Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

We took the bus to Mosta, a market town in the middle of Malta. In the centre of Mosta sits a fabulous domed cathedral built in the mid-1800s. It is an amazing piece of architecture inside and out, featuring the third largest unsupported church dome in Europe. Dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady, it replaced a much smaller church that had been on the site since 1619. The Mosta Rotunda is also the site of a miracle.

The Mosta Rotunda

Inside the church

The dome

During WWII, on April 9, 1942, while over 400 parishioners worshipped inside, a 200 kg German bomb hit the church, pierced the dome and landed in the aisle. It did not hit a single person and it did not explode! It rolled to the base of the pulpit and stopped. The military bomb disposal team removed it, defused it and threw it into the sea. A miracle indeed. A replica of the bomb can be viewed in the sacristy.

It gave me goosebumps to see this. My husband pointed out where the bomb entered the dome as the coloration where it was repaired is slightly different.

Ornate vestments from the past.

Statue of Our Lady

The statue of the Assumption of Our Lady, 1868

The church contains a lot of artwork and important icons. The Feast of the Assumption of Saint Mary is celebrated in August where some of the statues are taken out and paraded around town.

The font containing holy water.

Visiting this church proved to be a moving experience for me, providing proof that miracles do happen. Hubby later treated me to lunch overlooking the magnificent Mosta Rotunda. It was definitely worth a visit, one I won’t forget.

I love visiting museums and learning the history of a place, especially one as old as Malta. The only rainy day we encountered during our visit found me mesmerized by the Museum of Archeology in the capital city, Valletta. The museum is located in the Auberge de Provence, a baroque building built in 1571, which was house to the Knights of the Order of St John originating from Provence, France. It is a beautiful place to view these amazing ancient treasures.

 

The Museum exhibits artefacts dating back to Malta’s Neolithic period (5000 BC) up to the Phoenician Period (400 BC). On display are the earliest tools used by the prehistoric people giving an insight into their daily lives. Many interesting pottery pieces are also on display.

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This is one huge coffee mug. Perfect for a Venti Latte!

The highlight for me was the 5000-year old ‘Sleeping Lady’ from the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum. It is a small ceramic figurine about 12cm in length and was found in a burial pit at a prehistoric underground burial place. It is an amazing example of craftsmanship from prehistoric times. Seems creativity has been around a long time.

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The Sleeping Lady

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I found the anthropomorphic sarcophagus from the Phoenician Period also fascinating.

 

Parts of prehistoric temples with photographs of the original site they were found in.  Swirls were a popular design those days.

Animals were often depicted

as were fish

Many of the goddess figurines were found headless, the heads found in another location. No one knows why.

Ancient writing unearthed in a neolithic temple.

A  rare Phoenician carving of a human

I like how the museum featured cartoons throughout the displays making them more interesting and understandable for young people.

Do you like visiting museums? I would love to know about your favourite museum?

 

 

To continue celebrating our 40th anniversary year and my recent birthday, we spent a week in the magical country of Malta. We had been there once before for a half day stop on a Mediterranean cruise and loved it. I wrote about it here. It was decided that we needed to see more of this unique island country.

The Republic of Malta consists of three islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino. The country boasts a rich and diverse history that dates back 7000 years. Over the years, it has been inhabited by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British who have all left their mark. With over 300 churches, quaint fishing villages, fortified walls, watch towers, museums, megalithic temples, pristine beaches and delightful bays, there is so much to see. Here are a few pictures of what we saw.

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St. Julian´s Bay. A typical bay with a mix of the old and modern world.

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The colourful Maltese fishing boats are called luzzus. The Eye of Osiris is painted on each side to protect the boat from danger.

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You don´t have to look far to find a Maltese Cross.

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Ta´Pinu Sanctuary where every year many pilgrims come to be healed.

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St. Lucian Tower, one of many watchtowers dotting the coast

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The charming fishing village of Marsaxlokk

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On the way to Gozo Island

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Where the Azure Window used to be before it fell into the sea a week before we arrived.

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Many shrines can be found all over the island. This one is on the cliffs overlooking the Blue Lagoon on Comino Island.

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The Blue Lagoon, Comino Island

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In AD60, St.Paul was shipwrecked on this small island now called, St. Paul´s Island. During his stay on the Maltese Islands, he converted the inhabitants to the Christian faith

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Napoleon stayed in this house during his stay in Valetta.

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The famous balconies of Malta

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Mosta Rotunda, the third largest unsupported church dome in Europe.

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Having a relaxing coffee in Mosta, Malta.

There is so much more to share with you, like a visit to Popeye Village and the Museum of Archeology, and more about the Mosta Rotunda but I´ll leave it for future posts.

 

During my visit to York, I went on a ghost walk. A city with such a long and rich history is bound to have ghosts lurking about. In fact, York is known as the most haunted city in England. Our excellent guide took us to places where ghosts sightings and paranormal activity have been reported. We began the tour at the York Minster on a chilly misty evening.

One of many Ghost Walks available in York.

The York Minster looking spooky at night.

Our knowledgeable and entertaining guide.

I expected to an apparition to appear at any moment.

 

Some say the face of a young girl appears at the small window in this house. This ghostly child starved to death after her entire family died from the plague as no one was willing to go into the house to get her. Sad times.

Working in the cellar of the Treasure’s House in 1953, plumber Harry Martindale was terrified when a group of Roman soldiers walked past him. He noted that the figures disappeared into the floor at knee height. Later investigation revealed a roman road half a metre under the basement.

York is the birthplace of Guy Fawkes and is also where he is buried. Unfortunately, his head was buried in one place and his body in another. Apparently, he wanders the Shambles at night looking for his head. I didn’t encounter him, although I did find an inn named after him.

The ghost of Guy Fawkes is supposed to wander the Shambles at night looking for his severed head.

Mysterious splashes have been heard late at night at the site of the ancient Roman baths.

During a daytime walk around town, we found these guys hanging about.

The sign says, Here lies Fat Ken, our original shop skeleton who fell to bits because people loved him too much. Please be kind.

So why all the interest in ghosts, skeletons and creepy things? Probably because I´ve been busy doing final edits on Amanda’s next adventure, Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind. You guessed it, there will be ghosts in this story. What do you think of the fabulous cover my publisher created?

I´ve been on a number of ghost walks. They can be good fun and the guides are usually very entertaining.

Have you ever been on a ghost walk? Do you enjoy hearing or reading about ghostly encounters?

 

Forty years ago, this farm girl took her first ever trip on an airplane to York, England, where I married my dear hubby. We recently celebrated our ruby anniversary by returning to York. We had a marvellous time retracing our steps in his hometown, enjoying the history, walking the cobblestone streets, relaxing in the many teashops and visiting relatives we hadn’t seen for some time. We’ve been back a few times since January 1977 but it had been awhile since our last visit. I fell in love with the city all over again.

The Dean Court Hotel

The Dean Court Hotel

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The York Minster

We stayed at the Dean Court Hotel overlooking York  Minster, in the very centre of the city. The Hotel was originally built in 1865 to house the Clergy of the Minster and is situated on the corner of the main Roman road that ran through the city. Waking up to the lovely bells of the cathedral was such a treat.

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I love the old Tudor buildings scattered throughout the downtown. We had lunch in one of them called Gert and Henry’s.

 

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The Shambles, once the street of butcher shops

 

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Gargoyles are everywhere

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Clifford’s Tower

Clifford’s tower is the largest remaining part of York Castle, once the centre of government for the north of England. Although there has been a tower on the site since William the Conquerer the present 13th-century stone tower was probably used as a treasury and later as a prison.

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Tons of book shops to explore

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The original Roman walls, still intact. They built things to last in those days.

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I walked the Roman walls as I did the very first time I visited this city.  Eboracum was the name the Romans called the city, the capital of England 2000 years ago.

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York was later a Viking town called Jorvik and I encountered a number of Vikings while there.

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You never know who you will meet in the towers. Richard III was eager to tell his side of the story.

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The Teddy Bear Tea Shop. How cute is that?

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I went on a ghost walk and encountered a few remains of the dead.dscn7395

We enjoyed a proper tea at Betty’s Cafe Teashop, the same place we bought our wedding cake all those years ago.

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Wedding 1977 in York, England. The wedding cake was a Dougal the Dog cake.

It has been a great 40 years. Can’t believe he put up with me all these years! Looking forward to more adventures.

York is steeped in history and there is so much more I’d like to share but will leave it for another post.

 

We just returned from a weekend in the lovely city of Valencia, a two-hour drive in the car from us. It is another one of those wonderful Spanish cities with fascinating architecture and its own unique personality. I will write more about it later and share pictures. Tomorrow I am off on a train to Madrid and the following day I will fly to Canada. I have a jam-packed schedule once there as I will be launching my latest book and visiting schools and libraries in Vancouver and area, Calgary and Medicine Hat. I’ll also be visiting friends and family in all three cities. So, I will not be spending much time on the computer over the next three weeks.

While wandering the streets of Valencia, I came upon this amazing Valencian traditional dance performance in a square behind the cathedral. It was the highlight of my trip. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I look forward to connecting again when I return!

As Remembrance Day approaches, I thought I would share a visit I made to a Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, Holland earlier this year. 1394 soldiers are buried in this cemetery, all but three are Canadian soldiers who were part of the liberation of this part of the Netherlands.

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The information centre is well presented and provides a fifteen-minute film explaining the liberation and how the cemetery came to be. Stories of some of the soldiers are related in the film. On one wall, the names of each soldier buried in the cemetery are listed. An extensive digital database is available with stories of each of the killed soldiers. There is also a touch screen computer with eyewitness stories of soldiers and the inhabitants of the area at the time of the war. Other touch screens have films of the liberation of several villages and towns. I am sure many people come to research family members who are buried here.  A “tranquillity bench” to sit and contemplate,with soft music in the background, is a nice touch.

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The most remarkable thing for me was a tiled wall made recently by students from the Holten primary school. The children were given a task to paint a tile with the theme “war and peace”. I found it very moving.

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The tattered flag from the battlefield

The cemetery itself is extremely well kept. I was overcome with emotion by the maple leafs on the gravestones depicting the names, ranks and ages of the fallen. The two youngest were only seventeen. I thought of the mothers who would never see their sons again, the wives missing their husbands and the children who would grow up without their fathers.

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When I mentioned to the officers in charge that I was Canadian, I was treated very special. Even after all this time, the Dutch people continue to be grateful to the Canadians for their part in liberating their country. I was proud, saddened and extremely moved by this visit. I could not stop the tears.

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Even though no one in my family was killed in WWII, which happened before I was born, I have been reading books and watching movies of this terrible time in our history for many years. Visiting this special place made it much more real.

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May they rest in peace, these brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice so others could be free.

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