Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

I wrote about my recent visit to Winchester Cathedral here, the final resting place of Jane Austen and King Canute as well as other notables. I spent a couple of days in this enchanting part of the UK with friends who took me on drives full of pleasant surprises.
Winchester itself is an interesting city full of history and stories. It was made the capital of England during Saxon times by King Alfred The Great. Whether he let the cakes burn or not is debatable but when I read that story as a child, I was always intrigued by this man. In the center of town is a statue of one of my childhood heroes and the only monarch in England to be called Great.

DSCN2131

Winchester is a perfect place to wander around, with many historic buildings and interesting shops, including many bookstores.

DSCN2119

I love the boot above the Clark’s Shoe Shop

DSCN2121

At the university sits a bench dedicated to Jane Austen and Phillis Wheatly displaying the importance of literature to this city. It was at the University of Winchester that I attended a writer’s festival that weekend.

DSCN2032

Driving through the New Forest made me think of days of yore and those who would have traveled by horse and buggy down these same paths.

DSCN2135

And then we came upon a thatched-roofed village – right out of a book!

DSCN2132

The village of Wherwell

DSCN2134 (2)

Can you imagine living in a house like this?

Later, on the way to a pub for dinner, we came upon a wonderful old church with an awesome graveyard. Since I have this fascination with cemeteries, I had to take a few pictures.

DSCN2142

DSCN2146

DSCN2153

And to my delight, we passed through yet another thatched-roofed village. My friends were kind enough to stop so I could take pictures.

DSCN2156

The charming village of Monxton

 

DSCN2164

DSCN2167

The following day we went to the seaside city of Bournemouth, a place I had not been to before. I loved the casual elegance of the place and the lovely gardens in the center of town.

DSCN2195

Bournemouth seafront

DSCN2181

A fabulous building housing a LUSH store

DSCN2194

Lovely gardens in the middle of the city

DSCN2176

A huge lilac bush with the cathedral in the background

I discovered that Mary Shelly, although she never lived there, is buried in Bournemouth.

DSCN2185

St. Peter’s in Bournemouth where Mary Shelly is buried, along with her parents.

DSCN2188

Yes, that Mary Shelly, the author of the novel, Frankenstein, and wife of Percy Shelly. Did she ever imagine there would be a pub named after her?

DSCN2179

We stopped for an ice cream and had a stroll along the seafront before I was dropped off at the airport. A perfect couple of days with good friends.

DSCN2208

Making memories with friends.

Many people are intrigued by the name of my birthplace and tend to want to know more about it. So I thought I would share an article I recently had published in Travel Thru History, a wonderful ezine featuring great travel articles. There are many reasons to visit this interesting prairie city that will always be apart of me no matter where I go. Here are ten of them.

CityofMH

TEN REASONS TO VISIT MEDICINE HAT 
Canada
by Darlene Foster

Medicine Hat, Alberta, is not often high on anyone’s must-visit list, if it’s there at all. But it should be. There are many reasons to visit this oasis in the Canadian prairies, here are ten of them.

The Name

Who wouldn’t want to visit a place with such a unique name? There are many stories about how the city acquired its unique name derived from the original First Nation’s name Saamis, which means The Medicine Man’s Hat. All the legends involve a feather headdress. One story tells of a battle between the Blackfoot and Cree in which a retreating Cree Medicine Man lost his headdress in the South Saskatchewan River at the place where Medicine Hat became a town. The city uses a feather headdress as its symbol. The locals simply call their town, “The Hat” and residents are often called, “Hatters”.

SAAMISTepee

The World’s Largest Tepee

It’s hard to miss this towering structure as you enter Medicine Hat on the Trans-Canada Highway from either direction. Originally constructed for the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics, the Saamis Tepee is a tribute to Canada’s native heritage. The colours of the structure are symbolic, white for purity, red for the rising and setting sun and blue for the flowing river. It is the World’s Tallest Tepee standing over 20 stories high, weighing 200 tonnes

Read more about Medicine Hat here 

http://www.travelthruhistory.com/html/cities121.html

Jim Marshall mural

One of the many sculptured brick murals by Jim Marshall.

To learn more about Jim Marshall and his sculptured brick murals watch this interesting video which includes fabulous views of the city.

https://www.pbs.org/video/northwest-profiles-james-marshall-brick-artist/

Giantchess set

The giant chess set by the library. Grandchildren is another reason for me to visit.

Do you come from an interesting place? Please share with me in the comments.

DSCN2118

During a recent visit to the historic city of Winchester in Hampshire, I stopped in at the cathedral. My main goal was to visit the grave of Jane Austen, one of my favourite authors. I had been to Winchester a few years ago, but the cathedral was closed for filming the day I was there. This time it was open and I was finally able to pay my respects to Britain’s favourite female novelist.

DSCN2059

DSCN2052DSCN2061 (2)

Nothing is mentioned of her writing on her gravestone. However, her family later had a brass plaque installed with these words.

Jane Austen

known to many by her writings

endeared to her family by

the varied charms of her character

and enobled by Christian faith and piety

was born at Steventon in the

county of Hampshire on 6 December 1775

and buried in this Cathedral

on 24 July 1817

She opened her mouth

with wisdom and in her tongue

is the law of kindness.

Prov 31.26

I was moved to see her final resting place as were others. A woman from Australia face-timed with her daughter back home and showed her Jane’s grave. Her daughter, another huge fan, was excited to be able to see it from afar. The wonders of modern technology.

I decided to join a guided tour of the rest of the cathedral while I was there and I’m so glad I did. The tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and interesting. The building has over 1400 years of history. There has been a church on the site since 648. The building of the Norman cathedral took place from 1079  to 1093 with the nave being remodeled between 1350 to 1410.

Here are a few pictures from this amazing place of worship that holds many stories and has been through so much including a reformation, civil war, crumbling foundations – and yet still stands.

DSCN2069

The 12th-century Tournal marble baptismal font depicts scenes from the life of Saint Nicholas (yes, that St. Nicholas, the original Santa Claus)

DSCN2068 (2)

The west window is particularly interesting. It had at one time been an amazing work of stained glass. During the civil war of 1642 – 1648, Oliver Cromwell’s army stormed the Royalist supporting cathedral, ripped open the graves of the ancient kings, queens and bishops and threw their bones and skulls through the window destroying most if it. Once the Roundheads left, the local citizens picked up the shards of glass and hid them. In 1660, the window was restored using the rescued shards, creating a modern mosaic look.

DSCN2089

This is one of six mortuary chests containing the mortal remains of early bishops and kings including the famous Canute (Cnut) and his wife Queen Emma. Of course, the bones are all mixed up after the Roundheads threw them through the window. Forensic archeologists are only just now being able to sort out whose remains belong to who.

DSCN2080

These twentieth-century paintings of icons by Sergi Fyodorov include one of Saint Swithun, patron saint of the cathedral. His remains at one time lay behind this wall and pilgrims would crawl through the Holy Hole, at the bottom of the picture, to be close to his bones.

DSCN2085

Saint Swithun was the Saxon bishop of Winchester between 852 and 862. He was famous for charitable gifts and building churches and it is said he tutored the young Alfred the Great. Only one miracle is attributed to him. According to legend, a poor woman’s eggs had been smashed by workmen building a church. Swithun picked up the broken eggs and they miraculously became whole again. After his death, his bones became famous for their healing powers and pilgrims from all over visited his shrine.

He asked to be buried humbly and his grave was initially just outside the west door of the Old Minster so that people could walk across it and rain could fall on it as he wished. On 15 July 971 though, his remains were dug up and moved to a shrine in the cathedral. The removal was accompanied by terrible rainstorms that lasted 40 days and 40 nights and was thought to indicate the saint’s displeasure at being moved. This is possibly the origin of the legend that if it rains on Saint Swithun’s feast day, July 15, the rain will continue for 40 more days. His shrine and bones were destroyed during Henry VIII’s Reformation and dissolution of the monasteries in 1538. A modern memorial now marks the spot.

A Traditional Rhyme for St. Swithun’s Day 

St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain na mair

DSCN2086

Cardinal Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester 1404 to 1447

DSCN2073

The original Norman Cathedral from 1079, the oldest part of the current church.

DSCN2091

The impressive High Altar

The Cathedral has over a thousand roof bosses. These are carvings in wood or stone that cover the joints between the stone ribs of its vaulted ceilings. They range from simple 13th-century leaf designs, to elaborate Renaissance images of angels, animals and beasts, heraldic badges and emblems of Christ’s Passion. When visiting these places one must always remember to look up.

DSCN2094

The oldest of the great medieval quires in England to survive unaltered with gorgeous carvings of human figures, animals and even the green man.

DSCN2090

The amazing details in the ceilings

DSCN2113

DSCN2103

A copy of the Winchester Bible hangs on the wall.

Winchester Cathedral holds many treasures but probably the most precious is its 12th century Bible. It is said to be “largest and finest of all surviving 12th-century English bibles.” Henry of Blois, then Bishop of Winchester, came up with the idea in 1160. It is on display but under protection, carefully guarded and no pictures are allowed. It is truly beautiful to see. The Bible is made from the skins of 250 calves, that were soaked, scraped, shaved and stretched before they became suitable for use. Apparently, a single scribe wrote it out in Latin, a labour of love that took many years and was never completed.

DSCN2250

I didn’t get a picture of the monument to William Walker but bought a card with his story.

Winchester Cathedral was built on unstable ground and after many centuries, the heavy stone structure started to lean dangerously. The cathedral was found to be sinking in water. An experienced ex-Royal Navy diver, William Walker was hired to excavate the peat under it and place bags of concrete on the gravel to seal off the water. It took him five years, from 1906 to 1911, in the dark and in a heavy diving suit, to shore up the cathedral. An incredible feat for which the cathedral today owes its existence. He is considered a hero.

If the walls of this cathedral could talk, my they would have a lot to say. Queen Mary was married to Philip of Spain in Winchester Cathedral on 25th July 1554. And much later, Queen Victoria refused to visit the cathedral as the Bishop of Winchester at the time did not approve of her marriage to her beloved Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. So many stories contained in these walls.

I couldn’t end this post without mentioning the New Vaudeville Band and their novelty song, Winchester Cathedral from 1966. Now the song will be in your head all day. Sorry.

 

Since we have been following the excellent British-American-Franco-Canadian television series, Versailles, set during the construction of Versailles Palace during the reign of notoriously flamboyant Louis XIV, we were delighted to actually visit this French Historic Monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace oozes opulence and is breathtaking.

32469092_10156637188651159_6361379433378480128_n

I made it to the Palace of Versailles!

DSCN1837

A huge line up to get in. Booking online saved us a long wait.

DSCN1846

Originally his father’s hunting lodge, the young King Louis transformed it, between1661 and 1710, to become this extravagant palace surrounded by stylized French and English gardens. Moving from Paris, he made it the official Royal residence and centre of his government. Every detail of its construction was intended to glorify the king.

DSCN1835 (2)

The gilded gates to the palace. Note the Sun King motifs.

DSCN1839

Louis chose the sun as his emblem and symbol of power, and is known as the Sun King.

DSCN1894

King Louis XVI in front of his palace.

The interior of the palace is amazing, filled with art, gold and fine furniture. Louis was a patron of the arts and filled his home with valuable pieces. I love how the ceilings were painted in heavenly scenes.DSCN1854

DSCN1847

The Royal Chapel

DSCN1857

The King’s infamous bedchamber

DSCN1873

The Queen’s staircase

DSCN1855

Marble statues of the king at various stages of his life are displayed throughout.

DSCN1877

An older King Louis XIV. Reigning for 72 years, from 1643 to 1715, he outlived his son and grandson.

The most amazing room is the famous Hall of Mirrors, created by King Louis himself and used to entertain guests and show off his wealth and success. This was also the room where the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919, ending the First World War. In spite of the many tourists, jostling to get the perfect photo, it was still exciting to be there.

DSCN1860 (2)

The Hall of Mirrors

DSCN1865 (2)

32462597_10156637259816159_5223713193045524480_n

Standing in the Hall of Mirrors

Time did not permit us to wander around the extensive gardens and exquisite fountains. But they can be viewed from many rooms in the palace, especially from the Hall of Mirrors.

DSCN1851

The fabulous gardens viewed from the Hall of Mirrors

DSCN1881 (2)

A glimpse of the spectacular gardens

The only room not packed with other tourists was the Gallery of Battles which traces the military history of France from the reign of Clovis I to Napoleon. Dozens of paintings depict key battles, and the hall contains more than 80 busts of celebrated military leaders. Here I found a painting of a childhood hero, Joan of Arc or rather, Jeanne d’Arc

DSCN1875

Jeanne d’Arc in the Gallery of Battles

From the natural simplicity of Monet’s home in Giverny to the splendour of the Palace of Versailles, we had a glimpse of two very different French lifestyles and a piece of history I have been reading about all my life.

In case you are interested, here is the trailer of the final series of Versailles with King Louis XIV brilliantly portrayed by George Blagden.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p068mfqk

 

 

 

 

Recently, a dear cousin happened to be in Barcelona for a day before she embarked on a cruise. I love to see family so took a quick trip to my favourite Spanish city to spend the day with her. We packed a lot in and had fun.

31073099_10155289132480952_4582587387363721216_n

Cousins at Plaça Catalunya in Barcelona

We managed to see quite a bit and catch up on family news. One place she really wanted to see was Gaudi’s Sagrada Família. Every time I visit this amazing work in progress, more parts of it have been completed. She was awestruck, as everyone is when they it.

DSCN1316

Happy to see La Sagrada Família

After a bus trip around the city and a delightful lunch on Passeig de Gràcia we visited another of Gaudi’s magical buildings, Casa Batlló, all decked out with roses.

DSCN1314

Casa Batlló dressed in roses

DSCN1342

31100346_10155289144235952_6942827312727457792_n

Inside Casa Batlló

The roses were in honour of St. George’s Day or Día de San Jorge as it is known here in Spain. I loved all the references to roses and books scattered about the intriguing house.

DSCN1350

DSCN1353

I found out later that Día de San Jorge is also known as the day of books and roses. A day where lovers exchange books and roses to honour the legend of St. George or San Jorge, who is the patron saint of Catalonia.

We ended the day by strolling along La Rambla and having dinner on this iconic street. This building covered in umbrellas with a dragon on the corner caught our attention.

DSCN1360

An umbrella building on La Rambla

I had the next morning to myself before flying back home so after a cafe con leche and a chocolate filled croissant across from Plaça Catalunya, I decided to walk to the Gothic Quarter which was nearby. I came upon the impressive Barcelona Cathedral built between the 13th and 15th centuries, the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona. Beside it is the Gaudi Exhibition Museum. Since this had been a very Gaudi trip,  I went into the museum and had a good look around. The displays depicted items from the great man’s life and things that influenced his work.  It was very informative and I got to know more about Antoni Gaudi and how he came up with his unique ideas.

DSCN1385

DSCN1394 (2)

The legend of St. George slaying the dragon influenced Gaudi’s work. In fact, the roof of Casa Batllo is meant to look like the back of a dragon with a sword through it.

DSCN1406

Gaudi’s workbench

The building housing the exhibition was incredible. It was built in the 12th century as a hospital for the poor. Gaudi himself was a patron and would often visit the sick. Remains of the old walls and frescos added to the experience. It was well worth the visit.

DSCN1386

And when I went back outside, a bride and groom were preparing for a photo shoot by the cathedral. How special.

DSCN1429

And an orchestra played music on the steps of the cathedral

DSCN1433 (2)

People in the audience joined hands and danced to the music.

DSCN1444

The sun shone, music played, people danced and I was overflowing with happiness. A perfect little getaway to a city that never ceases to amaze me and a chance to see a family member.

DSCN1452 (2)

Don’t you just love this outfit made of fresh flowers?

We are off on a driving holiday to France so I may be offline for a few days, but will respond to your comments as soon as possible.

I am honoured to have my story about my inspiring great-grandmothers featured on Bernadette’s blog. Some of you may have read it before but if you haven’t, please pop over and have a read and leave a comment if you wish.

Haddon Musings

“We can have feminist icons, but the real heroines are just quietly doing what is needed.”  Osyth

The following post was written by Darlene Foster who writes at Darlenefoster.wordpress.com.  It is the tale of her two great-grandmothers who made a fulfilling life for themselves and their families while enduring great hardships.  What struck me about this story, of these two real heroines, was that Darlene said that because of the legacy of these women it has given her the confidence and courage to know that she can thrive under any circumstance.

A Tale of Two Katharinas, a Legacy of Strong Women

“People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.” Edmund Burke

I was fortunate to know both of my maternal great-grandmothers. They passed away when I was in my early teens but I remember them well. They were formidable women with hearts of gold. One…

View original post 980 more words

Thanks to Sally, my visit to the fascinating city of Messina in Sicily has been brought out of the archives. If you haven’t read it before, you may find it interesting and if you have, it could be a nice reminder. I enjoy revisiting these places via Sally’s blog.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Darlene Foster gives us a guided tour of the port of Messina with its stunning architecture and history.

Madonna of the Letter and 236 Steps in Messina by Darlene Foster

Have you ever been to Sicily? That island off Italy at the end of the boot. As a kid in school I was always fascinated by that part of the map. I was fortunate that our recent cruise made a stop at the port of Messina. We were greeted by a golden Madonna perched on top of a very tall column, as we entered the harbour. The words – “Vos et ipsam cictatem benedicimus” at the bottom made me curious. Although it rained heavily, I was not deterred and left the ship to explore. I was excited to be in Sicily.

Madonna of the Letter

My first stop was the Duomo de Capanile, the main cathedral in the city. It seemed like a good…

View original post 1,293 more words


click to purchase

click to purchase

click to purchase

click to purchase

Click to purchase

click to purchase

click to purchase

Pig on Trial

click to purchase

Join me on Twitter

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 7,013 other followers

Archives

Goodreads

click to read review