Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Notre Dame de Paris – Our Lady of Paris

I love visiting cathedrals, especially those full of history. They each have stories to tell and represent the culture of the area. A fascinating cathedral is Notre Dame de Paris and I was delighted to see it, inside and out, during our visit in May. The Notre Dame Cathedral, with its fine sculptures and stained glass windows, was one of the very first Gothic cathedrals and is 800 years old. It has been through so much, including being plundered during the French Revolution and used as a storage facility. If those walls could talk.

Amazing sculptures adorning the exterior. Note the intricate detail.

The rib vaults of the nave

One of many gorgeous stained glass windows

It is breathtakingly beautiful inside. I was fortunate to hear the choir singing during mass while I was there. The hordes of tourists made it difficult to get pictures inside but I managed to take a short video to give you an idea of the magnificence of the place.

The next day we returned to the area and our friends took us to a quaint pastry shop, La Maison ODETTE, where we enjoyed a perfect cup of tea and melt in your mouth choux a la cremes on the top floor. The shutters were opened and we had a perfect view of the cathedral!! A quintessential French experience I will never forget.


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Our view of Notre Dame from the top floor of Odette

Odette is located opposite the charming Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre church, one of the oldest in Paris.

Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre Church (Church of Saint Julian the Poor)

I did not see the hunchback, but I certainly understand how Victor Hugo was inspired. My dream of visiting Notre Dame Cathedral was fulfilled.

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The entrance to Carmen Del Campillo Moriscos

I heard of these Moroccan Tea Gardens, Carmen Del Campillo Moriscos, located about one hour from where we live and was intrigued. I finally had an opportunity to visit them recently. They are tucked away in the countryside among groves of lemons, oranges and pomegranates and not easy to find. But once there, it is worth the drive. The minute I entered the gates, a feeling of tranquillity surrounded me. The gardens seemed to go on forever with many little paths to follow and explore. Every corner I turned, another delightful scene appeared. As well as the picturesque gardens, the site comprises a number of buildings to investigate, inside and out, on many levels. A fabulous selection of tea is served in the gardens or in the tea rooms, on mats and pillows, at tables or even in a Bedouin tent! Stroll along with me as the sun sets on this incredible place.

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Where will this path take me?

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Happy to finally visit these delightful gardens

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An authentic Bedouin tent at the top

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The resident peacock

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Delicious teas and baklava type desserts

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Inside the tea rooms

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Evening sets in and creates an enchanting world

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Following a candlelit path, I found this mysterious door

This place is so charming and well displayed. I enjoyed wandering the gardens and felt like I was in Morocco. The lovely stone paths, the calming music, the pottery, the Bedouin tent, the resident peacock, everything was perfect. The selection of teas was incredible, I had a delicious Rooibos chocolate flavoured tea. I also loved the baklava type pastries. As the sun set, the gardens and tea rooms took on a romantic, exotic feel. I wandered the candlelit paths and discovered many more interesting scenes. I didn’t want to leave. I will be bringing out of town guests here to be sure!!

DSCN1801We had one rainy day in Paris, the trains were on strike and the traffic horrible. So we decided not to go downtown. Since the Ceramics Museum was nearby, we choose to visit it instead. I love ceramics of all sorts, my daughter is a potter, after all. It was a good decision.

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The elegant entrance into the French Museum of Ceramics

Located in Sèvres, a suburb of Paris well known for producing fine ceramics, the museum is housed in a building built in 1876 on the site of a ceramics factory which is still in operation. The museum was originally created in 1824  by Alexandre Brongniart who’s statue stands in front of the building. It was later moved to the current location.

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The museum contains one of the world’s largest collection of ceramics representing many countries, periods and techniques. I was fascinated by all categories of ceramics (pottery, faience, stoneware, porcelain, as well as enamels, stained glass windows and glass) from various cultures and time periods well displayed in the many rooms. Here are some of my favourite pieces.

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Don’t you just love the face on this item from Germany?

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I couldn’t help but admire this vase decorated with dogs, cats, and rabbits.

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A fabulous wall of ceramic plates

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This was one of my favourite pieces. I love the colours.

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And not just because it matched my nail polish perfectly!!

The rain doesn’t ruin your plans, it just gives you an opportunity to do or see something you hadn’t planned!!

I found Paris to be delightful and loved every minute I was there. A special treat was a drive around the city at night. Here are a few pictures of what we saw. The quality of the photographs may not be great, but, it was nighttime and I was in a car for the most part.

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Monsieur Eiffel’s tower, amazing by day, exquisite by night.

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The Champs-Élysées going toward the Arc de Triomphe

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Arc de Triomphe

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Avenue des Champs-Élysées going the opposite direction

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Paris street scene at night

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The Opera House, is the phantom lurking behind one of those windows?

 

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Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris on top of Montmartre

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Sacré-Cœur Basilica

It was a drizzly evening so the view from Montmartre, the highest point in Paris, was not great, but it was still exciting to see this vibrant city at night.

I hope you enjoyed my night time views of this fabulous city.

Have you been to Paris at night?

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.

CityofMH

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”.

SAAMISTepee

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/

Giantchess set

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.

 


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