Walking through the unearthed remains of a once thriving city, I couldn’t help feeling ominous. People lived and worked in Pompeii until that fateful day, August 24, 79 AD, when Mount Vesuvius erupted, dumping twenty feet of ash on the city, completely burying it. The city lay undisturbed and hidden until 1748 when it was accidentally discovered and later excavated. Today it is a must see on most bucket lists and I am pleased to be able to check it off mine. I remember learning about this disaster in elementary school and imagining the terror of the inhabitants. The feeling was still with me as I peered into the well preserved homes with original mosaics, shops, temples and gardens of the ancient Romans. Here is some of what we saw.
During the excavation, plaster was used to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held human bodies. This allowed people to see the exact position the person was in when he or she died. Some of these macabre plaster casts were on display and drove home the horror of the catastrophe.
Walking along the old lumpy streets and dodging the many other onlookers was treacherous. One had to be careful, but I was pleased to be there, honouring the poor souls who lost their lives in one of the ancient world’s worst natural disasters.
I have since read the book, Pompeii, by Robert Harris. An excellent account of that fateful day from the point of view of an aquarius, someone who maintained the aqueducts. Having walked the streets, the book had special meaning to me.
Have you ever visited a place you had read about before? Did you feel the same when you actually saw it, as when you first learned about it?
This is a blog I wrote almost 5 years ago and now I am living in Spain!! Thought I would share it again.
“To those who are awake, there is one ordered universe, whereas in sleep each man turns away from this world to one of his own” Heraclitus
We all have dreams; some appear during sleep, others while awake. They can guide us through life – as long as we listen to them. So many times we put our dreams on the backburner, but they are always there. They often appear when we least expect them.
When I was living in Calgary, I attended a sales meeting one cold February morning. As a warm-up exercise we were asked to write down our dreams for the next 3 months, the next 2 years and the next 20 years; and then share them with the group. I wrote that I dreamt of going on a holiday to a nice warm place within 3 months, I dreamt of living in a warmer place within 2…
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Our trip to the province of Asturias in the Northern part of Spain was most enjoyable. We discovered this part of Spain is quite different from the Mediterranean coast where we live. As the plane descended we were amazed at the green rolling hills, scattered with red-tiled roofed, farm houses and dotted with cows in the fields. I thought perhaps we had arrived in Switzerland. Asturias is also well known for its dairy produce including excellent cheeses and yoghurt. It is a province of varied landscapes, from the imposing Cantabrian mountains to the beaches and seascapes of the Bay of Biscay, with verdant meadows, quaint villages and historic cities in between. It was a visual smorgasbord for me.
We stayed in Oviedo, the capital city. Our hotel was an easy 20 minute walk to the down-town and historic centre. We fell in love with the city immediately. It was just before Christmas and the city was well decorated for the season. The friendly people made us feel very welcome and proved to be extremely helpful when we got lost. I was intrigued by the many bronze sculptures scattered throughout the pedestrian shopping areas.
We drove to Gijon, a seaside town with a Roman history where we found a great outdoor market and hubby did some Christmas shopping.
Another day we drove through the Picos Europa, a majestic mountain range with limestone structures, jagged peaks and deep gorges. The scenery was breathtaking. We passed medieval bridges, old churches, raised granaries called “horreos”, and stone houses covered with reed used as shepherds huts called “teitos”. Horses and cows grazed in the meadows and goats scrambled on rocks as we sped past.
We stopped to get a closer look at an old church with a stork´s nest on top of the bell tower, a sign of good luck for the local parishioners.
I was not surprised when I found a book store in Oviedo called Cervantes.
I also discovered that Oviedo is the starting point of the Original Way or Camino Primitivo which was the first Camino route to Santiago de Compostela, in the 9th century as most of Spain was under Moorish control. You can imagine my delight when I found the clam shells embedded in the streets showing the way, as well as this sign.
It was fun to see another part of this unique and diverse country and we plan to do more exploring.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, my Spanish publisher, Pablo Solares Acebal, arranged a school visit in Villaviciosa, a small village in the province of Asturias, in Northern Spain. This was my first school visit in Spain and it was a remarkable experience. I read from my bi-lingual book, Pig on Trial/Cerdito a juicio to the grade one and two classes. The children and teachers had limited English skills, so I read the English side of the book and Pablo read the Spanish equivalent. The children greeted me with enthusiasm and loved the story. They asked great questions and were eager to learn about my life in Canada. The book is a medieval tale set in rural Europe which the kids enjoyed as Villaviciosa is in a very rural part of Spain. The best dairy products come from Asturias. Since some of the children live on farms they were delighted to know that I grew up on a farm in Canada. One young man introduced himself and informed me he was from New York and could speak English very well.
I was given a tour of the elementary school, Colegio Publico Maliayo by the Head Mistress (or Principal as we would call her in Canada). The students were learning about the Olympics and had created displays of various countries that have hosted the Olympics over the years. They were proud to show me the display of the Montreal Olympics in Canada. Don´t you just love those beavers!
The school was laid out very similar to Canadian elementary schools. I was pleased to see there was a well stocked library. Cerdito a juicio is now in it as well.
I was treated very well by the friendly staff and students at this school. The students were a delight. There was much cheering and clapping from them when I said muchos gracias and wished them Felize Navidad. They made me feel like a rock star! I am now on their website http://cpmaliayovillaviciosa.jimdo.com/
I really appreciate Pablo Solares for arranging this great opportunity.
Since we were in the area, hubby and I decided to explore. I´ll tell you about our time in Asturias in the next post.
I hope your new year has started out well!
Pictures taken by myself and Daniel Solares
Happy Three Kings Day – Fiesta de Los Tres Reyes Magos
Here is my post from last year.
Here in Spain the most important date in the Christmas season is not December 25. It is January 6, Epiphany, the day Three Kings from the east brought gifts to the infant Jesus. Fiesta de Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) starts on January 5 when the Three Wise Men arrive and parade through the streets handing out candies to all the children eagerly waiting. The parade ends at a church where the Kings become part of a human nativity scene. That night the children put out their shoes and in the morning, if they have been good all year, they find gifts from the Magi. They leave out treats for the Kings and water for the camels. (Like children in North America do for Santa Claus) There are many parties and family dinners on January 6th.
We had the pleasure of experiencing this event here on the Costa Blanca. In Torrevieja, a coastal town…
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2016 has started off well. We ate our twelve grapes at midnight for good luck, viewed fireworks from our terrace, and watched Bryan Adams bring in the New Year in London on television, while he played all my favourite songs. Then watched the amazing fireworks in London. It was a Spanish/English/Canadian New Year´s Eve for us.
To learn more about this tradition read about it on Glamour Granny Travels http://www.glamourgrannytravels.com/2015/12/24/grapes-and-cava-a-spanish-new-years-eve-tradition/
On New Years day we went for lunch with my in-laws at a fabulous restaurant called La Herradura (The Horseshoe) where we enjoyed a delicious eight course meal and a Flamenco dance performance. A great start to the New Year.
Now it´s time for me to look forward and set goals for 2016.
1. Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music successfully launched
2. Finish Amanda in New Mexico – The Ghost Hotel
3. Do more promoting of all the Amanda books and Pig on Trial
4. Connect with local schools and book stores
5. Continue to explore Spain, attend cultural events and write about them
6. Travel to Holland, France and England
7. Work hard at making new friends in Spain
8. Attend Pueblo Ingles with friends
9. Take time to read more
10. Practice Spanish
11. Keep learning more about writing
12. Enjoy my more relaxed life style
13. Look after my health by eating better and exercising more
14. Keep in touch with family and friends back home via social media and mail
15. Help other writers meet their goals
16. Be thankful for at least three things every day.
By writing these goals down and sharing them with you, my wonderful readers, I will be more committed to reach them.
Thank all of you for your encouragement and support over the years. I truly do appreciate it. May all your dreams come true in 2016!!
If you can dream it, you can do it! Walt Disney
I´ll leave you with two short videos of the flamenco show.
In ancient Roman myth, Janus was the god of gates, doors and beginnings. January, was named after Janus in 700 BC. Having two faces, one looking back into the past and one looking forward to the future, he was an appropriate deity to dedicate the first month of the New Year to.
As I look back over the past year I like to revisit the goals I set out on January 1 to see how I did, and share them with you. How did I do?
1. Sell the house in Canada
It took longer than we thought but the house in Canada sold on April 2, 2015
2. Get settled in Spain
We bought a place in Spain and feel quite settled.
3. Finish Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music
Amanda on the Danube -The Sounds of Music is completed and in the hands of the publisher! It should be out mid 2016.
4. Write more travel articles and find a market for them
I am working on this one, have found a couple of markets but need to find more.
5. See Pig on Trial published
I am pleased to say Pig on Trial has been published as a bi-lingual book for kids.
6. Get connected with writers in Spain
I have met a couple of writers here in Spain but would like to connect with many more so will continue to work on this one.
7. Lean Spanish
Oh dear. I haven´t learned much Spanish at all. So many people in my area speak English including the Spanish folks. I have picked up some phrases but not enough to carry a conversation. Need to work harder on this one.
8. Join a walking group
Oops, didn´t do this.
9. Cut back the sugar intake
I did do this and feel so much better!
10. Explore Spain and write about it
I did this too and have seen so many parts of this fascinating and diverse country. It is a great place to explore!
11. Make new friends and keep in touch with old friends
I´ve made a few new friends and hope to make many more. It takes time. I have been very diligent in keeping in touch with old friends. Thanks to social media this is easier than it used to be.
12. Go home to Canada for a visit
I was fortunate to be able to go back home twice last year to see family and friends!
13. Find a yoga studio
I didn´t join a yoga studio but have been doing yoga every morning at home, so I feel this is a yes.
14. Write everyday
I do write everyday. This has become a habit.
15. Embrace change and look for surprises!!
I believe I have embraced change this past year, and there has been plenty. Thank heaven I love surprises as there have been many of them too! You can´t move continents without experiencing changes and a multitude of surprises. It wasn´t always easy, but I learned so much and am glad I did it.
As this year comes to a close, I wish you all a very Happy New Year with many welcome surprises.
In the next post I will look forward.