Darlene Foster's Blog

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I wrote about my recent visit to Winchester Cathedral here, the final resting place of Jane Austen and King Canute as well as other notables. I spent a couple of days in this enchanting part of the UK with friends who took me on drives full of pleasant surprises.
Winchester itself is an interesting city full of history and stories. It was made the capital of England during Saxon times by King Alfred The Great. Whether he let the cakes burn or not is debatable but when I read that story as a child, I was always intrigued by this man. In the center of town is a statue of one of my childhood heroes and the only monarch in England to be called Great.

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Winchester is a perfect place to wander around, with many historic buildings and interesting shops, including many bookstores.

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I love the boot above the Clark’s Shoe Shop

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At the university sits a bench dedicated to Jane Austen and Phillis Wheatly displaying the importance of literature to this city. It was at the University of Winchester that I attended a writer’s festival that weekend.

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Driving through the New Forest made me think of days of yore and those who would have traveled by horse and buggy down these same paths.

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And then we came upon a thatched-roofed village – right out of a book!

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The village of Wherwell

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Can you imagine living in a house like this?

Later, on the way to a pub for dinner, we came upon a wonderful old church with an awesome graveyard. Since I have this fascination with cemeteries, I had to take a few pictures.

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And to my delight, we passed through yet another thatched-roofed village. My friends were kind enough to stop so I could take pictures.

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The charming village of Monxton

 

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The following day we went to the seaside city of Bournemouth, a place I had not been to before. I loved the casual elegance of the place and the lovely gardens in the center of town.

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Bournemouth seafront

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A fabulous building housing a LUSH store

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Lovely gardens in the middle of the city

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A huge lilac bush with the cathedral in the background

I discovered that Mary Shelly, although she never lived there, is buried in Bournemouth.

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St. Peter’s in Bournemouth where Mary Shelly is buried, along with her parents.

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Yes, that Mary Shelly, the author of the novel, Frankenstein, and wife of Percy Shelly. Did she ever imagine there would be a pub named after her?

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We stopped for an ice cream and had a stroll along the seafront before I was dropped off at the airport. A perfect couple of days with good friends.

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Making memories with friends.

Many people are intrigued by the name of my birthplace and tend to want to know more about it. So I thought I would share an article I recently had published in Travel Thru History, a wonderful ezine featuring great travel articles. There are many reasons to visit this interesting prairie city that will always be apart of me no matter where I go. Here are ten of them.

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TEN REASONS TO VISIT MEDICINE HAT 
Canada
by Darlene Foster

Medicine Hat, Alberta, is not often high on anyone’s must-visit list, if it’s there at all. But it should be. There are many reasons to visit this oasis in the Canadian prairies, here are ten of them.

The Name

Who wouldn’t want to visit a place with such a unique name? There are many stories about how the city acquired its unique name derived from the original First Nation’s name Saamis, which means The Medicine Man’s Hat. All the legends involve a feather headdress. One story tells of a battle between the Blackfoot and Cree in which a retreating Cree Medicine Man lost his headdress in the South Saskatchewan River at the place where Medicine Hat became a town. The city uses a feather headdress as its symbol. The locals simply call their town, “The Hat” and residents are often called, “Hatters”.

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The World’s Largest Tepee

It’s hard to miss this towering structure as you enter Medicine Hat on the Trans-Canada Highway from either direction. Originally constructed for the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics, the Saamis Tepee is a tribute to Canada’s native heritage. The colours of the structure are symbolic, white for purity, red for the rising and setting sun and blue for the flowing river. It is the World’s Tallest Tepee standing over 20 stories high, weighing 200 tonnes

Read more about Medicine Hat here 

http://www.travelthruhistory.com/html/cities121.html

Jim Marshall mural

One of the many sculptured brick murals by Jim Marshall.

To learn more about Jim Marshall and his sculptured brick murals watch this interesting video which includes fabulous views of the city.

https://www.pbs.org/video/northwest-profiles-james-marshall-brick-artist/

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The giant chess set by the library. Grandchildren is another reason for me to visit.

Do you come from an interesting place? Please share with me in the comments.

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During a recent visit to the historic city of Winchester in Hampshire, I stopped in at the cathedral. My main goal was to visit the grave of Jane Austen, one of my favourite authors. I had been to Winchester a few years ago, but the cathedral was closed for filming the day I was there. This time it was open and I was finally able to pay my respects to Britain’s favourite female novelist.

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Nothing is mentioned of her writing on her gravestone. However, her family later had a brass plaque installed with these words.

Jane Austen

known to many by her writings

endeared to her family by

the varied charms of her character

and enobled by Christian faith and piety

was born at Steventon in the

county of Hampshire on 6 December 1775

and buried in this Cathedral

on 24 July 1817

She opened her mouth

with wisdom and in her tongue

is the law of kindness.

Prov 31.26

I was moved to see her final resting place as were others. A woman from Australia face-timed with her daughter back home and showed her Jane’s grave. Her daughter, another huge fan, was excited to be able to see it from afar. The wonders of modern technology.

I decided to join a guided tour of the rest of the cathedral while I was there and I’m so glad I did. The tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and interesting. The building has over 1400 years of history. There has been a church on the site since 648. The building of the Norman cathedral took place from 1079  to 1093 with the nave being remodeled between 1350 to 1410.

Here are a few pictures from this amazing place of worship that holds many stories and has been through so much including a reformation, civil war, crumbling foundations – and yet still stands.

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The 12th-century Tournal marble baptismal font depicts scenes from the life of Saint Nicholas (yes, that St. Nicholas, the original Santa Claus)

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The west window is particularly interesting. It had at one time been an amazing work of stained glass. During the civil war of 1642 – 1648, Oliver Cromwell’s army stormed the Royalist supporting cathedral, ripped open the graves of the ancient kings, queens and bishops and threw their bones and skulls through the window destroying most if it. Once the Roundheads left, the local citizens picked up the shards of glass and hid them. In 1660, the window was restored using the rescued shards, creating a modern mosaic look.

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This is one of six mortuary chests containing the mortal remains of early bishops and kings including the famous Canute (Cnut) and his wife Queen Emma. Of course, the bones are all mixed up after the Roundheads threw them through the window. Forensic archeologists are only just now being able to sort out whose remains belong to who.

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These twentieth-century paintings of icons by Sergi Fyodorov include one of Saint Swithun, patron saint of the cathedral. His remains at one time lay behind this wall and pilgrims would crawl through the Holy Hole, at the bottom of the picture, to be close to his bones.

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Saint Swithun was the Saxon bishop of Winchester between 852 and 862. He was famous for charitable gifts and building churches and it is said he tutored the young Alfred the Great. Only one miracle is attributed to him. According to legend, a poor woman’s eggs had been smashed by workmen building a church. Swithun picked up the broken eggs and they miraculously became whole again. After his death, his bones became famous for their healing powers and pilgrims from all over visited his shrine.

He asked to be buried humbly and his grave was initially just outside the west door of the Old Minster so that people could walk across it and rain could fall on it as he wished. On 15 July 971 though, his remains were dug up and moved to a shrine in the cathedral. The removal was accompanied by terrible rainstorms that lasted 40 days and 40 nights and was thought to indicate the saint’s displeasure at being moved. This is possibly the origin of the legend that if it rains on Saint Swithun’s feast day, July 15, the rain will continue for 40 more days. His shrine and bones were destroyed during Henry VIII’s Reformation and dissolution of the monasteries in 1538. A modern memorial now marks the spot.

A Traditional Rhyme for St. Swithun’s Day 

St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain na mair

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Cardinal Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester 1404 to 1447

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The original Norman Cathedral from 1079, the oldest part of the current church.

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The impressive High Altar

The Cathedral has over a thousand roof bosses. These are carvings in wood or stone that cover the joints between the stone ribs of its vaulted ceilings. They range from simple 13th-century leaf designs, to elaborate Renaissance images of angels, animals and beasts, heraldic badges and emblems of Christ’s Passion. When visiting these places one must always remember to look up.

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The oldest of the great medieval quires in England to survive unaltered with gorgeous carvings of human figures, animals and even the green man.

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The amazing details in the ceilings

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A copy of the Winchester Bible hangs on the wall.

Winchester Cathedral holds many treasures but probably the most precious is its 12th century Bible. It is said to be “largest and finest of all surviving 12th-century English bibles.” Henry of Blois, then Bishop of Winchester, came up with the idea in 1160. It is on display but under protection, carefully guarded and no pictures are allowed. It is truly beautiful to see. The Bible is made from the skins of 250 calves, that were soaked, scraped, shaved and stretched before they became suitable for use. Apparently, a single scribe wrote it out in Latin, a labour of love that took many years and was never completed.

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I didn’t get a picture of the monument to William Walker but bought a card with his story.

Winchester Cathedral was built on unstable ground and after many centuries, the heavy stone structure started to lean dangerously. The cathedral was found to be sinking in water. An experienced ex-Royal Navy diver, William Walker was hired to excavate the peat under it and place bags of concrete on the gravel to seal off the water. It took him five years, from 1906 to 1911, in the dark and in a heavy diving suit, to shore up the cathedral. An incredible feat for which the cathedral today owes its existence. He is considered a hero.

If the walls of this cathedral could talk, my they would have a lot to say. Queen Mary was married to Philip of Spain in Winchester Cathedral on 25th July 1554. And much later, Queen Victoria refused to visit the cathedral as the Bishop of Winchester at the time did not approve of her marriage to her beloved Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. So many stories contained in these walls.

I couldn’t end this post without mentioning the New Vaudeville Band and their novelty song, Winchester Cathedral from 1966. Now the song will be in your head all day. Sorry.

 

Hola! Dot here. Mom said I could write this post. It’s my first try so I hope it will be OK. Two years ago Mom and Dad came to Malaga to pick me up from my foster home and we drove a long way back to my forever home. I was eight months old and hadn’t ever been on such a long drive. I think it was five hours. But it was fine because they stopped a few times and let me have walks and bathroom breaks.

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I didn´t make a sound on the five-hour car ride to my new home. two years ago.

So when Mom and Dad decided to drive to Paris and take me along I was fine with that. It was fun. Even though it was a long drive, we stopped lots at cool places that had different writing on the signs. So now I know a little bit of French. We stayed at dog-friendly hotels along the way. I’m glad I was with mom and dad as I don’t like sleeping in strange places.

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Mom got excited when we passed signs showing we were going to places she has always wanted to visit. Dad and I think she gets excited about the strangest things.

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The countryside was pretty from what I could see from the back seat. Mom took loads of pictures. We passed castles and cows in the fields. She took the pictures through the car window so they aren’t that great.

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French Charolais cattle in the fields

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Driving by a castle in the distance

 

When we got to Sèvres, near Paris we stopped at my friend Havane’s place. I was so glad to see her again and we had tons of fun playing together and running in the forest.

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Dot and her friend Havane.

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Dot playing ball in the forest.

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Havane protecting her ball from Dot.

I had a comfy bed to sleep on and I brought my teddy so I was happy.

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Dot feeling at home in France.

I didn’t get to go into Paris, which is OK as I don’t like busy cities with traffic and lots of people. I stayed home with Havane. But mom said they saw dogs there. One even stood on his dad’s shoulder while he played his guitar for money. I hope they made enough money for dog food.

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Busker in Paris with his dog.

Here are a couple of videos of me and Havane at her home and in the forest. Watch how I always get the ball.

 

Au revoir mes amis!

Dot the dog.

Since we have been following the excellent British-American-Franco-Canadian television series, Versailles, set during the construction of Versailles Palace during the reign of notoriously flamboyant Louis XIV, we were delighted to actually visit this French Historic Monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace oozes opulence and is breathtaking.

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I made it to the Palace of Versailles!

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A huge line up to get in. Booking online saved us a long wait.

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Originally his father’s hunting lodge, the young King Louis transformed it, between1661 and 1710, to become this extravagant palace surrounded by stylized French and English gardens. Moving from Paris, he made it the official Royal residence and centre of his government. Every detail of its construction was intended to glorify the king.

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The gilded gates to the palace. Note the Sun King motifs.

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Louis chose the sun as his emblem and symbol of power, and is known as the Sun King.

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King Louis XVI in front of his palace.

The interior of the palace is amazing, filled with art, gold and fine furniture. Louis was a patron of the arts and filled his home with valuable pieces. I love how the ceilings were painted in heavenly scenes.DSCN1854

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The Royal Chapel

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The King’s infamous bedchamber

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The Queen’s staircase

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Marble statues of the king at various stages of his life are displayed throughout.

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An older King Louis XIV. Reigning for 72 years, from 1643 to 1715, he outlived his son and grandson.

The most amazing room is the famous Hall of Mirrors, created by King Louis himself and used to entertain guests and show off his wealth and success. This was also the room where the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919, ending the First World War. In spite of the many tourists, jostling to get the perfect photo, it was still exciting to be there.

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The Hall of Mirrors

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Standing in the Hall of Mirrors

Time did not permit us to wander around the extensive gardens and exquisite fountains. But they can be viewed from many rooms in the palace, especially from the Hall of Mirrors.

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The fabulous gardens viewed from the Hall of Mirrors

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A glimpse of the spectacular gardens

The only room not packed with other tourists was the Gallery of Battles which traces the military history of France from the reign of Clovis I to Napoleon. Dozens of paintings depict key battles, and the hall contains more than 80 busts of celebrated military leaders. Here I found a painting of a childhood hero, Joan of Arc or rather, Jeanne d’Arc

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Jeanne d’Arc in the Gallery of Battles

From the natural simplicity of Monet’s home in Giverny to the splendour of the Palace of Versailles, we had a glimpse of two very different French lifestyles and a piece of history I have been reading about all my life.

In case you are interested, here is the trailer of the final series of Versailles with King Louis XIV brilliantly portrayed by George Blagden.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p068mfqk

 

 

 

 

When our friends inquired what I wanted to see while visiting them in France, I asked if Giverny, the home of Claude Monet, was near. They said it was only one hour away and would be happy to take us there. I am so glad we went to this magical place. It felt like I had stepped into a Monet painting.

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Monet’s garden

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The village of Giverny is storybook delightful and I can see why Monet chose it as a place to live, paint, garden and raise his large blended family.

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The village of Giverny

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The gardens are simply breathtaking. This was Monet´s happy place and it is evident he was inspired by the amazing array of shapes and colours. I gazed mesmerized at the well-known and oft-painted lily pond.

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And I stood on the same bridge I have long admired in his painting. Not only was this visit a dream come true, it felt like a living dream!

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“I must have flowers, always, and always.” ― Claude Monet

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“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers. ” – Claude Monet

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A profusion of colours

His charming house is incredibly comfortable with views of the gardens from every room. As I entered, I half expected Monet to be there welcoming me as he did many guests in the past. His art and that of his contemporaries adorn the walls of all the rooms as it did when he lived there. His spirit permeates the rooms.

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Monet’s house in Giverny

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My favourite room was the sunny, cheerful kitchen. I imagined Claude, Anne and their eight children laughing and chatting as they shared meals.

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We visited the Impressionist Art Gallery on site and had a lovely meal overlooking part of the garden. I stopped at a small shop in Giverny and bought the perfect, handmade French hat to remember this auspicious visit.

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Water Lily Pond with Japanese Bridge by Claude Monet

I could have stayed all day, but alas it had to end. This is now my happy place which I will return to in my mind many times. Thank you, Alain and Cathy, for taking me here!

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Friends in the garden

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“I must have flowers, always, and always.” ― Claude Monet

The photographs by Darlene Foster, Paul Foster and Cathy Marsen 

We are back from our wonderful time in France. It was a driving holiday and Dot came along. She proved to be an excellent little traveller and was happy to see her Spaniel friend in France. The French countryside was lovely and I finally got to see Paris! It was everything I dreamt of and more. So much history, culture and great food. Our friends were the perfect hosts and tour guides. They made sure we saw everything possible in the time we had. More dreams came true for me. Here are just a few of our special memories.

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Our first view of the Eiffel Tower. Loved that families picnicked on the lawns.

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Even someone having a nap by the tower.

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The impressive Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs-Élysées

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The Famous Opera House (no phantom in sight)

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The Seine and one of the many bridges to Île de la Cité

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The Louvre, Palace Royal

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The Louvre Pyramid

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Musician at the Louvre

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The Seine with Notre Dame Cathedral in the background

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Notre Dame Cathedral (no hunchback either)

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Napolean in front of the Miltary Museum

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The Dôme des Invalides which houses the tomb of Napolean

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Place des Vosges, a palace built by Henri IV in 1605, now a trendy shopping area with cafes and art galleries

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Victor Hugo resided at Place de Vosges, a fashionable square to live in during the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Shakespeare and Company, a well-known bookstore featured in a few movies, at Kilometer Zero, the point at which all French roads begin.

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Of course, I bought a book!

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Place Colette, a typical Paris street scene

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Many wonderful cafes and restaurants. I think I found the hunchback!

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Liberty, Equality, Fraternity on all the government buildings.

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The other Statue of Liberty

There was so much more, like the Musée d’Orsay, the Ceramics Museum, Monet’s house and garden and the Palace of Versailles. But they will have to wait for another post or two!

“He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo.
Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic.
Nothing is more sublime.” 
― Victor Hugo

 

 


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