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Since I became a mammy, I have tried to find lots of fun activities, days out, events and holidays for my family. I love being busy and visiting new places and I hope you will enjoy reading them. My blog is jam packed with reviews of places we have been, maybe I get help you with a little inspiration.  We are lucky enough to travel quite a bit so the blog features lots of places in the North East and beyond.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

We're Off to see the Wizard

We are really lucky to have a lovely, large group of friends that all like doing really fun stuff,  I am always on the lookout for various activities and putting on various events for all the kids to enjoy.

A few months ago, I came across a touring theatre company, Act One Productions who travel the country performing pantomimes to groups.

I decided to get the gang together, once again, to celebrate the start of half term and booked Act One.  This season's panto is The Wizard of Oz so got the date confirmed and dusted off the ruby slippers :0)

Booking process was really easy and efficient, although they only had a few dates available due to their own popularity, Jule was very helpful and it was seamless.

I booked a lovely big hall with loads of space and that was all I needed to do, well apart from making up 30 treat bags for eager kids!

The guys from Act One turned up bang on time and even helped with the re-arranging of chairs etc.  They set up and were ready to go spot on our start time.

The show was great, it was funny and full of lots of pop songs that the kids all recognised.  It lasted just under an hour so was a perfect time for little ones and involved lots of audience participation.  My two loved it, they thought the cowardly lion was really funny.  

The actors came out at the end to pose for photo's with the kids and that was an added bonus.

Thanks again to Act One we had a ball.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Half Term Inspiration

We are coming up to that time again, half term holidays! Woohoo! I love the holidays and having the kids off.  We are always looking for fun things to do and more often than not, free or very cheap fun things to do, a school holiday can prove very costly!

What I thought I would do, is put together a bit of a list of different events going on over the week and hopefully it will give you some inspiration on what to do

Saturday 23rd May

Emma Enchanted is bringing some May Madness to Sunderland.  Alice, Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts will be in Barnes Park all day from 10am until 4pm offering tons of unbirthday fun.  Free event.

Whitley Bay are hosting a Carnival kicking off with a parade leaving from the metro station at 12 noon and journeying through Whitley Bay ending up at Spanish City Plaza.  Lots of live music, dancing, street food and theatre throughout the day.  See Whitley Bay Big Local for more information. Free event

Newcastle Unity Festival is a huge family event held in Leazes Park promoting Unity throughout our city.  There is a special kids area hosted by Little Big Butterfly and it has a bouncy castle, facepainting, story telling and many more activities.  Free event

Jurassictastic in Castlegate Shopping Centre, Stockton, sounds roar-some.  A 7 foot tall and 12 foot long raptor will be appearing to put on a show along with his two scientist friends.   Free event

Sunday 24th May

Shaun the Sheep will be at Wallington Hall (Bank Holiday Monday also). Enjoy lots of sheep-filled fun to celebrate the release of Shaun the Sheep The Movie.  Normal admission applies, may be a small charge for some activities

Stray Aid are holding their annual Dog Show in Hardwick Park, Sedgefield.  All sorts of classes for your pooch to enter including Best Puppy, Best Rescue Dog and Best Trick.  There will also be displays to watch.  Pop along from some wagging good fun and support an amazing charity.

Durham Mini Club has it's Mini and Classic Car show in Washington.  All sorts of cars on display for you to have a look at £2 per person engtry with all proceeds going to charity.

What to Wear Teddy Bear at Stephenson Railway Museum.  A really cute drop in event where you can bring Teddy along and make him a fancy new waistcoat, just like an engine driver.  £2 per waistcoat.

Monday 25th May

Ouseburn Farm always have lovely free events on in the school holidays, Monday sees their Farmers Club where you will get a chance to get up close and personal with the farms animals, learning how to look after them and how to care for the smaller animals.  10 - 11am. In the afternoon at 1pm there is a Nature Trail where you will join Bryony on a trail of Ouseburn Valley.  Lots of other things going on on the other days of the holidays too.

Chesters Roman Fort have a wonderful event How to be a Roman Soldier.  Take part in a variety of activities from games to drills and crafts.  Learn all about life as a Roman Soldier.  Usual admission applies.

Lovely Bede's World have a Folklore, Myths and Legends weekend on.  Entry is free and there will be a whole host of craft activities and sellers for you to enjoy.

Tuesday 26th May

Kirkley Hall Zoo is turning 4 and is having a 4th birthday party.  All sorts going on including treasure hunts, face painters and games.  Normal admission applies

Wyevale Garden Centres at Gosforth Park and Heighley Gate have a Wildlife Week going on.  On Tuesday you can go along and make a bug hotel.  £2.50 per child from 11am until 1pm.  Why not join in the free Hedgehog hunt whilst you are there.

Wednesday 27th May

Alnwick Castle have a whole host of events through the week, mostly free with usual admission.  26-28 May come and see Raphael Falconry put on an amazing display.  There is also broomstick training, medieval fancy dress or enjoy a behind the scenes tour of the various locations used at Alnwick Castle for film and TV.

Rockpool rambling at St Mary's Lighthouse as part of North Sea Week.  2pm - 4pm suitable for children aged 5 and over.  £3 per person, places need to be booked in advance.

Thursday 28th May

Be-Active is an event hosted by Newcastle Council in Nuns Moor Park, Fenham and is all about promoting ways you can Be Active in your neighbourhood.  11am - 1pm and activities include free bike checks from Dr Bike, help to plant flowerbeds, family games and a Change 4 Life trail

Hopscotch Entertain are hosting a superhero event, at Foxhunters Pavilion in Whitley Bay.  Operation:Mayday, featuring Bat Hero, Bumble Autobot and American Hero.  Tickets again in advance £15 per child

From Thursday until Sunday, Beamish are holding a Georgian Fair as the Squire of Pockerley sets about finding his new staff for the season.  Events include Miss Rebecca's performing ponies, Punch and Judy, live music and clog dancing and many, many more things to see.  Normal admission applies.

Rising Sun Country Park  have various events on Thursday, a mini beast hunt suitable for children aged 5 and over. Hunt for bugs in the park, all equipment is provided but make sure you wear suitable clothing.  10:30 until 12 noon.  At 1pm til 2.30 there is Aquatic Adventures, pond dipping again equipment provided, suitable for all ages.  Both events are £2,50 per child

Big Thursday over at Discovery Museum is celebrating all things maritime. Create a porthole picture, try a Keelman challenge and get up close with real maritime creatures.  Free entry

Friday 29th May

Hopscotch Entertainment are also hosting a Madness and Mayhem event at Wallsend Memorial Hall. Guaranteed a great afternoon with some very special guest stars M1 and M2.  £15 per child, tickets need to be booked in advance

South Shields Museum are showcasing a play specifically for children called And Let Us Run and it has been created by local schoolchildren.  More details here. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance.

Saturday 30th May

Brand new exhibition opening at Segedunum Roman Museum in Wallsend and it kicks off with Mercatus, a Roman Fayre.  There are so many exhibits here to see including fire jugglers, belly dancers, Roman cavalry and pottery demonstrations.  Children under 16 go free.

Birdoswald Roman Fort have a real life Roman Soldier on site leading fun and games for little soldiers.  A selection of ancient board games and crafts are just some of the activities you can take part in.  Usual admission applies

Sunday 31st May

The Vermont Hotel are hosting a Princess Ball in conjunction with Emma Enchanted.  A glittering ball with Snow White, Beauty and Rapunzel,  Your little princesses can take part in princess lessons, dancing, story time, mini makeovers and a crowning ceremony.  Tickets need to be booked in advance. £14.95 per child £4.95 per adult.

Cinema Treats

Tyneside Cinema are showing Moomins on the Riviera celebrating 70 years of the well loved characters.  Only £4 per ticket with a Tyneside Cinema Family Card which you can collect at the cinema.

Vue Cinema in Cramlington is showing a couple of films as part of their Kids Am offer.  Dino Time and Shaun the Sheep are on every day Saturday through to Thursday. Tickets are priced at £1.99 each

Odeon Silverlink are also showing a few films, Big Hero 6 is on Saturday - Friday.  Paddington is Saturday - Thursday and Cinderella is on Friday - Sunday.  Tickets are priced at £2.50.  The Metro Centre Odeon has the addition of Boxtrolls Saturday - Thursday as well as the above.

Empire Juniors in the Gate are showing The Book of Life and Shaun the Sheep on 23rd and 24th May and the following weekend showing Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Horrible Day.  These films are an incredible £1,25 per ticket.

So, what started out as a little round up turned into quite a lengthy post and I have only scratched the surface of what there is on offer the May Half Term.  Hope it helps a little and please let me know, if you attend any of these events, what you thought, I love to hear your feedback.

DISCLAIMER;  All details are checked and are correct at the time of writing.  Please double check information with the venue if you are making plans to visit.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Story Party, Seven Stories on the Road

It is no secret that we LOVE Seven Stories.  I have been taking the children since they were tiny, in fact Luca's first visit was when he was about 3 weeks old! 

We have been back lots of times, each time a new exhibition is unveiled we go back and have spent some lovely days exploring the museum.

Seven Stories celebrates its 10th birthday this year and it is currently closed as they are under-going a massive refurbishment and will open in July.  We cannot wait to see all the changes and are really looking forward to going again.

In the meantime they have come up with an ingenious plan to take Seven Stories out on the road all over the region with various events .  We decided to book up for the Story Party - Into The Woods event which was at Jesmond Dene.  

What a great idea this is, it enables the children to experience the magic of Seven Stories but in lovely settings, Jesmond Dene in particular is a lovely place and the day we went happened to be nice weather so we took full advantage with a good run about in the park before hand.

Story Party on the road was really lovely.  The room was filled with all sorts of flowers and cuddly woodland creatures for the children to investigate and the lady running the session was brilliant.  She pitched it just right for the age aimed at and managed to keep their attention throughout.  They even brought the lovely story telling chair along.

She read us two stories Owl Babies and Luca's all time favourite, The Gruffalo.  It was so cute to see all the kids reciting the lines from the book word for word.  There was lots of interaction including some really cute hand puppets and we played a few games to get everyone moving about.

What a lovely morning we had, thoroughly enjoyed the Story Party and as such have already booked up for the session in the half term holidays and looking at the Julia Donaldson one in June.

There are lots of different events happening, there is bound to be something that will appeal to you and your family.  Visit Seven Stories on the road, you will have a great time.

Seven Stories

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Super Luca's Hero Party

My youngest has just turned 4, in the blink of an eye my baby is growing up so fast.  He is a wonderful little boy, handsome, kind, full of fun and also charmingly cheeky.  Until he started nursery he was incredibly shy, a complete mammy's boy.  At parties he would hide on my knee away from all the other kids and noise, he had very low confidence.  Since September and starting nursery, we have watched him grow and change in front of us, he has gained new found friends and in doing so, his confidence is growing.  I was so worried about leaving him in nursery, I knew he would miss me but I was terrified he would just invert into himself and not join in.  How wrong I was, it has been the making of him and he makes us so proud each and every day.  He is very popular and really funny, couldn't love him more if I tried.  Anyway, back to the point, he is now 4 and 4th birthdays are incredibly important and warrant a huge party with all of your friends and some extra special guests.  

Last summer I took the kids to a Super Hero Squad event organised by Hopscotch Entertainment.  He hadn't been too bothered by superheroes until that event but since that day forward he has become obsessed with Captain America, Spidey, Iron Man and the gang. In fact after that, he said there and then that he wanted them at his birthday party. So that was what he got.  I booked up just after Christmas to make sure I got all the heroes he wanted.  Hopscotch offer a complete party package including a party host which means you are literally just able to stand and watch the fun.

I spent a small fortune on party supplies, I wanted a red, white and blue theme so bought a ginormous American flag, various American flag buntings and some fantastic scene setters featuring all the characters.  I love doing party bags and I always like to do something a bit different and with this in mind, I got some wonderful bespoke party favours from Doodle Town Crayons and Paper Chic Stationary.  What fabulous ladies to work with, they are already commissioned for my next project :0) I carried the theme through with red, white and blue bags to put the goodies in.

Lolly Card by PaperChic

Party Bag Contents

Crayon and Colouring card by Doodle Town Crayons

We are pretty lucky in the area we live in to have a good choice of great party venues.  The one I booked this time is literally on our doorstep and is a perfect size and cost.  We spent an hour and a half dressing the room, preparing the food boxes and sorting out cakes.  My friend Mark always makes my cakes and this time he did as brilliant a job as ever.


About 20 minutes before the party started the superheroes arrived.  They did what I thought was a wonderful thing, they hid round the corner and Lyndsey, the party host, came in to check what I wanted to do about their arrival, at this point we ushered our kids into the toilets and the heroes snuck into a room at the back of the hall.  I was really grateful for this as it totally added to the surprise.

Once the guests had arrived Lyndsey announced the heroes and honestly, Luca's jaw literally dropped, it was a wonderful moment, he was completely gobsmacked, especially when he saw Iron Man, his hero.  There were a few children who were unsure of the hero's, but a massive effort was made by each and every one of them to put the kids at ease and to reach out to those who were a bit frightened. Luca was very shy still but the characters made an extra effort with him.  

The party was fantastic, Lyndsey took charge and led the kids through a craft activity in which they had to make their own superhero shield and then they had a superhero parade to show off their work.  A really good ice breaker to get them all warmed up.

Loads of party games followed with prizes all provided by Hopscotch.  We did a Superhero assault course and Superhero statues was great fun and was taken quite seriously by the tiny heroes.  We had pass the parcel complete with a dancing Spiderman in the middle of the circle, Spiderman got a big thumbs up from the mothers in particular ;0) and lots of funky dancing by everyone.

The heroes led a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday to Luca whilst we presented the cake and he blew out his candles and then they all posed extremely patiently for an endless line of photographs.

It was time to say goodbye to Iron Man at this point and this is one of my favourite pictures from the day, my tiny Iron Man with his hero

The rest of the heroes stayed around to help us give out the party food boxes and sat and chatted with the kids until it was time for them to leave.

Luca said it was the very best party ever and that for me is a job well done.

Thank you again to all the guys from Hopscotch, you probably hear this all the time but the work you do truly makes children's dreams come true.  All the performers are a massive credit to your company and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making our little boy so happy.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Showering Baby at St Mary's Inn

A very good friend of mine is about to have her second baby, a baby girl and is fast approaching her due date.  For her first baby we threw her a surprise low key baby shower in an Italian restaurant.  Wendy isn't a fan of a big fuss but she is a fan of afternoon tea so I decided to do the same again and surprise her.

Afternoon Tea is definitely the 'in' thing at the moment and as a group of friends, we have sampled many over the last few years.  Something very civilised about sitting down with your best pals for a chinwag and a cup of tea, served in a china cup of course.

The search began for a venue, there are so many wonderful places to choose from but just as I was deliberating, my friend posted this blog North East Family Fun and I was sold.  Perfect location also as a lot of the girls are local to Morpeth.

I emailed the pub via their website and got a swift reply from the manager.  I was incredibly impressed, especially when he offered me a private room for our event, free of charge. The whole booking process was efficient and quick, I was extremely happy at the service I received.  I even received a booking reminder a few days before the shower with all our details on it. 

On arrival I thought St Mary's Inn was beautiful, it is set in a new housing estate on the outskirts of Stannington Village and is on the site of the former St Mary's Hospital.   It is a large building and I love how it has been preserved.  The staff were wonderful I have to say, quick to greet us and extremely friendly, I was shown to our private dining room which was ideal, there was one big table laid out in traditional style and there was plenty of light and space, would definitely book that area again.  The whole pub is lovely throughout, there are lots of nooks and crannies which mean you will more than likely be able to find a private area.  They also have a lovely beer garden which we intend to take advantage of in the summer!  I was extremely pleased to see quite a few dogs about, having 2 myself it is always lovely to see our four legged friends allowed in.

Our waitress was brilliant, there were 13 of us altogether and she coped extremely well with all of our requests including changing some of the sandwiches to ones which suited people better.

The tea itself was delicious,  it was served on a two tier wooden stand and it looked mouth watering.  

Sandwiches were generously filled on lovely soft, white bread with fillings of salt beef and mustard, cheese and pickle, egg and cress and prawn with marie rose sauce.  Absolutely delicious, I love a good sandwich and these did not disappoint.  We had 3 scones each! a fruit, plain and a cheese scone served with clotted cream (as they should) and home made jam.  

The cakes were a perfect size, we had a lime and vanilla macaroon, rhubarb pavlova, a chocolate brownie and an apple and almond tart.  Our waitress kept our tea and coffee topped up throughout and by this time we were all pretty full so the barman provided us with plenty of boxes to take our excess scones and cakes home which I thought was a nice touch.  Nobody wanted to waste a single bit.

We spent a wonderful few hours at St Mary's.  I thought the pub had a lovely, warm and welcoming atmosphere and the food aromas from other diners definitely confirmed that we need to go back and try it.  We were made to feel very welcome, nothing was a problem and I wholeheartedly recommend the place.  Try it, you will not be disappointed! 

Monday, 4 May 2015

Bella Italia - Seconda Parte, Lago di Garda

After Florence, our love affair with Italy was in full swing so we looked at where to go next.  It took us a few years as in between we had to fit a pesky wedding in ;0) oh and a trip to New York for a fabulous honeymoon (look out for that mammoth blog a bit later on).

We finally pinned it down to Lake Garda. I spent hours and hours researching where to go as there are so many gorgeous destinations to choose from.  I could waffle on here about my thought process, but really I fell in love with the hotel I eventually chose, Hotel Leonardo da Vinci in the beautiful town of Limone.  Limone, in Italian, means lemon and the town is surrounded by lemon and lime groves and is located on the south shore of, in my opinion, the worlds most beautiful lake.  Being on the south side meant a much longer airport transfer but boy was it worth it.  The journey from Verona airport was approximately two hours but as most of it was along the shore of the lake it was breathtaking, we drove through lovely little towns on the hotel drop offs which we made mental notes of to visit. 

Upon arrival at our hotel we immediately knew we had made the right choice.  It was set back from the town, approximately 20 minute walk away, but there was a frequent mini bus service.  The hotel was beautiful, sparkling clean, friendly staff and massive! It had pools, tennis courts and even its own beach.  The food in our hotel was wonderful and the restaurant manager Johnny was fabulous.  He remembered guests names, was always on hand to help and he ran an exceptionally tight ship.  Reading trip advisor nearly 13 years on, it seems Johnny is still doing a great job, he is frequently mentioned!

Limone Harbour

Beautiful Limone set against the Dolomites

It is hard not to natter on and on and bore you all with probably far too much detail about Lake Garda, I don't really know where to begin and will probably use far too many superlatives but we absolutely and genuinely had the best holiday here.  Limone is beautiful, not to big but has plenty of restaurants and little bars to frequent.  We were half board in our hotel and as the food was delicious, we didn't venture out for dinner but had plenty of evening strolls in the glorious sunsets.  We were also incredibly lucky to be there during a fireworks display, which set against the backdrop of the Dolomties to wonderful classical music was amazing.  The ferry service which operates from town to town is cheap and reliable, we sailed across to Gardone Riviera, which is the setting for the first ever Lake Garda hotel and we visited Malcesine which was bigger than Limone and a lot busier.  Sirmione was one of my favourite towns, it has a beautiful 12th century castle and is just full of charm.  We also had one of the best pizzas we have ever tasted here, along with the obligatory gelato!

Sirmione Castle

We did a LOT of excursions on this trip, the Crystal reps were very good and the trips were great value.  We visited Verona, went up the Dolomites, had a tour round the north side of the lake and best of all spent the day in Venice.  Verona surprised me, it was one of our favourite places, we had the best panini (as boasted by the cafe owner) in a tiny little cafe off the square where the arena is.  Of course we visited Juliet's balcony, an impossibly romantic place where all the lovers who visit scrawl their names on the walls to show their devotion.  We just wished we had bought tickets to the opera in the amphitheatre that night but we just did not have the time.

Inside the Verona Amphitheatre

Romeo, Romeo where for art thou Romeo
Venice, well what can I say except one day is just not long enough. Yes, you have guessed it, it is added to our list of places to return.  It was so beautiful and just lived up to every one of my expectations.  From stepping on the ferry transfer to St Marks Square, to the gondola trip we went on, I loved every second of it.  It is a sight to behold and not one bit smelly as I had been led to believe.  We even experienced road rage 'canal style' when another gondolier invaded our path, it was hilarious, another thing I love about the Italians! They are crazy! 

If you get a chance to go to Lake Garda, I urge you to grab it with both hands.  You will most definitely not regret it.  Italy is a wonderful place for families and although we visited before we had the kids, it was evident everywhere we went that children were welcomed with open arms.  Lake Garda even has it's own theme park Gardaland but we have not visited it, looks great fun though.

Bella Italia - Prima , Firenze

This post is the first of my mini travelogue's about some of the places we have travelled and loved. Please excuse the horrendous photographs, this was long before we had a digital camera and in the days of sending off our holiday snaps in an envelope to Truprint.  It wasn't until I started looking through our photos for this blog that I sadly realised how rubbish they are.

I have to be perfectly honest, before I met my hubby, I had never even given Italy a thought as a holiday destination.  He had always wanted to go to Florence, mainly due to watching Fiorentina on Gazzetta, the Italian football programme! (we all need to get our inspiration from somewhere :0) ).  I was working as a travel agent and one of our perks was a yearly concession which gave us a huge discount off a holiday.  I decided to use it on a week long city break to Florence.  This was our first ever 'proper' holiday and having never been before and realising it was so expensive we just opted for the cheapest option of a 2T hotel, Hotel Centro.  There was also no option of a Newcastle flight so we went down to London Gatwick.  This all added to the excitement as I had never been to London either.

We arrived and caught the train to Santa Maria Novella station, incidentally, the train network in Italy is superb and when we went (1999) it was incredible value for money, we made a number of daytrips from Florence and were very impressed.  

The hotel was only a few minutes walk from the station but in our wisdom, we decided to walk instead of taxi and it took us about an hour of trawling up and down the most beautiful little streets! Finally, we got to our hotel, it was housed, as many of Florence's hotels are, in a Renaissance palazzo and on first sight I loved it.  The room we were given was tiny with separate bathroom but as they were quiet they upgraded us to a room with use of a private bathroom.  The staff were lovely, the hotel was very pretty but for future reference, I would advise at least a 3 star in Italy, purely for facilities as this one was very basic.  It was however in a wonderful location on a quiet (not accounting for the bloody scooters) street just a few minutes walk from the Duomo.

Florence, for us, was honestly love at first sight.  Absolutely breathtaking, even now, all these years later, I can still picture and smell it as if I were there, I can still hear the hustle and bustle in my mind. We were very much holiday novices on this trip and it was our first proper experience of Italian food and hospitality.

The holiday was perfect, we were there the first week of August and it was hot! Very hot, but not unbearable.  We knew absolutely nothing about the place, there was no google about to tell us every last detail before we arrived and I have to admit that I liked it that way.  The element of surprise was wonderful.  I remember wandering about with just a basic map, having no idea what we were doing or where we were going and ending up face to face with The Duomo.  Words cannot describe this building, even with scaffolding up (whilst we were there a lot of Italian churches were being renovated for the Millennium celebrations), it actually took my breath away it was so beautiful.  It is no secret the history that Florence boasts and to be able to walk amongst it and experience it was such a privilege.  We marvelled at the Uffizi Gallery, crossed the Ponte Vecchio and gazed out over the River Arno.  Of course, we had to pay a visit to Fiorentina's Stadio Artemi Franchi.  When we got there, it was all locked up, they didn't offer any stadium tours but a kind groundsman took pity on these poor English people staring through the gates like Fagin's kids and actually let us in to have a look.

As I mentioned earlier, we took various daytrips whilst we were there.  We took the train to Bologna and Rome.  Bologna was beautiful, home of the bolognese sauce of course.  What a beautiful city and quite compact so it was easy to navigate ourselves.  Rome was huge, we didn't have a clue where or what to do and spent most of the day chasing our tails.  The city is so busy and bustling and we barely scratched the surface.  They do have a very good Metro system and using this we made it to the Coliseum and the Vatican City. Vatican City is immense, we got totally lost trying to find our way around and it was boiling! Rome definitely warrants it's own visit which we hope to do one day. Little tip, keep away from Gladiators at the Coliseum, they will let you take a photo with your own camera and then charge you a tenner for the privilege ;0)

Another trip we did, this time an organised excursion, was a coach trip to Siena and San Gimignano, two beautiful and ancient Tuscan towns.  This trip was worth it for the journey alone through Tuscan countryside, if I ever win the lottery this is where you will find me.

What I loved most about Florence, and the other Italian cities we have visited, is just EVERYTHING! I love the Italian La Dolce Vita, the food, the atmosphere, the promenading at night time, the people watching, the architecture, the culture, the people.  I just love Italy.  Infact, it was the inspiration behind our son's name, Luca, Luca Toni played for Fiorentina and we loved his name.  One day we will take Luca (and Eva of course) to Lucca,