Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beautiful historical England!

Leeds Castle in Southern England

Ken and Barbara at the state apartments at Windsor Castle

Dover Castle

Beckstroms and Neumanns at Leeds Castle

It is hard to believe that it has been a full year since we left home on the 31st of December of 2008. It has been an eventful year, which in some ways seems short and in other ways feels like a long time since we walked down the stairs and out the door on that cold winter day last year. We have met some amazing people, had many awesome experiences, and seen many wonderful places in this historic land of our forefathers. I think the most memorable of all of these experiences has been getting to know people of so many different ethnic groups and to learn about their customs, food, habits, and the things that they hold dear. South London is truly a melting pot where many people who are new to England come to settle and start a new life.
We have also thoroughly enjoyed being able to do some traveling and view many of the historic castles, historical spots, cathedrals, and stately homes in southern England. While our children, Brooke and Ben and their family, were here we visited Dover Castle, which is on the southeastern coast of England and overlooks France, just 19 miles away. This castle was a strategic spot during both of the World Wars and for many other wars before that. Secret tunnels were dug into the white cliffs where surveillance, communication, and strategies were carried out by English army personnel. It was fascinating to walk into those tunnels and see all of the activities that took place there. The Castle at Dover has been there for centuries and was used by William the Conquerer as early as 1066 AD when he invaded England from France.
We also visited Windsor Castle just west of London, which is the oldest and largest continually occupied castle in Europe. It is still used by Queen Elizabeth II on weekends and for state occasions. We were able to tour the state appartments because the queen was not in residence on the day that we were there. They are beautifully decorated and very impressive. On the grounds there is St. George's Cathedral where many of the Kings and Queens of England are buried.
Leeds Castle is my favorite of all of the castles that we have visited. It is about halfway between the temple here in Surrey and the portside city of Dover, on the southeast coast of England. It was built in about 1000 AD, but has been constantly updated and cared for so that even today you could live in it comfortably. It was bought back in the 1960's by an American heiress and one half of the castle was completely redone with indoor plumbling, under floor heating, etc. She and her family lived there until the last member of the family died in 2001. It was then turned over to the National Trust who runs and maintains it to this day. It is where many of the official functions of the British government take place. There are 43 bedrooms and bathrooms and several large convention rooms that are use regularly by various governments throughout the world for meetings and conventions. A large group of government leaders throughout the world
convened there when the Camp David Accord with Israel was being discussed and worked on. The castle has large windows that look out upon the gorgeous countryside and the huge moat that still surrounds the castle completely. It is a beautiful place to visit. The grounds are well manicured and many birds from across the world swim in the moat and the lakes there on the grounds. Their mascot is the beautiful and rare black swan. They swim majestically in the lakes that surround the castle. We are living in a rather dark, cold world here right now. It is dark by about 3:30 PM and the sun does not come up much before 8:00 AM. The days are short and the sun is just a distant orb in the south side of the sky. It comes up in the south eastern sky and sets in the southwestern sky and never really comes up high enough in the sky to warm it up much. We spend long days at the Visitors' Centre, walk, eat, and sleep. That is our reportoire! We
look forward to longer and warmer days as we inch forward into spring. Hope all is well with you. We love to hear from you and how your lives are going.