Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Forty years ago, this farm girl took her first ever trip on an airplane to York, England, where I married my dear hubby. We recently celebrated our ruby anniversary by returning to York. We had a marvellous time retracing our steps in his hometown, enjoying the history, walking the cobblestone streets, relaxing in the many teashops and visiting relatives we hadn’t seen for some time. We’ve been back a few times since January 1977 but it had been awhile since our last visit. I fell in love with the city all over again.

The Dean Court Hotel

The Dean Court Hotel

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The York Minster

We stayed at the Dean Court Hotel overlooking York  Minster, in the very centre of the city. The Hotel was originally built in 1865 to house the Clergy of the Minster and is situated on the corner of the main Roman road that ran through the city. Waking up to the lovely bells of the cathedral was such a treat.

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I love the old Tudor buildings scattered throughout the downtown. We had lunch in one of them called Gert and Henry’s.

 

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The Shambles, once the street of butcher shops

 

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Gargoyles are everywhere

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Clifford’s Tower

Clifford’s tower is the largest remaining part of York Castle, once the centre of government for the north of England. Although there has been a tower on the site since William the Conquerer the present 13th-century stone tower was probably used as a treasury and later as a prison.

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Tons of book shops to explore

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The original Roman walls, still intact. They built things to last in those days.

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I walked the Roman walls as I did the very first time I visited this city.  Eboracum was the name the Romans called the city, the capital of England 2000 years ago.

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York was later a Viking town called Jorvik and I encountered a number of Vikings while there.

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You never know who you will meet in the towers. Richard III was eager to tell his side of the story.

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The Teddy Bear Tea Shop. How cute is that?

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I went on a ghost walk and encountered a few remains of the dead.dscn7395

We enjoyed a proper tea at Betty’s Cafe Teashop, the same place we bought our wedding cake all those years ago.

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Wedding 1977 in York, England. The wedding cake was a Dougal the Dog cake.

It has been a great 40 years. Can’t believe he put up with me all these years! Looking forward to more adventures.

York is steeped in history and there is so much more I’d like to share but will leave it for another post.

 

My good friend, Sheila MacArthur, hosted me while I was in Calgary and drove me to my events and family visits. We had some time to spare between appointments and she treated me to a visit to the Lougheed House, a local historic site and museum.

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Since it was the beginning of December the house was all decked out for Christmas, as it would have been in Victorian times. What a treat to be transported back to the time of Lady Isabella Lougheed and Sir James Lougheed. It felt very Downton Abbeyish.

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This 14,000 square-foot sandstone prairie mansion, built in 1891 for the Lougheed family, was the political and social hub of fast-growing Calgary until 1938. The Lougheeds were among Calgary’s most influential citizens. They entertained many notable guests in this house including Princess Patricia, Edward, The Prince of Wales, Stanely Baldwin and Price Erik of Denmark. Their grandson, Peter Lougheed, served as the Premier of Alberta from 1971 to 1985.

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The house sparkled with 16 decorated Christmas trees, thousands of lights, holly draped bannisters, candle-lit hearths, ornaments, original stained-glass windows and more. A warm, festive atmosphere was created as the temperatures outside dipped to -25 celsius.  Scattered throughout the mansion, furnishings and artifacts from the turn of the 20th century included original objects from the House.

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Lovely stained glass windows

 

 

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I love the birdhouses on this tree.

 

The dining room was open for lunch. It looked appealing but we had another commitment. Perhaps next time. The spacious gardens are open in the summer for tea or lunch as well.

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As you can see, we were very comfortable in the surroundings and were reluctant to go back out into the cold.

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A cosy nook to relax with a good book.

 

I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year full of joy, wonder and adventures!

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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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.

We read in the local paper about an artisans market, in a small town not much more than an hour away from where we live. Since we both love markets and small Spanish villages, we decided to take a drive and check it out. Alcalali proved to be a delightful, traditional Mediterranean village including original dry stone walls. The name, Alcalali, is an Arabic word meaning place where pots were made.

Pottery in the place were pottery is made with the old dry stone wall behind

Pottery in the place where pots were made, with original dry stone wall behind

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Pottery faces

The market was small but unique in that everything sold had to be hand made and by the person manning the stall. Local potters, weavers, wood carvers, almond candy makers, jewellers, leather and iron workers, and ladies who make lace were willing to chat and demonstrate their work. Some even gave lessons to the children. Throughout the displays, old fashioned table games and traditional delicacies could be found.

Wood carver

Wood carver at work

Lace makers

Traditional lace makers

Mortar and pestle to mash sugar, almonds, zest of lemon and cinnamon for making almond candy called turron

Mortar and pestle to mash sugar, almonds, zest of lemon and cinnamon to make delicious almond candy called turron

Pottery lesson

Pottery lesson

Playing a medieval game

Playing a medieval table game

In the centre of the village, a medieval tower built in the fourteenth century served as a watchtower and stronghold to protect the town from pirates and robbers that frequently attacked the village. It is now a museum with incredible views of the town and surrounding valley from the top floor. What I found very interesting was the medieval graffiti on the walls, most of it drawings of ships and weapons. Since Alcalali is an inland village, historians think the drawings were made by sailors imprisoned in the tower at one time.

The village church from the tower

The village church from the tower

View of the town and valley

View of the town and valley from the tower

Roofs from the tower window

Clay roofs from the tower window

Ancient graffiti

Ancient graffiti possibly drawn by prisoners

Alcalali is in an agricultural area, well known for its olive, grape, citrus fruit and almond production. The Arabs occupied the area for over five centuries and were masters in utilising the fertile ground of red clay, developing a thriving agricultural base. Many houses still have the large doors that allowed animals and carts inside, with rings in the entrance to tie up the mules. We enjoyed a visit to the old oil mill that has been turned into a museum displaying some of the original machinery for making olive oil,wine and raisins.  Pictures of when the mill was in operation helped to explain the process.

Museum in the old oil mill

Museum in the old oil mill

Olive picking tools

Olive picking tools used to knock the olives from the tree

Typical Alalali street

Typical Alcalali street including a house with large doors to allow animals and carts inside in the old days

Original dry stone wall

Original dry stone wall

No visit to a traditional Spanish village would be complete without sampling some of the local tapas in a friendly bar, which is just what we did before heading home. Another great day!

Finca Lo Reig

Finca Lo Reig

We were recently invited for lunch to the home of a distant relative of mine. Beth was born in Canada, married a handsome Spanish doctor and moved to Spain over forty years ago. They live in a three hundred year old home, owned by Vince’s family since 1941, when his grandfather purchased it. The house sits on an olive farm, or finca, and contains the original olive press which was operational up until the early 1970s. The living quarters have been modernized but much of it is still the original. There are many nooks and crannies filled with historical objects. It’s like living in a museum. In the kitchen is the original clay oven which Beth uses occasionally to make delicious roast lamb and potatoes.

Original clay oven in the kitchen

Original clay oven in the kitchen

Clay oven outside

Clay oven from the outside

Earthenware jugs, used to store olive oil, hide in one small room along with the metal measuring cup and funnel used to fill containers brought by customers. In another room, off the living area, the three hundred year old press sits as if waiting for the horse to walk around and around dragging the mill stone once again. The bags used to bring the olives in from the fields are still there as well.

Olive oil jugs

Olive oil containers

Measuring cup and funnel

Measuring cup and funnel

300 year old olive press

300 year old olive press

In the yard sits an old pony cart. Vince recalls riding into Alicante on that very cart with his father. A trip that takes about ten minutes by car now, took an hour and a half each way then.

Pony cart

Pony cart

The ground floor, now the main living area, was where the animals were once kept. The family lived on the second and third floors. When renovating the house before moving into it fifteen years ago, they discovered a well in what is now the sitting room. It is still there but covered over. It may make a good wine cellar one day.

Sitting room with original tiles on the wall. A well is under the corner cabinet.

Sitting room with original tiles on the wall. A well is under the corner cabinet.

The wood beamed ceiling

The wood beamed ceiling and chandelier

The attached goat house is also filled with interesting items including an old Spanish saddle.

corral and goat house

Corral and goat house

Spanish saddle

Spanish saddle

I love the windowsills. Do you see Don Quixote hiding there?

I love the windowsills. Do you see Don Quixote hiding there?

Vince gave us a great tour of the house and property and was proud to share his heritage. We were treated to a fabulous meal in front of the original fireplace. I couldn’t help thinking about all the meals that had been shared in this house over the years. I’m sure the same warm hospitality we experienced has been extended to many over the centuries. I was so happy to know I have family here in Spain!

Family in Spain

Family in Spain

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.

Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius from the ship

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Original mosaic in a courtyard

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Public water fountain

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Public water fountains

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The forum

The forum

another mosaic

Another original mosaic

A bakery

A bakery

 

Mosaic and gardens of a wealthy homeowner

Mosaic and gardens of a wealthy home owner

Pompei, Italy

The Temple of Jupiter

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The dancing Faun

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.

Pompei, Italy

Holding up a pillar in Pompeii, Italy

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Watching our steps as we traverse the uneven cobblestones

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?

 


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