Wednesday Wander – San Sebastian Old Town

It’s Wednesday again, and this week I’m wandering back to Donostia San Sebastian, the beautiful Spanish coastal town I visited this past summer.

Last time I wandered here, I visited the beaches, golden curves of sand deserving of their own blog post. This time, I’m venturing into the Old Town.

While there is evidence to suggest that San Sebastian was at one time part of a Roman territory, the first recorded history of the place is in 1014, when the monastery of San Sebastian was given to the Abbey of Leire. By 1181, the town was officially chartered, though was mostly destroyed by fire in 1489, then again by Napoleonic troops in 1808.

Therefore, most buildings in the Old Town date from the nineteenth century, including the Constitution Square, built in 1817.

The numbers above the windows are from the time when the square was used as a bullring – the numbers corresponded to private boxes from where bullfights could be watched. When a new bullring was built further out of town, the boxes were converted to housing, the numbers kept as a reminder of its past.

There is also an old harbour section, home to several excellent seafood restaurants (we ate at Igedo), as well as the aquarium. While the buildings here may look old, they were actually built in the early 20th century after a section of the old town wall was demolished. In the evening it’s a wonderful place, local teenagers doing somersaults into the clear green water in a bid to impress their friends, families and couples walking and talking, the restaurants buzzing with conversation and the scent of cooking in the air.

After dinner, we joined the crowds wandering along the harbour, stopping outside the aquarium to watch the sun set, colours changing in water and sky. It was completely beautiful, one of those places I’ll always remember visiting, and somewhere I hope to get back to one day.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

#writephoto – Fire Dance

‘‘A firedance through the night.’ What d’you suppose they meant by that?’

‘Who?’

‘That band, you know the ones, all floppy hair and white teeth. You know, catchy melodies. They had fancy lyrics, too.’

‘Oh, yeah. I dunno.’

‘You dunno the band, or you dunno what they meant?’

“Both. It was a while ago, wasn’t it?’

They continued along the dark road, footsteps echoing in the cold night air.

‘Maybe they were talking about those fire dancers, you know, the ones you see on the beach, twirling their fire sticks. Remember that holiday we went on?’

‘Yeah. Nice, that.’

***

On the hillside beyond, fire bloomed, like an exotic red gold flower opening, throwing smoke into the velvet sky.

***

‘It was a catchy tune. One of my favourites, back in the day.’

‘Oh well. That’s nice. Cold tonight, isn’t it?’

‘Lovely and clear though. Look at them stars.’

‘Won’t mind getting in though. A nice cup of tea, I think.’

‘Sounds good.’

***

Above them, drumming rang in the high places. Figures masked and cloaked moved between the fires, casting long shadows. Their dance was older than history, older than the hills. It had been sung and written about many times, ribbons of memory woven into pictures anew.

But they did not concern themselves with the world. All they needed was the dance.

This was my response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt for this week.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Beltaine Fire and Butterfly Dreams

Today is May Day, or Beltaine in the old calendar, the first day of summer and the festival that falls halfway between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice.

The garden is green and humming, the blossom almost gone, the promise of Summer’s warmth just over the horizon. Last night I dreamed of a purple butterfly landing on my face, flapping delicate wings as it clung to my cheek. Apparently, to dream of such things is a sign of change, and for the butterfly to land on me signifies that the change will be positive. And to dream of such a thing on May Day Eve? I don’t know, but it seems to add another layer of significance. Or perhaps it was just a dream…

Today the sun aligns with stones, tonight fires will burn on the hillsides, if only in memory, the old customs not yet forgotten. And perhaps I will dream once more…

Note: Ali Isaac, mistress of Irish mythology, has written several posts about the myth and magic behind this festival – click here and here to read more.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Portumna Castle, Ireland

I can’t believe it’s been a week since my last post! It’s been a busy time though, with a family wedding, and I’ve just not had much opportunity to sit down in front of the computer. However, there’s no way I’d miss taking a Wednesday Wander, so this week we are heading to Ireland.

Portumna castle, in County Galway, Ireland, is a fortified manor house built during the early part of the 17th century by the wealthy De Burgo family. At the time of its construction it was considered the premier house of its kind in Ireland, with none other coming close in terms of grandeur and style.

The manor house is still grand, as you can see, with a lovely approach avenue flanked by trees. There is also a large walled garden, set out as it would have been during the 17th century with herbs, vegetables and flowers. I would love to have the space and time to create a garden like that!

However, much of the style attributed to the house is gone, as the interior was gutted by fire in 1826. The shell of the house was given a new roof in 1968 and it is now being restored, but as you can see the walls are back to bare brick, and I remember there being no second floor.

Interestingly, there was a legend long held in the family that a child had fallen from the upper stories and only survived by landing on one of the family dogs. The poor animal’s back was broken and it died, but the story goes it was buried with honour for saving the child. During the restoration process, archaeologists did in fact find the buried skeleton of a dog… with a distinct fracture to the spine.

When I visited the house it was a glorious June day, as you can see, the gardens buzzing with bees and full of flowers. Even though the house was fortified, with battlements and gun loops, it felt like a home, the proportions pleasing. I’d like to go back one day and see how the restoration process is coming along.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Wednesday Wander – Heidelberg Castle, Germany

It took me a while to figure out where to wander to this week. Usually a location will present itself to me, or I’ll scroll through my photos and find somewhere, but it all seemed a bit vague this week. Then I remembered a conversation I had with a fellow blogger where I mentioned Heidelberg, so I’ve decided to wander there.

More specifically, to the ruined castle, sitting high on the hillside overlooking the old town and the rolling Rhine river. Built in stages between 1214 and 1295, the castle was subsequently destroyed by lightning, fire and war, resulting in the picturesque ruins we see today.

For many centuries the castle was home to the Palatine counts, powerful nobles who married into royalty, including the English Stuart and French Orleans families.

Mark Twain visited the ruins and wrote about them in his book A Tramp Abroad, stating that,

‘A ruin must be rightly situated, to be effective. This one could not have been better placed. …one looks down through shining leaves into profound chasms and abysses where twilight reigns and the sun cannot intrude.’

I visited a little more recently than Twain, and can attest that not much has changed since he wrote those words. Trees and vines still garland the ruins, the view across the town and river just as breathtaking as it always was.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Green Eyed Monster

Image from Wikimedia Commons - Author: Petritap

Image from Wikimedia Commons – Author: Petritap

Another weekend, another article in the paper about a new writer getting a great publishing deal, being touted as ‘the next big thing.’

‘Why not me?’ I think to myself, shuffling the pages resentfully. ‘When will it be my turn? Huh, bet they know someone in publishing, bet they’ve met an agent somewhere, had some lucky break.’

But then I get over it. Because I can’t get all bitter and twisted about somebody else succeeding in my field, I really can’t. So I push the green eyed monster aside and read further into the article and, more often than not, this ‘new’ writer has been working their ass off for years, writing and rewriting, getting rejected, honing their craft until the magnificent moment when they are accepted and published, all the hard work paying off. Sure, there are those who hit it straight out of the park first go, young writers whose brilliance is such they’re picked up by the first agent who spots them, catapulted up the publishing ladder. But they are few and far between and the majority are just like the rest of us, toiling away until they are plucked from obscurity, chosen for the spotlight for a little while.

I was talking with a friend the other day, both of us discussing negative influences in our lives and she told me about a therapy method she’d heard about from another friend.

‘So you imagine a bonfire, and you and the other person who’s bothering you are there…’

‘And then you push them into the bonfire?’

We both laughed then, in that conspiratorial way you do with friends when you know you’re sort of joking but not really. You were actually supposed to talk with the other person across the bonfire, letting them know how you felt about whatever it was they had done to upset you. But I actually quite like the idea of using fire to burn away negative thoughts and energy. Bloodthirsty thoughts aside, the concept of fire as a cleansing entity is not new. Ancient stories reference fire coming from heaven to clear battlefields, taking the bodies up to heaven in a pillar of flame, Australian aborigines used fire to cleanse the landscape, opening it up for rejuvenation. Then there is trial by fire, in which we pass through metaphorical flames to emerge the other side strengthened in some way.

If you’ve ever read Zen In The Martial Arts by Joe Hyams (and if you haven’t I recommend it – you don’t have to be a martial artist to appreciate the lessons it holds), he writes about the late great Bruce Lee and a conversation they had about getting rid of negative thoughts. If something negative entered his mind, Bruce would visualise it as being written on a piece of paper, then would visualise crumpling the paper into a ball and setting it on fire, watching it burn until it was gone, taking the thought with it.

So I read on, taking my jealous thoughts and writing them down on that sheet of paper in my mind, burning them up and letting them go, grey ash floating in a metaphorical wind, knowing I cannot become upset or jealous when others get what I desire. For if all of a sudden there were no new voices, no new ideas to appreciate, then I would worry. It’s a great thing that there are always new writers coming up, being talked about, being promoted. Because it means they’re still giving out turns. Maybe next time, it will be mine.