Art, architecture, history, travel

Travels with my aunt Margaret

Travels with my Aunt Margaret


London to Nassau and Back

Travels with my Aunt Margaret

Margaret Lewis was my wife’s aunt. She lived in New York City but later in life moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. I had the pleasure of taking many nice trips with her. Here is an account of those trips I gave my son while entertaining him on a drive to his college Carnegie Mellon.

Well, I’m back now. I just enjoyed those trips that I had with your mother and Margaret. We went to some special places of course with you kids and Margaret. The first trip we went on well, I took Margaret and your mother to London in 1988. I was supposed to be going to Germany on business and I asked your mother if she wanted to go and she said sure. Somehow Margaret fanageled her way in on the trip and before I knew it they were going to London and I ended up going to Germany by myself.

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But I did spend a couple of days in London with them and that was a blast. And your mother and I got up to Inverness in Scotland and you were a baby but you didn’t make that trip. You stayed home and I went on to Frankfurt to the Achema which is a huge process and chemical engineering show that they have in Germany every three years. It’s really amazing. So that was the first trip that I made with Margaret Lewis. And then I ended up going to Germany again the next year to a trade show Envitec, an environmental trade show, in Düsseldorf and I ended up staying in Duisburg and driving down to the show every day with our German agent, not a secret agent, just a business agent.

That was the year of the Exxon Valdez crash in Alaska and I was in Germany during that crash. I also bought Poppy your famous Steiff stuffed bunny which you still love. The Sahara sand was the strangest thing I ever heard of. Sand from the Sahara desert is carried 4000 miles in the stratosphere by the jet stream to Germany. It is very bad for the cars.

Well, then in 1996 your mother and I went on a Panama Canal trip with Intrav and because my grandfather had told me in your life if there are two places that, if you ever got the chance to go you should go. One was Ephesus in Turkey. With its famous library of Celsus, temple of Artemis, Basilica and tomb of St. John, and nearby the home of the Virgin Mary.
And the subject of St. Paul’s famous epistle in the New Testament. I got to visit Ephesus with Ted D., Roberto and Marisa in January 1978. It was  a very cold winter that year.

The other one was the Panama Canal which he went on with the Shriners in 1974. Well, lo and behold we got this brochure about the Panama Canal and I thought boy that’ll never happen and somehow I talked your mother into it and it was November. It was right before Thanksgiving. We flew to Acapulco and the Mexican Navy was in port and it’s a very small navy but it was fun. We could see the ships from our hotel room.

A schematic of the Panama Canal, illustrating ...

A schematic of the Panama Canal, illustrating the sequence of locks and passages (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then we went on the cruise and we went to Nicoya and San Jose, Costa Rica and through the Panama Canal and Miraflores and we stopped in Cartagena in Colombia, which I also enjoyed. Many people on the ship said they didn’t enjoy that. They didn’t like the poverty.

And then St. Martin, which is the half French half Dutch island in the Caribbean. And the Dutch side used to have square coins. They were one of the few square coins in the world. They were 15 cents, 15 Dutch cents. And they were widely sought after by collectors. I got a few of them. They still have square coins in Suriname. They were just about as popular as those triangular Tuvan stamps that Richard Feynman collected. I never got any of those. But I did get a picture. I have a picture of them (view slideshow.) And I have his book and maybe a hat and a t-shirt. And then we went to the Virgin Islands where I had never been but your mother had. And we went to Magens Bay in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas and it’s beautiful. I loved it.

I thought it was more beautiful than Hawaii even though I didn’t put it on my top 10, somehow I think I got confused. Then we went to Puerto Rico for just a day. I’ve always wanted to return and visit the el junque rain forest but haven’t made it yet. The only tropical rain forest in the United States.

I called grandpa from San Juan. It’s just like making a call in the United States you dial one plus the area code and then the number. No cell phones then. Then we flew home.

And we loved that trip so much that the next year Margaret Lewis wanted to repeat that with us and so that was our second trip with Margaret and it was March and it was winter and the port . . . we left from Hollywood, Ft. Lauderdale, Port Everglades where your great grandparents used to live. We stayed one night at the Caribe one night on the way back, but you kids didn’t like it because there was a mean man who didn’t like kids.

And I remember we had to fly through Detroit on some kind of crummy connection and it was snowing and a big blizzard and we almost missed the flight. There was no one to check the luggage and your mother was busy watching you. It was horrible. Margaret was waiting there for us. She had come from Cincinnati. And she was in a panic by the time we got to the gate. The flight had been called and was leaving in 45 minutes. So it was your mother and I and you and your sister. So we flew down to Florida and we stayed in a crummy hotel where a lot of students on spring break stayed. You had to leave a deposit on everything, on the towels, on the fly swatter, on the refrigerator because they were just used to everybody stealing everything. It reminded me of the special towels they have for gun cleaning at the Lake of the Ozarks.
But Margaret stayed with some friends, with Cookie and Mary Carlyle. When they dropped Margaret off Mary screamed my name going down the road in her mom’s convertible. It was a repeat of  Terry Cannon in Florence in 1975 with the Carmen ghia (see 1975 I had so much fun).

And so we got on that trip and it was a fun trip. And maybe that was ’97. I think actually it was ’96. It was supposed to be for my 40th birthday and I ended up getting a gold diamond ring and a bracelet, an 18 kt gold bracelet, which I still wear. I’ve never taken it off in 12 years and a nice watch which I still have and uh…

I got your mother another watch but it broke a few years ago, but I still have mine. You shared a cabin with Margaret and your sister. Your mother and I had our own cabin. The picture widow in the cabin was so big that you and Marion sat in there every morning and ate your cereal.

Nassau was where your maternal grandparents went on their honeymoon in 1948. We took a submarine ride in Nassau to see the fish in the bay and they just lifted Margaret into the boat and they called her Mama. She didn’t like that. She didn’t realize they call all women that. It’s a sign of respect. So that was Nassau in the Bahamas and then we went back to the Virgin Islands and we went to St. Thomas and St. Croix this time and that was trip #2. That was your second time in the Bahamas. We took you and Marion to Freeport on a day cruise when she was a baby.

Well, then next I think we went to Nebraska or we met Margaret in Lincoln at the Abbotts, at Mike Abbotts. And we rented a minivan so that the 5 of us could ride comfortably out to Alliance. Do you remember what year that was? I think Marion was about 7. So that was about 1997 or 1998 and we rode the horses and we looked at the airplane but we didn’t get to go up in the airplane because the weather wasn’t good.  He was living in Lincoln at the time. Mike had a pond in his yard and we went frog gigging after dark. You kids liked that.Chris owned 49 square miles or sections in the sand hills. His wife was Kim and she was nice. That’s a lot of land. It looked like Mongolia, hills and grass but no trees anywhere. I made you kids ride a horse bareback and without bridles and you fell off in the mud and you still haven’t forgiven me. Margaret had been there before for a big wedding at the ranch. I think it was Dianne. Voss had been to the ranch too.

And then we drove back through Neely and we stayed with one of the Abbott girls. I think it was Helen.The first of the Abbott girls I had met was Andrea. That was a long time ago in New York City. Margaret was there, too. It may have even been before your mother and I were married.  Then we drove home and boy that was a long trip in that car back to St Louis. And then Margaret had to get back to Cincinnati. So that was the third trip with Margaret Lewis.

Well then 2 years later Margaret wanted to treat us to a cruise and that was in 1999 and that was the famous Scandinavian cruise. They lost Margaret’s suitcase and she had to go back to the airport and get it. It was a big waste of time. And once again we started in London and the cruise left from Dover. We took the bus down to Dover. And the interesting thing about that trip uh, except for the end which I’ll get to in a minute, the electricity went out in our hotel in London. We were staying at a very, very fancy hotel in London and all the electricity went out. All the cash registers were down and there was no way to pay for anything so they had to give us our breakfast for free and they weren’t very happy about that. They had a shop in the hotel that sold beautiful colored enameled coins. I bought a German 2 pfennig piece and a farthing for your mother that she wears as a necklace. And that’s also when we saw the eclipse; we saw the famous solar eclipse. The druids at Stonehenge went nuts.

Well that was the trip when you bought the third Harry Potter book. You just sat in the pub and read that book No one had really heard of Harry Potter but you had. You said it was going to be big and you were right.

I got a beautiful silk scarf at Liberty’s from two interns from Madrid. Their English was impeccable. We went to the Bigso store from Sweden and got some cool office supplies on that trip too. We all went to the tower of London and saw the crown jewels. That was neat.

One night we went to dinner at a Pub in the Mayfair district of London. They wouldn’t seat us, because we had you kids with us (view slideshow.)  The first time in London that had ever happened to me. We ended up at an Italian restaurant across the street it was very fancy and very nice. You all behaved well. It made an impression on me because it was the first time I spent more than one hundred dollars for a meal. I think it was more like $125. But we enjoyed it and it was worth every penny.

And then, well I’m just trying to be brief here. Then we went to Germany and we went through the Kiel Canal and to Berlin.The kids and parents stood along the canal and waved as we passed by. In Berlin we took the train from Rostock then had a tour and lunch. We went to the KaDeWe the world’s largest department store and I got donked on the head in the parking garage. We saw the newly restored Oberbaum Bridge in Friedrichshain, Tempelhof airport recently closed and site of the Berlin Airlift. We also saw the recently restored French and German cathedrals at the Gendarmenmarkt.
Also the old Cafe Moscow restaurant in East Berlin where Ted D. and I had eaten so many years ago (Nov. 1977.)  Once a showcase of E. Berlin, it was closed and looked pretty crummy. The thing about that place was it had a huge menu 90% of the things on that menu were never available. It was my fourth trip to Berlin. Of course the old Berlin wall was gone.

Then the ship went to St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo and finally Copenhagen.

In St Petersburg Margaret and your mother went to the opera performance while I took you kids to the circus. I tried some Vodka and a man thought Marion was so cute he gave her a little wooden doll with a real fur collar. Russia had really changed since I had been there in 1974. You and I had a little adventure in the Hermitage. Some old ladies from Minneapolis were so incensed that you had sat in one of the chairs in the museum that we got separated from the group, missed the bus and had to take a cab then walk two miles back to the ship which would have been alright except I had Marion’s passport and they wouldn’t let her back on the ship till I got there.

And then on the way back to Dover in the middle of the night our ship was struck by a container ship in the English Channel and we were all almost killed. And they called the general quarters and they had the Delta, Delta, Delta with the emergency command. And they had us put on our life jackets and we stood there for an hour but they determined the ship was safe. We didn’t actually have to get into the lifeboats. But as it turned out we were crossing the English Channel and the container ship was coming through. So we had the right of way but it struck us.

The container ship was owned by Evergreen from Taiwan. Containing paint, it caught fire and burned for weeks in the English Channel off Margate.  

Ok, I’m back. I had to take a break. That was 10 minutes. I’ll elaborate on that trip later. That was certainly – Berlin and St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen – wonderful, wonderful things. We bought Teddy a watch in Copenhagen, I think; it was a watch wasn’t it? It was a very special watch. It had a compass, calculator and many other special things (view slideshow.)

We went to the store where they painted the Royal Copenhagen figures. That was a special shopping street. Margaret liked that. That night we went to the Tivoli amusement park and had a faartarme. That’s a special thing they have for kids in Denmark filled with candy and little toys.

Well, okay, so now I want to get to the last trip before I forget. Um, which was to France? We went to… This time we took Margaret. It was March of 2001. Katie got an internet bargain for us. We got a week’s hotel in Paris and airfare for the 4 of us and then we added Margaret on at no extra charge. So we stayed in Paris for a few days and went to the Louvre with the kids. And that was probably the highlight of the trip was getting the Louvre trip with Margaret. And then we went to the Jardin de plantes which was Marion’s pick. Everybody got a pick.  The cab driver was interesting and he wanted to know why the kids weren’t in school we said spring break and he didn’t understand then we said Easter break. And then we went to museum of Cluny and saw some famous tapestries and Roman baths in the basement. Everyone liked that museum. And of course we went to many book stores. We got around Paris pretty well although we had trouble in the beginning because the hotel that we were supposed to stay in was overbooked. So we ended up getting in the 15th Arrondissement which is a residential area. But Saturday morning we just walked down the big boulevard looking in shops and cafes. We enjoyed that. We eventually ended up getting split up on the Metro but somehow got together again for lunch at the Louvre. We found a nice shop selling office supplies from Japan and I ended up having something strange for lunch. That turned out to be a great day. We had a hard time getting a taxi for five people you had to order them because taxis don’t cruise around the streets the way they used to because of the price of gas. Margaret could barely keep up with us.

We had a hard time picking up the rental car it took over an hour and a half. We couldn’t find the office and didn’t have a GPS. We rented the biggest French car they had but the kids thought it was too small. We should have rented a Buick.

Well, then we drove to Normandy. First we went to Rouen the capital of Normandy. I had read about it in French class. It was beautiful. We saw the tomb of Richard Lionhearted and Mathilde daughter of Henry I and Queen of England and Germany. The Plantagenet family ruled this part of France from England until the time of Joan of Arc. They were all entombed in the famous cathedral, the one that Claude Monet painted for his study of light. We would visit his home in Giverny on the way back.
Also Napoleons home Malmaison.

We drove to Honfleur which was beautiful and on the coast and Winston Churchill had stayed there and it was very near the big port of Le Harve. Margaret and I had crème brulee every night for desert. We stayed in a very nice refurbished old hotel. We loved it.

But we went the other way. Katie had always wanted to go into Mont Ste Michelle. So that’s where we went. And we drove there and spent 3 or 4 hours there and watched the tide come in and out and then we drove back and it was spectacular. On the way there we found a little village that made copper pots just by accident, just little cooking pots. They were very reasonably priced. So we bought a pot and we bought little vases and we had a very nice lunch, and they gave us a little tour of their factory. This was right before the euro conversion in 2002 and the euro stood at about 60 cents to the dollar. Everywhere we went things were very reasonably priced. Marion and I had a seafood cocktail tower in Honfleur which was about oh I don’t know 16 or 18 inches tall and it had every kind of seafood you could imagine from lobster to mussels to clams to prawns and it was delicious.

Back in Paris we drove right by la defense, the business district of Paris. I remember because I did most of the driving. Also, in Paris we went to a special Alsatian restaurant right on the Champs d’Elysees and I told the children it was going to be too expensive. We wouldn’t be able to eat there. But we could just walk along the Champs d’Elysees. But actually we ate there. I think with the 5 of us even with wine it cost about $125. So if we went back today in 2009 it would probably be $300. So anyway that was the last trip that we took with Margaret Lewis. It was trip #5.

This year, 2011 we returned from Rome. It would be at least a hundred dollars a person because the Euro is so strong.

There was one more trip. That was with Margaret, Voss and Tom to Greg and Anne’s wedding in Hamilton, Bermuda. I didn’t go on that trip but  your mother did

Okay, well, this is an addendum to that previous memo because we’ve been talking about it and I’m going back to that ’99 Scandinavian cruise and for the sake of thoroughness I believe our ship was going through the channel and the container was crossing from Dover to Oostende or another port maybe in the Netherlands or Belgium and the international seaway rules state that the ship going the shorter distance, which would be the one crossing the canal would have the right of way over the ship going through the canal which we were coming from Copenhagen which makes sense because it gives you more time to maneuver.

Anyway that accident, as we discovered later on another cruise, was one of the most studied accidents in maritime history.

On our Alaskan cruise we met a pilot and he was amazed that Katie and I had been on that trip. I never thought I was going get your mother to go on another cruise again in our lives. It took some convincing on that Alaskan cruise to the Aleutian Islands, Bearing Sea and Kamchatka. We enjoyed that. We’ve enjoyed all our trips. But that’s for another blog


3 responses

  1. Pingback: Post 1974 Leningrad/St Petersburg USSR « Things that I care about

    • Thanks, for your comments.

      April 7, 2012 at 6:55 pm

  2. raven mccrory

    I recently purchased a portrait painted by your Aunt Margaret. It is a picture of Virginia finlayson. Do you have any idea who she is? I’d be happy to send you a picture of the portrait if you are interested.

    August 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm

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