The Jersey Shore Is Back, Sort Of

If you’ve written off the Jersey Shore as a summer getaway, please think again. Though Sandy did grievous harm to Jersey’s 127-mile coastline, most of the damage was done to the northern coast; the southern Shore was relatively unscathed.

To the north, the beaches are significantly narrower than they were before Sandy; one survey puts the number at 30 to 40 feet. But in spite of the fact an estimated 10 million cubic yards of sand were lost, most of the northern towns plan to open their beaches by May, even if repairs and reconstructions have not been completed.

Unfortunately, in good-as-new Atlantic City, where all 12 casinos reopened about a week after the storm, post-Sandy surveys showed that much of the public believed that the boardwalk had been destroyed (thank you, Al Roker). Competition from Pennsylvania’s casinos had already triggered a six-year decline in gambling revenues; consumer perception that A.C. was seriously damaged cost even more precious business.

To attract visitors, the city’s top properties are offering bargain basement prices. The drop-dead-gorgeous $2.4 billion Revel is showing rooms at $129 a night, with a $50 food and beverage credit (with restrictions); the Vegas-sleek Borgata is close behind at $119 (or less on daily deal sites), while other properties are offering nightly rates between $60 and $100. As before, the casinos are booking headliners like Beyonce, Rihanna, Jackson Browne and Sting.

Shops and restaurants are open, so is the iconic Steel Pier, with new attractions including The Mix, a thrill ride that spins like a propeller and swings riders out over the ocean.

The barrier island communities known as the Wildwoods, with their sprawling (free) beaches, 8,000 hotel rooms and 3,000 condos are open for business, along with the two-mile boardwalk and the roller coaster. A major campaign – “The Wildwoods – Think Summer & Join Us!” – targets the New York Metro area with billboards and television spots.

Sea Isle City is also advertising its beaches and other attractions on billboards in the New York area. While the undamaged towns of the southern Shore need to get their message out, they are doing it discreetly, so as not to seem crass or insensitive to their hard-hit neighbors to the north.

It will be summer-as-usual in Victorian Cape May, which was ready for visitors almost immediately after the storm. Unlike other Shore towns, which hibernate during the winter, Cape May has a year-round calendar of events, including a Dickens Christmas Extravaganza and a Valentine’s Weekend. So for that little town, the problem this year was not Sandy damage, but the cold winter weather.

In Ocean City, which did suffer significant damage, the boardwalk is intact and city officials say the beaches are ready for summer visitors.

Seaside Heights, which had been famous/notorious for the fist-pumping crowd from Jersey Shore, became the symbol of Sandy’s power when its JetStar roller coaster slid into the ocean. Removal of the coaster and work to rebuild the boardwalk are underway. Though only about half the borough’s rides will be open by Memorial Day, Snooki’s favorite Club Karma had a grand reopening on March 9, just in time for the city’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

In Point Pleasant Beach, Jenkinson’s boardwalk, including the aquarium and some arcades, is open. Most of the kiddie rides, which had been stored when Sandy hit, will be back. However the popular train ride, one of the arcades and a miniature golf course were lost; work continues on those.

Belmar bravely held its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and party on March 3. Beaches will open by Memorial Day; officials expect boardwalk repairs to be completed by that date, though rebuilding of restrooms, pavilions and other structures will not. Neighboring Avon is making no predictions.

In affluent Spring Lake, aka The Irish Riviera, reconstruction of the two-mile boardwalk will be complete before Memorial Day weekend.

According to the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Associate, the beach and some sections of the boardwalk will be ready by Memorial Day weekend. The fishing pier will not be rebuilt this year, but a temporary roof on the Great Auditorium means the annual summer concerts, featuring such acts as the Beach Boys and Tommy James and the Shondells, will go on.

In Asbury Park, the Shore town beloved by Bruce Springsteen, Mayor Ed Johnson has declared that, while full recovery has yet to happen, the beaches and boardwalk would be open this summer, with an elaborate ribbon cutting ceremony on May 18.

Long Branch’s beachfront will be open by Memorial Day; however, a one-mile section of lost boardwalk, from Melrose Terrance south to Brighton Avenue will not be repaired by this summer. All the restaurants and shops at Pier Village are open.

Little Sea Bright, which saw all its beachfront facilities and most private beach clubs destroyed, will open its beaches Memorial Day; since restrooms were also destroyed the borough will bring in temporary facilities.

Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook sustained severe damage to roads, concessions, utilities, the wastewater treatment plant and the potable water system. The goal – not written in stone – is to open the park for summer, with temporary restroom facilities.

The Keansburg Amusement Park, which the storm left under up to 6 feet of water, is open, though the Wildcat roller coaster is gone and not all rides are operational. A new looping steel roller coaster may be in place by Memorial Day weekend, and the damaged carousel should be ready to ride.

Tourism is a $38 billion industry in New Jersey, and the four coastal counties – Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May – account for half of the state’s annual tourism earnings, so a successful summer 2013 is critical, not only to the communities still struggling to rebuild, but to the entire state.

So if you have fond memories of walks on Jersey Shore beaches, boardwalk food and drunken evenings at oceanfront dive bars (just kidding), don’t assume you can’t enjoy the same unique-to-Jersey fun this year. As Governor Christie has said: “No one is conceding the summer of 2013 to Sandy. My commitment is to try to restore the Jersey Shore stronger than it was before but with the same character that it had before.”

Finding My Inner Speed Demon At Indy

Never knew I had a taste for speed. Never chewed up Jersey Turnpike miles singing “Born to Run,” never flipped the bird at the drivers I left in the dust. Nope. Though I drive a traffic-cop-magnet red car, I have never gotten a speeding ticket; I just go with the flow of traffic.
But something happened when I arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Anticipation. Excitement. Something new was about to happen at this place where racing rules, where drivers and their zillion-dollar cars roar around the 253-acre oval, and where 40 million fans worldwide scream for their favorites. Yes, I’m one of those who love to watch, but today wasn’t about watching; today I would actually see and feel what it was like to be in an Indy car, barreling around the track at speeds I’ve never experienced.

My warm-up would be a ride in an Indy pace car with superstar Sarah Fisher, who retired as a driver in 2010 after competing in her ninth and final Indy 500 – the most number of starts for a woman in the 94-year history of the event. To me, Fisher is an icon, the first and only female team owner in the IZOD IndyCar Series – and the first female team owner to win an IZOD IndyCar Series race. My pulse quickened as I walked toward the pace car, a modified Chevy convertible. Introductions out of the way, I asked how fast we would go, hoping I didn’t sound too much like a wuss who feared getting car-sick. About 120-130 mph, she replied. This sounded, well, fast, for an open car. “Girls drive smoother than guys,” she said by way of reassurance. Okay, superstar driver trumps doubts.

I belted myself into the passenger seat. Removed scarf, jewelry, sunglasses – anything that could be whipped off my person. Engine starts, we peel out – and OMG, my hair stands straight up on end, the G force plasters my body to the seat as we round the first turn. I’m forced to the right and stay stuck there until I’m pushed to the left. My eyes shut; my jaw clenched. But OK, the ride was smooth.

As we went round and round, I opened my eyes. Fisher was relaxed, smiling, enjoying the drive. And suddenly I was, too, energized by the experience of going really fast, yet feeling safe in her expert hands.

Still, when the ride was over, my legs wobbled a little as I got out of the car. I thanked Ms. Fisher for the experience. Yeah, it was really smooth, I said, and she smiled.

And then came the main event. For the Indy Racing Experience, I was going to climb into a two-seat IZOD Indy Car for the ride of my life. And “my” driver would be IndyCar Series veteran and two-time championship runner up, Davey Hamilton.

I’d had to sign a whole bunch of releases that said if something bad happened, it would be on me and not the track. Fair enough, though it did feel funny to give my medical information, the name of my doctor, the name of the person to be contacted in case of emergency. Then I had to suit up, just like the drivers do. I got myself into a way-too-big fire suit that wasn’t made for a small woman, but OK, it was protection. Fire gloves, too. My head was bound in a knit balaclava and on top of that came an enormous helmet with a face shield.

All this stuff was wearing me; I felt like the little kid in “A Christmas Story” who complained he couldn’t put his arms down. By the time I came face to face with Davey Hamilton, I couldn’t speak – and I couldn’t lower the big fat package I had become into the very skinny and low-slung seat. Someone’s arms lifted and pushed me into the car, strapped me into a harness so tight, I felt as if I had become part of the car. It was actually a good feeling – snug and secure with no room to move.

And then with a thunderous roar, the car shot forward and was soon hurtling around the track at 180 miles an hour. But this time I was one with the car, no shifting from side to side, no lurching stomach, no feeling the push and pull of G force as we rounded the oval.

Eyes wide open, I watched empty grandstands fly by, imagined them crowded with screaming people and pulsing with life on race day. I laughed aloud inside my face mask, high on the thrill of speed. So this was what it was all about. This is what makes professional drivers risk life and vehicle time and again, what makes crazy teenagers take crazy risks on hot summer nights at the Jersey Shore. This was a fantasy I’d never had, but living it felt great! And much too quickly it was over.

Drivers do 200 laps around this track during the Indy 500; the Indy Racing Experience, which I’d just sampled, costs $499 for a three-lap ride. The rides need to be booked months in advance as they’re offered only on select dates for people 18 years of age or older, under 6’5″ in height, and under 250 lbs.

Is the ride worth five hundred bucks? If you can afford it, hell, yes. If my check book were fatter, I’d do something like this regularly, step outside my comfort zone, jump out of a plane like George Bush did every year on his birthday.

Experiences like this are available all over the country. The Richard Petty Driving Experience puts you in a NASCAR race car at more than 20 venues, including such celebrated tracks a Bristol, Daytona and Talladega. Or, you can do a ride-along. Prices range from $159 to $3,499, depending on the length and complexity of the driving experience.

At the Mario Andretti and Jeff Gordon facility, prices range from $129 to $2,299. Prices at the NASCAR Racing Experience start at $129 for a NASCAR ride-along and go to $364.99 for driving a race car that had once been driven by such NASCAR favorites as Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr.

For speed lovers with big budgets, the Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp in Las Vegas (March 10-13, 2013) is four full days in Las Vegas; it starts with meeting Richard Petty and Dale Inman and includes getting behind the wheel of a 600 HP NASCAR race car, learning short track driving skills, road course driving skills and participating in a speedway challenge at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Spring Mountain Motorsports Racetrack Road Course. The price is $10,500, with a limit of 12 participants.

As for me, I’m back to just watching and driving with the flow – for now.

[Photo Credits: Lillian Africano]

Greetings From The Jersey Shore

I’m one of the lucky ones. No power, no heat and no phone service – but I have a (damaged) roof over my head, a bed and blankets, sweaters and coats to keep me warm, food to eat and potable water to drink. Yesterday, spotty cell service returned, so I could phone loved ones and friends to assure them that I was safe. (I even got a phone call from Bill Clinton, urging me to vote for Obama.)

Thousands, I don’t know how many, are not so lucky. They are still in shelters, in motels, scattered refugees, their homes either swept away by a ferocious ocean and swollen rivers or damaged beyond repair by trees uprooted and turned into deadly missiles by Sandy’s savage winds.

Everywhere are the empty shells of homes, restaurants, beach cabanas, boats; miles of broken boardwalk; shattered pieces of amusement park rides – everything that was part of the “old normal” at the Jersey Shore that I’ve loved since I was a little kid.

As the storm approached, I was ordered out of my 70-year-old oceanfront apartment building. I had weathered Irene at home with very little damage. But this time, I believed the dire warnings and went to my daughter’s house, about a mile inland. As we hunkered down on Monday evening, Sandy began battering the towns and villages along Jersey’s 127-mile shoreline. All around us, power lines fell, sizzled and arced, looked like cartoon lightning against the blackness of the sky. Lights went out, furnaces died, power was gone.

When the winds subsided into an eerie stillness, we ventured out to see what was gone and what had been spared. My building was still standing, though a cascade of broken roof tiles scattered the street and destroyed a car in the parking lot. A giant tree yawed crazily toward my second floor apartment. On the oceanside of the building, the idyllic grassy knoll where my neighbors and I had picnicked was gone, swallowed by the ocean, and all that remained was rubble and the rusting skeleton of the destroyed bulkhead.

Driving around, trying to assess damage was difficult; fallen trees and downed wires blocked almost every thoroughfare; yellow police tape limited access to the worst areas. So much bad news: the Asbury Park boardwalk, the Ocean Grove fishing pier, Seaside Park boardwalk, Point Pleasant Beach – on and on. Deaths from falling trees and other storm-related causes.

I found an old battery-powered radio, and listened for hours to 94.3 FM, “The Point,” heard Governor Christie and President Obama assure us that help was on the way, listened to the concert that Bruce and Bon Jovi and others gave in NYC to benefit the Red Cross and victims of Sandy. “That’s us,” the announcer declared. I didn’t feel like a victim. I was one of the lucky ones. The victims were the dead, the disabled, those who were suffering the kind of tragedies that I had been spared.

As always happens during and after disasters, Sandy brought out the best and worst in people. My son-in-law, a nurse who worked 12-hour shifts at a nearby hospital, came home and helped clear branches and tree limbs from the homes of older neighbors. He filled cans of gasoline and gave them to neighbors who had generators. Neighbors shared food and firewood.

Wegmans supermarket remained open after the storm, using generator power to prepare hot food, to bake bread and pastries and to welcome one and all to use their Wi-Fi, to charge phones and laptops – and to get warm.

The worst: fights in stores over limited supplies of batteries, fights at long gas lines – so many of our stations were closed, either because they had run out of gas or because they had no power for the pumps – looting in some areas, dangerous cowboy driving because traffic lights were out. Power has been coming back, slowly, but not here in Interlaken. This town of 400 homes is a low priority for JCP&L, which is necessarily focusing on bigger towns and commercial areas.

Traffic on the Turnpike and Parkway has been bad, even on the weekend, as New Jersey Transit train service to and from NYC is suspended, the tracks badly damaged, with no estimate of when service on the New Jersey Coast Line will be restored. The traffic problem is compounded by the long lines for gas along both major roadways.

Anyone planning to travel to the Shore, perhaps to check on relatives and friends should be prepared for a long and possibly difficult trip. Drivers should fill their tanks before they leave, as gas is rationed, with purchases allowed on odd or even days, determined by the odd or even final numbers on license plates. (Vanity plates are odd, so are plates that have no numbers.) Some roads are still closed or only partly open.

Traffic will be heavy as residents try to get back to work. There is no train service to the Shore. Academy busses are operating between NYC and some Shore towns, though some busses will be rerouted due to storm damage. Check www.academybus.com for schedules (such as they are) and routes. Be aware that a curfew is in effect in all the coastal Monmouth County towns, with non-essential travel banned between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Tonight, when temperatures drop to the 20s, we will pile mattresses on the living room floor and sleep in front of the fireplace, and hope that pipes will not freeze or burst. Thanks to a kind neighbor’s donation of firewood, we will keep a fire going through the night. On Tuesday we will vote, using paper ballots if necessary.

And then we will pray that the Nor’easter that’s headed our way will not flood any more homes, will not knock down any more trees or power lines, will not batter people and places that are already down for the count.

[Photo Credits: Lillian Africano]

Stasi Museum in Leipzig: 40 Years of Spying and Terror

Stasi Museum

The Berlin wall came down in 1989, reuniting East and West Germany. But though the German Democratic Republic is no more, there is still, in the city of Leipzig, one chilling reminder of the dreaded Stasi (SSD), the secret police of the GDR. It is the Stasi Museum and it encompasses the original rooms of a Stasi headquarters.

Located in the stately 19th century building known as “Runde Ecke” — the Round Building — the museum features a powerful permanent exhibit called “Stasi – Power and Banality.” Walk through the rooms where the secret police operated a sinister network of spying and terror and it becomes clear how the Stasi infiltrated every aspect of the everyday life in the GDR.

The Stasi had agents in the post office, opening and reading mail; they routinely broke into homes and planted bugs; they had a network of “safe houses” from which they monitored what went on in people’s homes. They photographed citizens going about their business and punished expressions of discontent with the GDR regime.

Though living standards were much lower in East Germany than in the West, and though there were chronic shortages of basic consumer goods, the discontent was more about the loss of personal freedom than the lack of personal comforts.

Some of the tools used to keep track of citizens were very James Bond: tiny cameras, sophisticated bugging equipment, devices for opening letters, forged rubber stamps, number plates and passports. Some look almost comical: disguises, including false noses, wigs, glasses — the false stomach made of padded fabric with a hole in the middle for a hidden camera. Or the jars containing the preserved body scents of potential suspects, gathered by summoning them to Stasi headquarters, having them sit on a cloth for 10 or 15 minutes, then storing the cloth in sealed jars-so if the suspects dropped out of sight, they could later be tracked by dogs.Stasi Museum

There is an eeriness to the ordinary-looking office of a Stasi official, the interrogation room, the cells where prisoners awaited trial. The outcome of the trials generally turned out as the Stasi wished; the death penalty was carried out in Leipzig for the entire 40 years.

After East Germany’s Erich Honecker signed the Helsinki Agreement on Human Rights in 1975, the Stasi often became more subtle in the persecution of its enemies, spreading lies and rumors and using tactics like anonymous letters and anonymous phone calls.

Suddenly people found their careers stalled, their jobs terminated; divorces occurred after wives received letters purporting to be from mistresses. Opportunities for education disappeared. In short, anyone who was not a “good” citizen of the GDR found his life under siege in a dozen different ways.

The Stasi boasted that it had “helpers” everywhere, and that included children as young as 13. But to achieve this “honor,” the children had to have been brought up in a home with solid GDR values; they could not have any close relatives living in the West. Once accepted as part of the SSD family, they were put to work-spying on family and friends. Those who performed well eventually became part of the Stasi hierarchy.

While the use of children recalled the Nazi era’s “Hitler Youth,” the Stasi operation took much of its inspiration from the Russian secret police of the post-Stalin years, and there is a room devoted to the icons of communist Russia, including Stalin and Lenin.

Yet in spite of the risks, grassroots opposition to the GDR regime grew and intensified. In Leipzig, people gathered on Mondays to pray in St. Nicholas Church. By 1989, the prayer services had become political protests in the square, growing in number-and spreading to other cities. The number of protestors peaked to 300,000 on October 30.

In a last-ditch attempt to maintain power, the entire government resigned. The tactic failed-and the so called “Peaceful Revolution” brought an end to the GDR.

Tens of thousands of people stormed the Stasi headquarters. Many records had been destroyed; when SSD officials saw the end coming, they shredded and pulped as much as they could. But there remains some 30,000 items documenting the “work” of the Stasi.

Many citizens found their own dossiers-and when they saw how their lives had been crippled, not by bad luck but by deliberate design, they broke down and wept.

Today both tourists and locals visit the exhibit; on any given day, you’ll see clusters of students, taking in the lessons of the past. Some longtime residents say that the smell associated with GDR offices still lingers in the place where they were robbed of their basic freedoms.

Admission to the museum is free, but as all the placards explaining the exhibits are in German, visitors might wish to use the excellent audio guide, which costs 3 Euro.

Check out photos from the museum:
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Agatha Christie’s English Riviera


For one solid week – September 12-18, Torquay celebrated the 120th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth. As a lifelong Christie fan, I was looking forward to every minute of the promised “murder, mystery and mayhem,” which all turned out to be the kind of innocent fun of a bygone time.

In this quiet, almost pastoral part of England, there are many remnants of years past, as well as reminders that the world’s best-selling novelist is also the best-loved daughter of the English Riviera.

The anniversary festival opened with an old-fashioned fete, featuring costumed stall-holders, a jazz band belting out period music and the Agatha Christie Dancers, who did the Charleston with energy and style. Actor Martin Gaisford as Hercule Poirot, Christie’s most famous detective, mingled with the crowds, posing for pictures and answering questions from fans. Though David Suchet has been the “official” film Poirot for 19 years, Gaisford is a convincing lookalike, with a formidable mustache that is just as Christie described it in the Belgian detective’s debut novel, “The Mysterious Affair in Styles.”

Christie’s grandson, Mathew Pritchard also appeared at the fete, telling stories about his celebrated grandmother-and assuring fans that Agatha Christie, with millions of books in print, along with DVDs, comics, games and downloadable products, is still a star in this digital age. (Pritchard recently signed a 10-year deal with publisher Harper Collins for worldwide distribution of Christie’s books.)

Also making an appearance at the fete were the two Chinese winners of an Agatha Christie competition, along with several Chinese journalists. The prize was a trip to the festival, personally escorted by Matthew Pritchard.

A 23-year-old member of the group who identified himself as “James,” told me the first film he had ever seen after China opened up to Western culture was “Death on the Nile.” The second was “Evil Under the Sun.” After that he went on to read Chrisite’s books. “I was just amazed by Agatha Christie,” he said, “she writes a good story, with simple language, good dialogue and good puzzles.” He went on to predict that Christie’s fan base “will be great in China.”

My Christie pilgrimage included a remarkably fresh performance of “Witness for the Prosecution” by the Agatha Christie Theatre Company and a visit to the Agatha Christie Gallery of the Torquay Museum, where I discovered a long list of actors who had played Poirot, starting with Charles Laughton’s 1928 West End performance. (My least favorite was Albert Finney, who turned in a near-cartoonish performance in the 1974 Hollywood version of “Murder on the Orient Express.”)

The museum is part of the Agatha Christie Mile, a meandering route that traces landmarks in the life of the Queen of Crime: the Princess Pier, where she roller-skated, Beacon Cove, where she swam (and once nearly drowned) and 800-year-old Torre Abbey, where head gardener Ali Marshall has created a year-round garden of all the poisonous plants used by Christie in her 80 novels.

Dame Agatha had pharmaceutical training as a young woman, so poison was her preferred murder weapon, and she famously wrote: “Poison has a certain appeal…it has not the crudeness of the revolver or the blunt instrument.” Ali Marshall shares Christie’s enthusiasm for poisons found in nature, and her own guide to the plants is prominently displayed in the garden. I learned that cyanide is found in peach kernels and that hyoscyamine (or henbane) is not an easy plant to find-Marshall sourced hers from witchcraft sites.

A highlight of my visit to the English Riviera was the tour of Greenway, the 400-year old holiday home Christie purchased in 1938 for £6,000. To reach the house, which is located on the River Dart, I took the vintage Greenway bus (reservations necessary); the house is also accessible by ferry and by car (advance parking reservations necessary).

Greenway was gifted to the National Trust by Christie’s family, and after a £5.4 million restoration, it was opened to the public in 2009. Stuffed as it is with weird and wacky and wonderful things, the Georgian house is warm and welcoming and very much alive, as if Dame Agatha herself might still be in residence.

A pile of gardening hats belong to her son-in-law rests on a table in the entrance hall, along with a (really) vintage mobile phone that looks as if it weighs 10 pounds. Her personal collections: papier mache, pottery, ceramics, pictures, books and more, fill the rooms, which are light and airy, creating a 1930s setting with a modern (1950s) overlay of amenities. In each room are scrapbooks filled with Christie’s writings, records of parties and entertainments, dinner menus, as well as the sweet trivia that filled the days at Greenway, which she described as “the loveliest place in the world.”

Dame Agatha’s presence is felt throughout the home, especially when a recording of her voice is played, in which she talks about her career in a matter-of-fact way, saying she made notes on plots as they occurred to her-but then had to find time to do the writing.

Near the end of my tour, I had lunch in Christie’s own kitchen, dining on chicken that was cooked in a vintage Aga, followed by a luscious bread pudding. (Lunch is priced at a modest £15 for two courses.)

Before leaving Greenway, I checked out the section of the house that had been turned into a five-bedroom rental apartment that sleeps 10 (rent is about £2700 a week in high season, much less in winter). The furniture here is from the Christie collection and the kitchen is pure 1950s, making this a dream spot for fans who are also lovers of all things retro.

The most elegant event of the week was the September 15 birthday party held at the Grand Hotel, where Christie honeymooned with first husband Archie. Actress Jane Asher, known also as a celebrity baker, created the recipe for the “Delicious Death” cake from ingredients mentioned in “Appointment with Death.”

The guest of honor at the gala was Julia McKenzie, the newest Miss Marple. McKenzie greeted guests, posed for pictures and spoke of her trepidation at being given an iconic role, particularly after the late Joan Hickson established herself as the one-and-only Miss Marple. “But,” she says, “I like to play the story line, rather than over-thinking it,” depicting Miss Marple as “a person you’d like as a friend, someone you’d trust.”

And then, with a twinkle in her eye and a hint of mischief in her smile, she asks: “But would you invite her anywhere? There’s always a murder wherever she happens to be.”

The party ended with a bang, but there were no murders, just an eye-popping display of fireworks on the beach below the hotel.