Bangladesh Adventures

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A First, Visit to England (developed country)

From 9 to 13 August the Stout family visited England. This was a first for us in a big way! None of us has ever visited a developed country outside of the USA and Canada. I have been around the world many times, have worked in, and visited many countries but all of them have been in the developing world. The same goes for Nita and the boys- they have visited many countries but never the First World.

To the surprise of me- we loved it. London was great and Wells, where we visited friends in Southwest England was beautiful! We’re ready now to visit more first world countries. There is one problem with this plan it cost a lot more to visit developed countries then a third world one. London was very expensive but so full of history and I’m talking about 1,000 to 5,000 years of history. We from North America are not use to that.

We arrived Wednesday night and stayed at a guesthouse near the airport. The next morning we had breakfast at local restaurant- sausages, eggs, beans and bread- the boys all found something they likes. We then proceeded to a bus (double decker-say yes if you’re a young boy) stand that took us to a nearby underground (subway) station. This was free I’m not sure why. We bought a family pass for the day on the underground and where on our way to down town London.

On the flight over to England I had narrowed the sites we wanted to see in London to 14, don’t miss sites. I knew this was unrealistic but how could we miss important stuff. By the End of the flight and talking with Nita and the boys- we had it down to 1-Tower of London; 2-Westminster Abbey; 3-House of Parliament and Big Ben; 4-British Museum. Only four things in two days of London and we only visited one- Tower of London and spent the whole day there and then saw some of the other sites but didn’t have time to go inside.

Underground drop us off right near the Tower of London beside the River Thames. There are a lot of trees and parks in London more than New York City.

Tower of London, what should we say- we loved it! So interesting, and get this- it was built in 1078! Now that is an old Castle. I say more about the Tower of London below. From the Tower of London, we walked around and took the underground around London. We saw the Tower Bridge (see picture above); Westminster Abbey built in 1066 (we only saw the outside but was it impressive); The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (no pictures here we dropped our camera at lunch and it broke L); walked along and over the River Thames including Millennium Bridge, London Eye and all the different people, shops and sights beside the River.
On Friday morning, we packed up our Renault Keyless subcompact mini-van and started towards Wells. Wells is a three-hour drive from London on a number of highways named M-6, M-5 etc. and roads. Friends of ours’ from Bangladesh back in the 80s own a 400-year-old pub in Wells. On the way, we stopped at Stonehenge. We thought the Tower of London was old at 900 plus years, well Stonehenge is a 5,000 year old ring of enormous standing stones.

The boys plus Nita and I where impressed with the site. It is right out in a middle of a field on rolling hills. Construction of Stonehenge started around 3000 BC when the outer circular bank and ditch were erected. A thousand years later an inner circle of granite stones was added. Around 1500 BC, the huge stones that make Stonehenge instantly recognizable were dragged to the site from about 20 miles away. It’s estimated that dragging one of these 50 ton stones across the countryside to Stonehenge would require about 600 people.

We reached Wells in Somerset County around 5 p.m. Our friends the Grahams were ready for us. They have four older children that I remember well from my days with MCC. Peter, the father was the Agricultural Leader when I was a Soybean Agronomist with MCC. There four kids range in age from 13 to 22 years old so a little older than ours’.

Wells is England’s smallest city and a charmingly dignified plane with a magnificent hidden cathedral and the imposing Bishop’s Palace. Medieval buildings are scattered around town and the water from the three natural springs that give Wells its name gurgles down the High St.

The boys loved the 400-year-old free pub. They had a trampoline and Skittles (a type of one-lane wooden bowling alley with 9 pins and a smaller wooden ball so the boys had fun playing. Peter and Veryan were wonderful host and treated us royally! The countryside is so beautiful with the fields and hedgerows around each field and lining the roads!

On Saturday we visited a number of places around Wells including Wookey Hole, Ceddar Gorge and beautiful Provincial Park at another Gorge- we took an hour hike up and around the Gorge. Wookey Hole is a series of caves carved out by the River Axe. The cave contained a spectacular lake and some fascinating stalagmites- the boys thought it was excellent being underground in a cave.

On Sunday we returned to London to catch our flight to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Of course that was only two days after the capture of potential terrorist hitting airlines so the Airport was like a zoo with police and military everywhere. We ending up being able to fly that day but I we were allowed to take on board, between six of us, was a small clear plastic bag with our tickets and my wallet- nothing else was allowed.

All said and done we loved England and want to go back, Lord willing!

More on the Tower of London: We had a hugely entertaining tour of the castle with a Tudor-garbed Beefeater. In 1078 William the Conqueror laid the first stone of the White Tower to replace the timber-and-earth castle he’d already built there. By 1285 two walls with towers and a moat were built around it and the medieval defences have barely been altered since. A former royal residentce, treasury, mint and arsenal, it became most famous as a prison when Henry VIII moved to Whitehall Palace in 1529 and started dishing out his preferred brand of punishment. The boys thought his armor was very interesting- you will have to ask them about it.

The most striking building was the huge White Tower, in the centre of the courtyard, with its solid Romanesque architecture and four turrets. On the 2nd floor is the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist, dating from 1080 and therefore the oldest church in London. On the small green in front of the church stood the scaffold, set up during Henry VIII’s reign, where seven people were beheaded, among them Anne Boleyn and her cousin Catherine Howard (his second and fifth wives). Facing the White Tower to the north is the Waterloo Barracks, which now contains the Crown Jewels, we walked by all of the crown jewels- there is a lot of them.

On the another side of the White Tower is the Bloody Tower, where the 12 year old Edward V and his little brother were held ‘for their own safety’ and later murdered by their uncle the future king Richard III. The boys found all of this interesting- I found it appalling that Kings and Queens for 1,000 years have been involved in murdered, cheating, wars, political fighting, and killing little kids all to stay in Power. Power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts! (Our own King Charles II is pictured at left- hopefully, he will not follow the English Royalty.)

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