Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

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 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!

The steady beat of drums, the swift march of soldiers, animal-skin clad barbarians, painted faces, colourful shields, standard bearers, gladiator sandals, dancing maidens, priests, soothsayers and elegant senators. We find ourselves in the midst of the Romans and Carthaginians Festival, just forty minutes from where we live. This spectacle is held every year to celebrate the vibrant history of the strategic port city of Cartagena.

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Cartagena has more than 2000 years of history. The Romans and Carthaginians Festival is a remembrance of the second Punic War, beginning with the foundation of Qart Hadast, the name given to Cartagena by the Phoenicians in 228 BC, and ending with its capture by the Romans in 209 BC.

Throughout the last ten days of September, battles are re-enacted, ancient ceremonies held and troops in full battle dress march through the streets of Cartagena.  The Carthaginian and Roman armies arrive by sea in a dramatic display and then march through town to an encampment set up on the football field. We were very fortunate to witness part of this event during an evening I will never forget. The costumes and attention to historic detail are amazing as you will see from a few of the many pictures I took.

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It was as if all the citizens were in costume for the event. And like everything in Spain, the entire family was involved.

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Imagine my excitement when monks appeared leading large bulls through the narrow streets.

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This ancient High Priest gave me a big smile after I took his picture

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A serious soothsayer

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Cheerful dancing maidens happy to pose for me.

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A Nobel Senator and his good wife

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One of many standards born through the streets of Cartagena.

 

There was so much more. I hope you enjoyed a sample of this spectacular festival where history comes to life. If you ever have an opportunity to be near Cartagena, Spain around the end of September, you must take this in.

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The ultimate gladiator sandals. Now where can I buy a pair?

There are many fiestas in Spain in the summer. It is impossible to take them all in but one we enjoyed was in Benijofar, a small village not too far from where we live. It was the Fiesta de San Jamie. Why did we pick this one? Our special little friend was taking part in it and we didn´t want to miss a chance to see her perform. The parade was awesome with Princesses, Egyptian mummies, big scary soldiers and smaller not quite as scary soldiers, dancers, drummers, archers, little Turks, bakers and a dazzling performance of Grease Lightning.

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Ready to perform in Grease Lightning, posing on her daddy´s bike.

Some of the stars of Grease Lightning

Some of the cool stars of Grease Lightning ready to show their stuff

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It´s difficult to get good pictures during a moving parade but you can see that all ages participated, including some of the moms as The Pink Ladies. A fun time for everyone.

The Princess in front of her house.

The reigning Princess in front of her house.

A nice tradition is when the main Fiesta Princess is chosen, the front of her home is decorated so everyone knows a Princess lives there. She greets the passersby before the parade starts.

A Princess with her escourt

Another Princess with her escort ready to be taken down the red carpet to join the parade.

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Fascinating dancers entertained us while parading through the streets

Medieval soldiers

Medieval soldiers

You would´t want to mess with these fierce female warriors

You wouldn’t want to mess with these fierce female warriors

 

An archer ready for battle

An archer ready for battle. Does he think I am the enemy?

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These soldiers weren’t as threatening.

Little Turks, so cute

Little Turks, so cute

More cuteness, the bakers

More cuteness – the bakers

The Mummies are loose

Mummies on the loose

The Princesses

The Princess float

The colourful costumes, the music, dancing, food and drink provided such a festive spirit. You couldn´t help getting caught up in it. A lovely Spanish family adopted me as I tried to get pictures. They made sure my view was clear, gave me a glass of wine and genuinely wanted me to have a good time.  There are large fiestas in the cities but I was glad we attended one at a smaller venue. It was good fun!

Two weeks ago we took a drive to Malaga on the Costa del Sol and drove up into the mountains to the small village of Sedelia. We encountered stunning scenery along the twisting road, a small church and a traffic jam, of goats!

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A typical traffic jam in the Andalusian mountains

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medieval bridge in the mountains

Medieval bridge in the mountains

Tiny church in the middle of nowhere

Tiny church in the middle of nowhere

We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast with a stunning view and had dinner at a cosy restaurant in town. It was all very picturesque and a nice little get-away.

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A room with a view

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Restaurante Lurena, excellent food

The village of Sedilia

The village of Sedilia

Can´t get enough of these charming mountain villages

Can´t get enough of these charming mountain village streets

There was a reason for the trip though and that was to meet Dot, an eight-month-old Bodeguero. Dot came home with us and is now part of our family.

Dot didn´t make a sound on the five hour car ride to her new home.

Dot didn´t make a sound during the five-hour car ride to her new home.

Dot was quite shy at first as she lived in the mountains with an elderly man so was not used to people, traffic and houses. But she has settled in well and makes friends easily. (both the human kind and the canine kind)

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She loves going for walks and car rides! On the weekend we took her to a car show and she was very well-behaved.

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She makes friends everywhere we go. She loves to go for coffee with us and is a big hit at all the coffee shops.

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We took a drive in the car to a biker bar for tapas. Dot made friends with a boxer. (the canine type)

A Spanish biker bar.

A Spanish biker bar.

Making friends

Making friends

Relaxing on the terrace

Relaxing on the terrace

What do you think? Is she settling in and at home with us? Did we make a good choice?

In case you are wondering, she was already named Dot because of the large black dot on her back. I like to think it is from the delightful children´s book by Peter Reynolds, The Dot . You knew there had to be a literary reference!

 

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!

The week before and including Easter is called Semana Santa here in Spain and is the largest religious festival of the year. Elaborate processions take place throughout the week in most cities and towns. During Holy week religious sculptures are taken out of the churches and paraded through the town to the main cathedral. Some of these precious sculptures,created by well known Spanish artists, are hundreds of years old. They are mounted on floats called pasos, surrounded with flowers and candles. Portapasos (or float-carriers) wearing traditional costumes, carry the heavy floats through the streets lined with spectators. No large trucks transport these floats, only dedicated men and women. I was eager to see one of these parades so we took a bus to nearby Murcia city to witness the Good Friday procession.

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Paso carried through the streets of Murcia

Jesus Nazareno, 1797

Jesus Nazareno, 1797

San Juan Evangelista, 1952

San Juan Evangelista, 1952

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Descendimiento, 2001

Ahead of the floats, carrying lamps, candles or incense, are the Nazarenos, often called penitents. These are members of various religious brotherhoods known as cofradias, wearing robes, capes and capirotes, a type of conical hat that usually covers the face. These robes were once worn by individuals doing penance. As a sign of atoning their sins, they would walk barefoot through the town, their faces covered so as not to reveal the sinners. Although the hooded cloaks look similar to the Ku Klux Klan, they have nothing to do with them. Many of these brotherhoods date back to the Middle Ages and are recognized by the colours they wear. They are responsible for the parade, pasos and music and spend countless hours in preparation, ensuring everything runs smoothly. There were about a dozen floats in this parade, each represented by a different brotherhood.

Penitent with bare feet

Penitent with bare feet

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Each brotherhood wears its own colour

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Included in the procession are women wearing the traditional mantilla, a black lace veil worn high on the back of the head. Mantillas are meant to show morning and pain. Marching bands and drummers follow the floats providing stirring music. The entire scene is alive with colour and sound, and the air is filled with the sweet scent of incense and melted wax. As always in Spain, this is a family affair with all ages taking part in the spectacle.

Women wearing Mantillas

Solemn women wearing Mantillas

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All ages take part in the procession

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Incredible embroideries of gold and silk on standards, cloaks and coats

Drummers are heard throughout the cities and towns

Drummers are heard throughout the cities and towns

Candies and pastries play an important role in the Easter festivities. The Nazarenos and other members of the procession carry candy around their waists and hand them out to children who wait patiently with outstretched hands. Occasionally they give a treat to an adult too. A small robed participant caught my eyes, ran over to me, and placed some sweets in my hand, with a huge grin. So sweet.

Handing out candy to the children

Handing out candy to the children

This person is not fat, he is carrying candy around his waist.

This person is not fat, he is carrying candy around his waist.

Easter candy in the bakery

Easter candy in the bakery.

I love the stockings of the float bearers

I love the stockings of the float bearers

It is difficult not to be moved no matter what your beliefs. A merging of art, culture and religion in a vital and poignant atmosphere, I found it to be emotional and exciting at the same time. I’m thankful I was able to witness the dedication and pageantry of this special event.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter, however you spent it.

The photographs are taken by me. Not easy to take pictures of a parade in the dark. If you click on them you will get a larger and better view.


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