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Christmas 2003

Dear Friends,

This was the year of our 50th wedding anniversary. It has without doubt been a wonderful five decades in which in which the good years far outnumbered the ones which left us struggling. As we look back we are grateful for the family we have been blessed with, three wonderful children, their spouses, and now six loving grandchildren. We give thanks to the fact that we can enjoy our family in good health all around. We give thanks that we live in a country that has been able to weather repeated attacks on the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution and that has allowed us to follow our dreams and ambitions. The changes in our private lives seem to have been monumental, but we wonder whether they were indeed all to the good. Certainly there were no computers, no jet planes, no microwave ovens, no cell phones, and television was in its infancy, but life was simpler, friendlier and not as self-centered.

As in the past we celebrated the year with quite a bit of traveling. The snow was sparse after Christmas so we decided to spend a week in Canada, more specifically Stokely Creek northwest of Sault St. Marie. Not only was there two feet of snow on the ground but the temperature dropped to -32 ° F. However the skies were crystal clear and the sun made the skiing bearable and enjoyable. In the spring our children surprised us with a weekend in Stratford in Canada where we saw “Gigi” and a wonderful performance of Shakespeare's “Taming of the Shrew” in a western setting with ranchers, gunslingers and hoedowns.

Then came the big one in June, our month long trip to Europe. In part it was a trip down memory lane in that we wanted to visit those cities where we had wonderful times in the past. Barcelona, our first stop, did not disappoint us. Barcelona is a city just loaded with history and a population that enjoys life. Our hotel room balcony overlooking Barcelona's most festive and famous pedestrian street, La Rambla, gave us a wonderful view of the activities below. Using our subway passes we traveled all over the city including visiting the Gothic quarter, the harbor reconstructed for the Olympics and of course the various Gaudi buildings. The Sagrada cathedral, is probably the only cathedral under construction in Europe. Not only that but the construction follows the very unusual architectural designs of Gaudi. We were amazed at the progress that had been made since we saw it last some twenty years ago.

Then on by a very modern, fast, comfortable overnight train to Paris where we again stayed in the oldest part of the city near the Bastille. We visited with our good friends, the Peuscets, and our favorite museums the Louvre and the Orsay. Although it was hot we were able to escape the heat wave that hit Paris later on. We were also fortunate to get almost the last international train out of Paris before a strike that paralyzed the French transportation system for over a week. An overnight train to our next destination, Munich. The train left ten minutes before midnight when the strike began. In Munich we had a delightful day visiting the Bodensee with a short cruise over to the Austrian side. With our good friends the Utermanns we spent another day at the Starnberger See and located the boarding home that Bill attended as a young boy in 1936 when his parents were on home leave from Shanghai. From there on to a small town just north of Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg, for a reunion of the German school in Shanghai. Unfortunately there are only two survivors of Bill's graduating class although total attendance of students and guests was about 100 and we were glad to see many of our friends there. The reunion committee did a marvelous job of providing a program highlighting the rich history of this area and its natural beauty.

Then on to London and a short visit with Bill's sister, Erika, her son Brian and his family. The latter two weeks of our visit we spent on a cruise through the Baltic on the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas. A wonderful new ship, but 2000 passengers is a bit much. Nevertheless it was worth the inconveniences since it included a visit to St. Petersburg a city that we have wanted to visit for many years. It is a city of contrasts. The restored public buildings glitter in the golden roof and interior decorations but the blocks of apartment houses show cracks and peeling paint. The Peterhof, located outside of St. Petersburg on the Baltic, is probably the most beautiful palace I have ever seen with its golden domes, its cascading fountains and vast English gardens. Of course the Hermitage, St. Isaac's church, the Church on the Blood among many other sights were magnificent. In three days we barely scratched the surface.

The rest of the summer flew by in a flash. Most of it was spent in Omena with grandchildren visiting although there were side trips to Texas and Washington, D.C. We also had a visitor from Paris, Julien Peuscet the son of our friends there, a young man of fourteen who greatly impressed everyone he met. Boys in Paris are no different than here when it comes to computer know-how, windsurfing and in line skating.

This is not only our 50th wedding anniversary but also Nancy's 50th college reunion so we attended the festivities at Stanford and Nancy was able to meet with a few of her classmates. For Thanksgiving we will be in the Outer Banks with all the grandchildren and for Christmas we are looking forward to seeing Eric and Dawn.

Above all though we wish you the best for the holidays.

Your friends,

Bill and Nancy Sandt


© 2004 Bernd W. Sandt. All rights reserved.