Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

A favourite place to visit near us is the historic village of Guadalest located on a pinnacle of rock with spectacular views all around. It requires driving a twisty, narrow road that winds up into the mountains. At one time Guadalest was only accessible by donkeys. I think it is the same path. But it is so worth it when you get there! I wrote about the Museum of Torture we discovered on one visit, but there is much more to see and do.

There are many shops selling souvenirs, crafts and local produce such as honey, wine, and handbags. There are also a number of unique small museums and great restaurants offering Spanish tapas and full meals. The cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses are straight out of a storybook.

A highlight is Guadalest Castle (Castell de Guadalest), built in the 11th Century by the Moors, which is accessed by walking through a 15-foot long tunnel carved out of the rock, known as the Portal de San Jose.

Portal de San Jose

Once through the tunnel, it’s like you have entered another time. The old village houses surround a square with a statue of a famous bishop in the centre. The restored house of the Orduna family, an important family of Guadalest, is a museum that gives an idea of what it used to be like living in the village many years ago. It also houses an art gallery. From this house, a path leads to the bell tower.

Bell tower of Penon de la Alcala

The most famous attraction is the picturesque white bell tower of Penon de la Alcala, precariously perched on the mountainside and found on most postcards. If you don’t mind a bit of a hike, a well-maintained path takes you up to the bell tower. The twelve stations of the cross dot the side of the path, and near the top is an old graveyard. The hike is worth it as at the very top, you are treated to fabulous views of the valley and reservoir.

A view of the castle from the path.
An easy path leading up to the bell tower with stations of the cross along the way
The stations of the cross are painted on ceramic tiles
A lovely sign as you near the cemetery in four languages
The gate to the cemetery, with a view
The bell tower and the castle in a gorgeous setting
A fabulous view of the valley and reservoir
I love Guadalest as you can tell. (Picture taken by Donna Cluff)

© Darlene Foster

Hi Readers! Dot here. I just turned five years old. I had a little party and got two of my favourite bones and a cup cake. I´m one lucky dog.

I have a good life here on the Costa Blanca of Spain since mom and dad adopted me. I thought I would share some of my favourite things with you, because mom said I could.

I love the beach and playing with my friends at the beach
I love going to the park and chasing squirrels
I just wish I could climb trees!
Sometimes I make friends at the park. I love my warm jackets for cool winter days too.
I really love playing with my best friend Patch. I´m so happy I´m smiling.
I love ice cream and wait in line patiently when the ice cream lady comes every Monday. She told us last week it would be her last visit until March. I don´t know if I can wait that long!
I love the children who come to visit and play with me.
I especially love my comfy blanket
I love my comfy chair too
My chair is a good place to watch for Dad to come home. You can see why I´m called Dot.
Sometimes I sneak into mom and dad´s bed and have a really good sleep.
It´s Remembrance Day on Wednesday and I hope everyone remembers those who gave their lives so we can all have a good life.

Thanks for reading about me and my good life.

Dot the Dog

Guadalest is a great place and only about a little over an hour from our home in Spain. We often take out-of-town guests there for a day trip. I plan to write a post about it soon. But for today, I want to tell you about one of the many museums in this amazing place. The Torture Museum, perfect for Halloween! For those who write horror stories, you may get some ideas.

The museum is housed in a heritage building that feels creepy as soon as you enter.

The buliding consists of eleven small rooms on four levels with displays of more than 70 instruments of torture and execution used by the Inquisition, royalty and governments, not only in Spain but throughout medieval Europe. Some of the detailed descriptions were too gruesome for me to read. But the displays were well done and not too terrible to look at. Here are a few of them.

Hanging cages

The French Bishop who invented the hanging cage ended up in one. How ironic is that? They could be seen hanging in alcoves of the royal castles to warn others what might happen should they disobey the king. Prisoners were often left to starve to death hanging in the cages, like this poor fellow.

The barrel pillory

The barrel was used to humiliate drunkards and people who spoke against the government or king. An iron mask was often put on the subject who would have to walk around town in the barrel while people threw slop and garbage in it.

The rack, used for interrogation since the Roman times
The grill, as old as the Roman Empire or maybe older.
Chastity belts, humiliation for women
Don’t touch or you may lose your fingers, or your head.
The wheel, a nasty means of execution.
I didn’t need to be reminded not to touch the guillotine.
Lots of cool old doors in the building leading to rooms holding more torture devices
Don’t ask. I stopped reading the descriptions by then.

I know these were used a long time ago, but I still couldn’t get over how cruel mankind can be.

We eventually found a friend who seemed harmless enough.

As promised, here is the next installment of our crazy move to Spain. I wrote this based on a writing prompt provided by my writers’ group.

Those That Don’t Believe in Magic Never Find It                                              

It looked like it would take a hefty dose of magic to make our dream of moving to Spain come true. Things went from bad to worse and I began to think that it was a terrible idea. However, since it poured rain for the entire last week of October, we were more than ever determined to live where the sun shone most days.

Everything in the apartment was gone, including the bed, so we stayed overnight at a hotel on October 31, our last night in Canada. Hubby had a terrible cold, oh joy! I walked to the mall in the rain to pick up cold tablets and take-out food to eat in the room. My runners filled up with water, and even though I was wearing a raincoat with a hood, I was totally drenched by the time I got back. I threw the runners and the clothes I was wearing in the garbage. I imagined the cleaning staff would think we had been involved in some sort of crime or undercover op.

The next morning, after a goodbye coffee with an old friend, we headed to the airport more than three hours before the flight. We were eager to check-in and get rid of our six large suitcases. No one was even at the British Airways check-in yet. As we made our way to Starbucks, I teased hubby about always being ridiculously early.

My phone pinged. A text message from BA indicating the flight was delayed 24 hours. Whoa! I must have read that wrong. I looked again, then showed it to Paul. Yup, that’s what it said. We returned to the check-in where a line was starting to form as staff opened up. When we got to the booth, it was confirmed. There had been a bomb scare at Heathrow, cancelling all flights.  Ours would leave tomorrow at the same time. It was suggested we go home and come back the next day. We explained we didn’t have a home to go to. (In fact, we did, but it was empty.)

British Airways was great. They provided a room in the Fairmont at the airport, a 5 star plus hotel, gave us a voucher for dinner at their fabulous restaurant and one for breakfast as well. Of course, we still had our six extra-large suitcases and four carry-ons, but the room was large and we could store them there. This delay had a domino effect. The hotel reservation in Madrid had to be changed, as well as the train tickets to Alicante and the car rental upon arrival. Fortunately, we were able to make the changes on our computers from the hotel room. To calm my frayed nerves, I had a lovely soak in the huge tub.

 The next day after an excellent breakfast we said, “Let’s try this again.”

The flight to London went as well as a nine-hour flight could. Sadly, poor hubby´s cold had taken a turn for the worse in spite of me filling him with medication. After a few hours in Heathrow, we caught the flight to Madrid. All we wanted to do was sleep, but that was not to be as the plane was full of soccer fans going to a Madrid/Liverpool match. There was much drinking and partying going on, and many trips back and forth to the lavatory. On another occasion, it would have been funny. Once we landed in Madrid, the shuttle bus picked us up and delivered us to our hotel room where we collapsed into bed. We were in Spain at last!

The magic was working, or was it?

The next morning after breakfast, our pre-ordered cab arrived. The driver informed us he could not take both of us and six large suitcases. We had to order another cab, one for me and three suitcases, and one for Paul and the other three. Double the cost! Oh well, we’d been through worse. We just needed to get to the train station so we could get to Alicante, pick up our car and drive to Orihuela Costa to begin our new life.

Atocha train station in Madrid
Inside Atocha, beautiful but no luggage trolleys

At Atocha station, we looked for luggage trolleys as the station is three floors below the front entrance. There were none to be found. Hubby stayed on top with the bags while I went down the three flights of escalators to see if I could find a couple of trolleys. No luck. WTH! There was no way we could take all six bags and four carry-ons down in one trip. Leaving some behind would be taking a huge risk that they would be stolen. Paul went to look, as I had obviously not looked in the right places, but came back empty-handed. As the time for our train to depart got closer, panic set in. I went downstairs one more time. When I could not find even one trolley, I burst into tears. Why was this happening?

There is always an angel. And one appeared by the name of Mercedes. She asked me what was wrong. I explained everything to her and she offered to help. We went upstairs to Paul. With an extra set of hands, we were able to get all the luggage down to the train and board on time. Never ever underestimate the kindness of strangers.

At Alicante train station, I watched the pile of luggage while hubby walked the two blocks to pick up the rental car. He was gone a long time. I started to get worried. He finally arrived, very agitated. Poor guy, his cold was still terrible. Although he had contacted the car rental company about us being a day late, head office did not let the Alicante office know. So they didn’t have a car for us. Paul, who is always a gentleman and seldom swears, swore and demanded they come up with a car for us. Which they did. The Fiat almost held all the luggage. I held one bag on my lap and another was stored under my feet.

We looked at each other and said at the same time, “Whose stupid idea was it to move to Spain??”

One hour later we arrived in La Zenia, where we collapsed into the arms of my in-laws. That was almost six years ago and we are loving our life in Spain. Of course, it hasn’t always gone smoothly, but what does?

We made it! Two days after landing in Spain.

It’s true, as Walt Disney said, “Those who don’t believe in magic, never find it.

It is coming up to six years since we packed up and moved to Spain. Recently at a writing group, we were given the prompt of – Screw it, let’s do it! I decided this would be a good time to write about the trials and tribulations we had as we prepared for this huge move. The group enjoyed my story, so I decided to share it with my blog followers.

Screw It Let’s Do It!

Retirement loomed. My husband and I often talked about retiring to a warmer climate. Many of our friends had bought property in the southern United States, Mexico, Central and South America. But hubby wasn’t keen on living in any of those places. His parents retired to Spain from the UK a number of years earlier, and we had visited them there a few times. We both liked Spain.

This will do.

It was a long way from Canada, but it had the appeal of being in Europe and close to other countries we wanted to explore. I loved the history, the beaches and the weather. It was affordable for people living on a pension., too. Paul imagined riding his Ducati on twisty mountain roads all year round, and I entertained thoughts of writing books and travel articles while sitting in the sun.

We booked a trip, and while in Spain, we found places along the Costa Blanca that could work for us within our price range. Once returning home, we did further research. Retiring to Spain became more of a consideration. When I told my children our potential plans, they said, ‘Do what makes you happy, mom.’ I mentioned to my daughter that I would give her my trusty Honda Civic. Her eyes perked up and she asked, ‘When are you going’?

With the blessings of the family, we began the process of clearing out the apartment and putting it up for sale. Having downsized from a 2500 square foot house to a 1350 square foot apartment fourteen years earlier, we didn’t think it would take much work. We didn’t realize how much we had acquired in that time!

Both of us still working, every weekend was spent clearing out closets, file cabinets and storage spaces, as well as painting and decorating to make the place look fresh and clean. We met with three different real estate agents, and decided to list with the one we felt would represent our place well based on her enthusiasm. There were many showings but no offers. As we had some wiggle room, we dropped the price a bit.

Over the summer, I gave away, donated and sold seventy percent of our belongings. Time was spent with family and friends as it might be awhile until we saw them again once we made the move across the ocean. There was one offer on the apartment. Way too low, we turned it down. There was still time. I knew the right people would come along and love our garden apartment in its great location as much as we did.

Retirement party!

I retired at the end of September and we booked tickets to Madrid leaving the first of November. I made one last trip to Alberta to ensure my mom was settled into her care home and to spend valuable time with my grand and great grandkids. An offer on the apartment came through while I was there. Although low, after some negotiating, we came to an agreement. They were to sign the papers the last week of October. For all intents and purposes, it was a done deal. Things were looking good. We went out for drinks with friends to celebrate.

I sold the rest of the furniture and organized a moving company to pack and pick up the personal belongings we would take with us.

On the last Monday of October, I woke up to a very upsetting message from my son. A good friend of ours had passed away in her sleep at the age of 53. I was devastated. I had just seen her two weeks earlier, a picture of health.

An hour later, I received a call from the realtor. The people who bought the apartment were to sign the papers for the sale the next day. Except, they decided to withdraw from the agreement, forfeiting their deposit.

What else could go wrong! I felt the walls crashing in all around me.

The furniture was all gone except for the bed. The dishes, pots and pans, and everything else were packed, ready to be picked up by the movers the following day. My daughter was coming for my car on Wednesday. Hubby had already sold his car and shipped his Ducati. It was already on the way to Spain!

Even if we stayed until we sold the place, we had nothing but an empty apartment. I was sick to my stomach. We sat on the bed, and in between my incessant sobbing, we explored our options.

Finally we decided. Screw it, let’s do it.

So with very little money and continuing mortgage payments, we flew out to Spain on November 1st, 2014 as planned. Well actually, we ended up flying out on November 2nd, but that’s another story, for another day.

Today I am a guest over at Anne Stormont’s wonderful blog, Put it in Writing. Anne is an excellent author and a great supporter of other writers. If you wonder what a “typical day” looks like for me, read on.

Today it’s the turn of author Darlene Foster to give us a glimpse into the unpredictable and variety-filled days that make up her life as a writer. Darlene writes enthralling children’s adventure fiction. She also writes short stories and a wonderful blog with lots of posts and photos about her travels.

Darlene Foster’s Writing Life in a Day

I will start by saying there is no such thing as a typical day in my life anymore. I worked for 48 years and my life was very structured. During the latter part of my working life, I decided to follow my dream of becoming a writer and made a vow to write for two hours a day, no matter what. And I did, usually in the evening after dinner while others watched TV. As a result, I wrote and published four books and several short stories.

Now I’m retired and live for the most part in sunny Spain. I seem to have rebelled against structure in my day, so I write whenever I find some time. I no longer write every day either, although I write most days. In the past five years since I retired, I have written four more books.

Read more about my not so typical day here.

Part of the Estacion Inglesa experience was a field trip to the medieval village of Trujillo, in the Cáceres province of Extremadura, 40 kilometers away from the resort. For a history buff like me, this was a real treat.  

We started our tour in the Plaza Mayor where an equestrian statue of Trujillo´s famous son, the conquistador, Francisco Pizarro takes centre stage. The Spanish participants gave us presentations, in English, at each point of interest. From the presentation by the statue, we learned it is believed Pizarro’s ghost lives on in the statue.

Listening intently to the interesting presentation

I loved wandering the labyrinth of narrow streets in one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Spain. Old stone walls overhung with gorgeous flowers, impressive mansions, churches and monasteries, echoed the past as time stood still for me.

A monastery, now a secondary school. Note the faces above the door.

We learned about tenth-century cisterns built by the Moors, as explained by a participant.

At the birthplace of Francisco Pizarro, we learned he was a poor, illiterate boy who sailed to the Americas in 1509 where he discovered new lands and made his fortune. A local boy done well! There is also a small museum attached which unfortunately was not open.

The birthplace of Francisco Pizarro

We ended our tour at the exquisite castle overlooking the town. Trujillo’s castle is of 10th-century Arabic origin later added to by the Christians. Magnificent views of the town are visible from the battlements as well as views of the rural countryside from the back of the castle.

Castillo de Trujillo
The Moorish entrance to the castle
Inside the castle walls
View of the village from the battlements
The rural countryside from the back of the castle
Our Lady of the Victory

A short climb took us to the hermitage of Our Lady of the Victory, Trujillo’s patron. She faces out toward the town above the castle entrance. By inserting a 50 cent coin, she will spin around in her alcove to bless you.

We had time to explore on our own, take pictures and do some shopping in the unique little shops around the plaza. I bought some smokey paprika, a specialty of the area, and some lovely tea. The area is well known for its cheeses and the national cheese festival is held here in early May. But I didn’t think cheese would travel well in the near 40 degree celsius temperatures, so refrained from purchasing any.

Stork’s nest in the clock tower means good luck

Local storks make their home in many of the towers around town. Black storks are common in the area.

Palacio de la Conquista

Some of the buildings are elaborately decorated, like the Palacio de la Conquista where carved images of Pizarro and his lover Inés Yupanqui (sister of the Inca emperor Atahualpa) along with their daughter Francisca and her husband Hernando Pizarro are displayed.

What a delight to visit a village mostly unchanged from the times of the conquistadors. I recall learning about these people and times at school in Canada many years ago, never for one minute imagining I would one day be able to visit.

A magical day I will never forget.

For those of us who love to travel and meet new people, this has not been a good year. Many travel plans have been cancelled and it’s been difficult to make future plans as we don’t know what lies ahead. When an opportunity to join an English immersion program in another part of Spain came up, I jumped at the chance. And I’m so glad I did. I had volunteered for a similar program thirteen years ago, and in spite of some limitations due to the Corona19 Virus, this was just as enjoyable and rewarding.

The six-day Estacion Inglesa program consisted of 10 English speaking volunteers and 10 Spanish speaking professionals seeking to improve their English communication skills. The program was well organized, with a variety of participants and activities. Even during meals, two English speakers shared a table with two Spanish speakers to keep the conversations going.

Meal time conversation, the only time without wearing masks
Amazing food was served. I loved this roasted vegetable tower.
Desserts too beautiful to eat.

For our time and effort, English speaking volunteers are provided 4-star accommodation in a lovely setting and three fabulous meals every day. The program I took part in was held at Hospederia Parque de Monfrague, in Extramadura, a province in the southwest part of Spain, near the border of Portugal. This is a part of Spain I hadn’t been to before. The hotel, situated in a National Park, had lots of open spaces for us to keep the required two-metre distance. A perfect spot to engage in conversation with gorgeous views of oak orchards, foothills, sheep, cattle, and horses grazing, and bulls resting under a tree.

The lovely view from my room
Sheep, bulls and a horse – rural Spain.
One of many places to hold one to one conversations

It was a win-win situation. The Spanish participants improved their English speaking skills notably while they gained confidence and became much more comfortable with the language. And for us volunteers, we made some amazing friends, learned a lot about Spain, the people and culture, and had a lot of fun.

Many perfect spots for one to one conversations at the hotel
English communication wearing the obligatory masks
A chat about common idioms under a tree

Besides many one to one conversations, the various group activities included a board meeting, a debate, making phone calls, creating a photo video, quizzes, and other games. The only rule is no Spanish can be spoken as it is an English immersion program. To keep us all safe, masks were required at all times except when eating which made it a bit more difficult, but we managed OK.

Having fun creating a Zombie photovideo.
Yes, that’s me, the dead Zombie on the left.

The days were long but I loved every moment because I got to talk to interesting people and you know I love doing that. Making new friends was a bonus. This was a highlight in my otherwise lack of adventure year.

We were each presented with a certificate of program completion
All of us at the medieval village, keeping appropriate distances

One day we were taken on a field trip to a medieval village, but I’ll save that for another post.

For more information about this program https://www.estacioninglesa.es/en/

Note: All photos were taken by myself or the Program Coordinator

Amanda in Spain: The Girl in the Painting is getting some international attention recently. The book is being featured on Sally Cronin’s (from Ireland) Smorgasbord Children’s Cafe and Bookstore today with a superb review by Balroop Singh from the USA. Read the article and review here

A Spanish participant in an English speaking program I recently volunteered for, (more on that later) ordered a copy to help him with his English reading skills. He was delighted to receive it from amazon.es in two days.

A happy Amanda fan.

I am delighted to see that this book is still very popular. I wrote it before I moved to Spain!

A year ago today, it was Maundy Thursday, when a friend and I attended a fabulous Easter parade in Lorca, here in Spain. Following my post from a couple of days ago, I decided it would be worth sharing more of this special event. Enjoy!

Darlene Foster's Blog

Easter week, Semana Santa, provides the most impressive and emotional fiestas here in Spain. Processions and parades around the country mix historic, biblical, artistic, cultural and social themes. Members of the different brotherhoods, dressed in their characteristic robes, parade through the streets while dozens of costaleros on foot carry ornate religious icons called pasos. This is a spectacular sight whether you are religious or not. No where do they do this better than in the town of Lorca where in 2007 their Holy Week was declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest. Its origin dates back centuries ago. I was lucky to have witnessed this event last week and wrote about what we saw before the parade started in the previous post.

As promised, here are some pictures of the actual event.

I was especially in awe of the horse-drawn chariots and performing horses. At times I felt like…

View original post 179 more words


Click to pre-order

Click to purchase

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 8,513 other followers

Archives

Categories

Goodreads

click to read review

COPYRIGHT

© Darlene Foster and darlenefoster.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Darlene Foster and darlenefoster.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.