Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

I am delighted to have the amazing Sally Cronin as my guest today as she tells us about her adventurous life as a child traveller.

Travels as a Child Cape Town, South Africa – 1963-1965 – Sally Cronin

My father was a Royal Naval officer, and by the time I was ten years old, I had quite a few adventures under my belt. When I was 18 months old my father was posted to Sri Lanka (Ceylon at that time) for two years to a place where my early memories were formed. In early 1959, when I was six-years-old, we moved to Malta for two years, flying via Rome airport, where my two-year-old brother escaped and was recaptured running across the tarmac under a plane.


But the biggest adventure would be in early 1963 when we left for Cape Town, South Africa, so my father could take up his shore-based post at Simon’s Town.

I was in my last year at primary school in Portsmouth, and there was some talk about leaving me behind for the two years as a boarder, with the navy paying for one return trip a year to visit my parents and brother. There was no way I was going to agree to that; I was already packed and ready to go.

Our house in Portsmouth was let out for two years to another naval family that had been posted to the area. We all underwent a medical examination and had a number of top-up vaccinations. Then we flew out of RAF Brize Norton on a charter flight with other service personnel going to Africa, and I have a vivid memory of the seats facing the rear of the plane which seemed very strange. We took off in the early hours of the morning and were woken about 5 a.m. for a greasy breakfast of egg and bacon, which we children, of course, wolfed down. It was a very long flight and there was no inflight entertainment as there would be today. I had a pile of books to wade through so I was very happy.


We arrived in Nairobi to be met by a liaison officer who drove us out of the city in the searing sunshine of the mid-afternoon. Despite living in Sri Lanka with its humid summers, it was my first experience of the dry heat of Africa. I was fascinated by the mirage effect the scorching sun produced on the long straight road ahead of us, with trucks and cars floating several feet off the ground. I just knew Africa was going to be full of wonders. That night we stayed at a safari hotel with rooms around a central courtyard; packed with souvenir sellers. I remember my mother bought a beautiful carved wooden giraffe for me that survived until only recently when a leg broke off in our last move nearly 60 years later.

The next morning we were driven back to Nairobi early for a mid-morning flight to Cape Town, only to be placed in detention as my brother and I were missing one of the necessary vaccinations. Yellow Fever requirements had been overlooked at our medical because they had not been aware that we would be staying in transit (more than 12 hours) in Kenya which was considered high risk for the disease. My parents’ earlier Yellow Fever vaccinations from their time in Sri Lanka were valid, but as I was a baby when we were posted there, I had not been vaccinated. It looked like we would be refused entry into South Africa without it. I remember my father leaving us in a small room with our luggage, to make telephone calls, and eventually, he returned with a doctor who gave us children the vaccination and stamped the paperwork. They were not happy that it had not been administered inside of the regulation time frames but allowed us to continue with agreement from the authorities in Cape Town that we would be quarantined for 10 days on arrival.

The Royal Navy put us up at a hotel in Newlands, a southern suburb of Cape Town, and my father took up his post at Simon’s Town. We had a liaison officer who took my mother around to both my brother’s new school in Rondebosch and mine, which was Newlands Public School, in preparation for starting after our quarantine was completed. In South Africa at the time, children started formal education at 7 and stayed in primary until 13, unlike the UK which was 5 to 11 years old. I was expected to learn Afrikaans as soon as possible, so I was put in the class with children of 12 years old for general studies but joined the 7-year-olds for their Afrikaans lessons. It made for a very interesting transition period, but having already been to three schools during our travels, I just got on with it.

Sally in her school uniform


After six weeks, we moved into a house rented by the navy for us in a suburb of Newlands and close to a large park. I was bought a bike to get to school, and I also used it to explore the local area at the weekends. It was customary when families left to return to the UK after their two years, that dogs and other pets were found homes with new families. It was not long before we inherited a rather battle-scarred boxer dog, called Bosun whose bark was thankfully a cover for a huge heart. For two children trying to adapt to new schools and language, it was a great comfort to get a slobbery welcome when we came through the door.

Having tea on the stoep in Newlands


We settled in to enjoy the wonderful life that living in Cape Town offered. We went to the beach most weekends, including on Christmas day. I had a body surfer and spent my time in the water, only appearing occasionally for some fresh peaches. We would join other naval families on long weekends in the Ceres Mountains in the Northern Cape, where we stayed in rondavels and swam in a huge swimming pool filled with freezing water from the mountains… All our meals were cooked on the outside BBQ including boiling a kettle for tea. In the evenings we would have dinner with the group and then us older kids would leave the adults to their demi-johns of local wine; heading for the now darkened pool with its cold water and frogs for a last swim.

After a year my sister Diana joined us from England and it was great to have her with us. She worked on the Cape Argus newspaper and featured on the front page from time to time when they needed an attractive face to front a story.

The Edinburgh Castle ship  https://commons.wikimedia.org

When it came time to return to England it very sad to leave the friends we had made during the two years, and also our much loved Bosun. Thankfully my parents found another naval family who would give him a new home and we made our tearful goodbyes. We left Cape Town in the late summer of 1965 on the Edinburgh Castle, part of the Union-Castle Line, and incidentally, the same ship my sister Diana would later re-join, but this time as part of the crew as a ship’s purser. We left the harbour and sailed straight into a violent storm, and for the next couple of days we were virtually the only passengers eating in the dining room; clearly, we had inherited our sea legs from my father. For all the passengers who had not crossed the Equator before, there was a ceremony to mark the occasion. I have vivid memories of sliding along a slippery pole without falling off, being given a certificate, and feeling very proud of myself for the achievement.

My father’s next posting was as Commanding Officer of RNAS Inskip, a wireless transmission station in the wilds of Lancashire, about 20 minutes on the bus to my school in Preston and 30 minutes to the holiday town of Blackpool. I was enrolled into the Priory grammar school for girls and again because of the age disparity, I found myself in the second year, but behind everyone in the class with regard to virtually every subject, with a great deal of catching up to do. I had developed quite a strong accent during our time in South Africa; quite useful when you are the only English child out of 100 and wish to remain under the radar. But it was not long before I had adopted a passable Lancashire accent which allowed me to blend in. I remember that first wet and cold winter vividly and wished I was back in Cape Town playing with my friends in the sunshine.


Bio for Sally Cronin
I have been a storyteller most of my life (my mother called them fibs!). Poetry, song lyrics and short stories were left behind when work and life intruded, but that all changed in 1996. My first book Size Matters was a health and weight loss book based on my own experiences of losing 70kilo. I have written another twelve books since then on health and also fiction, including four collections of short stories. My latest book is a collection of verse, micro fiction and speculative short stories titled Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words


I am an indie author and proud to be one. My greatest pleasure comes from those readers who enjoy my take on health, characters and twisted endings… and of course come back for more.

As a writer I know how important it is to have help in marketing books.. as important as my own promotion is, I believe it is important to support others. I offer a number of FREE promotional opportunities on my blog and linked to my social media. If you are an author who would like to be promoted to a new audience of dedicated readers, please contact me via my blog. All it will cost you is a few minutes of your time. Look forward to hearing from you.

Where to find Sally and her books:
Amazon Author Page US: https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2
Amazon Author Page UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6
Blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/about-smorgasbord-blog-magazine-and-sally-cronin/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin
LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1

Here is my review of What’s in a Name? by Sally Cronin https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2146165416?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

If you haven’t already, I would suggest you connect with Sally. Her blog is full of great posts, book reviews, jokes, food, music and much more.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/about-smorgasbord-blog-magazine-and-sally-cronin/

My home is decorated mostly with items I´ve brought back from my travels. Since we can’t travel right now, it’s comforting to remember past trips. We enjoy looking through our photographs or at items we have brought back to remind us of wonderful times. I don’t do a lot of shopping when I travel, but I like to bring back a piece of art or handicraft as a memento of the place we’ve visited.

One of these items is a small, rustic vase decorated with rawhide that sits on my mantel. Something I couldn’t bear to leave behind, so it came with me to Spain. I believe I purchased it in Arizona at a Native American craft shop. I remember asking the salesperson about the background of the pottery, as I always like to know about the art I purchase. She kindly wrote the name of the Native North American Indian tribe the artist belonged to on the back of the American Express receipt. I got busy and forgot to do any research when I got home.

The other day as I was dusting the mantel, I wished I had looked up some information about the creators of the pottery. I reached inside and found a piece of paper. I pulled out a yellowed and very faded receipt. The young woman’s printing on the back of it was still clear: TARAHUMARA.

My piece of Tarahumara pottery

We had just watched a show on TV about the Tarahumara Indians who live in the Copper Canyon, in the state of Chihuahua, Northern Mexico. When I tutored Korean students in English, I used a lesson plan about the Tarahumara Racers who run a 90-mile race non-stop over rough terrain, often barefoot or wearing homemade huaraches, with little difficulty.

After doing some research, I found that author Christopher McDougall has written a book called Born to Run, where he highlights these amazing people with incredible running abilities.

Here is a short video about these special people.

Tarahumara pottery is made of rough earthen clay and is usually white, orange, or brown. A decorative slip made of red ocher powder and water is often applied. The vessel is left to dry and harden in the sun, before being placed into an open, dry flame for about an hour and a half. Rather than being polished and smooth, Tarahumara Indian pottery is rustic and still made as it has been for generations. Often strips of rawhide are stretched around the piece to add to the simple design.

What a great find. Although the American Express receipt was too faded to read the name of the store, I was able to make out the date, 04/15/ 92. I’ve had this piece of pottery for twenty-eight years and only just now learned more about it! It is now even more special.

Do you have anything you have brought back from your travels that has special meaning to you?

Grateful to Sally Cronin for featuring an excerpt from Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music as well as a fabulous review. I wrote this book in the middle of a move to another country. Writing the story kept me grounded and sane as we settled in and learned to live within a new culture. You can see why this book has a special place in my heart. Enjoy.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the new Cafe and Bookstore  New Series 2020 – Share an Extract with an opportunity to show one of your earlier books some love and attention by sharing an extract.. Check out the above link for all the details.

Author Darlene Foster  shares an extract from the adventure for Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music. Amanda finds herself on the Danube helping a homeless young musician.

371883440About Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music

Twelve-year-old Amanda Ross finds herself on an elegant riverboat with her bestie, Leah, cruising down the beautiful Danube, passing medieval castles, luscious green valleys and charming villages. When she is entrusted with a valuable violin by a young, homeless musician during a stop in Nuremburg, another boy immediately tries to take it from her. Amanda tries to keep the precious violin safe for the poor prodigy, and along…

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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…

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Due to the worldwide pandemic, all Easter parades and celebrations for Semana Santa, (Holy Week) were cancelled in Spain. This is the most important week in the Spanish religious calendar and has been celebrated for centuries. Since we could not partake in a fiesta this year, I am sharing the parade I attended last year. It was so spectacular, it’s worth a revisit. Enjoy!

Darlene Foster's Blog

Semana Santa, Holy Week in Spain, is the annual tribute of the Passion of Jesus Christ celebrated by Catholic religious brotherhoods called cofradía and fraternities that perform penance processions on the streets of almost every Spanish city and town during the last week of Lent, the week immediately before Easter. Each place presents a different experience, from very sombre processions to lively spectacles. 

On Maundy Thursday a friend and I went by bus to the city of Lorca, about one and a half hours away, to attend their Easter parade that I had heard was one of the best in Spain. Although rain threatened, it managed to stay away and we were able to watch the three-hour parade without getting wet.

It was an amazing parade, one I will never forget. As usual, the local citizens and brotherhoods went all out with magnificent costumes, fabulous floats and heart stopping entertainment. 

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A great post featuring articles from people in various parts of the world and how they are dealing with the pandemic. Proof that we are all in this together, and globally we will get through it. My article about our little corner of Spain is included. Let us know how you are doing as well. Stay safe!

Empty beaches. Photo credit Darlene Foster

Views of COVID 19 – Thailand, Mexico, Spain and Australia

by Sue Slaght

In a time when our personal worlds have shrunk and we remain at home as much as possible, we wonder what are others experiencing? With gratitude, we begin a series on views of COVID 19, featuring friends, writers, photographers and acquaintances from around the world. 

I have a birthday coming up soon. Didn´t I just have one? They sure seem to come around quickly these days. To celebrate I am offering the e-version of Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action for 99 cents USD, or equivalent, from March 4 to March 11, 2020.

It’s a quick read and will transport you to Holland without you having to get on an airplane, bus, train, or boat.

Here is a 5 star review by Debra Purdy Kong

Amanda in Holland is a story about a thoughtful, adventurous Canadian girl with a strong moral compass and a quest to do what’s right. Those traits are certainly highlighted during Amanda’s trip to Amsterdam to visit her friend, Leah. Mishaps and mysteries test their friendship when Amanda goes to great lengths to locate the abandoned puppy she found, but then lost to a thief.

The vivid narrative provides readers with a vibrant atmosphere filled with color and movement that makes me want to visit the city all over again. Descriptions of landmarks and local cuisine fully immersed me in the story.

The book’s not only entertaining but educational for younger readers as the ramifications of World War II on Dutch citizens are introduced in the book. The author creates a personal element for Amanda when she learns that her great uncle was a soldier who went missing in Holland during the war.

At age twelve, Amanda has reached an interesting age. Part of her seems mature for her age, yet part of her is still childlike, and sometimes the two states of mind are at odds. Although she always has good intentions, her methodology lands her into scrapes. There’s no doubt that readers of all ages will enjoy reading this book and the other six in the series.

Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action is available on most sites including:

Amazon

B&N


Kobo

Google Play

Look for these scenes in the book.

Lovely Dutch girls in traditional dress
Rembrandt’s Night Watch in 3D
Gorgeous spring flowers

If you read the book and enjoy it, let me know.

Copyright © 2020 darlenefoster.wordpress.com – All rights reserved

I am a guest on Sue Vincent’s blog where I write about a fascinating fiesta I attended in a medieval village lit only by candles.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Spain is a fascinating country with many Fiestas, one for every week it seems. These colourful festivals are based on age-old traditions and legends. Some are quite unique. La Noche en Vela, the Sleepless Night, is held every August in the medieval village of Aledo, tucked high in the mountains. I decide I must check this one out.

A bus takes us through dense pine forests and climbs up the winding roads of the Sierra Espuña, in the province of Murcia, to a fortified hilltop town offering gorgeous vistas overlooking the valley. I am immediately transported to another time and place.

We wait in anticipation at the gates of the old town as only so many are allowed in at one time. Once inside the ancient walls, we wander up to the imposing castle tower and the cathedral of Santa Maria la Real in the town square. A…

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I was missing in action for the last month as I went to Canada to promote the latest Amanda Travels book as well as visit friends and family. It was a very successful trip, although a bit tiring. Here’s a sample of what I was up to.

I visited four schools in Alberta and BC, consisting of a variety of class sizes and students. All delightful with many questions and comments. My favourite part of being a published author is visiting schools and reading to the children. When I walked into one class, a young boy shouted, “She´s here! She´s here! I can´t believe she´s here!” For a moment I felt like a rock star. 

Amanda Travels fans in Okotoks, Alberta

“Any questions?” Look at all those hands in Airdrie, Alberta

Reading to students in the comfy chair in Sunrise Ridge, BC. It doesn´t get any better.

Eager students in Stirling, Alberta

I launched my latest book, Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action, at Albany Books in Tsawwassen, BC, a community I lived in for fifteen years. I love this friendly, locally-owned, independant bookstore that has supported my books since the start. 

With my amazing publisher at Albany Books

I also held a book signing at Chapters Indigo in Coquitlam, on the other side of the city, which was also well attended. Chapters is a large Canadian chain, with each store run like a local independent store. The staff and atmosphere at Pine Tree Village couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming.

At Chapters/Indigo in Pine Tree Village, Coquitlam, BC

I also had a table at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference where I sold books and met other wonderful writers including Diana Gabaldon, the creator of the Outlander series. I love her books and her.

My table at SiWC, one of the largest writers´ conferences in North America
A favourite author, Diana Gabaldon. A fabulous writer and a lovely person.

In Medicine Hat, my home town, I held a reading and signing at the charming Inspire Art Cafe. It was awesome to see so many folks come out and support my writing. I had a sweet young helper too.

At Inspire Art Cafe with a special helper

It wasn’t all about books though. I spent wonderful times with family and friends.

I visited my great aunt and great uncle in their new home. My great aunt is the last of my grandparents’ siblings and doing very well in spite of breaking her hip earlier this year at ninety-five years old.

And later I met their great-grandaughter, Anika, at a library presentation in Calgary.

Anika is my fourth cousin.

I stopped in to have a cup of tea with my Aunt Peggy and she made an apple pie, from scratch, just for me!

The best apple pie ever, warm from the oven!

Of course, I spent some good times with mom and my son and his family

Mom loves her Tim Horton’s ice caps!
Mom with my grandsons and great-granddaughters
My son and his granddaughter

I took a floatplane to Gabriola Island to spend three glorious days with my potter daughter
On the floatplane to Gabriola Island
The little green and yellow rowboat is how I got to her island

I watched her make horsehair raku pottery. Fascinating.

Creating horsehair raku
Sharing Ethiopian food with my brother

There were many visits with other family members and friends, shared meals, coffees, and sleepovers. Everyone had pets so I had lots of fur babies to cuddle. I may share those pictures on another post.

I encountered rain, snow, sunshine, strong winds and more rain, sometimes all on the same day! I traveled by plane, train, car, bus, truck, taxi, floatplane, and rowboat. It was a busy time with never a dull moment but I loved every minute!

In a recent post, I wrote about a day trip to the Monastery of Montserrat high up in the mountains outside of Barcelona. As well as the impressive Basilica which houses a famous Black Madonna, there is a wonderful art museum on site. It is not very big but holds some impressive pieces of art and artefacts. It was worth an hour of my time.

From the website –

Most of the works of art that are housed in the Montserrat Museum have been donated to the monastery by private citizens. The Monks at the Monastery see it as their duty to display the artworks for those visiting Montserrat as a promotion of culture. This ideology originates from a previous monk at Montserrat called Father Bonaventura Ubach. He collected archaeological, ethnological and zoological artefacts during travels to the Middle East and brought them back to the Monastery.

I would like to share a few of my favourites.

At the entrance, a Guadi inspired sculpture of St George, the patron saint of Catalonia

Old Fisherman, painted by Pablo Picasso in 1895 when he was just 14 years old.

Unhappy Nelly, by Edgar Degas, 1885

Madeleine by Ramon Casas, 1892

The Tapestry Merchant by Maria Fortuny, 1870. I love the detail in this painting.

Café des Incoherents, Montmartre by Santiago Rusiñol

Le Givre, temps gris (Frost, Grey Weather) by Claude Monet 1877

Here is a short and very amateur video of the room of Black Madonna paintings and sculptures in the museum.

An then, as I left the museum, I noticed someone had left their clothes neatly folded in an alcove outside. There could be a story there. (and you wonder where I get my ideas!)

I stopped to purchase a jar of honey made on site by the monks and was thankful for a very special day in Montserrat.


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