When In Rome| Rome Travel Diary

My favorite topic in History class was 100% The Roman Empire. To me the ancient Romans just seemed so innovative and clever, strong, feisty and even a little bit glamorous. A visit to Rome then has always been on the agenda.

Originally we were planning to arrange our own trip by booking elements separately, however that was proving complicated, so in the end we took the easy option and booked a package with Easy Jet. We flew into Fiumicino airport and took a pre-booked mini bus transfer to our hotel. At 10 in the evening this took us around 45 minutes.

We were staying in the very central location of the Trevi Palace Luxury Apartments, just a stones throw away from the always bustling Trevi Fountain. This recently restored mid 17th century palace is a welcome cool and calm retreat in what is noisy and crowded part of the city.

The comfortable air-conditioned rooms all have wooden beamed ceilings and views over the quirky rooftops and cobbled alleyways that lead up to the Trevi Fountain itself. The corridors retain their original stone stairwells and marble flooring, original iron fretwork can still be seen in the many little apertures dotted around the place. The breakfast room even features the original well sunk into the middle of its floor,  now covered with a glass top that you can walk over, if you dare… Don’t expect access to an on site bar but there are plenty to choose from in the surrounding streets.

We had a lovely evening drinking prosecco and Aperol Spritz at the roof top terrace bar of the Relais Fontana Di Trevi Hotel. This is a perfect spot to take in the picturesque fountain away from the crowds.

Trevi Fountain

Our first full day we spent visiting the Colosseum. We booked a tour through trip advisor that included exclusive entry through the gladiator entrance and access to the arena floor.

I definitely recommend doing this in advance as it can be a little bit chaotic around the colosseum ticket offices. It is also the only way you will be able to see the Colosseum from this view point.

Gladiator Entrance – The Colosseum

The tour was very informative and our tour guide was particularly good with the Children.

On our second day we visited The Vatican museums. Like all the major landmarks in Rome this was very very busy. Having heard about the queues from other people this was another activity that I pre booked. I’m so glad I did as this as ‘skip the line tickets’ meant no queues and it made getting through the security checks and registration a breeze. I’m not sure of the reason for it but most places we visited in Rome required us registering the children before we could visit.

For me the Vatican museums were rather overwhelming. Before we had actually got anywhere near the Sistine Chapel we had seen so many dramatic ceilings, sculptures and works of art. It truly is a special place. Expect to spend a few hours wandering around.

I took a lot of photos, be warned. However I don’t actually have a picture of the Sistine Chapel itself as you are not allowed to take photos .

Being the Catholic girl that I am of course I was going to behave myself. Much to my delight and surprise my good behaviour was rewarded. A Priest came into the chapel, asked for quite, and then invited those that wished to join him in prayer to do so.

It was a very special moment for me and I’m not ashamed of saying I got a little bit emotional. Hands up if you have also cried tears of happiness in the Sistine Chapel!

Spiral Staircase – The Vatican Museums

Our next day was a very chilled one. We had been for dinner the night before at Il Chianti which is a very authentic local traditional restaurant in the trevi fountain areas. We then went for supposedly a quick night cap. Well… said nightcap turned into a bit of a late night. We had got talking to a couple of girls from Texas and before we knew it a good couple of hours of sipping wine and good conversation had passed.

Er…When in Rome?

On our last day we visited the Villa Borghese Gardens for a wander in the shaded avenues and to take advantage of the view point over Piazza del Popolo. Here you can see most of Rome including a particularly good view of The Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica.

Piazza Del Popolo

Within the park you can also hire out Segways for €10 if you fancy a bit of outdoor fun, as well as bikes and pedal carts. The Kids had great fun wizzing around.

Of course we had to do a little bit of shopping, I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to visit a Sephora or come home without an Italian leather handbag.

Via Del Corso leads directly off of piazza del popolo. It has many well known brands as well as some reasonably priced independent shops.

This is also a good opportunity to visit The Spanish Steps as they are just off of the road that runs adjacent.

The Spanish Steps

FYI Sephora is directly across from the Spanish Steps if your interested.

Rome was a crazy whirlwind of sightseeing, fresh pasta and gelato, so much gelato. A relaxing trip it is not. Would I go back? Definitely!

Hopefield Animal Sanctuary

On Thursday evening I had the opportunity to visit Hopefield Animal Sanctuary for an Influencer event that they were hosting .I took my Son along with me as I knew he would enjoy meeting the animals.

We were given a guided tour of the sanctuary and an informative talk telling us all about the necessary work that they do at Hopefield. After our tour we were then treated to a delicious vegan afternoon tea served up in their on site tearoom.

The sanctuary is located in Brentwood, not far from where I live in Essex. I had driven past it on many occasions as the paddocks back onto the A12, a road that I use regularly, but I had never actually visited. My view from the A12 gave the impression that Hopefield is a small horse sanctuary, which of course it is, however it is actually so much more.

The Sanctuary was founded In 1983 by Paula and Ernie Clark, after seeing the plight of the increasing number of abandoned ponies and cobs being left abandoned on Rainham Marshes. Today the Sanctuary is home to over 450 rescued animals, not just horses. They range from unwanted pet rabbits and cats, horses and cattle to the more exotic including tortoises, snakes, raccoons, alpaca and reindeer,

One of Hopefield’s first residents was Hope a 35 year old horse. Hope was rescued at just 6 months old from the meat market where she had been separated from her mother and was found hiding in a corner scared and alone.

Hope is a lovely horse and thanks to the care she has received is now quite used to human contact.

Hope suffers from a foot condition so cannot walk in mud. This is why her paddock is floored with concrete. It allows her to enjoy being outdoors even in wet conditions. This is just one example of how Hopefield will adapt its facilities to match an individual animals needs.

Hopefield operates with a no kill policy meaning that they will never put a healthy animal down. Some of the animals have been rescued from terrible conditions, injured, malnourished and with complex physiological issues. The team will do their best to provide the specialist care and treatment required.

Some of animals have found their way to Hopefield as they have been considered to no longer have any value for their previous owners. These male dairy cows for example would usually be destroyed at birth considered worthless.

Other residents have found themselves at Hopefield due to being purchased as unsuitable pets. These Racoon dogs might  look very cute but do not make good pets. They found their way into the UK pet market from China. They are a wild animal though and cannot be domesticated. Luckily they were able to find a home at the sanctuary. Often unwanted animals are just dumped by their previous owners.

Hopefield do such fantastic work rescuing animals that would otherwise live a life that is full of suffering. They can only do this through fundraising and with the help of volunteers.

If you want to help you can do so by making a donation via their website. There is also an animal adoption scheme. We plan on adopting Slow Coach, the tortoise on the left in the picture below. He has scarring on his shell as he was kept in too small an enclosure. The heat lamps where so low they burnt his shell. This shell damage is permanent and will not grow back. It doesn’t slow him down though he was actually quite fast for a tortoise!

My Son instantly fell in love with Slow coach. He loves tortoises and wants one as a pet. We have had to tell him no though as it would be irresponsible of us to even entertain the idea. It is just not possible for us to provide the required home for one. My Son is excited to adopt Slow Coach though and will be able to visit him at Hopefield.

If you wanted to visit the Sanctuary and meet the animals for yourself it is open to the public. Opening times are  Fridays through to Monday, between 11 and 4pm.

Entry fees are very reasonable at just £16 for a family ticket. (2 adults, 2 children).

A visit makes for a lovely afternoon out, not only to you get to see a wide variety of different animals but it is very educational and helps to support their ongoing work. The tea room is also a great place to grab refreshments whilst you are there. We really enjoyed our afternoon tea!

If you could adopt an animal what kind of animal would you adopt? Let me know in the comments.

The Perils of having a ‘resting bitch face’ when your shy!

Hello, my name is Katy and I suffer from a terrible case of shyness. I also happen to have a resting Bitch face. The two combined, well they are a bit of a disaster really. 

People that know me well will probably find that statement hilarious, because once I get over that initial hurdle of breaking the ice you can’t shut me up. I’m a terrible chatterbox, to the point it has often got me in trouble. 
My best friend, confessed to me drunkenly several years ago that when we first met at college she thought I was up my own backside. Apparently I had that look about me. This ‘Resting Bitch Face’, coupled with the fact I struggled to talk to anyone other than another friend I knew from senior school already and had started the course with, meant that this was the vibe I was giving off. In reality I was desperate to make new friends but my shyness was creating a barrier. 

It was only having to do joint course work that helped to break the proverbial ice. 

This was the case also when I started my last job. I put my head down and got on with my job well but didn’t really talk to any of my colleagues. It took a long time for me to relax and be comfortable talking to them. Once again several years down the line it was confessed to me that on first meeting some of my colleagues they thought I was ‘stuck up’. 

It’s breaking the ice that is the problem. Approaching someone and making that first contact terrifies me. I can’t think of anything to say, and I’m scared of being blanked or thought of as a loon. 

At the school gates I stand alone waiting for my Son to come out of class. I see all the other mums laughing and chatting and wish I could be part of their little groups. 
It ridiculous I know, but now my Son is in year 4 it’s just awkward. The initial opportunity for making mum friends has passed. Instead I find myself head down avoiding looking like a complete loner by pretending I’m busy doing some thing on my phone. Lame!!

A while ago I attended a social event with my Husband that we only knew one or two people. On this occasion I actually got a bit upset. People always seem to be drawn to my Husband, and he seems to find it easy to meet new people. This was the case then. 

Me on the other hand I just felt invisible, it wasn’t so bad with him by my side as he will try to draw me in to the conversation. He can’t be there all the time though, i.e he’s going to need the boys room at some point. I will find myself stood off to stage side feeling like a moron. 

On this occasion I actually brought this up with him, questioning what was wrong with me. Why don’t people want to talk to me? 

His response?

“Well I don’t mean to sound mean but you do have a bit of a resting bitch face, and your shyness doesn’t help you” 

Oh crap!! So yes, around new people I’m socially inadequate. 

To make the situation even more laughable when it comes to social situations I have a habit then of drinking one too many to calm my nerves. The effect of this? Verbal diarrhoea!! I must annoy the hell out of people, I’m drunk though so don’t usally notice. Oh and I happen to love everyone I meet and get embarrassingly mushy. Sorry if you’ve been on the receiving end of this!! 

Starting this blog is something that I’m hoping will help break this battle with my shyness. It’s slow going though, lets just say I’m taking baby steps. 

Where possible I join in with Twitter chats, it’s easy to come up with something funny and witty to say when you can edit it first. 

I have been to a few events where there are  other bloggers I will have chatted to in blogger chats or I know have read and commented on my blog and vise versa. 

In real life though making that step to say hello at an event for the first time is terrifying. I’ve chickened out on a few occasions and probably seem like I’m blanking them. I’m not I’m just been a moron and letting my shyness get the better of me. 

That ‘resting bitch face’ doesn’t help either as it doesn’t exactly invite people in. I’m nice I promise! 

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Vegas Travel Diary – Day 5, our last BOO!

After the merriment of yesterday’s wedding today was a bit of a slow start. Poor Chris was feeling rather hungover so we stopped off at the hotel juice bar for a hangover ‘special’.  Naturally I had to take a picture of him chugging it back, ha ha!

 
I had already been a dutiful wife and made a Starbucks breakfast run so we headed straight to the Mall as we had some last minute gifts to pick up. 

Chris was struggling by this point so we spent the rest of the day by the pool. Unfortunately this meant I didn’t get to visit the ‘Bodies’ exhibition at Luxor as planned.  Yup I’m still a bit gutted by this. 

Chris you owe me one!

In the evening we headed to The Bellagio as we were joining the others to watch the Cirque Du Soleil show ‘O’. 

What can I say about this? Visually it was pretty amazing, and I did really enjoyed it. Story wise though I can’t work out if there was one. I wasn’t the only one either, we left the arena all exclaiming “What just happened?”.  I think that’s part of the beauty of a Cirque show though. It doesn’t have to make sense, as the talent of the performers speak for itself. 

 
 As we were at the Bellagio this meant we had time to watch the dancing fountains.  Be prepared to get a bit wet, the fountains are very powerful and create a spray. 

 
Whislt at the Belagio we also visited the spectacular fall/Halloween garden.  I love how they fully embrace autumn in America. Rather than be bummed about the end of summer, autumn and winter is embraced with full on celebration. 

 
In our wisdom we decided it was a good idea to attempt walking to Freemont street. Umm yes we gave up when we had reached as far as The Wynn Hotel. Whilst everything looks close regret her in vegas in reality it’s not as everything is so big. You have to give in and take a can at some point.

It wasn’t  a total loss though as we did get to see loads of the other Hotels along the strip. When they are it up at night the sight is pretty spectacular. 

 
After a cheeky last minute gamble it was time to head back to our hotel room to pack for our early morning flight home. 

So that wraps up our trip to Vegas, we had a brilliant time and felt we would have loved to stay a while longer. There is so much to see and do in Vegas one trip is not enough. I would love to go back one day. However there are loads of other places I want to travel to first. Hopefully it will happen one day. 

Oh I forgot to mention yesterday that we had out big ‘Vegas’ win. Yup we win $180 on the slots, go us!

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Vegas Travel Diary – Day 4 

Today was the day of the wedding. Though as we didn’t have to be at The Mandalay Bay Hotel until the afternoon we headed out to the Miracle Mile Mall at Planet Hollywood Hotel. Yup I finally got to hit up Sephora and Bath & Bodyworks. I may have done some damage to my Husbands bank balance, he really spoiled me. 

I will do a post on my Sephora shopping later. I don’t usually do haul posts, but I was like a kid in a toy shop and am dying to share my new ‘toys’. 

 I have been waiting for my chance to visit Sephora for ages. They really need to open a few UK stores. 

  

So after getting ready for the wedding we attended the ceremony at The Mandalay Bay Hotel. Which took place outside in the waterfalls gardens. We then all headed procession style down to the Vegas Sign for photographs. This was fun as lots of passing truck drivers were sounding their horns to congratulate the bride and groom.  

  
As the couple had planned to head off for a little bit of private time we had some time to kill before the evening reception. We opted to grab somthing to eat at Diablos, a Mexican restaurant. 

In the interest of maintaining the romance of the day we shared a giant cocktail rather than individual drinks. 

This picture just about says it all really. Hubby may have enjoyed the rest of the wedding a bit too much. 

 
The evening reception was held in in a private suite back at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. The ushers had been very busy stocking the Bar with plenty of drinks and took it in turns to play bar man. 

There was also lots of platters of Sub Sandwiches. 

It was a very relaxed yet fun evening. 

A vegas wedding certainly is a very different experience to the more traditional wedding. Though it may not be to everyone’s taste it was a lot of fun. Processed with Moldiv

Vegas Travel Diary – Day 3 

Today was another early start. We were being picked up from the Luxor Hotel to visit a nearby timeshare property, in return for some heavily discounted tickets and   free gambling credit. All we had to do was sit through a sales pitch and in return we would receive our gifts. Sounds easy right?

  

Hah not quite so straight forward! The promise maximum 2hr time including being given some breakfast and the tour actually took 4hrs. Oh and we faced 3 different people trying to twist our arms in to purchasing a timeshare. 

Fortunately for us we used the ‘we can’t afford it’ line. We could say it with a straight face aswell as it’s true. There is not a lot someone can say to that really other than, keep lowering the price. 

So if you are interested just say NOOO! You will get a better deal. 

True to their word though we received our tickets to visit the ‘Titanic’ and the ‘Bodies’ Expeditions at the Luxor.  

Thanks to My Vegas we had a 2 for 1 coupon to use at the Luxor Buffet. I can’t say that the meal was amazing, more of an adequate school dinner. The Buffets are a cheap way to eat in vegas though. 

  

After some lunch from the Buffet we traded in our free gambling voucher for chips. These have no cash value, so  you have to gamble them untill they are gone. We did manage to win back our chips as real money though, all whilst sipping on free cocktails. So another little win for us. Yay! 

The ‘Titanic’ exhibit was something I was really excited about seeing. I have always been fascinated by the tale of the sheer opulence of the ship and it’s tragic sinking. 

The exhibit didn’t disappoint. The artefacts  recovered from the wreckage are so well preserved and displayed beautifully. Unfortunately  we were unable to take any photos as you are not allowed. We did have our picture taken on a replica 1st class stair case though and have that to look back on. 

Rather than heading back to the hotel and risk falling asleep again we headed out, or rather stayed out for the evening.

First up we headed to Coyote Ugly Bar for Happy hour at the New-york New-york  Hotel.  

 
This was great fun. We joined in a couple of the drinking games so came away rather merry.  Yup sorry that’s me not very elegantly knock back a shot. 

 
Just like in the film the all female bar tenders dance on the bar and sing along to the jukebox. So expect a few merry groups of young males. They do actually make more of an effort with the female customers though, so don’t let this put you off.  

 
Happy hour over it was time to head to The Excalibor Hotel for Dinner at Dicks Last Resort with the Bride and Groom (the whole reason we went to vegas) and a bunch of their friends. This was a very funny evening, we had a great meal whilst basically being abused by the waiting staffs banter. 

 

So that’s just about wraps up day 3 in vegas, it was a bit of a busy one. We may have had a cheeky last minute gamble at our hotel, memory can’t confirm that though…. 

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Vegas Travel Diary – Day 2

So, we have had a bit of a vegas fail today. Yesterday evening after spending some time by the pool we where to have a ‘nap’ before heading out for the evening. Umm 12 hours later we have woken up. Whoops!! Hopefully though we are on vegas time now. Damn jetlag! 

This morning we headed out to do some shopping. I had been busting my gut to do this as the self confessed beauty junkie that I am. I was desperate to get inside a Walgreens, CVS and a Sephora. 

Turns out vegas shops don’t  open till midmorning so we had a customary Starbucks. As it’s ‘fall’ I got the chance to try a pumkin spiced latte, and a pumkin and cream cheese muffin. They didn’t disappoint.  


 We managed to visit Walgreens and I did a little bit of shopping. I was very restraint considering. Mind you in my head I was waiting to be let loose in Sephora.

We were feeling brave today and we had a go at some gambling. We stuck to the slots for now. Well I can’t say we have won our millions, but we didn’t loose it all either. I cashed out when I had a decent win and ended up 55 cents up. As we were gambling we had been served a free cocktail so I consider that a win really. 

Keen to make the most of the vegas sun we have spent the afternoon by the pool, sipping yet more cocktails. 

 

That just about rounds up today. We didn’t get up to much in the evening as we fell asleep again. We are such a disappointment to vegas, oh dear!! 

We have been accosted to attend a time share talk tomorrow, yup HELP!! In return though we will receive some heavily discounted show tickets and some gambling credit. Ha should be interesting. 

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Vegas Travel Diary – Day 1

Greetings from Vegas Baby!

We are here finally! It is sunny and hot and very very surreal. Everything is big and over the top, basically like nothing I’ve experienced before.

We are staying at the Aria on Las Vegas Blvd. The room is gorgous and we have an amazing view of the city. This morning as we were awake early we watched the vegas lights go down and the sunrise over the mountains. Wow!!  
So let me share a couple if things I have discovered already. 

Tea is hard to come by. I’m a tea drinker, I love me tea. Fortunately I love a good strong cup of coffee also and Starbucks is everywhere.  

 
We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe where they have Twinnings of London so yay I’ve had a little tea fix. 

Speaking of food, there is so much of it. Portions are HUGE!! Even Chris is a bit overwhelmed, and that rarely happens. 

It did help to wash as that food down with a couple of Margarita’s. Oh and why stop at one? I went for the pick and mix option.  


Everywhere you go there is someone trying to sell you something. Yup you need nerves of steel. Evening if you are interested in buying something just say No. Competition in vegas is fierce and in a bid to get your custom a no means the price will imediately be lowered, so you will save a few bucks. 
 

Today we also visited the Shark Reef Aquarium at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. 

If you want to see some big and exotic sea creatures  this is the place to come. We took tonnes of pictures so I’m going to share a few with you.  

    
 
This tunnel runs through the shark tank do you can get very up close and personal with them. 

    
  
Priced at $20 for an adult the Shark Reef Aquarium is definately worth a visit. It’s great value for money, considering I paid the same for a cocktail in vegas!   

So that just about sums up our first day in vegas. 

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The Essex Wine School – Brentwood Launch Evening

This write up is long overdue, but better late than never I suppose. Maybe?? 

A little over a week ago I had the opportunity to attend a taster evening showcasing the launch of The Essex Wine School in Brentwood. My husband joined me for the evening which was great as we don’t get to go out for the evening together very often. Yup perils of being a parent. This was the perfect date night. 

 
 The Essex Wine School is run by Neil Bull, a WSET (wine & spirit education trust) approved provider. His enthusiasm makes for a fun evening educating attendees about wine that is not just of high quality but accessable and affordable too. 

Classes are held in Chelmsford and Colchester with Brentwood launching as a new venue at the Essex Arms. 

We had a taster of some of the different courses available which meant we tasted a champagne, wine and Gin. We were also treated to a tasty buffet. 

Courses vary from a wine tour, cheese and wine pairing or gin tasting to Christmas champagne, port and cheese matching. 2016 will also see the addition of a beer and food pairing class. For the full program of upcoming evenings and how to book then head in the direction of their website Essexwineschool.com. Courses start from £22.50 for an introductory evening. 

As The Essex Wine School is not affiliated to any individual wine merchant or retailer you will not be sold wine or have your details past on to any third parties. 

This also means that the wines you will taste are the best quality wines from accessable sources. Don’t be surprised to see a wine from a local vineyard or from a national chain such as M&S or Waitrose. 

The highlight of the evening for me was tasting the Gin. I had never had Gin before and I’m not going to lie I was very nervous about trying it. 

  This was no “mother’s ruin”, no but a sophisticated artisan gin. A twist of orange peel elevated the appeal of the drink further. I may have to partake of a cheeky gin and tonic again in the future. 

If you are looking for the ideal Christmas gift for that tricky person they also offer gift vouchers.  

I was lucky to win a gift voucher on the evening. This is for the opportunity to attend another class. That’s a future date night with the hubby sorted. I just need to decided between wine and cheese or gin tasting. Though I actually am considering booking up on both anyway as they are such fun and entertaining evenings. 

Once again thank you to Neil for an entertaining evening and to Alice Langly for inviting us. 

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OXO cupcake corer – A handy baking gadget 

I love baking and I love a gadget! Today’s post puts those two things together as I had the chance to try out this handy gadget from OXO.

What is it? This handy little contraption is a cupcake corer. It’s one of those gadgets that I hadn’t even considered as a necessary part of my baking equipment before.

Until now I have replyed on a knife to core my cupcakes for filling which is usually quite an awkward and lengthy process. This gadget makes that process quick and easy.

All you do is gently push the tool into the middle of the cupcake whilst twisting and then pull it out again.

To release the removed core you simply push on the top of the tool and it pops out. Easy!

You are then ready to fill you cupcake with whatever filling you choose. I chose to use lemon curd.

You can either completely fill the cavity  or like I have done here or pop the cap back in ready for icing. Edit

I love this gadget it is simple and easy to use and provides a professional finish to your cupcakes. Priced at £6 available from House of Fraser it is a great little investment.

I’m looking forward to trying lots of different flavours. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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