Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Two weeks ago we took a drive to Malaga on the Costa del Sol and drove up into the mountains to the small village of Sedelia. We encountered stunning scenery along the twisting road, a small church and a traffic jam, of goats!

DSCN4876

A typical traffic jam in the Andalusian mountains

DSCN4829 (2)

medieval bridge in the mountains

Medieval bridge in the mountains

Tiny church in the middle of nowhere

Tiny church in the middle of nowhere

We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast with a stunning view and had dinner at a cosy restaurant in town. It was all very picturesque and a nice little get-away.

DSCN4889

A room with a view

DSCN4894

Restaurante Lurena, excellent food

The village of Sedilia

The village of Sedilia

Can´t get enough of these charming mountain villages

Can´t get enough of these charming mountain village streets

There was a reason for the trip though and that was to meet Dot, an eight-month-old Bodeguero. Dot came home with us and is now part of our family.

Dot didn´t make a sound on the five hour car ride to her new home.

Dot didn´t make a sound during the five-hour car ride to her new home.

Dot was quite shy at first as she lived in the mountains with an elderly man so was not used to people, traffic and houses. But she has settled in well and makes friends easily. (both the human kind and the canine kind)

DSCN4933 (2)

She loves going for walks and car rides! On the weekend we took her to a car show and she was very well-behaved.

DSCN4960

She makes friends everywhere we go. She loves to go for coffee with us and is a big hit at all the coffee shops.

DSCN4973

We took a drive in the car to a biker bar for tapas. Dot made friends with a boxer. (the canine type)

A Spanish biker bar.

A Spanish biker bar.

Making friends

Making friends

Relaxing on the terrace

Relaxing on the terrace

What do you think? Is she settling in and at home with us? Did we make a good choice?

In case you are wondering, she was already named Dot because of the large black dot on her back. I like to think it is from the delightful children´s book by Peter Reynolds, The Dot . You knew there had to be a literary reference!

 

A stop at the charming town of Ootmarsum in the Netherlands proved to be a delight for the senses. A combination of history and art, intriguing sculptures are scattered about the narrow cobblestone streets and in front of centuries-old churches and quaint pubs. In almost every street, there are galleries and art studios, featuring paintings, pottery and glasswork of local artists. An explosion of colour greets you upon entering these galleries. In most cases, the welcoming artist is there to chat with you and show his or her work.

 

DSCN4526

DSCN4531

DSCN4535

Unique art in the streets

DSCN4533 (2)

DSCN4536

The Town Hall

DSCN4539

The Reform Church

The town’s most well-known citizen is the artist Ton Schulten who has his own modern museum showing a complete overview of his works. Born a son of a local baker in Ootmarsum, he is now an internationally known artist. His use of vibrant colour, shape and light creates enchanting and emotional works of art. The picturesque town of Ootmarsum is the perfect setting for his Gallery Chez-Moi located inside an inviting historic building. One can’t help but feel mesmerised by his amazing works of art. Mr. Schulten can often be seen sipping a coffee at a local cafe or pub. You can view some of his art here to get an idea.

DSCN4541

The recently built Ton Schulten Museum

DSCN4546

The Chronomium, a museum with everything concerning measuring time; sundials, clocks and much more.

DSCN4548

Wandering the streets you never know what you may come across.

DSCN4543

an old well

DSCN4545

An elegant Maasai

DSCN4549

and this weird fellow

Another fascinating find while visiting The Netherlands.

Remember, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask is free until July 31.

https://www.bookbub.com/books/amanda-in-arabia-by-darlene-foster?ebook_deal

Happy summer!!

We loved Amsterdam but were also delighted with the Dutch countryside. We travelled from the south, which was very flat and green, to the north which was more wooded and hilly, but still very green. The storybook-like farms were so neat and tidy. Here are a few pictures of what we saw.

DSCN4276

This farm had a guard goose who was very particular who he let in.

DSCN4270

DSCN4263

DSCN4260

 

DSCN4258

De Sfeerstal, our charming Bed and Breakfast near Nieuwveen, had a lovely garden to relax in.

DSCN4271

With a welcoming entrance and spare wooden shoes if you needed a pair.

DSCN4275

And dried flowers hanging from the ceiling in the breakfast room.

DSCN4505

We stopped to photograph old barns

DSCN4503

and the roosters who were everywhere.

DSCN4520

Aren´t these slanted roofs cool!

DSCN4509

DSCN4513

Old water wheels have always intrigued me.

DSCN4378

And of course the windmills! A windmill is called a molen and most villages have one. This Stroommolen De Hoop (Hope Mill), in Hellendorn, dates back to 1854 and still operates as a flour mill. You can purchase the flour produced there in the lower floor shop.

DSCN4567 (2)

Sheep grazing in the fields didn´t bother to look as we drove by.

DSCN4555

We passed many interesting houses

DSCN4559 (3)

And a manor house called House Singraven with an interesting history. Unfortunately, it was closed the day we were there so we could not go inside, but the kind woman in the gift shop sent me information about the house. She told me the meaning of Singraven is “big (sin) waterway dug by hand (graven)” as it is by a canal. There has been a building on the site since 1381. It has been a farmhouse, a family home, a convent of the Franciscan nuns, a hunting lodge for aristocracy, and a home for a wealthy industrialist and parliamentarian. It has gone through a number of renovations and restorations over the years and after the death of the last owner in 1966, the house, with its 17th and 18th century interior, has been maintained by a special foundation.

Thanks for travelling around the Netherlands with me!

 

On our recent visit to Holland, we took a day trip to Germany to the charming town of Bad Bentheim, just across the border. Bad in German means bath, and this is a popular spa town. In the middle sits a fabulous medieval castle. You know how much I love castles, and this was a great one to explore. Castle Bentheim is the largest hilltop castle in northwest Germany with a recorded history from 1050. For the past five centuries, it has been owned by the Counts and Princes of Bentheim and Steinfurt.

DSCN4392

Burg Bentheim

DSCN4426

The castle keep called the Pulverturn or powder tower

DSCN4405

As we approach the entrance to this massive fortified castle, we are greeted by sheep grazing on the grounds.

Kronenburg Castle

Kronenburg Castle

No one resides in Kronenburg Castle anymore, but it is now a museum depicting how the lords of the castle lived. Both Otto von Bismarck and KaiserWilhelmI once stayed here as guests.

DSCN4443

The Hall of Knights

DSCN4455

A guest bedchamber

My favourite part included the castle keep which holds the dungeon. One of the oldest buildings in the castle, it dates back to the 11th and 12th centuries.

DSCN4462

DSCN4463 (2)
DSCN4464

In the interior of the tower is a small opening in the floor called “the hole of fear.” It is the only entry to the windowless dungeon 12 meters below. In the Middle Ages, this was the Castle jail.  Entrance to the dungeon is only accessible by means of a rope winch installed above the “hole of fear”.  A bit creepy!

DSCN4480

At the top of the tower are panoramic views of the town and countryside.

DSCN4491

The simple Gothic chapel features a two-sided Madonna, carved in 1503, hanging freely from the ceiling. Both sides depict the front of the Madonna.

 

DSCN4478

In the courtyard is an early Romanesque stone cross of the Crucified Christ discovered in 1828. Called the “Herrgott of Bentheim,” it was created around 1000 A.D. and is considered one of the earliest portrayals of Christ in Central Europe.

DSCN4476

The library holds copies of old books, Bibles, and music sheets. Fascinating.

Happily exploring a medieval German castle

Happily exploring a medieval German castle

Schlosspark

Schlosspark

Schlosspark sits beneath the castle with well-manicured gardens and a lovely fountain in the middle. The entire setting is from a fairy tale.

DSCN4408

DSCN4493

We couldn’t leave Bad Bentheim, and Germany, without sampling the apple strudel. It was as good as it looks! A great day trip and a chance for me to practise the little German I know.

I love tulips. They are by far my favourite flower. So you can imagine my delight when we arrived at Keukenhof, the famous tulip gardens in Holland. Greeted by a sea of tulips in the brightest colours imaginable, I was like a child at a candy store. Covering 32 hectares, over 7 million tulips, daffodils and other spring flowers are on display amongst well kept shrubs, trees and blossoms. Interesting sculptures and works of art are displayed throughout the gardens. I climbed to the top of a traditional windmill, or molen, to get an amazing view of the surrounding tulip fields. For all you flower lovers, here is a bit of what I saw during my unforgettable visit. The pictures do not do it justice so you need to go yourself one day! And if you have been there, perhaps this will bring back fond memories.

tulips

 

DSCN4287 (2)

DSCN4288

DSCN4298

DSCN4299

DSCN4326

DSCN4311

DSCN4323

DSCN4294 (2)

DSCN4333

Traditionally dressed young women add to the colour and flavour

DSCN4302

Art among the flowers

DSCN4304 (2)

Keukenhof, means “kitchen garden” in Dutch. The site goes back to the 15th century when fruits, vegetables and herbs were grown in this location. In the 19th century it became a castle garden. This world famous attraction has been a permanent exhibition of spring-flowering bulbs since 1949 and is open 8 weeks of every year. I am so glad we planned our visit to coincide with the flowers in bloom. Another dream come true!

“I love tulips better than any other spring flower; they are the embodiment of alert cheerfulness and tidy grace, and next to a hyacinth look like a wholesome, freshly tubbed young girl beside a stout lady whose every movement weighs down the air with patchouli. Their faint, delicate scent is refinement itself; and is there anything in the world more charming than the sprightly way they hold up their little faces to the sun. I have heard them called bold and flaunting, but to me they seem modest grace itself, only always on the alert to enjoy life as much as they can and not be afraid of looking the sun or anything else above them in the face.”
Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth and Her German Garden

Our trip to Holland included two days in Amsterdam, arriving at noon and leaving mid-afternoon the next day. It was not nearly enough time to see everything this charming city has to offer but I loved every minute. The first thing we did was get on a hop-on hop-off canal tour. This was the very best way to see the city. And since the ticket was good for twenty-four hours, we travelled on the boat both days. This was my first visit to Holland, other than stops at the airport.

Amsterdam tulips

Tulips are my favourite flower and I was delighted to see them everywhere.

canal

canal2

The houses along the canal were striking. We passed museums, the home of Heineken Beer, diamond factories, markets, canal-side restaurants, historic churches, cute boat houses and so much more.

Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum

pancake house

houses along canal

on canal boat

Enjoying the canal boat ride

Since grade three, when my teacher told us about Anne Frank and her diary, I have wanted to visit the house the Frank family hid in. My dream of visiting this place came true as the boat stopped right in front of it. We had to wait in line for ninety minutes to get inside, but it was worth it. An incredibly moving experience that makes history real. We were not allowed to take pictures inside. The rooms of the secret annex are empty by request of Otto Frank. They symbolize the void left behind by the millions of people who were deported and never returned. The moveable bookcase is still there as are some original objects, the actual dairy and pages of Anne´s writing. “When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!” Anne Frank, 5 April 1944

Anne Frank Haus

Anne Frank

Our hotel was across from Rembrandt Square where a statue of the artist stands surrounded by bronze figures from The Night Watch. Amazing! I also visited the church where Rembrandt was buried.

night watch

You can’t visit Holland without stopping at a cheese shop. I purchased some wonderful cheese to bring home at one such shop. The friendly young saleswoman, wearing a traditional Dutch hat, was only too happy to pose for a picture.

cheese shop

cheese

girl at cheeseshop

The young people in Amsterdam are incredibly friendly and service was exceptional everywhere we went. We enjoyed all our meals and found the city to be very clean. The only thing to watch for are the bikes. They are everywhere!

kids by canal

Young people enjoying the sun by the canal

I went for a walk in the evening and felt completely safe. It is a vibrant city at night and even a heron joined the fun as he sat on top of a car basking in the full moonlight!

heron at night

Amsterdam was everything I thought it would be and more. Even though it was a short stay, I did everything on my list. I hope to return one day and spend time in some of those museums we passed by.

More about Holland in the next post.

 

Have you ever been to Sicily? That island off Italy at the end of the boot. As a kid in school I was always fascinated by that part of the map. I was fortunate that our recent cruise made a stop at the port of Messina. We were greeted by a golden Madonna perched on top of a very tall column, as we entered the harbour. The words – “Vos et ipsam cictatem benedicimus” at the bottom made me curious. Although it rained heavily, I was not deterred and left the ship to explore. I was excited to be in Sicily.

Madonna of the Letter

My first stop was the Duomo de Capanile, the main cathedral in the city. It seemed like a good place to start, and to get out of the rain. The massive bronze front door embossed with biblical scenes was impressive. The vast central nave lined with marble pillars and archways, held alcoves with marble statues of the disciples and apostles. In an elaborate setting at the end was an image of the Madonna of the Letter, the patron saint of the city.

cathedral door

Impressive front door of the Messina Cathedral

scene on door

apostles

Apostles in the nave

I stopped in the gift shop to buy postcards and ask questions. The friendly shop keeper was happy to oblige a curious Canadian. She explained to me that the words under the Madonna at the entrance of the port translates into – “We bless you and the city” This was supposed to have been written in a letter to the people of Messina by the Virgin Mary when they converted to Christianity in 42 AD, after a visit from the apostle Paul. This explained why she is called Madonna della Lettera or Madonna of the Letter. I purchased a ticket to visit the museum and attached clock tower.

church and tower

Cathedral with clock tower

After a quick look through the museum, I ventured next door to climb the 236 steps to the top of the bell tower.  It was worth every step. The belfry houses the largest and most complex mechanical and astronomical clock in the world. On the landings I viewed, from the inside, the amazing mechanically animated bronze images that rotate on the façade of the tower at the stroke of noon. At the top levels hang the massive bells that ring out the time. I was fortunate I timed my visit between the ringing of the bells. Once at the top, I was rewarded with a splendid view of the city from all four directions. The rain stopped and the sun shone for my benefit.

clock tower bells

view from the top

The view from the top of the bell tower

I took my time going down, in order to have a better look at the intricate figures, aided by explanations on boards in English as well as Italian. The carousel of life was composed of four golden life size figures representing childhood, youth, maturity and old age, with death in the form of a skeleton following behind. Biblical scenes depicted on other carousels are changed according to the liturgical calendar. One scene was dedicated to the Madonna of the Letter where an angel brings the letter to the Virgin Mary followed by St. Paul and the ambassadors who bow when passing in front of the virgin.

carousel of life

The Carousal of Life

madonna carousel2

Madonna of the letter carousel

Madonna of the Letter Carousel

Once back down, I removed my raincoat and wandered the streets. I found an iron worker creating figures in front of his shop called Hollywood, interesting sculptures including an imposing conquistador, a quote from Shakespeare  and the picturesque Church of the Catalans built before Norman times on a pagan site. I stumbled upon an overgrown archaeological dig behind a municipal building which gave me a glimpse of life in Roman times.

Church of the catalans2

Church of the Catalans

wind

Amazing carvings and sculptures everywhere you look

conquistador

bard quote

Shakespeare mentions Messina in Much Ado About Nothing

I purchased a bag of Italian pasta, a great reminder of my enjoyable time in this Sicilian city. The shop keeper told me that Messina doesn’t have anything old as there have been so many earthquakes over the centuries and much had to be rebuilt. The last major earthquake was in 1908. I guess age is subjective.

As the ship left port later that day, I waved goodbye to The Madonna of the Letter with her comforting message sent to the citizens of this city two thousand years ago. A day to remember.

The pictures can be made bigger by clicking on them if you want a better view of the details.

 


Amanda in Alberta

click to purchase

Amanda in Spain

click to purchase

Amanda in England

Click to purchase

Amanda in Alberta

click to purchase

Pig on Trial

click to purchase

Join me on Twitter

Darlene Foster Writer

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,959 other followers

Archives

Goodreads

click to read review

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,959 other followers