Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring, Sisters, Ships, Singing, Shopping, and Shouting!

Southcliffe Hotel at Folkstone

Ryde Castle - Our Hotel

Carol, Sheila, and Barbara at Dover

Barbara and Sheila in front of Chartwell House

What a time we have had the last couple of weeks. The London Temple has been closed since the end of February so we have been in a "By appointment only mode" at the Visitors' Centre. It has given us some free time to do some touring with my sisters and their husbands. We had a great time visiting such exotic places as historic and memorable London, the quaint villages of the Cotswolds, the wild and ferocious shores of the Isle of Wight, and the beautiful and interesting coast of the English Channel by Folkstone and Dover. We stayed at an old castle that was commissioned by King Henry VIII on the Isle of Wight and spent a lovely evening walking the coast of Ryde and gazing out over the English Channel. We also visited the old Manor House that belonged to my dad's family. The home is still called today "Blackridge Farm". It was built in the late 1400's and contains old beams from some of King Henry VIII's ships. We had a great tour by the present owner, who is from Germany. We also found an old graveyard that contained many headstones with such family names as Dore, Theobald, Smith, and Farley. The old graveyard was awash in beautiful daffodils, crocuses, and other colorful spring flowers. We drove the south coast of the Isle of Wight and walked along the shore amidst the crashing waves and powerful wind. We also spent some time in the quaint villages of the Cotswolds with villages named Bourton on the Water, Burford, and Lechlade on Thames. We visited and feasted with some of our first cousins and had a delightful time renewing old acquaintances. We then traveled to Leeds Castle, an ancient castle that was completely refurbished by an heiress from the US. It has been made to be completely liveable, even very fashionable by today's standards and is so beautiful. It is completely surrounded by a moat and has over 500 acres of beautiful lakes and gardens to enjoy. Finally, we made our way to Dover and toured the old castle on the hillside. In that castle, over 85 years ago, our grandfather was stationed. He was a Major in the British Army and was over all of the artillery at the fort. He and his family, which included my mom, Phyllis, her sister, Gladys, her brother, Leslie, and his wife, Ethel, lived in a house on the brow of the hill overlooking the harbor and France off to the East about 19 miles away. We were able to locate the footings of the old home where they lived so happily many years ago. It was a great visit and brought back many wonderful memories of stories told my mom, Phyllis, of the happy days they spent while living there at the fort. What a memorable visit. It was so good to see our family after so many months apart. What a blessing! Now we are back to the temple and the Visitors' Centre reopens tomorrow. Hope all is well with all of you. I'm sure that spring has also sprung there and you are all enjoying it. Have a great week.