14 August 2016

The RMS Queen Mary

As I mentioned several weeks ago in the post commemorating the 80th birthday of the Queen Mary, I was waiting to get color film returned from the lab before I did a comprehensive story on our wonderful day touring the ship. It didn't once cross my mind that, when visiting and photographing such an icon, such a striking piece of history, the contrast between black + white and color photographs would be much greater than many other types of places I enjoy to visit. Try as I might, I couldn't see how my words and images from the Queen Mary could be presented in anything other than black + white.

Living in Southern California, the Queen Mary and -- until the early 1990s -- Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose were a destination for school field trips, family outings, and a perfect spot to take visitors from out of town. The Queen Mary has attracted one million visitors a year since 1967 at its permanent home at the Long Beach terminal, standing tall and proud and full of history and memories to be made for all who visit her. I visited the Spruce Goose as a small child but had never been aboard the Queen Mary until May, when my husband surprised me with a day of adventure for my birthday.

Immediately upon our arrival we met up with The Glory Days Historical Tour, one of several tours offered to ship visitors. The tour (led by longtime docent, Eric, who was excellent!) was a great introduction to the ship, providing just enough information to familiarize us with its colorful history while we looked forward to exploring on our own to add to that knowledge. 

I'm going to be very careful not to give anything away -- one of the things I found so special about our entire day on the ship was how many treasures there were to be found around every corner. I hadn't felt this way about a place since the first time I visited the Orange Empire Railway Museum, a combination of "Is this really happening?" mixed with "I never want to leave!". Stepping foot on board the Queen Mary on this gorgeous spring day, I had no idea that I was stepping into a time machine. An 81,227 gross ton time machine, longer than the Empire State Building is tall, and one that has made a significant impact on millions of people in its 80 years afloat, myself included.

photo courtesy http://the.hitchcock.zone/wiki/RMS_Queen_Mary

Three of these people are of great importance to me -- Alfred Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville, and their daughter, Pat, first came to the United States from England aboard the Queen Mary in 1937. 

(Coincidentally, today is Alma's birthday, and yesterday was Hitch's -- they were born a day apart in 1899).  

Here is a photograph of the Hitchcock family on board the Queen Mary in 1939, when they moved to the States. 

Throughout the day I kept thinking of how wonderful it was that, essentially, we had the ship to ourselves. The ship is so enormous that we rarely came across anyone else on our adventure. Once visitors or hotel guests are on board, all are allowed to roam freely among its 12 decks. The staff are helpful and polite, and only a few areas are restricted to hotel guests only or require a separate admission. It's not hard to feel like part of the ship -- one more name added to its endless guestbook.

I absolutely cannot wait until our next Queen Mary visit -- perhaps to stay the night in one of its guest rooms, or maybe to take a ghost tour. I know that despite an entire day exploring we've really only scratched the surface.

09 August 2016

Happy 47th birthday, Haunted Mansion!

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion has been my absolute favorite Disney attraction since I was a kid. It's tough to explain just why -- it just is, and always will be.

Today, the 47th anniversary of its opening day, I'd like to share some film photographs of the Mansion that I've taken over the years as well as a few links to historical resources regarding the imagineering and history of the attraction.

Please visit + enjoy the following:
The Backside of Water Podcast - Haunted Mansion episode
Theme Park Tourist - The Dark, Troubled History of Disney's Haunted Mansion
The History of Haunted Mansion Holiday
The history and return of the infamous Hatbox Ghost
Haunted Mansion complete soundtrack
Marvel Comics debuts 5 issue Haunted Mansion series in 2016

17 July 2016

Goodnight, Half Moon

I read earlier this week that the Half Moon Motel, located on Sepulveda Drive in Culver City, CA since 1955, was recently renovated, renamed, and its captivating neon signs sold for scrap. 

I have no words. What I do have, though, are photographs. Goodbye, Half Moon. 

All photographs and content of this website are copyright Monika Seitz Vega, 2016, and cannot be used without expressed written consent. 

27 May 2016

The Queen Mary turns 80

I'm waiting on color film to return from the lab before I do a comprehensive photo story of our recent visit to the Queen Mary, but in the meantime I wanted to acknowledge her on the actual date of her 80th birthday, today, May 27, 2016.

Living in Southern California, the Queen Mary and -- until the early 1990s -- Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose were a destination for school field trips, family outings, and a perfect spot to take visitors from out of town. The Queen Mary has attracted one million visitors a year since 1967 at its permanent home at the Long Beach terminal, standing tall and proud and full of history and memories to be made for all who visit her. 

So until next time, here's a photograph I took of the 1936 RMS Queen Mary, one week shy of her 80th birthday. 

© Monika Seitz Vega, 2016

05 May 2016

Universal Studios + The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Despite several weeks of soft opening, which allowed locals to experience the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood, there was a tremendous amount of excitement in the air when my family + I visited the weekend after the "official" opening in April.

I hadn't been to Universal since my Brownie troop took a trip there in second grade, so needless to say a lot of things have changed. In addition to the Wizarding World, which was the reason for our trip, I was looking forward to revisiting the parts of the park I remembered from when I was a kid, particularly the tram tour + "Psycho" set.

The Universal experience is very 3D heavy. Many of the big name attractions are 3D themed, including the new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, housed in the absolutely breathtaking Hogwarts Castle. (I opted out of the Journey, though I did walk through the queue, the portrait hall especially knocked my socks off.) Even the tram tour now has two 3D experiences in addition to set and backlot features, one based on the Peter Jackson adaptation of "King Kong" and another that focuses on the "Fast and the Furious" franchise. 3D is totally not my thing, but I had a fantastic time taking in the sights and sounds, from Springfield, USA to the "Waterworld" stunt show to the bronze bust honoring longtime Universal Pictures director Alfred Hitchcock placed prominently right inside the main entrance to the park. All in all, there is definitely something there for everyone. (Except postcards. There is not a single postcard for sale in the entire park, not even at the Owl Post. This is unacceptable.)

Now the focus on the purpose of the trip -- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I had avoided reading anything about it ahead of time as I wanted it to be a surprise... and it was. The very most wonderful surprise. The experience of walking into Hogsmeade, much to my surprise, nearly moved me to tears. The attention to detail, from Moaning Myrtle haunting the restrooms to the animated "Wanted" poster of Sirius Black outside the Hog's Head, to the delightful frog choir performances and, of course, Hogwarts itself, is absolutely breathtaking. One of my favorite parts of Hogsmeade is the interactive window displays that those with Olivander's wands can do a spell in front of to activate something within the display, it is entertaining while also making participants part of the experience, which is a nice touch. Again, the magic is in the details, and the Wizarding World is loaded with them. I am looking forward to our next visit, which will likely occur after the rumored Diagon Alley expansion occurs.

Please enjoy the photographs below, captioned when applicable.

Hogsmeade entrance, "Please Respect the Spell Limits"

Hogwarts Express, just inside the gate and an ideal photo spot

Know someone who deserves a howler? Stop by the Owl Post, where owls depart regularly.

Dervish and Banges, where you can invest in your own "Monster Book of Monsters"

Zonko's Tricks & Jokes

Hogwarts Castle in the morning light

Dogweed & Deathcap, Exotic Plants & Flowers

The entrance to Hogsmeade from Hogwarts, I sat here for about an hour watching both the frog choir and Triwizard Tournament spirit rally while the sun set. It was absolutely enchanting.

Hogwarts Castle at sunset, with the girls from Beauxbatons dancing on stage

Hogwarts after sunset 

All photographs © Monika Seitz Vega, 2016
Images look best on non-mobile devices.

31 March 2016

a box of photographs... part 5

I realize it has been a while since I shared any photographs from my "A Box of Photographs" series. While much time has passed, this collection of images is as significant now as it was when I first shared Part 1 of the series and wrote the following:

"Many years ago I received a huge, heavy box from a friend at Christmas. Inside was a collection of hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of photographs, all but a few black + white, each lovingly captioned on the back with date and location, chronicling a family's life from the 1930s through the early 1970s. Every moment was photographed. The illustrated story of an American midwestern military family. Accidental multiple exposures, blurry photographs, and poorly exposed images were kept and indexed just as carefully as those that were well composed. I couldn't believe my eyes."

Something significant about these photographs is that most of them have been lovingly captioned on the back. The names of those in the photo, the town it was taken in, the date... this fills in gaps, makes subjects characters rather than anonymous, actual people rather than just faces. 

I'll be focusing on these characters today, all of the photographs of Part 5 in the series are posed family portraits. Stay tuned for Part 6.

"Sept. 7, 1953. St. Louis. Before leaving on train to New York + England"

"Doug, Mar. 1960"

"Sept. '60"

"Sept. '60"

"Sept. '60"

"Sept. 26, 1961"

"Neighbors at cabin at Grafton"

"Cabin at Grafton"

"Cabin at Grafton"

Here are the first four installments, in case you missed them --

A box of photographs.... part 1.
A box of photographs.... part 2.
A box of photographs.... part 3.
A box of photographs.... part 4.