Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The steady beat of drums, the swift march of soldiers, animal-skin clad barbarians, painted faces, colourful shields, standard bearers, gladiator sandals, dancing maidens, priests, soothsayers and elegant senators. We find ourselves in the midst of the Romans and Carthaginians Festival, just forty minutes from where we live. This spectacle is held every year to celebrate the vibrant history of the strategic port city of Cartagena.





Cartagena has more than 2000 years of history. The Romans and Carthaginians Festival is a remembrance of the second Punic War, beginning with the foundation of Qart Hadast, the name given to Cartagena by the Phoenicians in 228 BC, and ending with its capture by the Romans in 209 BC.

Throughout the last ten days of September, battles are re-enacted, ancient ceremonies held and troops in full battle dress march through the streets of Cartagena.  The Carthaginian and Roman armies arrive by sea in a dramatic display and then march through town to an encampment set up on the football field. We were very fortunate to witness part of this event during an evening I will never forget. The costumes and attention to historic detail are amazing as you will see from a few of the many pictures I took.







It was as if all the citizens were in costume for the event. And like everything in Spain, the entire family was involved.




Imagine my excitement when monks appeared leading large bulls through the narrow streets.



This ancient High Priest gave me a big smile after I took his picture


A serious soothsayer


Cheerful dancing maidens happy to pose for me.


A Nobel Senator and his good wife


One of many standards born through the streets of Cartagena.


There was so much more. I hope you enjoyed a sample of this spectacular festival where history comes to life. If you ever have an opportunity to be near Cartagena, Spain around the end of September, you must take this in.


The ultimate gladiator sandals. Now where can I buy a pair?


My favourite day in Provence was when we attended a cooking class in Vaison la Romaine. Cuisine de Provence is run by the lovely Barbara Schurenberg at her picturesque country home. The grounds are postcard perfect. They include an olive grove, where the olives are harvested and pressed into olive oil used in all her cooking. There is also a substantial herb garden.


DSCN5164Our class of four learned to make typical Provencal dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Barbara was an excellent instructor using a hands-on style of teaching, giving each of us an opportunity to practice what we learned. At the end of the lesson, we  sat down to a feast of our efforts and a glass of local wine, served on the terrace. We left with tummies full, a file of recipes and smiles on our faces.


We started by picking herbs from the garden and then learned how to chop them very fine to make our own Herbs de Provence.


We made Tapenade with green and black olives. The secret ingredient – two anchovy fillets. Oh dear, I guess it is not a secret anymore. It was excellent served on a fresh baguette!


We also made Verrine Melon Glace. Very refreshing on a hot day. Provence’s answer to Gazpacho and so easy to make.

DSCN5178Here I am making Mini Onion Tarte Tatins, covering the mixture with puff pastry. It was two French sisters, Carolina and Stephine Tatin, who created the upside down tarte by accident, in their hotel during the 1880s.


The finished tatins straight out of the oven. A great hors-d’oeuvre to delight your guests.

DSCN5187My favourite was the Petites Quiches Provencales made with sweet grape tomatoes straight from the garden. I have made this crustless quiche since I came home and am proud to say it turned out well. This will be a regular at my house now.


Sauteing the vegetables for  the Tarte Provencale. Am I having fun or what?


The finished Tarte Provencale, soooo tasty. This and a salad is all I need for a summer meal.


Our excellent instructor, Barbara, with the Apricot Galette ready for the oven. Barbara is mentioned in Rick Steves’ Provence and the French Riviera.


The Apricot Galette ready to eat. A perfect dessert.

DSCN5193We finished off the meal with a cup of espresso.

It was a marvellous day, one I will never forget. Especially every time I make one of the delicious recipes at home. Hubby is looking forward to the Apricot Galette and the Poulet Provencal, which I plan to make very soon.

DSCN5183 (2)Note the perfect quote on the wall in Barbara’s kitchen.

You could also say, “You are only as good as the last book you wrote!”

If you are ever in the area, I suggest you consider taking a class with Barbara at  Cuisine de Provence. She has a variety of recipes and changes what she teaches daily. My friend has taken three classes already and each one was unique. Check out her website here.

Have you ever taken a cooking class while visiting another location?


Cicadas chirping in the trees, doves calling out to each other, a fluffy grey cat named Cerise sprawling on the pathway, a colourful bougainvillaea in one corner, a potted palm in another, the scent of herbs wafting from the herb garden and a gingerbread house for a tool shed. I lean back in the most comfortable S-shaped chaise lounge and view a huge pine tree soaring to the sky, pine cones glistening on top like Christmas ornaments. Where am I? Lounging in a delightful garden beside a glimmering crystal clear pool in sunny Provence, France. I reach over and have a sip of Rosé and nibble on brie, apples and a fresh baguette. Maybe I am in heaven!


It is a girlfriend get-away and we eat, nap, read, eat some more and chat in the most delightful setting. We wake up to the sound of church bells and have breakfast on the balcony with a gorgeous view of the village church. We have tea and handmade nougat before bed watching the lights come on in the church belfry. I do some writing.


This is what we woke up to every morning


Our evening view, sigh

We drive the back roads through a canopy of trees and visit a market in Cavaillon where we buy Herbs de Provence and table linen and enjoy a lovely lunch at Cafe Jardin.


DSCN5078I go for a relaxing evening stroll around the village of Jonquerettes where we are staying. 


Scenes from the medieval village


A typical village street


The village of Jonquerettes


A haunted house I am sure!

On another day we drive past fields of sunflowers and vineyards, stop at a village boulangerie to buy fresh baguettes and amazing French pastries and attend a cooking class.

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A field of dreams!


One of many Boulangeries we can´t pass by


What to choose??

I have a fabulous and relaxing five days in Provence.

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A perfect setting to inspire some writing

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It may not be heaven but it is close!! I will be back.


Eyguieres, Provence, one of the many charming villages we passed through.

We stayed at a wonderful holiday rental owned by the charming and accommodating Robert and Dominique Boyer. Check it out here.

Next post – more about the cooking class I attended.

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!


A typical traffic jam in the Andalusian mountains

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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.


A room with a view


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)

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


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


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.





Unique art in the streets

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The Town Hall


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.


The recently built Ton Schulten Museum


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


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


an old well


An elegant Maasai


and this weird fellow

Another fascinating find while visiting The Netherlands.

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


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.


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






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


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


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


We stopped to photograph old barns


and the roosters who were everywhere.


Aren´t these slanted roofs cool!



Old water wheels have always intrigued me.


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.

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


We passed many interesting houses

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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.


Burg Bentheim


The castle keep called the Pulverturn or powder tower


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.


The Hall of Knights


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.


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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!


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


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.



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.


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



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.

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