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We just returned from a weekend in the lovely city of Valencia, a two-hour drive in the car from us. It is another one of those wonderful Spanish cities with fascinating architecture and its own unique personality. I will write more about it later and share pictures. Tomorrow I am off on a train to Madrid and the following day I will fly to Canada. I have a jam-packed schedule once there as I will be launching my latest book and visiting schools and libraries in Vancouver and area, Calgary and Medicine Hat. I’ll also be visiting friends and family in all three cities. So, I will not be spending much time on the computer over the next three weeks.

While wandering the streets of Valencia, I came upon this amazing Valencian traditional dance performance in a square behind the cathedral. It was the highlight of my trip. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I look forward to connecting again when I return!

As Remembrance Day approaches, I thought I would share a visit I made to a Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, Holland earlier this year. 1394 soldiers are buried in this cemetery, all but three are Canadian soldiers who were part of the liberation of this part of the Netherlands.

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The information centre is well presented and provides a fifteen-minute film explaining the liberation and how the cemetery came to be. Stories of some of the soldiers are related in the film. On one wall, the names of each soldier buried in the cemetery are listed. An extensive digital database is available with stories of each of the killed soldiers. There is also a touch screen computer with eyewitness stories of soldiers and the inhabitants of the area at the time of the war. Other touch screens have films of the liberation of several villages and towns. I am sure many people come to research family members who are buried here.  A “tranquillity bench” to sit and contemplate,with soft music in the background, is a nice touch.

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The most remarkable thing for me was a tiled wall made recently by students from the Holten primary school. The children were given a task to paint a tile with the theme “war and peace”. I found it very moving.

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The tattered flag from the battlefield

The cemetery itself is extremely well kept. I was overcome with emotion by the maple leafs on the gravestones depicting the names, ranks and ages of the fallen. The two youngest were only seventeen. I thought of the mothers who would never see their sons again, the wives missing their husbands and the children who would grow up without their fathers.

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When I mentioned to the officers in charge that I was Canadian, I was treated very special. Even after all this time, the Dutch people continue to be grateful to the Canadians for their part in liberating their country. I was proud, saddened and extremely moved by this visit. I could not stop the tears.

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Even though no one in my family was killed in WWII, which happened before I was born, I have been reading books and watching movies of this terrible time in our history for many years. Visiting this special place made it much more real.

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May they rest in peace, these brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice so others could be free.

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I can’t believe it has been over four months since we welcomed our dog, Dot into our lives. It’s as if she has always been here. Although she was quite nervous at first, she has settled into living in an urban setting. I wrote about driving to the Andalucian mountains to get her here.

Like parents of a newborn, we have taken tons of pictures of her. Here are a few. Believe me, it was hard to narrow it down.

Enjoying her new toy.

Enjoying her new toy, but what she really likes to play with are our socks!.

She also likes playing with her ball with her new dad

She also likes playing with her ball

Please, dad, can you throw it again

Please, dad, can you throw the ball again?

She enjoys going to the beach

She enjoys going for walks on the beach

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But doesn't like to get her feet wet

But she doesn’t like to get her feet wet

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Sometimes she meets another dog at the beach and gets to play

Sometimes she meets another dog at the beach and gets to play

A play date with Havane, a Spaniel from France

A special play date with Havane, her friend from France

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She loves to play with other dogs.

Dot is popular with the neighbourhood children who bring her treats

Dot is popular with the neighbourhood children who bring her treats

She loves our special friend!

Our special young friend is a good buddy

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She loves her dad!

She sure loves her dad!

and she loves her mom too.

and she loves her mom too. She goes with us just about everywhere we go.

You can see she is quite a character and keeps us busy. Whatever did we do without her?

I am pleased to be a guest on Rachael Ritchey’s blog where I talk about writing a series. Enjoy and leave a comment or two.

Fiction by Rachael Ritchey

Happy Thursday! We’ve got a special guest today. Author Darlene Foster has been kind enough to stop in to offer us writers some handy advice on keeping a book series fresh and interesting!

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Brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of travelling the world and meeting interesting people. Her desire to write started when she was twelve and her short stories have since won a number of awards. She is the author of the exciting adventure series featuring spunky 12-year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to unique places. Her books include Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel and Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone. Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. Darlene and her husband divide their time between…

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It’s Halloween and children in many parts of the world are excited. Kids love dressing up and becoming someone or something else for a day. Many adults enjoy Halloween too. I loved Halloween as a child and later enjoyed creating costumes for my kids. We often dressed up for Halloween in the offices I worked in which was fun.

Although typically a North American holiday, other parts of the world now celebrate Halloween as well.

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When we were in Italy last year at this time, we noticed Halloween themes in the bakeries.

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Here in Spain, our young friend is all ready for a Halloween party in her dark angel costume.

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When I was in Provence this summer I went for a walk at dusk and came upon this house. I was convinced it was haunted. What do you think? It would make a great setting for a story, don´t you think?

I don’t usually watch horror movies or read scary books but I enjoy a slightly scary mystery. I´ll let you in on a secret, there will be ghosts in Amanda’s adventure in New Mexico.

Have you ever come across a scary looking house? 

I can’t believe it has been a year since we went on our wonderful Mediterranean cruise. I wrote about it here, here, here and here. I realize I had not written a post on our favourite stop, the historic country of Malta. We only spent a morning at this amazing place but we loved it.

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It was early morning as we entered the Grande Harbour where a mix of Middle Eastern and European architecture greeted us. Malta’s location has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, have ruled the islands and left their mark. I had read so much about this place and was eager to explore Valletta, the capital city. A short walk from the boat and up an elevator took us into the heart of the fortified city.

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The fortified city of Valletta

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A sample of the many sculptures found throughout the city

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Wouldn’t you love to have a coffee by this unicorn fountain?

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Queen Victoria graces the entrance to the impressive library

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A fabulous fountain

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The 8 point Maltese cross, the symbol of the Knights of St. John,  is everywhere

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Romantic windows grace many homes and apartments

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Malta is well known for its unique door knockers

I visited St. John’s Co-Cathedral and was gobsmacked, as the British would say. The plain facade looked more like a fortress and gave no indication of the marvels inside. This was the church of the Order of the Knights of St. John and was completed in 1577. The interior was originally very simple but over the years the Grand Masters and Knights donated gifts of artworks and financial contributions to enrich it. One gift was the original painting of the beheading of John the Baptist by Caravaggio which hangs in the Oratory. I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of this amazing work of art. Of course, photographs were not allowed so you will have to take my word for it. I was, however, allowed to take pictures in the opulent Sanctuary.

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The cathedral houses a museum with elaborate vestments and incredible Flemish tapestries. The urge to snap a couple of photographs was strong but I resisted. I also resisted touching those centuries old tapestries representing hours and hours of work. I was in awe.

The Grande Harbour is a busy place with a variety of boats.

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A typical Maltese fishing boat

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A yacht for the rich and famous

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Me in Malta

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We found a number of cute signs including this one. In case you are wondering, yes we had coffee and cake at one of the many charming outdoor cafes. I can’t remember the question.

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As we left Malta, we promised we would be back.

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As much fun as we are having here in Spain, we do miss our friends and family back in Canada. So when friends come to visit, it is pretty special. We were delighted when my bestie Jayne, and her hubby, Bob, came to spend a week with us in September. We had so much fun together, as we always do, and did lots of catching up. There was beach time and shopping time, as well as visits to historic sites and a Roman and Carthaginian festival. We hung out with gladiators and ate tapas, paella and much more delicious Spanish food. My hubby was happy to drive us to many interesting places.

Jayne at the market, stopping to smell the flowers

Jayne at the market, stopping to smell the flowers

Jayne and Bob enjoying the Mediterranean.

Jayne and Bob enjoying the Mediterranean.

An evening walk on the beach.

An evening walk on the beach.

Hanging out with gladiators at the Roman Feista

Hanging out with gladiators at the Roman Fiesta

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Romans and archers

Romans and archers

by a mural in Cartegana

by a mural in Cartagena

The amazing church in Novelda, designed by a student of Gaudi.

The amazing church at Novelda, designed by a student of Gaudi.

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Old friends in Spain

Coffee at the mall after serious shopping

Coffee at the mall after serious shopping

Relaxing by the sea in Torrevieja

Relaxing by the sea in Torrevieja

Ice cream in Torreveija

Ice cream in Torrevieja. That was the small size!

Of course Dot loved Jayne

Of course, Dot loved Jayne

Jayne is an English girl from Nottingham who has lived in Canada for a long time. She was the first friend I made when I moved to Vancouver in 1989. We have done some fun things together over the years. I am so glad she came to visit me in Spain. Jayne and her husband had a great time and loved our new relaxed life.

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Jayne is having surgery on October 18. She is such a positive individual, I know she will be fine. But I would like to ask you to please send some positive thoughts and prayers her way.

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Jayne in Spain

Isn´t it great to get together with a long time friend!


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