Darlene Foster's Blog

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During my recent trip to New Mexico, my travelling companion and I visited the St. James Hotel in Cimarron on the Santa Fe Trail. The hotel was built in 1872 by a trained French chef, Henri Lambert. Many famous guests stayed in this elegant but often violent hotel. Cimarron is Spanish for wild or unruly, which was a fitting name for this lawless town in the nineteenth century when arguments were often settled with bullets. Twenty-six people lost their lives at the St. James Hotel.

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The lobby of the St. James Hotel

The lobby of the St. James Hotel

We had a delicious burrito lunch in the restaurant sitting under a huge Texas longhorn. We then wandered into the bar where bullet holes from days gone by, pepper the ceiling.

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Famous lawmen, outlaws and wild west characters  stayed in this hotel. Colourful individuals such as Wyatt Earp and his brothers, Doc Holliday, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill Cody, the author Zane Grey and Annie Oakley.We wanted to look inside the rooms that are still decorated in the manner Mr. Lambert had established. With luck a friendly maintenance man agreed to show us around. The St. James is still an operating hotel but since many of the rooms were vacant we could check them out.

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The Annie Oakley Room

The Annie Oakley Room

The very room Wyatt Earp slept in

The very room Wyatt Earp slept in

We had heard the hotel was haunted and were eager to learn more. Our guide told us that many guests have felt the presence of the spirits of those who have met their demise in this hotel. The staff tell stories of cutlery being moved around, a cowboy suddenly appearing and then disappearing and the sudden scent of rose perfume. Room #18 is never rented out as the ghost of a cowboy,  T.J. Wright, killed during a game of cards, resides there. The St. James Hotel has been featured on a number of television shows.

The card room where the guest of #18 was shot

The card room where the guest of #18 was shot

A peaceful sitting area outside with murals, a waterfall and a bear about to steal a freshly baked pie is a good place to escape from the eerie feeling inside.

Peaceful outdoor seating

Peaceful outdoor seating

 

 

 

 

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This was a great place to visit, full of wild west history and ambiance. I’m sure there are many stories contained in those walls. But I’m not sure I would want to spend a night.

More great pictures of the hotel and the rooms here

I need to tell you more about  Taos Pueblo as I was so enthralled by my recent visit. It is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the USA and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Taos Pueblo with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background

Taos Pueblo with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background

Approximately 150 people live within the Pueblo full time. The buildings are made entirely out of adobe, with no electricity or running water in the sacred village. Wood stoves and fireplaces warm the homes and are used for cooking. Bread and pastries are baked in a horno, an outdoor adobe oven. We purchased cookies and pie made in a horno and they were delicious. We also had fry bread made in front of us, drizzled with honey which was also very tasty.

Horno - outdoor adobe oven

Typical horno, an outdoor adobe oven

The Pueblo is situated on both sides of the Red Willow Creek which is the source of drinking water for the natives. One resident told us that a legend tells of an eagle that dropped two feathers, one on each side of the river which was a sign for the ancient people to build the Pueblo at that spot.

Red Willow Creek

The Red Willow Creek

Adobe homes

Adobe homes

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Welcoming fireplace inside an adobe home

Welcoming fireplace inside an adobe home

Many of the homes are inhabited by native artists who welcome visitors to enter their homes, view their art work, chat and make purchases. We bought a number of handmade items to take back home as gifts (and a couple of items for ourselves.) We met some very nice people. Everyone was willing to take time to talk to us. I love getting to know  local artists when I travel and to support them when I can.

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exquisite artwork

exquisite artwork

One amazing artist we met was Jeralyn Lujan Lucero, painter, potter, soap maker; to name a few of her many talents. But she tells us her most important job is that of mom to her three children. Jeralyn and her husband are raising their children in their ancestral home, living a traditional Pueblo life. From her website, It may not be possible to take Taos Pueblo with you, but owning an image created by Jeralyn Lujan Lucero is possibly one way to take the spirit of Taos with you.” I am happy to have the spirit of Taos, via an art card signed by this talented woman, in my home.

Feast Day at Taos Pueblo, Gathering Flowers by Jeralyn Lujan Lucero

Feast Day at Taos Pueblo, Gathering Flowers by Jeralyn Lujan Lucero

The modern day San Geronimo Church, built in 1850, is a Registered National Historic Landmark and is used by the mostly Catholic inhabitants of Taos Pueblo. It is made of thick adobe walls, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter.

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The ruins of the original San Geronimo Church, built in 1619 and destroyed in 1847 during an uprising are now part of the cemetery. All that remains is the bell tower in memory of those who lost their lives.

Original San Geronimo Church and cemetery

Original San Geronimo Church and cemetery

This high desert oasis has so much history, culture and spirit, drawn from the past and continuing to this day. I left with a feeling of peace and tranquillity and much respect for the native people.

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I will leave you with the Tribal Manifesto:

“We have lived upon this land from days beyond history’s records, far past any living memory, deep into the time of legend. The story of my people and the story of this place are one single story. No Man can think of us without thinking of this place. We are always joined together.”

 

 

I can’t believe my luck. I have had so many fabulous get-aways this year and now I just returned from a week in Taos, New Mexico.

This trip was extra special as I spent it with someone very dear to me.  I was not granted a sister, instead I was blessed with an aunt my age. We were born in the same hospital two months apart. We did everything together as kids. She moved to Arizona many years ago and we don’t get the opportunity to see each other often. When we do it is usually at a family reunion, special birthday, wedding or funeral with many others around. This was perfect as we were able to spend the entire week together, just the two of us like we did when we were children. We have so many common interests like visiting museums, art galleries, historic houses, shopping, chocolate and eating great food. Taos was the perfect spot to meet and we had a splendid time.

Here are a few pictures of our holiday in this  amazing part of the world.  I will write more details about some of the places later.

Cashmere and Chocolate, the old jail in Taos

Chocolate and Cashmere in the old jail

Artist from the Taos Peublo

Artist from the Taos Peublo

San Francisco De Asis Church

San Francisco De Asis Church

Me at Hacienda do los Martinez

At Hacienda do los Martinez

Mable Dodge Luhan House

Mable Dodge Luhan House

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs

Awesome scenery

Awesome scenery

La Fonda Hotel across from the Taos Plaza

La Fonda Hotel across from the Taos Plaza

With my travelling companion

With my wonderful travelling companion

More pictures and stories to follow.

 

Happy Mother’s Day!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Myself and my good friends, Jayne and Shannon, were recently invited to spend a weekend with my daughter and her partner on Mudge Island.  It takes two ferries and a small boat to get to her island, but it’s worth it. I’ve written about my daughter and her island previously here. It was a wonderful weekend, with much visiting, eating and wine consumption in their cosy, comfortable home.  We feasted on fresh crab caught the day before by our host, salad made with fresh greens from the garden and steamed kale (also from the garden) . Everyone brought food and we took turns making meals and snacks. We balanced the eating with long walks and fresh air. The island, green with moss at this time of the year, is great for walks and has many picturesque spots to visit. The sea lions kept us company with their barking.

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Mudge Island in the spring

One walk took us to Dodd’s Narrows were we watched sea lions, all the way from California, swim past in the swirling waters, happy to fill up  on herring. Such a lovely spot to sit and take in nature.

Dodd's Narrows

Dodd’s Narrows

Dodd's Narrows

Dodd’s Narrows

Another trip took us to Link Island, a small island that can be reached at low tide, linked to Mudge.  We enjoyed collecting seashells, exploring  the island and catching some sun on the rocks. Not warm enough to sun tan yet.

Link Island

Link Island

Comet, their amiable yellow lab, loved every minute. She was happy to go for long walks and explore with us.

Comet exploring Link Island

Comet exploring Link Island

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View from Link Island to Mudge

Unique rock formations on Link Island

Unique rock formations on Link Island

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Enjoying the sun on Link Island

Barnsworth, the 19 year old cat, enjoys looking at himself in the mirror when he's not sleeping

Barnsworth, the 19 year old cat, enjoys looking at himself in the mirror when he’s not sleeping, which is most of the time

The outhouse, clean and comfortable

The outhouse that sits among the trees, is clean and comfortable

 

What is under the outhouse??

But what is under the outhouse??

Mudge buddies

Mudge buddies

Our gracious hosts

Our gracious hosts

One last drink at the Skol pub on Gabriola before catching the ferry back to reality.

One last drink at the Skol pub on Gabriola Island before catching the ferry back to reality.

Yet another fabulous get-away. I’ve been having the best spring haven’t I? Soon I’m off to Taos, New Mexico to spend time with a special aunt. I’ll report back later.

The minute we arrived at the English Inn, we felt like we were in England, without spending 9 hours on a transatlantic flight. The splendid manor house, the spacious well kept grounds, including a replica of an Elizabethan street and the cosy, charming rooms made this place a perfect get-away.

The English Inn, Victoria, BC

The English Inn, Victoria, BC

Inviting front entrance

Inviting front entrance

Elizabethan street

The Elizabethan street takes you to another place and time

The manor house comes with an interesting history. It was built in 1906 for a Yorkshire-born realtor and developer who brought over artisans from England and Scotland to work on the project.  Walking around the building, we noticed many fine details. Imagine the amazing parties that were held here over the years. Oh the stories these walls could tell.

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The knowledgeable staff were very friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating. After a restful sleep in a most comfortable bed, we woke up to the aroma of fresh baked croissants wafting through the building. The complimentary breakfast, served in a bright room overlooking the patio and gardens, included these melt-in-your-mouth croissants. 

View from our bedroom on the third floor early in the morning

View from our 3rd floor bedroom early in the morning

bathroom door

Unique bathroom door

Stairway to our room

Stairway to our room

We enjoyed a number of walks  around the tranquil 5 acre property, discovering something new and unique at every turn. We visited in March so the gardens were just waking up from winter but were still very lovely. I can only imagine how fabulous they are in the summer.

Charming gazebo, perfect for weddiings

Charming gazebo, perfect for weddings

Quaint birdbaths are scattered around the gardens

Quaint birdbaths scattered throughout the gardens

A fountain straight from an English  novel.

A fountain straight from an English novel.

An interesting sign found in the Elizabethan street

An interesting sign found in a shop window on the Elizabethan street

There is plenty of places to wander, sit and read (or write) a book, paint a picture or just day dream in this fairytale-like environment. Should you wish to visit down town Victoria or the inner harbour, both are just minutes away. The lobby is bright and cheerful with a pleasant lounge to enjoy a drink and a fireplace where we shared a pot of tea before retiring.

I highly recommend this place, especially if you need a break from the modern, busy lifestyle many of us lead. It was perfect for a girlfriend get-away and would  be an ideal location for a wedding, family reunion or special event.

A perfect girlfriend get-away

A perfect place for a girlfriend get-away

 

Visit the website http://www.englishinn.ca/

English Inn is located at 429 Lampson Street 
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V9A5Y9
Central Reservations: 1.866.388.4353
Direct Line or to reach a guest: 1.250.388.4353
Fax: 1.250.382.8311
Email: res@englishinn.ca

I tend to celebrate my birthday the entire month of March, and sometimes longer. I have a very good friend from Calgary who also has a March birthday and we often try to meet some place different to celebrate our birthdays. This year we chose Victoria, the capital city of BC. It was a perfect choice as the cherry blossoms were out and the spring flowers were beginning to bloom.  We did some fun and unique things over the three days we spent together. Here is a summary.

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We stayed at The English Inn, a unique historic site set on 5 acres with Tudor style buildings and amazing gardens. The main manor, which is the Inn, was built in 1906. It was the perfect setting for two women with active imaginations. I plan to write more about this wonderful establishment.

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We enjoyed sampling the various ciders at Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse. A young staff member  treated us to a tour, explaining the process of making apple cider and showing us the certified organic apple orchard overlooking the sea.

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Sampling ciders

Sampling various ciders

Apple orchard by the sea

Apple orchard by the sea

A thirty minute drive took us to the town of Sooke where we visited the Sooke Region Museum, had a refreshing walk down Wiffin Spit and stopped in at Sooke Harbour House, another historic building originally built in 1929 and filled with art and artefacts.

Triangle Island Lighthouse at Sooke Regional Museum

Triangle Island Lighthouse at Sooke Regional Museum

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A comfy bench at Wiffin Spit

A comfy bench at Wiffin Spit

Driftwood octopus

Driftwood squid outside Sooke Harbour House

We participated in a self guided walking tour of Chinatown which we found fascinating.  The highlight was a visit to a Buddhist Temple located in a tall, thin building. After climbing 59 stairs, we were invited to burn incense and received a blessing. A very moving experience. There is so much history in that part of the city. The visit would not have been complete without a delicious meal at an authentic  Chinese restaurant.

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Note the address of the Buddhist Temple

Note the address of the Buddhist Temple

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Another interesting stop was at the Ross Bay Villa, an 1865 Historic House Museum. This wonderful find was slatted for demolition in 1999 but was saved  and restored by hard working volunteers who have brought it back to its original life. We were given a tour by a well informed volunteer and felt we had stepped back in time.

Ross Bay Villa

Ross Bay Villa

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Imagine how lovely this will be in full bloom. The tiles are exact replicas of the original tiles

There is so much to see and do in Victoria. We tried to do things off the beaten path. We had amazing meals, great conversation and lots of time for relaxing. As you can see, we both enjoy historical sites and especially old houses. It was the perfect get-away for good friends with similar interests.

Do you enjoy getting away with a friend from time to time?

I have recently had a couple of fun weekends that I plan to write about here soon. In the meantime you might enjoy this article posted on Travel Thru History last week. A little known Spanish destination you may want to put on your must see list.

 

CUENCA AND THE CASA COLGADAS
Spain
by Darlene Foster

 


house
My first thought upon observing the houses of the Spanish city of Cuenca, was that I wouldn’t want to be a sleep walker if I lived in one of them. This unique city, tucked away in the mountains of Castilla-La Mancha, is famous for its casa colgadas, or hanging houses, perched on top of cliffs surrounding a deep gorge carved out by two rivers. Due to limited space, the former inhabitants of the old city built their houses close to the edge, on a rocky mountaintop. Over the centuries, the relentless wind eroded the lime stone cliffs leaving some houses clinging precariously to the edge. A few balconies actually jut out over the ravine, which would make sleepwalking indeed dangerous.

Read the rest of the article here:

http://www.travelthruhistory.com/html/historic127.html

 

Would you like to live that close to the edge?

 

 

I don’t like the idea of getting older. In fact I fight it tooth and nail. On the other hand, I also realize it is a privilege denied to many and am thankful I am able to continue to enjoy this wonderful life. On Friday I turned a year older, like it or not.

I was greeted in the morning with a lovely card and a bouquet of tulips, my favourite flowers, from my DH

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At work, the participants in my workshop, after learning it was my birthday, made me a sweet card. I was touched.

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At the end of the day I was surprised with a delicious birthday cake from my co-workers.

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Photo by Jean François Filion

The next day, DH booked us into The River Rock Casino Resort for an over night stay. This luxury hotel is only a thirty minute drive from our house but it felt like we were in Las Vegas.

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The well designed lobby contains waterfalls, totem poles  and even a friendly bear. We don’t gamble but the casino on site created a lively and exciting atmosphere. A theatre featuring many interesting and well known musicians is also part of the resort. A great place for people watching while sipping a caramel rockachino and nibbling on a white chocolate and cranberry sconce. Sorry, but I was too busy relaxing to take pictures of the food.

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Our suite was spacious enough for a party and overlooked the marina. A package of yummy chocolate macaroons was delivered to the room in honour of my birthday. The overnight stay included a relaxation massage. While I enjoyed my much needed massage at the Absolute spa, DH made use of the fitness centre over looking the pool area.

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The number of restaurants to choose from for our dinner, made it hard to decide. I had a Mojito and a fabulous spiced pear salad with goat cheese and grilled prawns at The Curve which was perfect. DH was happy with his butter chicken and on tap beer. The best thing was a compliment on my hair cut by the young waiter!

After a fabulous sleep on the oh so comfy bed, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the buffet with many tasty choices before heading back home. We didn’t travel far but what a nice get-away to celebrate another year of living.

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Text messages from both of the kids, a phone call from Mom and another from my younger brother. Cards from all over the world and 140 messages on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; I was sure feeling the love.

I guess getting older is not so bad after all.

Everyone seems to need a break around mid February. This year hubby and I didn’t take a sunny, warm, winter get-away so we decided to do something more local. We hadn’t been to the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island for a long time so chose to spend three days in Tofino. A great choice as we had a wonderful time.

To get there we took a relaxing two hour ferry ride across the Georgia Strait and then drove three hours to the other side of the island. It had snowed during the night causing the tall Douglas Fir trees to sparkle in the sun with  snow laden branches as they emerged out of the mist. We passed through Cathedral Grove, an old growth rain forest with 800 year-old giant firs. It was magical.

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

The minute we arrived at the Best Western Tin Wis Resort, I knew we had made a good choice. The resort is owned and operated by the Tla-O-Qui-Aht First Nations and tastefully decorated with First Nations art and artefacts. The incredibly friendly staff made us feel at home immediately.

Entrance to Tin Wis Resort

Entrance to Tin Wis Resort

Amazing west coast First Nations art

Amazing west coast First Nations art

Our very comfortable room had a great view of Mackenzie Beach. This beach is one of the most protected beaches on the west coast, thus the name Tin Wis which means Calm Waters in the Tla-O-Qui-Aht language.

Room with a view

Room with a view

Mackenzie beach

Mackenzie beach at dusk

We went for nice, long, relaxing walks along the beach, discovering tidal pools with all sorts of  little creatures.

Colourful sea anemones and a bright orange starfish

Colourful sea anemones and a bright orange starfish

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We spent a wonderful day in the charming town of Tofino, where we shopped, met some interesting artists and many wonderful people. It was so refreshing to get away from the hustle and bustle of big city life. With the slow, easy pace, it didn’t take us long to wind down.

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Of course I found a bookstore

Of course I found a book store

Tofino is famous for its fantastic storms and many people visit in the winter just to storm watch. We were lucky to get one storm which we watched safely from inside while having a drink.

A typical west coast storm

A typical west coast storm

Enjoying the storm from inside

Enjoying the storm from inside

The following morning we awoke to sunshine. We had the perfect mix of weather. While enjoying one last walk on the beach, we watched a man teach his son to surf.

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The restaurant at the resort, aptly called Calm Waters, served delicious meals with the same friendly service. The crab cakes melted in my mouth and I’m still dreaming of the coconut crème brulee.

Enjoying a relaxing breakfast with a view

Enjoying a relaxing breakfast with a view

Calm Waters Restaurant at Tin Wis Resort

Calm Waters Restaurant at Tin Wis Resort

We came home happy to have spent time at such an amiable place where the spirit of people who have dwelt there for many centuries, still lives.

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Sometimes a short holiday is all you need.

I have loved visiting museums for as long as I can remember. As a young person, I would rather go to a museum than play sports or hang out with friends. My aunt and I would often spend entire days at the Medicine Hat Museum which  at that time was a log cabin filled with items from the past. We liked to pretend we were living in the pioneer days. The original museum has been moved a couple of times since then and is now housed in the Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre. Last summer, my grandson and I stopped in to view the displays. I was pleased he shared my excitement of museums. The displays were well put together with some of the original items  still showcased as well as many other artefacts. Here are a few samples.

Items from the original log cabin museum

Items from the original log cabin museum

Toys from the past

Toys from the past

The cowboy lifestyle

Representing the cowboy lifestyle

A dressmaker's dummy

A dressmaker’s dummy

A note left by a frustrated homesteader

A note left by a frustrated homesteader

We also visited The Pioneer Village located on the Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede grounds. A collection of heritage buildings from the surrounding area which includes a general store, a church, a fire hall. a school and a blacksmith shop.

A typical prairie general store built in 1924

A typical prairie general store 

Items for sale in the general store. Look at those prices!

Items for sale in the general store. Look at those prices!

How many miles has this trunk travelled?

How many miles has this trunk travelled?

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Grandson by a prairie church built in 1924

Grandson by a prairie church built in 1924

It was a fun visit exploring the past with a young person. I’m so pleased that communities realize the importance of preserving a way of life that is no longer.

Do you enjoy visiting museums and heritage buildings?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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