Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Spain

Part of the Estacion Inglesa experience was a field trip to the medieval village of Trujillo, in the Cáceres province of Extremadura, 40 kilometers away from the resort. For a history buff like me, this was a real treat.  

We started our tour in the Plaza Mayor where an equestrian statue of Trujillo´s famous son, the conquistador, Francisco Pizarro takes centre stage. The Spanish participants gave us presentations, in English, at each point of interest. From the presentation by the statue, we learned it is believed Pizarro’s ghost lives on in the statue.

Listening intently to the interesting presentation

I loved wandering the labyrinth of narrow streets in one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Spain. Old stone walls overhung with gorgeous flowers, impressive mansions, churches and monasteries, echoed the past as time stood still for me.

A monastery, now a secondary school. Note the faces above the door.

We learned about tenth-century cisterns built by the Moors, as explained by a participant.

At the birthplace of Francisco Pizarro, we learned he was a poor, illiterate boy who sailed to the Americas in 1509 where he discovered new lands and made his fortune. A local boy done well! There is also a small museum attached which unfortunately was not open.

The birthplace of Francisco Pizarro

We ended our tour at the exquisite castle overlooking the town. Trujillo’s castle is of 10th-century Arabic origin later added to by the Christians. Magnificent views of the town are visible from the battlements as well as views of the rural countryside from the back of the castle.

Castillo de Trujillo
The Moorish entrance to the castle
Inside the castle walls
View of the village from the battlements
The rural countryside from the back of the castle
Our Lady of the Victory

A short climb took us to the hermitage of Our Lady of the Victory, Trujillo’s patron. She faces out toward the town above the castle entrance. By inserting a 50 cent coin, she will spin around in her alcove to bless you.

We had time to explore on our own, take pictures and do some shopping in the unique little shops around the plaza. I bought some smokey paprika, a specialty of the area, and some lovely tea. The area is well known for its cheeses and the national cheese festival is held here in early May. But I didn’t think cheese would travel well in the near 40 degree celsius temperatures, so refrained from purchasing any.

Stork’s nest in the clock tower means good luck

Local storks make their home in many of the towers around town. Black storks are common in the area.

Palacio de la Conquista

Some of the buildings are elaborately decorated, like the Palacio de la Conquista where carved images of Pizarro and his lover Inés Yupanqui (sister of the Inca emperor Atahualpa) along with their daughter Francisca and her husband Hernando Pizarro are displayed.

What a delight to visit a village mostly unchanged from the times of the conquistadors. I recall learning about these people and times at school in Canada many years ago, never for one minute imagining I would one day be able to visit.

A magical day I will never forget.

For those of us who love to travel and meet new people, this has not been a good year. Many travel plans have been cancelled and it’s been difficult to make future plans as we don’t know what lies ahead. When an opportunity to join an English immersion program in another part of Spain came up, I jumped at the chance. And I’m so glad I did. I had volunteered for a similar program thirteen years ago, and in spite of some limitations due to the Corona19 Virus, this was just as enjoyable and rewarding.

The six-day Estacion Inglesa program consisted of 10 English speaking volunteers and 10 Spanish speaking professionals seeking to improve their English communication skills. The program was well organized, with a variety of participants and activities. Even during meals, two English speakers shared a table with two Spanish speakers to keep the conversations going.

Meal time conversation, the only time without wearing masks
Amazing food was served. I loved this roasted vegetable tower.
Desserts too beautiful to eat.

For our time and effort, English speaking volunteers are provided 4-star accommodation in a lovely setting and three fabulous meals every day. The program I took part in was held at Hospederia Parque de Monfrague, in Extramadura, a province in the southwest part of Spain, near the border of Portugal. This is a part of Spain I hadn’t been to before. The hotel, situated in a National Park, had lots of open spaces for us to keep the required two-metre distance. A perfect spot to engage in conversation with gorgeous views of oak orchards, foothills, sheep, cattle, and horses grazing, and bulls resting under a tree.

The lovely view from my room
Sheep, bulls and a horse – rural Spain.
One of many places to hold one to one conversations

It was a win-win situation. The Spanish participants improved their English speaking skills notably while they gained confidence and became much more comfortable with the language. And for us volunteers, we made some amazing friends, learned a lot about Spain, the people and culture, and had a lot of fun.

Many perfect spots for one to one conversations at the hotel
English communication wearing the obligatory masks
A chat about common idioms under a tree

Besides many one to one conversations, the various group activities included a board meeting, a debate, making phone calls, creating a photo video, quizzes, and other games. The only rule is no Spanish can be spoken as it is an English immersion program. To keep us all safe, masks were required at all times except when eating which made it a bit more difficult, but we managed OK.

Having fun creating a Zombie photovideo.
Yes, that’s me, the dead Zombie on the left.

The days were long but I loved every moment because I got to talk to interesting people and you know I love doing that. Making new friends was a bonus. This was a highlight in my otherwise lack of adventure year.

We were each presented with a certificate of program completion
All of us at the medieval village, keeping appropriate distances

One day we were taken on a field trip to a medieval village, but I’ll save that for another post.

For more information about this program https://www.estacioninglesa.es/en/

Note: All photos were taken by myself or the Program Coordinator

A year ago today, it was Maundy Thursday, when a friend and I attended a fabulous Easter parade in Lorca, here in Spain. Following my post from a couple of days ago, I decided it would be worth sharing more of this special event. Enjoy!

Darlene Foster's Blog

Easter week, Semana Santa, provides the most impressive and emotional fiestas here in Spain. Processions and parades around the country mix historic, biblical, artistic, cultural and social themes. Members of the different brotherhoods, dressed in their characteristic robes, parade through the streets while dozens of costaleros on foot carry ornate religious icons called pasos. This is a spectacular sight whether you are religious or not. No where do they do this better than in the town of Lorca where in 2007 their Holy Week was declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest. Its origin dates back centuries ago. I was lucky to have witnessed this event last week and wrote about what we saw before the parade started in the previous post.

As promised, here are some pictures of the actual event.

I was especially in awe of the horse-drawn chariots and performing horses. At times I felt like…

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Due to the worldwide pandemic, all Easter parades and celebrations for Semana Santa, (Holy Week) were cancelled in Spain. This is the most important week in the Spanish religious calendar and has been celebrated for centuries. Since we could not partake in a fiesta this year, I am sharing the parade I attended last year. It was so spectacular, it’s worth a revisit. Enjoy!

Darlene Foster's Blog

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. 

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A great post featuring articles from people in various parts of the world and how they are dealing with the pandemic. Proof that we are all in this together, and globally we will get through it. My article about our little corner of Spain is included. Let us know how you are doing as well. Stay safe!

Empty beaches. Photo credit Darlene Foster

Views of COVID 19 – Thailand, Mexico, Spain and Australia

by Sue Slaght

In a time when our personal worlds have shrunk and we remain at home as much as possible, we wonder what are others experiencing? With gratitude, we begin a series on views of COVID 19, featuring friends, writers, photographers and acquaintances from around the world. 

I planned on writing a post about what is happening here in our corner of Spain, but my friend wrote one that says it all. So I am sharing it with you as I couldn’t have summarized it better myself. I love how she ends the post as it is so true. We will all need to be very patient as we work together to deal with this situation.

American writer in Spain

For many years we have been warned by experts that the world was at risk for a pandemic. A deadly virus was only a plane ride away, they said. Well, now that time has come. Government officials here have said you can only go outside if you have a good reason, such a trip to the grocery store to get food or to the pharmacy to get medicine. No more social gatherings. No more going out to eat or drink.

All the activities I do each week have been cancelled. No more book discussion groups, no more choir rehearsals, no more yoga, no more writer’s groups, no more military history presentations. I love to go out and do things and be with other people. So this is going to be hard. My to-do list has shrunk down to how many books I can read. I am about to start reading…

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I am a guest on Sue Vincent’s blog where I write about a fascinating fiesta I attended in a medieval village lit only by candles.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Spain is a fascinating country with many Fiestas, one for every week it seems. These colourful festivals are based on age-old traditions and legends. Some are quite unique. La Noche en Vela, the Sleepless Night, is held every August in the medieval village of Aledo, tucked high in the mountains. I decide I must check this one out.

A bus takes us through dense pine forests and climbs up the winding roads of the Sierra Espuña, in the province of Murcia, to a fortified hilltop town offering gorgeous vistas overlooking the valley. I am immediately transported to another time and place.

We wait in anticipation at the gates of the old town as only so many are allowed in at one time. Once inside the ancient walls, we wander up to the imposing castle tower and the cathedral of Santa Maria la Real in the town square. A…

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When Pete asked for photos he could use as prompts for short stories, I sent him this one of a church I came across in Spain, that no doubt had seen much history. What a marvelous story he created from my photo. Be sure to check it out.

beetleypete

This is a short story, in 1048 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, sent to me by Darlene Foster.
https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

Pablo looked back at his platoon following in a ragged line. They were exhausted, clothes in tatters, and their eyes stared blankly ahead as they trudged along. Sixteen men, two young women, and a mere boy, with not a recognisable uniform on any of them. Even the armbands had lost their colour, now more pink than red. The rucksacks were slack and empty-looking, with little ammunition in them, and all the food had been eaten last night.

Pulling the cap tighter on his head, he tried to cheer them along. “Come on friends, once we get over the hill, you can rest”. He didn’t blame them for not being interested in his false enthusiasm. They all knew that they were probably going to an eternal rest. When Captain…

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This is my entry into Stevie Turner’s short story competition for the month of October. The story was inspired by this photo I took during my travels n Spain. It was suggested I write a story about this scene when I posted it recently. Let me know what you think. And why not enter a story yourself.

https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2019/09/28/share-your-short-story-october-2019/

Three Sheets to the Wind

by Darlene Foster

Stan woke with a terrible taste in his mouth. Trying to stand up, his head spun and he slumped down beside a large container.
“I swear, I´ll never drink again.”
He wanted to retch.
“My God, what is that awful smell.”
He rubbed his eyes. Through the dim early morning light, he could make out he was in a back alley leaning on a barrel filled with rotten vegetables. He glanced down.
“What the hell am I wearing?”
Instead of jeans and a T-shirt, he wore a baggy pair of pants that stopped at his knees, a wide sash and a loose shirt.
He couldn´t remember being at a costume party.
Two heavy-set men appeared out of the mist.
“Here´s another one,” said one fellow with a heavy accent, wearing a similar outfit.
They picked him up under his arms, dragging him along the cobblestones. “Captain said we should collect as many able bodied men as we can. We ship out tomorrow and need more crew.”
“What the…?” Stan struggled.
They tightened their grasp. “Shut up your mouth. You are now in the service of the Queen.”
***
He lay in his bunk feeling seasick as the boat left the dock. Perhaps it wasn’t the motion of the ship, but maybe the putrid smell of boiled cabbage, urine and stale air that was making his stomach churn.
He wandered over to the porthole. Looking out he saw two other ships. On the side of the one closest, he made out the name, Nino.
“What is going on? It must be a re-enactment of some kind, or a film set.”

He thought back to the previous day, the start of a holiday in Seville, Spain, where he was taking in all the sites. He met some other young guys and they had a few drinks at what used to be an old tavern. But that´s all he remembered. A knock on the door took him out of his thoughts.
“Time to swab the decks.”
The boat lurched as he climbed the stairs. He stumbled.
“You best get your sea legs.” The sailor behind him slapped him on the back and presented a toothless grin. Even though he spoke English, it wasn’t any dialect Stan was familiar with.
“These guys are really taking this serious,” he thought.
The rest of the motley crew sported beards, eye patches and even the occasional peg leg. He thought they did a good job with the costumes but why was he still clean-shaven and all in one piece?
A bearded sailor handed him a mop and a bucket. Stan shook his head. “Excuse me. I think there has been a mistake.”
The sailor stared at him and walked away.
He shrugged and began scrubbing.

“Wait ‘til I tell them back home that I ended up on a replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship.” He stopped and looked around as the land disappeared behind him.

“At least – I think it´s a replica.”
***
A dazed and disoriented fifteenth-century sailor wandered the streets of Seville. Everything appeared strange to him.
“Perhaps this is the afterlife,” he thought. “Probably hell.”
Large metal objects hurtled down the streets. Should a horse and rider happened along, they would both be killed. People dressed in a very odd manner. Men and women wore tight trousers and tiny tops that didn´t cover their arms and stopped at the waist. Just like the ones he found in the alcove by the cathedral.
He glanced away when women walked by looking immodest.
He had to put something on as he had lost his clothes sometime the night before. It was his last night before going with Captain Columbus to find India. He had been promised riches if he survived the journey. A humble sailor, he could only dream of wealth. After many drinks and fun with the whores, he stumbled out of the tavern and fell asleep in an alleyway. He woke up stark naked. After a wander up to the cathedral, he found clothes neatly rolled up in an alcove. They fit but he felt strange in them, until he saw everyone else wearing the same uniform.
He had to get to the ship or he would miss his chance.
He noticed a man with long hair and tattoos approaching. “Pardon, kind sir. Where is the port the Santa Maria is sailing from?”
“You mean, where did it sail from? It sailed from Palos de la Frontera.”
The sailor had trouble understanding the man as his accent was strange. But he understood the words, Palos de la Frontera.
“I must make haste and get there before it leaves.”
“I´m sorry mate, but you are 500 years too late.” The man laughed and walked down the street shaking his head.
The sailor ran his hands through his hair. “This must be hell, but when and how did I die? I should not drink ale again.” He tugged at his shirt hoping to cover more of his torso.

In a recent post, I wrote about a day trip to the Monastery of Montserrat high up in the mountains outside of Barcelona. As well as the impressive Basilica which houses a famous Black Madonna, there is a wonderful art museum on site. It is not very big but holds some impressive pieces of art and artefacts. It was worth an hour of my time.

From the website –

Most of the works of art that are housed in the Montserrat Museum have been donated to the monastery by private citizens. The Monks at the Monastery see it as their duty to display the artworks for those visiting Montserrat as a promotion of culture. This ideology originates from a previous monk at Montserrat called Father Bonaventura Ubach. He collected archaeological, ethnological and zoological artefacts during travels to the Middle East and brought them back to the Monastery.

I would like to share a few of my favourites.

At the entrance, a Guadi inspired sculpture of St George, the patron saint of Catalonia

Old Fisherman, painted by Pablo Picasso in 1895 when he was just 14 years old.

Unhappy Nelly, by Edgar Degas, 1885

Madeleine by Ramon Casas, 1892

The Tapestry Merchant by Maria Fortuny, 1870. I love the detail in this painting.

Café des Incoherents, Montmartre by Santiago Rusiñol

Le Givre, temps gris (Frost, Grey Weather) by Claude Monet 1877

Here is a short and very amateur video of the room of Black Madonna paintings and sculptures in the museum.

An then, as I left the museum, I noticed someone had left their clothes neatly folded in an alcove outside. There could be a story there. (and you wonder where I get my ideas!)

I stopped to purchase a jar of honey made on site by the monks and was thankful for a very special day in Montserrat.


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