Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Malta

I was excited to be interviewed by accomplished author Molly Ringle on her blog where she features, Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady. This book will be launched on May 11th, 2021. I also give some advice to aspiring travellers.

Check out Molly´s blog where she offers editing and proofreading services.

https://mollyringle.livejournal.com/

https://mollyringle.com/editing-and-proofreading.html

Molly is an excellent editor with a keen eye for details. She edited my latest book and now I have a clean copy I’m proud of. I highly recommend her services. 

Guest feature: author Darlene Foster takes us to Malta! by Molly Ringle

It’s been too long since I’ve brought on another author for Q&A, and I’m pleased to be doing so again with Darlene Foster! I met Darlene (in an online sense) through our publisher in common, Central Avenue Publishing, and she’s one of the most upbeat, easygoing, fun-loving writers I know. Her Amanda Travels series is a wonderful set of books for middle-grade readers in which the young Amanda visits a new country in each book and always encounters an adventurous mystery to untangle. They’re perfect for the young armchair traveler—or real-world traveler—in your life.

Author Darlene Foster
Author Darlene Foster

The eighth book in the series comes out this May: Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady. I got to read an advance copy of it, and was instantly longing to go to Malta and soak up the sun and stroll between the stone buildings with their artistically idiosyncratic door knockers! 

Cover for the book Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady
Cover for the book Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady

Darlene was kind enough to answer some questions for me as well, so let’s dive into those:

Q: When did you start writing fiction? What were your earliest stories like?

A: I’ve been telling stories since I learned to talk. My grade three teacher, Miss Roll, encouraged me to write them down. When I was twelve years old I had a short story published in a local newspaper. Called Stretch Your Food Dollar, it was about two friends having an adventure in Woolworths department store. I guess the idea of two girls having an adventure has been there for a long time! 

Q: When you visit places, how much are you thinking about a possible story while you’re there? Or does the story idea come later?

A: When I visit interesting places, I am always thinking about how I could use it in a story. When I was in Malta, I kept saying to my husband, “Amanda would love it here!” I take a lot of pictures and jot down notes wherever we go. I once read that a writer never really takes a vacation as they are always looking for story ideas. I can attest that is true.  

Q: What draws you to writing middle-grade fiction as opposed to stories for other age groups?

A: Some would say I have never moved past twelve myself! For some reason, I can easily relate to this age group. I think they are wonderful. Tweens are not little kids anymore but not yet terrible teenagers. They can be so astute and mature at times but still naïve and unsure of themselves at other times. It is the age when they start to assert their independence and become curious and questioning. It is my favourite age and I have no intention of growing up. 

Q: I admire Amanda’s fearlessness and willing to take on adventures. Is that what you were like at her age?

A: It wasn’t what I was like, but it was what I wished I was like. I lived on a farm and we didn’t travel or have a television. So my world was very narrow. I was timid, bookish, and the only adventures I had were in my imagination. So I created a character I would have liked to be. 

Q: Give some advice to the aspiring travelers of the world: what are your must-bring items that lend to happier traveling?

A: The most important thing to bring is an open mind. Accept that things will be different wherever you go, the food, smells, people, climate, customs, etc. Embrace those differences and you will have an enjoyable and enriching time. Also bring a camera, a notepad, and pen. Everything will be overwhelming and you will never be able to remember it all. Pictures and notes bring it all back. I would rather look at my travel photos than watch TV. 

Q: What are you writing now, or planning to write next?

A: I am halfway through writing Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral. Amanda will fall in love with Paris, Versailles, and Monet’s garden in Giverny. Oh, and she will get to stay in a bookstore! Wouldn’t every young girl like to visit France? I know I would have loved it.  

—-

Darlene Foster is a Canadian author who has written the popular Amanda Travels series, featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places where she encounters mystery and adventure while learning about another culture. Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another in various countries. Darlene has won prizes for her short stories and a number of them have been published in anthologies. She has also written a bilingual book for English/Spanish readers.

Darlene grew up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where her love of reading inspired her to travel the world and write stories. Over the years she held wonderful jobs such as an employment counsellor, ESL teacher, recruiter, and retail manager, and wrote whenever she had a few spare minutes. She is now retired and has a home in Spain where she writes full time. When not travelling, meeting interesting people, and collecting ideas for her books, she likes to spend time with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot.

Her books include Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain: The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England: The Missing Novel, Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone, Amanda on The Danube: The Sounds of Music, Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind, and Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action. 

Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady will be released in the spring of 2021. 

Buy links

Amazon Canada here

Amazon UK here 

Amazon US here 

Barnes and Noble here

Chapters/Indigo here

Thanks, Molly for the great interview.

I was nominated by my blogging friend Geoff LePard at TanGental to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then to nominate someone else to participate. That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, and 10 nominations. It doesn´t have to be 10 consecutive days. Thanks, Geoff!

The photo from Day 4 is of the entrance to the Grand Harbour at Valletta, Malta. Andrew knew the exact location and Pedro was the first to guess it was Malta. We visited this unique place as a cruise stop and realized we needed much more than a morning to explore. So we returned a year later and spent a week there. I loved it so much I set my next book in Malta. Here is a post I wrote about Malta with more pictures.

https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/return-to-malta/

I nominate Wendy from My Plaid Heart  Her blog mainly focuses on her love of Scotland as well as her other travels. She has a keen interest in Scottish history and writes about historic sites, castles and estates, gardens, churches and cemeteries, stone circles, and historical/literary figures. Oh, and whiskey.

If I nominate you and you don’t want to participate, please do not feel obliged, but if you do, please link back to me so that I can see your post. In these times vicarious travel is a great escape, I would love to see what you choose to post.

This is my picture for day 5. If you want to guess where this is, leave your answer in the comments or just comment on the picture.

Many readers have been asking where Amanda will have her next adventure. Here are a few hints, see if you can guess.

  1. It is an archipelago in the Mediterranean.
  2. It has a long and colourful history.
  3. It has connections to St. Paul.
  4. It makes you think of Knights, Crosses and Falcons
  5. Popeye was filmed there.

Here are a couple of pictures that might give you another clue.

Did you guess where it is?

Drum roll…

I am so excited to share the fabulous cover designed by my amazing publisher, Michelle Halket of Central Avenue Publishing.

Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady

Amanda receives a postcard from her best friend, Leah, and is surprised to learn that she is in Malta with her aunt. Reading between the lines, she senses Leah is in trouble. Desperate to help her, Amanda travels to Malta with her classmate Caleb and his parents.

Amanda is intrigued by this exotic island in the middle of the Mediterranean, full of colourful history, sun-drenched limestone fortresses, stunning beaches and fascinating birds. But…who is killing the protected birds? Who stole a priceless artifact from the museum? And why is Leah acting so strange? She couldn’t possibly be involved in these illegal activities, or could she?

Join Amanda and her friends as they visit ancient temples, an exciting falconry and the enchanting Popeye Village, as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Sleeping Lady.

Book 8 in the exciting Amanda Travels series will be released in May 2021 and is available for preorder on all Amazon and Indigo sites

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Indigo

Did you know that Amanda is a Latin female name meaning “deserving to be loved,” “worthy of love,” or “loved very much by everyone.”? (From wikipedia)

Very fitting, don’t you think?

© Copyright Darlene Foster 2020

We had a fabulous day on a boat trip to the Maltese islands of Gozo and Comino during our recent visit.


Fort Chambray and the neo-gothic chapel of our Lady of Lourdes greeted us as we approached Gozo’s Mgarr harbour. We disembarked and piled into a packed minibus that took us on a rapid trip to Dwejra on the other side of the island. This is the site of the famous Azure Window often seen on postcards and calendars of Malta and featured in a number of movies and TV shows such as The Game of Thrones. Just two weeks earlier this important landmark fell into the sea. An example of how nothing lasts forever.

The Azure Window as it was. Photo from Wikipedia

The site of the Azure Window now.

We enjoyed the stunning view from the rocky shore nevertheless.

The impatient bus driver herded us back on the bus, reminiscent of the movie Vacation. “Now you’ve seen this let’s keep moving!”

Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary

We stopped at the Ta´Pinu Sanctuary where every year pilgrimages are made to Our Lady of Ta´Pinu who is believed to have healing powers.

Inside the sanctuary

A wall in the church displays crutches, plaster casts and pictures as offerings by those who have been healed.

Not wanting to annoy our surly bus driver, I quickly took some pictures but was still the second last one back on the bus. I received a grim look as I boarded.

A knight guarding the pharmacy

A lovely rose balcony in Victoria.

A sandwich on delicious Maltese bread near the Citadel in the ancient capital city of Victoria ended our visit to Gozo as our efficient bus driver was waiting to take us back to the boat. We would have liked more time to explore.

On the return trip, we docked at the uninhabited island of Comino which is a nature reserve. Hubby stayed on the boat but I walked up steep stairs, past a shrine set in the rocks, and found a great view of the crystal blue waters of the Blue Lagoon. I don´t think I have ever seen such clear water.

The clear waters of The Blue Lagoon

Some visitors went for a swim and others sunned on the rocks. Trucks serving snacks were available for those who got hungry or thirsty. I had to laugh as people juggled huge pineapples hollowed out and filled with drinks while they manoeuvred the steep steps back to the boat. I know I wouldn’t have been able to manage that!

A couple enjoying their drink in a pineapple on the way back.

We enjoyed the spectacular views as we headed back to the island of Malta, happy that we had seen all three of the islands that make up the country of Malta.

This is the last of my posts on Malta. I hope you have enjoyed them and perhaps one day you may visit this amazing place. 

Sometimes it is the little, unexpected things we find when we travel that make the trip memorable. In Valetta, the capital of Malta, we found a Cat Cafe.

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Shelter and food for homeless cats in Malta

They seem to look after their cats well in Malta. We saw stray cats wandering around but they all looked healthy and well fed.

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This little fellow got caught in the rain

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While wandering the streets of the cities and towns of Malta, we were intrigued by the unique door knockers on the colourful doors.

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We discovered this amusing car on a side street.

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And a decorated garage door.

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We found a tribute to Albert Einstein

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A typical menu in Malta. I was not tempted to try rabbit ravioli!

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We always take time to stop for a coffee and a local dessert.

 

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Ricotta turnover, so yummy!

 

 

It’s good to get off the beaten track and check out the side streets, you never know what you’ll find. 

Do you remember Popeye the Sailorman? As a prairie kid growing up without a TV, I loved the Popeye comics. I waited eagerly for the funny papers, as we called them, to arrive in the weekly newspaper. Then in 1980, a movie was made with Robin Williams and Shelly Duval. I loved it too.

A pleasant surprise during our visit to Malta was discovering the film set of the movie. Unfortunately, Robin Williams is no longer with us but the set to the movie still is. The village of Sweethaven rests on the edge of a peaceful cove in Anchor Bay and is now a popular tourist attraction. When we heard about it, we decided to take a bus to Popeye Village. I’m so glad we did. The delightful visit made me feel like a kid again.

The village of Sweethaven built for the 1980 Popeye movie.

To construct this authentic wooden village in Malta, tree trunk logs arrived from Holland, and wood shingles, used in the construction of the rooftops, were imported all the way from Canada. A 165 international construction crew consumed eight tons of nails and two thousand gallons of paint to finish off this incredible set ready for film production in January 1980.

A precarious outhouse.

There are plenty of activities on the site including a boat ride around the bay. Information about filming the movie, movie clips, music from the film and various props are everywhere. The film, directed by Robert Altman, featured his grandson playing the part of Swee’pea. Characters from the story are happy to pose for pictures, answer questions and entertain the guests.

I even got to meet Popeye and Olive Oyle! I didn’t see Swee’pea though.

A Popeye comic museum on site.

The Popeye the Sailor Man cartoon character was introduced by Elzie Segar in 1929. The comic museum displays various Popeye comic strips over the years and brought back great memories.

Great memories of Popeye Village, Malta

This was an added surprise for us! I was humming Popeye the Sailorman for the rest of the day.

Have you ever been anywhere where you have encountered a pleasant surprise?

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.

 

I can’t believe it has been a year since we went on our wonderful Mediterranean cruise. I wrote about it here, here, here and here. I realize I had not written a post on our favourite stop, the historic country of Malta. We only spent a morning at this amazing place but we loved it.

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It was early morning as we entered the Grande Harbour where a mix of Middle Eastern and European architecture greeted us. Malta’s location has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, have ruled the islands and left their mark. I had read so much about this place and was eager to explore Valletta, the capital city. A short walk from the boat and up an elevator took us into the heart of the fortified city.

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The fortified city of Valletta

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A sample of the many sculptures found throughout the city

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Wouldn’t you love to have a coffee by this unicorn fountain?

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Queen Victoria graces the entrance to the impressive library

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A fabulous fountain

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The 8 point Maltese cross, the symbol of the Knights of St. John,  is everywhere

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Romantic windows grace many homes and apartments

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Malta is well known for its unique door knockers

I visited St. John’s Co-Cathedral and was gobsmacked, as the British would say. The plain facade looked more like a fortress and gave no indication of the marvels inside. This was the church of the Order of the Knights of St. John and was completed in 1577. The interior was originally very simple but over the years the Grand Masters and Knights donated gifts of artworks and financial contributions to enrich it. One gift was the original painting of the beheading of John the Baptist by Caravaggio which hangs in the Oratory. I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of this amazing work of art. Of course, photographs were not allowed so you will have to take my word for it. I was, however, allowed to take pictures in the opulent Sanctuary.

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The cathedral houses a museum with elaborate vestments and incredible Flemish tapestries. The urge to snap a couple of photographs was strong but I resisted. I also resisted touching those centuries old tapestries representing hours and hours of work. I was in awe.

The Grande Harbour is a busy place with a variety of boats.

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A typical Maltese fishing boat

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A yacht for the rich and famous

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Me in Malta

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We found a number of cute signs including this one. In case you are wondering, yes we had coffee and cake at one of the many charming outdoor cafes. I can’t remember the question.

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As we left Malta, we promised we would be back.

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