the kidlets aboard for the seven day transatlantic crossing.  And believe us when we tell you: it was worth every penny.


The Cunard Line knows how to do this transatlantic thing right, yes-sir-ee.  Incredible dining (yes, you must gussy-up for dinner, but Mr. RR looks pretty darned good in black-tie), entertainment that included everything from Shakespeare productions to lecture series from astrophysicists and historians.




Easter Sunday was spent on board ship.  We thought Big Kid’s eyes were literally going to pop out of his head when he saw the desert table.



There’s an incredible planetarium on board and we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the fabulous library.  Oh gosh, the library.  At any given point during the crossing, at least 80% of the people you saw on the ship had a book or a Kindle in hand.  This was one very literary crowd.

qm2 planetariumThe planetarium was fantabulous!

QM2 libarayWe would’ve slept in the library if they had let us.

They even had their very own book club that met each evening for discussion.  *Sigh*  It was just a little slice of heaven.  And how, you ask, did A Reader’s Respite manage to fit in time for reading?  Two words: British Nannies.  Oh yeah, baby, that’s right.  Fully certified, honest-to-goodness British nannies who convincingly acted like there was nothing in the world they would rather do than entertain your kidlets all day long.

282The Grand Lobby.  Pretty, no?  Chairs were set up for a swanky art-auction that day.

So what did we read?  The mood of the ship called for thrillers.  So down to the library we tottered (we tottered until we found our sea legs in the 30 foot swells) and browsed until we found The Man from Beijing by the famous Swedish crime writer, Henning Mankell.

man from beijing

This was our first read of a Mankell book, despite his fame for writing the Kurt Wallander mystery series.  By and large we enjoyed the story that follows a Swedish judge, Birgitta Roslin, as she tracks down her own personal connection to a horrible massacre that occurs in a desolate, remote village in the northern country.  Her single-minded investigation leads her, improbably, to Beijing in an effort to track down the killer.  Colonialism and imperialism both figure strongly into this novel and if it’s an indication of how well Mankell normally writes, we can’t wait to finally read the Wallander series.

By the time we finished the Mankell novel, A Reader’s Respite had found our own cozy reading spot down on the second level of the ship:


Now it may not look like much at first glance, but consider the view:


So still in our mystery/thriller mood, we walked (as opposed to toddled) back to library and found another author we’ve been meaning to read….Karin Fossum.  Her novel The Water’s Edge was calling out to us from it’s glass-encased shelf.


In retrospect, we wish the cover of the novel had let us know that this novel is actually the 8th in Fossum’s Inspector Konrad Sejer Series, but in this case, what we didn’t know couldn’t hurt us.

We enjoyed this taut thriller in which young boys from a small town start turning up murdered.  Fossum knows her craft and now we suppose we’ll have to start the series from the beginning.

Photo: Jason Oxenham/Auckland Suburbans. Britannia Resturant on the Queen Mary II

Now for those of you interested in the Titanic connection, the White Star Line no longer operates passenger ships.  in 1934, they merged with the Cunard Line which has taken over the White Star Service and their transatlantic route still follows the same path which the Titanic took that fateful night in 1912.

qm2 decks

On our fourth night at sea at 11:58 pm, the Queen Mary II passed directly over the coordinates where the Titanic sank.  Even yours truly, possibly the most un-sentimental traveler, felt a little shiver that had nothing to do with the weather.  It was dark, it was cold and the thought of sinking out there in the middle of the North Atlantic was horrifying.


But eerie moments and good reading aside, it was with not a little sadness that we passed under the Brooklyn Bridge after not seeing land for seven days.  That’s the poetic way of saying they had to pry A Reader’s Respite off the ship with a crowbar.

So concludes our regaling of Vacation: 2011.  We now return to our normal programming…..

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