Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The first stop on our cruise was Marseilles, France. This was my very first visit to France! Another dream come true. We took a bus to Aix-en Provence as we had heard so many wonderful things about this charming place, the home of Cezanne. We were not disappointed. The only problem was that we wanted more time to explore. What we did see we loved, and promised to return.



Mont Sainte-Victoire, Cezanne´s favourite subject to paint, overlooks the city.



The bakeries and pastry shops are mouth watering.

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A pleasant walk took us through the historic town centre with interesting architecture and stately houses

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At the town hall we witnessed a wedding about to take place.


Carvings grace the outside of the impressive twelfth century St. Saviour´s Cathedral  built on the site of a former Roman forum


Inside the dome of the cathedral


Original frescos from the 12th century discovered in the cathedral


Not surprising that we stumbled upon an artists´market

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Aix-en-Provence is famous for its many gorgeous fountains

Aix has a long and interesting history and has been an artistic centre and seat of learning since the twelfth century. We enjoyed a café au lait at one of the many outdoor cafés that Paul Cezanne, Emile Zola or Ernest Hemingway may well have frequented. My first visit to France was a favourable one and I can´t help but wonder why it took me so long to get there.

In light of recent events, I dedicate this post to the good citizens of France who are in my heart and in my prayers.

We started our wonderful Mediterranean cruise in Barcelona. Lucky for us, good friends from Canada were there at the same time, so we arrived a day early to spend time with them. We met our friends at a Starbucks right across the street from Casa Mila, one of Gaudi´s masterpieces. There I was treated to a pumpkin spice latte which made me very happy as I had been lamenting being left out this year. (there are no Starbucks coffee shops where I live.)

Who would have thought in 2015, I would be sitting across the street from an iconic building in Barcelona, sipping a pumpkin spice latte? Should this be a dream, please don´t wake me up!


Casa Mila

Casa Mila designed by Antoni Gaudi

A short taxi ride took us to Park Güell. We had been to Barcelona once before and loved it. But we had not visited Park Güell, so we took the opportunity to explore this fascinating park created in 1900 by Antoni Gaudi. In order to preserve this heritage site, a limited amount of people are allowed into Monument Precinct, the main park area. Our ticket was for 1:30 so we had plenty of time to wander the lush gardens around the park and take in panoramic views from the top of the hill.

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Entrance to the gardens

Gaudi´s Sagrada Família from Park Gruell

Gaudi´s Sagrada Família from Park Gruell


Art and nature


Once inside the Monument Precinct, we were instantly mesmerized. There was so much to take in. The colours and fantastical designs were mind boggling. A combination of greenery and art amazed us at every turn. We sat on the famous ceramic bench, which was surprisingly comfortable. I read later that Gaudi had one of the workers take down his pants and sit on it to make sure it fit the human derrière perfectly.

Brightly coloured mosaic salamanders, whimsical houses fit for elves and fairies, gargoyles, and a mosaic clad ceramic undulating bench held up by 86 columns are just a few of the delights of Park Gruell. Everyone who visits can´t help but turn into an excited child in a fantasy land! (or maybe that was just me)



The ceramic bench

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This mosaic salamander is the most photographed item in Barcelona!



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Hypostyle Room with 86 columns

Inside the Hypostyle Room

Inside the Hypostyle Room

small peices of broken tiles and ceramics, often taken from demolition sites were used to create the mosaics in the park

Small pieces of broken tiles and ceramics, often taken from demolition sites, were used to create the colourful mosaics.


The Monumental Flight of Stairs, the ceramic bench is on top of the Hypostyle building.

Trying out the ceramic bench (with our pants on)

Trying out the ceramic bench (with our pants on)

The last stop of the day before boarding the ship was Gaudi´s Casa Batllo. Another fabulous house designed by the master architect for the Batllo family. The roof top with its fascinating chimneys is something else.

Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo


Roof top of Casa Batllo

A bonus to see all this with good friends who brought us a year´s supply of Maple syrup. What a great start to our trip.

More to come…..

All photographs by Darlene and Paul Foster

I´ve been away! Yes, I took a vacation from retirement. Hubby and I went on a Mediterranean cruise and saw some amazing sights. We started with a day in Barcelona seeing the sites with good friends from Canada who happened to be there on a holiday. From there we boarded the fabulous ship, Fantasia. Our ports of call were, Marseilles in France (with a side trip to Aix-en-Provence), Genoa, Naples (with a side trip to Pompei) and Messina in Italy, and Valletta in Malta. A quick night time stop in Palma de Mallorca and back to Barcelona. Except for Barcelona, I had never been to any of these places before. It was incredible! I will write more about the individual stops, but for now here is a taste of what we saw.

Park Guell in Barcelona

Park Guell, Barcelona


Park Guell, Barcelona

Aix-en-provence, France

Aix-en-provence, France

Aix-en-provence, France

Aix-en-provence, France


Genoa, Italy

Genoa, Italy

Genoa, Italy

Genoa, Italy


Pompei, Italy

Pompei, Italy

Pompei, Italy

Pompei, Italy


Messina, Italy

Messina, Italy

Messina, Italy

Messina, Italy







Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca


Dinner on Fantasia

Dinner on Fantasia

We moved to Spain to be able to see more of Europe and so we did. It was another dream come true!!



Our day trip to Villajoyosa ended with a stop at Santa Barbara Castle, overlooking the city of Alicante and the Mediterranean Sea. The very capable bus driver took us to the top of Mount Benecantil, 166 meters above the city, on a narrow, windy road. This was a large bus and we all held our breath as he barely made it through the castle entrance, built for horse and buggies.

The narrow entrance to the castle

The narrow entrance to the castle

Once there we had an hour to wander the castle and discover the history of Alicante on display in the museums throughout the castle. Archaeological remains from the Bronze Age, Iberian Age and Roman Times have been found on this site.



I enjoyed climbing around the many levels, checking out the dungeons, chapel, guardroom, bastions and turrets. I loved the wrought iron warriors and archers strategically placed around the castle.

The dungeons

The dungeons


The chapel ruins


Watch out for the archers!

Watch out for the archers!


Fascinating views of Alicante and the Mediterranean Sea

Fascinating views of Alicante and the Mediterranean Sea

This was fun for me as I visited this site a number of years ago and set a scene in Amanda in Spain in this very castle

kids posing with a warrior while dad takes a picture

Kids posing with a warrior while dad takes a picture

Another person posing for the camera.

Another person posing for the camera.

I can´t get enough of the rich history and fascinating castles around here.

I love chocolate! Studies have proven that chocolate, in moderation, makes you happy and is actually good for you. So, when we took a bus trip to the colourful town of Villejoyosa, famous for its chocolate industry, I wasn´t surprised to learn that Villejoyosa means “joyful town”.

The day began with a stop at Finestrat, a small community where we enjoyed a stroll through the market and a cafe con leche (descafeinado for me) on the lovely beach.

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Relaxing at Finestrat beach

Next stop, the Chocolate Museum!

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Villejoyosa was the first city in Spain to export chocolate. In the nineteenth century, chocolate manufacturing was the main industry in town, boasting 39 factories. Of the three factories left, Valor is the largest. It was established in 1881 by Don Valeriano López Lloret who imported the cocoa beans from Ecuador and began producing chocolate.  The factory is still operated by the fifth generation of the same family. Many of the old pieces of equipment are housed in the museum.



original chocolate molds

original chocolate moulds


After watching a video explaining the process of making chocolate, we were led through a glassed in walkway overlooking the modern, clean and efficient factory. Valor chocolate is extremely popular in Spain and shipped all over the world. No photography is allowed in the factory.

There was no escaping the tempting aroma of chocolate as it was being mixed, placed in moulds and wrapped for shipping. Like an alcoholic visiting a brewery, I raced to the chocolate shop where we were treated to generous mouth watering samples. Before you ask, of course I purchased some to take home!

yummy samples

yummy samples



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Two bags full!

We returned to the main part of of this happy town for a nice lunch overlooking the beach. After all that chocolate and food, we took a walk past the brightly painted houses along the beach and overlooking the river. The story is that many years ago the houses were painted different colours in order for each fisherman to be able to identify their house as they approached by sea.

Lively coloured houses hanging over the river

Mother and child sculpture by the old city walls

Mother and child sculpture by the old city walls

Street to the beach front

Street to the beach front


Colourful houses facing the sea

Whether the town is called “joyful village” because of the brightly painted houses or the connection to chocolate, I´m not sure. I did, however, leave very happy I visited this cheerful place.

We journeyed on to a castle in Alicante which I will tell you about in the next post.

What is your favourite type of chocolate?

Gabriola Island is a wonderful place to visit and since my daughter lives on a nearby island, I have had many opportunities to spend time on this peaceful paradise. On one occasion we visited an alpaca farm, much to my delight. I love camels and llamas; and alpacas are also part of the family of camelids. I was surprised to find that these creatures are so unique and loveable, with individual personalities. Here are a few pictures from my visit to these delightful creatures prized for their fine wool.



What´s not to love about this guy!


Getting a kiss from an alpaca

Getting a kiss from an alpaca





The wee ones




Daughter, her partner and his daughter. Love my family!

Daughter, her partner and his daughter at the alpaca farm . Love my family!

Children who love animals volunteer at the farm and are happy to show you around. You can purchase lovely alpaca hand made items in the shop.To learn more about Paradise Island Alpacas here is the website:


and here is a great video:


Have you been to a farm with unique animals?


There has been less than one hour of rain in the past four months here on the Costa Blanca. Temperatures soared to over forty degrees Celsius in July and August so we didn´t feel like venturing very far. Things are now back to comfortable temperatures so we decided to take a bus to Les Fonts de Algar and the charming village of Guadalest tucked in the mountains. The waterfalls were pretty and we enjoyed our leisurely walk around them. Some brave souls took a dip in the clear turquoise waters but we decided to stay on dry ground.

Les Fonts de L´Algar

Les Fonts de L´Algar



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Once back on the bus, the heavens opened and it poured rain. Not a pleasant little shower but a deluge. It rained all the way up the twisty mountain road to Guadalest. Not prepared, we got totally soaked running from the bus to a nearby restaurant.  After a nice meal, we purchased umbrellas and went exploring in the rain. To my delight, we discovered a Salt and Pepper Museum with over 20,000 salt and pepper shakers on display. A most pleasant way to spend a rainy afternoon. Here are a few for you.






Guadalest is home to six museums, all quite unique. Time did not permit me to visit all of them and a couple were closed. I stopped in at a miniature museum which was also very interesting and well put together. I didn´t however visit the Museum of Medieval Torture as I am a bit squeamish, but it looked cool. Maybe next time.

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Guadalest is a picturesque village with interesting streets and a castle overlooking it. Just as we were about to board the bus to return home, the sun came out!


Castell de Guadalest overlooking the town

The streets of Guadalest

The streets of Guadalest


Trust us to take this trip on one of the few rainy days. It was a good day in spite of it and we laughed all the way home.  Fortunately, we had visited this place a few years ago on a sunny day.


Guadalest on a sunny day

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