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On our recent visit to Holland, we took a day trip to Germany to the charming town of Bad Bentheim, just across the border. Bad in German means bath, and this is a popular spa town. In the middle sits a fabulous medieval castle. You know how much I love castles, and this was a great one to explore. Castle Bentheim is the largest hilltop castle in northwest Germany with a recorded history from 1050. For the past five centuries, it has been owned by the Counts and Princes of Bentheim and Steinfurt.

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Burg Bentheim

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The castle keep called the Pulverturn or powder tower

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As we approach the entrance to this massive fortified castle, we are greeted by sheep grazing on the grounds.

Kronenburg Castle

Kronenburg Castle

No one resides in Kronenburg Castle anymore, but it is now a museum depicting how the lords of the castle lived. Both Otto von Bismarck and KaiserWilhelmI once stayed here as guests.

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The Hall of Knights

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A guest bedchamber

My favourite part included the castle keep which holds the dungeon. One of the oldest buildings in the castle, it dates back to the 11th and 12th centuries.

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In the interior of the tower is a small opening in the floor called “the hole of fear.” It is the only entry to the windowless dungeon 12 meters below. In the Middle Ages, this was the Castle jail.  Entrance to the dungeon is only accessible by means of a rope winch installed above the “hole of fear”.  A bit creepy!

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At the top of the tower are panoramic views of the town and countryside.

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The simple Gothic chapel features a two-sided Madonna, carved in 1503, hanging freely from the ceiling. Both sides depict the front of the Madonna.

 

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In the courtyard is an early Romanesque stone cross of the Crucified Christ discovered in 1828. Called the “Herrgott of Bentheim,” it was created around 1000 A.D. and is considered one of the earliest portrayals of Christ in Central Europe.

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The library holds copies of old books, Bibles, and music sheets. Fascinating.

Happily exploring a medieval German castle

Happily exploring a medieval German castle

Schlosspark

Schlosspark

Schlosspark sits beneath the castle with well-manicured gardens and a lovely fountain in the middle. The entire setting is from a fairy tale.

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We couldn’t leave Bad Bentheim, and Germany, without sampling the apple strudel. It was as good as it looks! A great day trip and a chance for me to practise the little German I know.

At the beginning of this month we were blessed with a visit from home! My Aunt (mom’s sister) and her husband from Taber, Alberta and my cousin from Parksville, BC had been visiting my uncle’s relatives in Holland and took a side trip to Spain just to see us. We packed in as much as we could in four days. Since this was the first time for all of them to visit Spain, we tried to give them a good taste of our Spanish life. We ate churros, tapas, Spanish chocolate and paella, took a bus to an historic Roman/Carthaginian city, a boat trip around the bay of Cartagena, drove into the country, walked along the Mediterranean, enjoyed a family barbecue and attended a May Fiesta. My cousin couldn’t stop taking pictures.

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Happy to be with  family and show them around my corner of Spain

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Dinner at The Nautilus overlooking the Mediterranean. Every one enjoyed their meal and first view of the Med.

We had an enjoyable visit to the two thousand year old city of Cartagena. Evidence of its rich Carthaginian and Roman history is everywhere. Still considered an important naval base and shipyard, it is now also a stop for large cruise ships.We took a boat trip around the harbour to view the old walls of the fortress. The city has amazing architecture and a lovely pedestrian shopping area with many bronze sculptures waiting to be photographed. The bit of rain didn’t dampen our spirits as we explored this interesting place only forty minutes from were we live.

My cousin meeting a friendly sailor

My cousin meeting a friendly sailor

Aunt and Uncle making a freind

Aunt and Uncle making a friend

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Croissants filed with strawberries, bananas and chocolate. Yummy!

We stopped for lunch at a Valor Coffee Shop. Valor makes the best chocolate in Spain. You may recall my visit to the Valor Chocolate Factory last fall. Here is the post if you wish to know more. Our meal was delicious and included chocolate, of course! We finished with churros dipped in what else – chocolate, a Spanish tradition which they loved.

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My outgoing cousin soon made friends with Romans wandering the streets.

 

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We also found some Roman ruins including an amphitheatre. An excellent day filled with history, architecture, the sea and chocolate!! My aunt purchased a spoon for her collection and my uncle a hat with Spain on it. Everyone returned happy.

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Another day we took a drive into the country, through traditional Spanish villages, past lemon and orange groves and the occasional flock of sheep. A trip to Spain would not be complete without trying the tradition of tapas, so that’s what we had for lunch.  The quests enjoyed the wide selection of small tasty treats. Something for everyone. That evening we had a barbecue at our place with my in-laws. A nice family gathering which included my home made paella and my mother-in-law’s trifle.

Aunt Peggy at the tapas bar.

Aunt Peggy at the tapas bar.

Their visit coincided with the Torrevieja May Fiesta, called Feria de Sevillanas. We were able to take them to enjoy this very popular fiesta featuring the traditions of Andalucia. My Canadian visitors were delighted to see women of all ages dressed in colourful, flamenco dresses and white mantillas. We strolled through the marquees and fun fair, watched paella being made and enjoyed the parade of dancers, Andalusian horses, riders and horse drawn carriages. My cousin sampled her first sangria with lunch on the esplanade.

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All ages get in the spirit of the fiesta

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My Aunt will return with a report to mom that all is well with me and my new life. She kept saying, “This is so wonderful, I’m so glad we came.” I am so glad they came as well!!

Breakfast at my home in Spain. Love my family!

Breakfast at my home in Spain. Love my family!

Today I am a guest on Writer´s Treasure Chest where I talk about how I deal with writer´s block and other writerly things. Thanks for commenting and supporting those who support me. I have the best followers!!

Writer's Treasure Chest

thWelcome!

 

Please introduce yourself.

 

Hi! I’m Darlene Foster, a writer of children’s books, travel articles and short stories. I grew up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Canada where I dreamt of travelling the world and becoming a published writer. I call the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca of Spain my home these days. Dreams do come true!

 When did you start writing? 

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Putting words down on paper has always been a pleasure for me. I had a story published in a local newspaper when I was twelve. It was called Stretch Your Food Dollar. The crazy thing is that it is about an amusing experience two young girls have in a department store. Little did I know, all these years later, I would publish books about two girls having adventures and…

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Today I talk about location in a story and how to describe it.

KRISTINA STANLEY

As we continue our journey through Mystery Mondays writing advice, Darlene Foster is here to talk to us about location. Just check out the titles of the four books below, and you’ll see why she chose this topic.

Location, Location, Location

by Darlene Foster

AmandaBooks

Jane Austen gave us English country villages, Charles Dickens took us along the streets of Victorian London, and Lucy Maude Montgomery made us fall in love with Prince Edward Island. The location of many well-known works of fiction are an important element to each story. Think of one of your favourite novels and I am sure a vision of a place comes to mind.

Real estate agents declare the three most important things to selling a property are – location, location, location. The same applies to writing a story. It doesn´t have to be a real place. In fantasy, writers create worlds of their own. But…

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I love tulips. They are by far my favourite flower. So you can imagine my delight when we arrived at Keukenhof, the famous tulip gardens in Holland. Greeted by a sea of tulips in the brightest colours imaginable, I was like a child at a candy store. Covering 32 hectares, over 7 million tulips, daffodils and other spring flowers are on display amongst well kept shrubs, trees and blossoms. Interesting sculptures and works of art are displayed throughout the gardens. I climbed to the top of a traditional windmill, or molen, to get an amazing view of the surrounding tulip fields. For all you flower lovers, here is a bit of what I saw during my unforgettable visit. The pictures do not do it justice so you need to go yourself one day! And if you have been there, perhaps this will bring back fond memories.

tulips

 

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Traditionally dressed young women add to the colour and flavour

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Art among the flowers

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Keukenhof, means “kitchen garden” in Dutch. The site goes back to the 15th century when fruits, vegetables and herbs were grown in this location. In the 19th century it became a castle garden. This world famous attraction has been a permanent exhibition of spring-flowering bulbs since 1949 and is open 8 weeks of every year. I am so glad we planned our visit to coincide with the flowers in bloom. Another dream come true!

“I love tulips better than any other spring flower; they are the embodiment of alert cheerfulness and tidy grace, and next to a hyacinth look like a wholesome, freshly tubbed young girl beside a stout lady whose every movement weighs down the air with patchouli. Their faint, delicate scent is refinement itself; and is there anything in the world more charming than the sprightly way they hold up their little faces to the sun. I have heard them called bold and flaunting, but to me they seem modest grace itself, only always on the alert to enjoy life as much as they can and not be afraid of looking the sun or anything else above them in the face.”
Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth and Her German Garden

Our trip to Holland included two days in Amsterdam, arriving at noon and leaving mid-afternoon the next day. It was not nearly enough time to see everything this charming city has to offer but I loved every minute. The first thing we did was get on a hop-on hop-off canal tour. This was the very best way to see the city. And since the ticket was good for twenty-four hours, we travelled on the boat both days. This was my first visit to Holland, other than stops at the airport.

Amsterdam tulips

Tulips are my favourite flower and I was delighted to see them everywhere.

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The houses along the canal were striking. We passed museums, the home of Heineken Beer, diamond factories, markets, canal-side restaurants, historic churches, cute boat houses and so much more.

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The Rijksmuseum

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Enjoying the canal boat ride

Since grade three, when my teacher told us about Anne Frank and her diary, I have wanted to visit the house the Frank family hid in. My dream of visiting this place came true as the boat stopped right in front of it. We had to wait in line for ninety minutes to get inside, but it was worth it. An incredibly moving experience that makes history real. We were not allowed to take pictures inside. The rooms of the secret annex are empty by request of Otto Frank. They symbolize the void left behind by the millions of people who were deported and never returned. The moveable bookcase is still there as are some original objects, the actual dairy and pages of Anne´s writing. “When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!” Anne Frank, 5 April 1944

Anne Frank Haus

Anne Frank

Our hotel was across from Rembrandt Square where a statue of the artist stands surrounded by bronze figures from The Night Watch. Amazing! I also visited the church where Rembrandt was buried.

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You can’t visit Holland without stopping at a cheese shop. I purchased some wonderful cheese to bring home at one such shop. The friendly young saleswoman, wearing a traditional Dutch hat, was only too happy to pose for a picture.

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cheese

girl at cheeseshop

The young people in Amsterdam are incredibly friendly and service was exceptional everywhere we went. We enjoyed all our meals and found the city to be very clean. The only thing to watch for are the bikes. They are everywhere!

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Young people enjoying the sun by the canal

I went for a walk in the evening and felt completely safe. It is a vibrant city at night and even a heron joined the fun as he sat on top of a car basking in the full moonlight!

heron at night

Amsterdam was everything I thought it would be and more. Even though it was a short stay, I did everything on my list. I hope to return one day and spend time in some of those museums we passed by.

More about Holland in the next post.

 

I have just returned from a fabulous visit to Holland and was delighted to find I am featured as a guest on Lisette´s Writers´Château. Pop over and read my chat with Lisette, where I reveal secrets about me and my writing. You may wish to leave a message.

CHAT WITH DARLENE FOSTER

What is your latest book?

My latest book is Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone

Amanda_AlbertaIs your recent book part of a series?

Yes, this is the fourth book in the Amanda travel adventure series. The first three books are, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel. In this recent book, Amanda entertains her visitor from England by showing her the fascinating sites of her home province of Alberta. The fifth book in the series, Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music, will be published in the fall of 2016.

Can you share some of the feedback you’ve received from readers?

From a teacher librarian – Foster has captured a sense of place in this novel. I liked the action and adventure that keep readers entertained at the same time as it will educate them. Through Leah’s visit, Foster introduces readers to Alberta’s First Nations people. At the same time as they are revealed as an historic culture, she also shows them as modern people living modern lives.

From a young male reader – Amanda is a great middle-grade character. She is a friendly person, and a wonderful role model. Leah is a pretty cool Brit. The plot is fun and engaging as are all of the Amanda books. I love how Ms. Foster puts the reader right in the action and kids get to learn about the exciting places Amanda goes. The action and mystery in the book makes it a fun read for kids!

From an adult reader – This was one of the best Children’s adventure books I’ve read in a while. First of all the plot was tight and flowed. There was enough excitement to even keep me interested and would have been the kind of book I’d have loved as a kid. The plot wasn’t written down to readers and also didn’t feel impossible.

Enjoy the rest of the chat and discover some things you may not know about me

http://lisettebrodey.com/chat-with-darlene-foster/

More about Holland in the next post.


Amanda in Alberta

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Amanda in Spain

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Amanda in England

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Amanda in Alberta

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Pig on Trial

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