Darlene Foster – a Glamorous Canadian Author Living in Spain

I’m always pleased if I am lucky enough to meet another ‘glamourgranny’ and if she shares my tastes and passions, that is to say, travel, history, writing and all things beautiful, so much the better.


Darlene Foster

Darlene Foster

Darlene Foster, a Canadian writer of children’s’ books who, since just over a year, has made Spain her home and has become a cherished neighbor and friend, is just such a person. She graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions and I’d like to share what she has to say with you.

GG: What inspired you to write for children’
DF: I tend to relate well with children. Perhaps I have never moved past being a twelve-year-old myself! I have always been around children. With three younger brothers, dozens of younger cousins, a mother of two, grandmother of four and great grandmother of two, I have spent many hours telling stories and reading children’s books to them. So it comes naturally to me to write for kids.
GG: Looking at Darlene, all I can say is: being around kids sure keeps you young. You would never guess that she is a great grandmother!

GG: What is your personal background?
DF: I grew up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, Canada and was the oldest of four children. We all worked hard helping out parents to run the ranch. Milking cows, gathering eggs, feeding the pigs etc. Whenever I found a bit of free time, I would have my nose in a book or would be making up stories in my head. The prairies are fascinating and a great place to inspire imagination.
GG:We’ll come back to the pigs later.

Pig on Trial

Pig on Trial

GG: Why did you decide to move to Spain?
DF: I have always had a desire to live some place different, preferably with a warm climate and have been intrigued by European history for a long time. We visited Spain a number of times and felt comfortable here. The people are as warm and friendly as the weather and I enjoy the healthy lifestyle, good food and little stress. I feel like I’m living in a fairly tale!
GG:I couldn’t agree more, that’s why I have made Spain my home too.

GG: What is your professional background?
DF: I have been fortunate to have had interesting and rewarding careers. I worked in retail management where I managed ten gourmet kitchen stores across Western Canada. I then moved on to recruitment where I assisted large corporations finding suitable staff. From there I went into career counseling, teaching unemployed individuals job finding and life skills. I also have a Teaching English as a Second Language Certificate and worked closely with immigrants, teaching them English evening and weekends.
My two favorite jobs have been working with youths-at-risk, helping them integrate into the work force and tutoring immigrant children to improve their English. You can learn so much from children and young people.
GG:An impressive CV, if I have ever seen one.

GG: How did your love of travel come about?
DF: I have to thank my grade three teacher for that. She introduced us to distant lands and books about other countries. When she taught us about Mexico, Miss Roll gave everyone a Spanish name, sombreros and serapes to wear, played Spanish music and treated us to Mexican food. It was so much fun.
Later, when working with immigrants, I learned about the countries they came from, motivating me to visit these places. Learning about other cultures has been a life-long quest and the best way to do so is actually to go there.
GG:Hearing about Miss Roll made me remember my own teachers, all of them nuns. I just imagined Sister Immaculata with a sombreo on top of her habit. Now, that would have been fun!!

GG: Tell me about your visit to the Middle East
DF: A friend moved to the UAE to work for a couple of years and invited me to visit her. It was an opportunity of a life-time, so I saved my pennies and made the trip. I was so amazed at the scenery, culture and people. When I returned home, I felt compelled to write about it. The stories I wrote didn’t quite project the excitement I felt when there.
Then, one sleepless night, I started to write a story from the point of view of a twelve-year-old visiting the UAE which felt right. Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask was born. A woman born and raised in UAE living in Canada, bought the book and after reading it said. “it felt like I was back home”. The best compliment I could ever get.


The Amanda series

The Amanda series

GG: Any favorite country?
DF:That is a hard question to answer as I have found something wonderful about every place I have seen. The UAE are probably to most fascinating.
GG:Another thing we have in common. Turkey and Oman are my personal favorite countries.

GG: What are your hobbies?
DF: I enjoy cooking, especially dishes from other countries. I just recently learned to make paella. I also made my own clothes for years, collecting fabrics from my travels. I have made costumes for my children and grandchildren as well as for the local theatre in the past. Does eating chocolate count as a hobby?

It certainly does and this reminds me of our trip to the lovely mountain village of Altea. Darlene and I have gone on a few trips to the surrounding areas together and Altea was one of them. We got off the train a stop too early and had to walk towards the town center which lead us past the most wonderful chocolate shop where we were treated to their specialty: chocolates topped with a few grains of sea salt. Delicious.


Two great friends

Two great friends

A few more trips are planned for the coming year.
Learn more about my friend Darlene Foster by reading her blog and take a look at her Amanda books.
The most recent is about a Pig on Trial  and it’s also her first bilingual one.

A bit like a blind date – meeting cyber friends in person

Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of meeting a few writer friends in person. It´s not really like a blind date because you know what they look like, you have exchanged emails, you have read their articles and posts, but still, you ask yourself: will they be as nice in person or will you just end up hating each other?
Let me say this first: all but one turned out to be great, some have become real friends and others are, hopefully, on the way of becoming such. They are of a variety of nationalities, Americans, Canadians, Greek, British and some of dual nationality.
Equally wide spread were the locations where we met: Miami, New York, Athens, Naxos, Granada and … Torrevieja. As far as glamour is concerned, the locations seem to be going down hill a bit of late, but you never know what the future holds and the most important thing are the persons.
I´ll introduce a few, in no particular order. It also isn´t a complete list.
Ruth Kozak

Ruth holding her book

Ruth holding her book

My friend Ruthie lives in Vancouver and we met and spent a whole week together, on the Greek island of Naxos. This is no coincidence as Ruth is an expert on ancient Greek history, has lived in Greece, speaks the language and is now on the road to stardom. This is because of her novel` In the Shadow of the Lion` which is becoming a great success. She also owns the site TravelThruHistory  to which I have contributed a few pieces.
Our Naxos week was a total success, common interests, common curiosity and, thanks to her, I have had my one and only experience in camping. This wasn´t planned, but a true traveler adapts to any situation.

Nellie Huang

Nellie, the owner of Wildjunket lives in Granada, although she runs around the world like there is no tomorrow. Nellie is from Singapore but now married to a Spaniard, avid traveler like herself. I was lucky that we happened to be in Granada at the same time and although we only had a few hours, we got on like a house on fire. Nellie is definitely the adventure type as proven by her latest book.

Sacromonte in Granada

Sacromonte in Granada

Dora Kitinas Gogos

My friend Dora is Greek but lives most of the time in Australia. We met in Athens and it was a privilege to have seen her wonderful apartment before it was finished. She showed me some amazing places in Athens and, if luck holds, we will go island hopping in Greece in the summer. She co owns and writes for the most important Greek paper in Australia: neoskosmos. Yours truly has one article in there too!

Art gallery and cafe in Athens

Art gallery and cafe in Athens

Sandra Piddock

Sandra is the latest writer friend I had the pleasure of meeting. In Torrevieja.! At least, the location was glamorous, the fabulous casino. Sandra is a British expat, writing for countless publications, having appeared on British TV and running her brand new blog: SandrainSpain. We talked for close to two hours and it was as if we had known each other for years.

Us in the casino

Us in the casino

I met Marta in Miami who is a poetess but too shy to try and publish anything. And in New York I had the satisfaction of showing a born and bread New Yorker a place they didn´t know: Bemelman´s Bar in the Carlisle Hotel.


Bemelman´s Bar New York

Bemelman´s Bar New York

And a miss:

I still regret that I couldn´t make it to the scheduled meeting in Portugal with Max Hartshorne, of GoNomad fame. Max will always have a special place in my writer heart because he was the first ever editor who published a story of mine. Since then I have written twelve more for him.
And the failure?
Well, the less said, the better. These things happen, don´t they, but in total I must say that the meeting result record is pretty good. I hope to meet many more of my writer friends in the future. Maybe you enjoyed my little selection and I´d love to hear your own `blind date`experiences.

Cheers to one year of Glamour Granny Travels

Raise a glass of bubbly with me and say ‘cheers’ to celebrate post #204 and the first anniversary of glamourgrannytravels. And what a year it has been! I have every reason to be happy because it seems that my niche blog has found a faithful audience  and, hopefully will continue to inspire and entertain for many years to come.

A few statistics first: 204 posts, over 35.000 comments, Google page rank 3 and, as of today, topofblogs #61. This figure of course changes daily and fluctuates wildly , but nevertheless it’s an achievement I’m mighty proud of.

During the first year of my blog I have visited the Lebanon, Jordan, Sharjah, Dubai, Turkey (countless trips), London, France, Spain and Italy. And reported back as best I could.

My most memorable trip, no doubt, was to participate in the Carnival in Venice. Ok, it’s not carnival time now, but I simply must post a few pictures of the incredible masks and costumes which turned the city into a living stage of the Renaissance.



Guess who is this!

The worst:  Naples/Italy. The less said, the better.

The nicest people on the road: my drivers. I was really lucky, because I depended on them and always felt in safe hands. Not to mention being shown real treasures which only insiders would know about.

In SE Turkey

A very special tour in a red MINI in London

The most exciting: my first interview with a famous author. I went to talk to Barbara Nadel in London. Actress, psychologist, award winning crime novel writer and creator of the quirky Istanbul police inspector Cetin Ikmen,  I had to speak to her, because she is one of the three writers whose works form the basis of my upcoming unconventional guide to Istanbul, titled City of the Green-Eyed Beauty. No airs and graces from Barbara! We went and had lunch in this very pretty pub in London near Victoria Station and got on like a house on fire.

Barbara Nadel and I in a pub in London

I also had the pleasure of publishing four guest posts and to be added to Wizard Istanbul and Travel Avenue, a French website.

My plans for the future: first priority is to finish the guide book which means at least two more trips to Istanbul to visit and photograph the lesser known and fascinating  places  which feature in my writers’ books.

Come December, I finally return to my second home, Miami. Christmas will be spent in Puerto Rico and after that I plan to travel extensively in the US. New York, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and San Francisco are definitely on the agenda.

San Juan/Puerto Rico

Given that all of the Caribbean and South America are  practically at my door step, I want to visit Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala. How does that sound for the next 6 months???

Come summer and heat in South Florida, it’s back to the Aegean Sea in Turkey as my base and onwards to more Middle East. The emirates are awaiting  and a side trip to Morocco is called for too.

I hope everybody who likes to read me will stay with me over the next year to enjoy many more travel stories, photographs, adventures and, yes, antics, of the glamour granny. And a heartfelt thank you to those who follow me and have cheered me on in the many lovely comments.




Maralyn D. Hill – a traveling glamourgran par excellence!

Interview with Maralyn D. Hill

Maralyn B. Hill

Maralyn, I’m on the lookout among my female fellow writers for ladies who fit the label ‘Traveling Glamour Grannies’. Without having to give it much thought, you sprang to mind. You have always been very kind and supportive of me. Therefore, the first interview for my new blog, Glamour Granny Travels, belongs to you.

You have a long and distinguished career as a travel writer who not only specializes in fascinating locations, but also delights your readers with the discovery of mouth-watering recipes and tales about food and wine.

Not only are you the president of IFWTWA (International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association), you also run the extremely popular blog, ‘Where and What in the World’, and have co-authored several books, among them ‘Our Love Affair with Food and Travel’ and ‘Success, Your Path to a Successful Book.’  You had a TV show, are the judge of many awards and competitions, and are a tireless sponsor of aspiring travel writers. In short, glamour galore!

Inka: You have a family and you are a granny, so tell me, how many grandchildren do you have?

Maralyn: I’ve one beautiful granddaughter, Alecia, who will be twenty-one this year. She is a joy and I delight when she calls or sends me a message on Facebook. After she took Japanese for 4 years, I took her to Japan, Singapore and Thailand on points. We went top class. Norm joined us there. Recently, she had her first photo of a flower published in a coffee table book that sells for $85. So I’m quite proud of that accomplishment. More than that, I just love her.

Inka: Going back to the title of one of your books:  How did the love affair with travel and food start?

Maralyn: Well, this will be a two-part answer.

My first train ride was at 2 weeks old on a Pullman car from Chicago to the upper peninsula of Michigan. In the morning, the man who had the top berth put a $5 bill in my hand and told my mother she had a good traveler. I grew up with car trips and trains. As my father worked for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, we had passes. After college, I was a flight attendant.

In those days, one had to stop flying when she got married.  After my two children, Lindsay and Eric, I started my own business. It was first advertising and marketing and later expanded into meeting planning, writing incentive programs, etc. In any case, my travel was limited while my children were growing up, but half of my clients were hotels. As a result, I made lifetime friends.

Once my children were grown, I was back traveling. I was working on my Masters at the University of Massachusetts while running my Connecticut business, and took a class in Southeast Asia. When I returned, I had to go into New York to meet with a hotel client. I was tired and my staff insisted I take a new bus service. On the way back from the city, I met Norm. Remarrying was not on my agenda. But I’m glad he came along, as he respects my independence. So my travel continues and increases at a steady pace.

Growing up, I was surrounded by great cooks. My grandma was terrific and did wonderful baking without measuring. My aunt made delicious caramels, fudge, and taffy apples, and my mother did everything fancy. Presentation mattered. For our birthday parties, we would have pinwheel sandwiches. The bread would be cut lengthwise with the crusts cut off and spread with peanut butter and jelly, cream cheese, or egg salad (nothing expensive). After being rolled like a jellyroll, refrigerated, and sliced, little roses from a pastry tube would be put on top. For adult parties, it would be decorated sandwich loaves and fancy finger sandwiches. She also decorated all the wedding cakes in the family.  We gardened, canned, froze, picked wild berries, everything.

In addition to relatives, our next-door neighbor was from Italy and taught us how to make pizza. We enjoyed pizza before there was a pizza heading in the phone book and only two pizza restaurants in Chicago. At one point, my mother owned a restaurant. I waited tables and cooked. I never had a desire to own one.

As young adults, my sister and I took a series of cooking classes that were many steps above what we had experienced. We loved it.

I went on to explore cuisine. While planning hotel-marketing events, I attended many and was exposed to wonderful chefs preparing the best they could offer.

As I negotiated contracts for incentive or meeting planning clients, I rarely took a standard menu. I would always meet with the chefs. I’d tell them my budget and ask for their suggestions as to what could be cut so they could offer the best of their seasonal features. It worked like a charm and my appreciation and friendship with chefs grew and continues to grow.

Inka: Is there a type of cuisine you like best?

Maralyn: Each new experience awakens different senses and likes. As a result, I can’t pick a favorite.

Inka: Do you always try out the recipes you discover yourself?

Maralyn: On occasion, I will. Usually, I can tell from the ingredients the taste and flavor. When I do try them, I’m usually on target.

Inka: Do you have plans for another book or another TV show?

Maralyn: Brenda is ready for us to do two or three more books. I like the concept of all three, but I don’t see that happening while I am President of IFWTWA; maybe when I’m past president or off the Board. As for a TV or radio show, I’d do any if the opportunity arose.

Inka: Could you tell me what the concept of glamour means to you?

Maralyn: There are many definitions that come to mind. But I like to think of it as a state of mind where you have the time to fulfill your dreams the way you want to do it. For me, travel is one of them. Some means of transportation are not glamorous, but the culture and people, the end result is if you have fun and enjoy the journey.

Inka: Do you agree that many women of our age need encouragement to venture out and see the world?

Maralyn: Certainly. It has been my experience that you need to push yourself, discover and fulfill your desires. You may have a few disappointments along the way, but I think they will be minor. I take difficult situations and say, “What’s good about it.” I have noticed, they either love travel or hate it. I love it despite lost luggage, delayed planes, missed connections, so what? I don’t like those inconveniences, but that is part of life and worth the end result—meeting, learning, exploring, and discovering different cultures.

Inka: Do you sometimes travel alone and if so, do you find it a challenge?

Maralyn: Yes, I’ve travelled alone a lot. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become and the less you pack. When I am at dinner, I usually ask what the chef or the waiter recommends. Frequently, the chef will come out to talk with me. I generally photograph every meal. A few times, people have asked about it and asked me to join them. I’ve met so many interesting people along the way.

If you are frightened of having your passport stolen or something similar, register critical items with www.AccessMyID.com. They will back up everything for you. Keep your passport on your body. Put a copy of your passport in your luggage and purse or backpack, and split up your money in several places. I’ve always been fortunate, but I know others who haven’t. But I’m the queen of delayed luggage and have learned to pack with something suitable for casual or dressy with a scarf. I also carry on medications, clean underwear, toiletries, and a bathing suit.

If someone absolutely does not want to travel alone, there are great tour companies in every budget to most every destination imaginable.

My advice is to try traveling and enjoy the journey!