Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Semana Santa, Holy Week in Spain, is the annual tribute of the Passion of Jesus Christ celebrated by Catholic religious brotherhoods called cofradía and fraternities that perform penance processions on the streets of almost every Spanish city and town during the last week of Lent, the week immediately before Easter. Each place presents a different experience, from very sombre processions to lively spectacles. 

On Maundy Thursday a friend and I went by bus to the city of Lorca, about one and a half hours away, to attend their Easter parade that I had heard was one of the best in Spain. Although rain threatened, it managed to stay away and we were able to watch the three-hour parade without getting wet.

It was an amazing parade, one I will never forget. As usual, the local citizens and brotherhoods went all out with magnificent costumes, fabulous floats and heart stopping entertainment. 

We arrived in plenty of time to find a tapas bar for a snack and a drink. On the way we found some of the parade participants who were happy to pose for pictures. 

Later, on the way to our parade seats, we encountered more participants moving toward the start of the parade and were able to get up close and personal pictures. An unexpected treat. 

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The Blue Brotherhood, Paso Azule, wearing their magnificent hand-embroidered robes

 

Note the intricate detail on the robes, embroidered with gold thread.

As usual, all ages were involved in the celebration.

Drummer boys

All types of people from the time of Jesus were represented including Romans, Egyptians, Persians, Hebrews, and Africans.

The costaleros, members of the brotherhood, reverently carrying their Paso, a float depicting a scene from the New Testament

This was so exciting and emotional. But it was nothing compared to the spectacle we were about to see. I will tell you more about the actual parade in the next post.

I wish everyone a Happy Easter!!

To be continued….

I can’t believe it is almost a year since we drove to Paris and saw the most amazing sights. I’ve written about it here, here and here. But I haven’t yet mentioned my visit to the fabulous Musée d’Orsay. It was on my list of things to see it but was not sure we would have time. It was our last day and we had a couple of hours free in the late afternoon. My friend said, “Let’s go!” I am so glad we did as it was incredible. Seeing works of art I have admired all my adult life, made my heart sing!

The building itself is a masterpiece. It’s located in the centre of Paris on the banks of the Seine, in the former Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. The building, no longer used as a railway station, was scheduled for demolition when the idea of using it to display collections of art from the period of 1848 to 1914 was suggested. In December of 1986 the museum was opened to the public.

Visitors are greeted by the magnificent decor of this former train station that came so close to being destroyed. I was gobsmacked the minute I walked through the doors.

One of the first paintings that caught my attention was Millet’s The Gleaners. I have always loved this painting of women collecting leftover grain after the harvest. Perhaps because of my rural background.

On the next wall I spotted Corot’s Le Moulin de Saint-Nicholas-lez-Arras and burst into tears. For the first ten years of my working life I was employed by a wonderful German woman who owned a gift shop in Medicine Hat, Alberta, called Ed’s Studio craft. She imported many things from Europe and was an art afficianado. She taught me so much about business, art and culture. We sold among other things, art prints and art cards. She gave me many wonderful gifts over the years which I treasure, including an art card depicting this painting. She sadly passed away at a young age.

Le Moulin de Saint-Nicolas-lez-Arras by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. I always wished I could step inside that painting.

Of course there were many, many more of my favourites. Here are just a few.

Claude Monet’s Poppies

Renoir’s Dance at Le moulin de la Galette

Renoir’s Dance in the Country

Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone

Van Gogh’s The Church at Auvers

From the roof top of the museum is a great view of Montmartre with the imposing La Basilique du Sacre-Coeur (Cathedral of the Sacred Heart)

Inside, looking through the clock with Sacre-Coeur in the background

Because it was once a train station, there are a number of impressive clocks in the building to add to the atmosphere. Perhaps telling us that art is timeless and stirs emotions from the past, the present and the future.

To view these works of art in this amazing place is a must. I wished we had more time but I plan one day to return.

Have you been to Musée d’Orsay? Or any art museum that stirred your soul?

Every year for three days at the beginning of February, the city of Orihuela, Spain transforms itself into a medieval town complete with market stalls, soldiers, street entertainers and food cooked over open flames. The Moors and the Christians are both represented as at one time they lived side by side in this area. This year a friend and I took the twenty-minute bus ride to the city to partake in this fun event. Here are a few pictures. Enjoy!

Our first stop was at a Moorish tea tent, to partake in perfect mint tea and delicious baklava. We even got to keep the tea glass as a souvenier.

I got to pet a camel! Those of you who have read Amanda in Arabia, know how much I love camels.

We watched artisans at work, such as this potter

And this sculpture

And this baker making buns in a medieval oven!

Displays of sturdy ovenware for sale

and colourful graters, perfect for grating garlic, ginger, tomatoes and more

Street entertainers were spotted everywhere.

Medieval musicians

and dancers wound their way through the streets as in days of old.

Even a troll

and other scary woodland creatures

Adults dressed up in their finery

And children got to be a king for a day!

How would you like to buy a suit of armour?

We stopped for lunch at a charming little restaurant frequented by the entertainers!

There were plenty of food stalls with fresh produce

waiting to be cooked over the hot coals, resulting in paella and other mouthwatering dishes

We decided not to have soup with balls.


A handsome Bedouin poses for us by his tent

To catch the spirit of the day, watch the video I took while there. You might feel like you have gone back in time like I did.

On my recent trip back to my home province of Alberta, I was fortunate to visit two schools where I did presentations, readings, and workshops. I may have mentioned before that doing school presentations is my favourite part of being a writer. These two visits were very special.

I was invited by a school in Airdrie, Alberta to visit as the Grade 4 classes are currently reading Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone. I did four presentations to the grade four classes at Herons Crossing School the day after I landed in Calgary. The students were delightful and devoted Amanda Travels fans. Some had read all the books. They said they enjoyed the use of cliffhangers in the stories. I love that kind of feedback. They were all well behaved and asked very good questions.

Students eagerly listening while I read from Amanda in Alberta.

A few days later I visited Irvine School, just outside Medicine Hat, where I did a presentation in the library to about 70 grade 3 and 4 students. After the recess, I did a workshop with one of the Grade 4 classes.

This was a double special visit as I went to Irvine School myself many years ago and it is now the school my great-granddaughter attends. It is not the same building I attended as the original school burnt down in 1989 and has been replaced by a modern building. But it was a memorable visit for me. I brought along my old high school sweater and yearbook to show the children that I had once attended that very school.

Presentation in the library

Considering it was just a couple of days before the Christmas break, the students were very attentive and asked great questions. After sitting on the floor for quite some time, the teacher had them get up and do a few exercises.

After the presentation, many came up to ask more questions.

Later, I facilitated a workshop on using all the senses in writing. Using a photograph as a prompt, we brainstormed words describing the five senses. Everyone participated. Later they were given ten minutes to hand write something based on a picture, using as many of the senses as possible. Some shared their writing. I was amazed at how eager they were to do the assignment and how they produced such incredible work in a short time. A great example of how children still love to read and write.

Facilitating a workshop with eager participants is so much fun.

My oldest grandson was my driver, helper, and photographer. He was a huge help.

My grandson and his niece (my great-granddaughter)

I was so impressed with the school, the teachers and the staff. There was such a positive vibe in the place. Wonderful quotes decorated the hallway walls.

And look what I found on a door in the girl’s washroom!

Talk about positive reinforcement!

I went back to my old school and found that the future is in good hands. 

It’s that time of year again, the beginning! 

Time to write down and share my goals for this year. If I don’t write them down and share them, nothing will get done. It seems this is the only way it works for me.

I´m a bit late with this post but better late than never as my dad would say. So here they are…

  1. Publish and promote Amanda in Holland-Missing in Action
  2. Return to Canada in the fall of 2019 to launch Amanda in Holland, organize readings and signings at bookstores, libraries, and schools.
  3. Finish writing Amanda in Malta-The Sleeping Lady
  4. Start Amanda in France
  5. Do (at least) one thing every day to promote my writing.
  6. Publish an anthology of short stories about growing up in rural Alberta
  7. Try writing a picture book.
  8. Visit a part of Spain I haven’t been to before
  9. Attend a Moors and Christians Festival
  10. Go on a cruise, visiting Venice, Rome or Greece perhaps
  11. Read at least 30 books
  12. Take an online course
  13. Make new friends, online and in person, and stay in touch with longtime friends
  14. Celebrate my birthday in style.

I usually like to pick a word or three for the year. I decided on action, learn, listen for 2019

I´ve read some of your goals already and they are all doable! Wish me luck and share yours if you feel like it.

 

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!!


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