‘Tis the season for bugs, bites and bees; strong ultraviolet rays; and swimming and sunning. Be sure to add repellant, first-aid lotion and suntan lotion with an SPF of 15 or above. Keep your eyes on the kids and have fun—it’s summer. Well, maybe not officially, but the days are long and it’s getting hot, so be prepared.
Let it be known that prima ballerina Misty Copeland looked absolutely stunning at the American Ballet Theatre’s annual Spring Gala dinner and performance at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, presented by Harry Winston. Although there was no one there of note that we know other than a very few actors and a designer or two, such as Valentino, as usual, Misty stole the show.
Karen Jackson of Nelson Books-HarperCollins was among the select ladies who lunch, who gathered to kick-off the book tour for Lis Wiehl’s new book “The Hunting.” The book will be part of a series of books that tell the stories of major crime figures, beginning with “Hunting Charles Manson.” Great if you like that kind of stuff. It’s a little too gruesome for me.
So where are we traveling this summer? I have been wanting to take the Amtrak excursion train to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side for quite some time. I love train travel. We had the occasion to travel by Amtrak Auto Train several times to Florida when visiting Charles’ uncle Frank, who was then living in Sarasota. The 10-hour overnight ride makes travel time much longer than flying, not to mention you have to drive down to Lorton, Va. to get the train. But once you get settled, it is a great way to travel to Florida. First, you get to pack all of your things in the car and don’t have to schlep through the airport. Second, there is something exciting about seeing your car loaded onto the train and saying, “Goodbye, see you in Florida.” Third, once on the train, you have the choice of either reserving a private room, complete with bed, toilet and shower or a comfy seat in the coach area. I’ve done both and enjoy both equally as well. Gazing out the big picture window, seeing America go by, is an instant formula for relaxation.
Either way, dinner and breakfast are included in the price. One of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I ever had in my life was on an overnight train ride from Chicago to New Orleans. This route is as educational as it is eye-opening because the route passes through the cotton fields of Mississippi. I imagined how hard it must have been to bend over picking cotton off this short, little plant. I was shocked and amazed at the sight of the enormity of a bale of cotton, wondering how much cotton does one have to pick to make a bale. Nonetheless, hearing the train click-clack its way along the train track is an incomparable adventure.
Arriving in Florida the next morning around 10 a.m., passengers debark and wait for their cars to be unloaded. The northern city of Sanford, where the train pulls in, is at the edge of several turnpikes, all leading from one end of the state to the other. To the left there is Jacksonville. To the right is Daytona. A short ride south is Disneyland. Veer down the western coast and you will cross Tampa Bay, which is a glistening sight. Then there is my favorite, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, where they have a real live mermaid show. You have to see it to believe it.
One of the best trips to Florida was to witness the wedding of cousin Catherine Morton. We rented a really cute two-bedroom apartment across the street from the beach. I still remember seeing the beach out of the window as we sat down to breakfast. One thing to remember about Florida is that it is usually hot during the morning but rains in the afternoon. However, the sky clears up in the evening just in time for a beautiful sunset. And of course, you have to watch out for the snakes.
On the occasions when I have flown to Florida, I was amazed to gaze out of the window as we flew over the state, heading down to Miami International, and see how “watery” the state is. There are ponds, streams, rivers and canals running throughout. No wonder there are alligators.
The next visit to Florida was to the memorial service for Uncle Frank. That was in December 2013 or 2014. Either way, it seems like decades ago. Again, we took the train down. On the day we arrived, it was a lot colder than we had expected, even though it was December. It made me wish I had thrown my mink coat in the back of the car. You can do that when you take the Auto Train. However, it did warm up the next day for the service and it was a lovely reminder of a lovely man, well-liked by everyone who knew him. Frank Morton had sat on the bench at Brooklyn Supreme Court. Before marrying Charles, I hadn’t known many judges. It was a big deal to be marrying into a family with one.
Turning back to summer vacations, we are staying pretty much local and looking forward to a New York City vacation. I always enjoy Jones Beach, as many of you longtime, faithful readers already know. I understand the Meadowlands is hosting the New Jersey State Fair and those are always fun, so maybe I will be able to drag the family across the state line.
Until next week … kisses.