Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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.

During our stay in Tarragona, we took a bus to the mountain monastery of Montserrat, a place I have been wanting to visit for some time. The bus wound its way up into the Montserrat mountains in what seemed like hours. Why would anyone want to build a monastery all the way up here?  Our guide, a pleasant and well informed young man named Victor, explained it to us in three languages, English, French and Spanish.

The Montserrat mountains through the bus window.

Legend has it that shepherds discovered a Black Madonna in 880 AD when they heard music and saw a light coming from a cave high in the mountains. The statue, the oldest Black Madonna in Europe, is only 60 cm tall but when the bishop from the nearest town came to have it removed and taken to his cathedral, it proved impossible to move. So pilgrims began coming to the cave to see it. Eventually an abbey was built around the cave.

Once we reached our destination, the view from the top was incredible.

The sanctuary is built against the mountain to include the Madonna in her cave.

 

The Bascilica of Montserrat

Montserrat is home to the Sanctuary of Our Lady and a Benedictine monastery and has, for almost 1000 years, served pilgrims and visitors to the mountain. The building has been destroyed a few times over the years, including during the Napoleonic wars, when many of the monks were killed. It was also damaged in the Spanish civil war (1936 – 1939). The building standing now was completed in 1949. Many pilgrms come to venerate the patron saint of Catalonia daily in La Santa Cava at the back of the cathedral. Montserrat has been modernised to continue attending to the needs of pilgrims one thousand years after it was originally founded.

Sculptures of monks killed by Napoleonic soldiers. Sad times.

 

Inside the chapel

Pilgrims and visitors lineup to ascend the stairs and view the Virgin.

The Virgin’s Chapel from inside the Basilica

The Black Madonna

Visitors are not allowed to take pictures while paying homage to the Black Madonna. But Victor explained that from inside the basilica, from the floor of the chapel, I could take pictures. Later by enlarging and cropping, I was able to get a fairly good picture. It is amazing to see and left me awestruck.

Saints in the courtyard of the Basilica surrounded by amazing views.
A funicular takes visitors even higher up into the mountains
It was wonderful to wander around the grounds and take in the peaceful scenery.

Montserrat means Saw Mountain, as the range looks like the serrated edge of a saw and is the name of the Mountains and the sanctuary. It is a perfect place for walkers with many hiking trails available. A place to enjoy nature and contemplate life. There is also a fabulous art museum onsite which I will tell you about in another post.

I purchased a jar of honey made by the monks. I left feeling refreshed and at peace, satisfied I could tick off another place on that long list.

I love everything Gaudi and was delighted to learn that his birthplace was very near where we were staying on our recent holiday in the province of Tarragona. So, of course, we made a visit. Reus is another charming Spanish town with its own flavour. It is known as an important producer of wines and spirits, texiles and the birthplace of architect Antoni Gaudí.

Plaza del Mercadal

We found the old town square, which is the best place to start when visiting these towns as everything stems from there. There are always plenty of cute coffee shops with outdoor terraces, great for people watching and grabbing a snack. 

An interesting building around the square is Casa Navas, a house built in 1901 in the Catalan Art Noveau style designed by a contemporary of Antoni Gaudi, for the textile dealer, Joaquim Navas. Surprisingly, there are no buildings designed by Gaudi in Reus.

Casa Navas

In the town hall stands a bust of their most famous resident born in 1852, the son of a coppersmith. He left Reus at age 16 when he moved to Barcelona to study and begin his amazing career.

The bust of Gaudi in the town hall.

A modern building houses the Gaudi Centre Reus dedicated to the life and work of the brilliant architect. The excellent interactive displays on three floors include examples of his inovative structures and details of where he got his ideas, many of them from nature. I noticed a number of school children being taken through while I visited. They appeared to be enjoying the centre. 

Inside the Gaudi Centre


A replica of part of Park Güell in Barcelona


The San Pedro church where Gaudi was baptised and confirmed.

I wandered down the side streets, imagining I was treading where Gaudi once walked as a young boy, his imagination already running wild. Looking down I noticed the paving stones are Gaudi inspired.

And then I came across this intriguing statue on the side of a building. Fortunately there was an explanation on a plaque.

The figure is called the Jew of Arrabal. In the mid-eighteenth century, the owner of this building erected a satirical statue pointing an accusing finger to the home of a neighbour he had had a legal dispute with. It became a popular sculpture in the city over the years. The original, from 1768, was badly damaged and has been recreated using the same colours.

These are the gems you find when you venture down the side streets of these wonderful Spanish towns. I’m sure Gaudi had passed by the statue many times.

Note – I didn’t take many pictures of this visit as my camera’s battery died just as we arrived. The pictures shown were taken with my cell phone and aren’t very good. But I hope you get the idea.


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