Jul 27

Castelo de São Jorge, Lisbon + Cultural Travel with Young Kids

I tried. I really did.

 

I tried to condense our entire week in Lisbon to a simple 5 point post with a title like “things to do in Lisbon” and 4 photographs, but you know what? I failed. That’s just not me.

 

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You see, there is a problem with those types of posts when you are REALLY trying to plan a vacation with kids.is   Often, they jsut don’t give you enough information.

 

As soon as the author starts to say something interesting like “pack water when visiting this tourist attraction”, they leave out “because there will be NO WHERE to buy it and your kids will scream from thirst and you will have to send your husband on a 20 minute hunt for water in a country where no one speaks English and he will return with only a Coca Cola and then you will fight all day because the baby had to drink Coke”….. but I digress.

 

Here I present to you our day at the Saint George Castle in the stunning Alfama area of Portugal’s capital Lisbon.  Here I’ve written about my first impressions of Lisbon and why I don’t recommend staying in Alfama if you have young kids, but why you SHOULD pay it a visit!

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This post will INCLUDE NO researched facts about the Castle! I am going to straight up tell you how the day went and admit to the few things I learned.

 

Castelo de São Jorge

 

As is now the case when I vacation, I spend so much of my time planning how I’m going to get somewhere, packing provisions and making sure we survive the day, that I really have no mental space or energy left to absorb any significant facts about the cultural destinations I am visiting.

 

My husband, 2 year old and I were in Lisbon with my sister, her husband their 5 year old and my 6 month old niece.

 

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I diligently printed out a few pieces of paper from this fantastic tourist site about the Castel’s history, a potential walking tour and things to look out for.

 

THE ONLY THING I remembered from what I briefly read (fine….. I just glanced at it with one eye closed as I was falling asleep) the night before our visit was that there would be peacocks running freely through the grounds. That was enough for me. That was all I needed to know.

 

I thought, “Perfect, worst comes to worst at least I have a peacock distraction that my son will like”

 

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You see, vacationing with kids to cultural destinations is not always easy. I love going to galleries, museums, castles and churches, but it isn’t always fair to think there will be adequate amounts of down time for the kids, or exhibits/spaces that will engage them.

 

Getting Kids Engaged

 

Even though kids may not be able to remember (or care about) historical facts, they are able to engage with cultural destinations in a different way.  It is important to allow them time, space and freedom to let their minds wander and for them to soak up what is important TO THEM about whatever it is you are visiting.

 

To engage my 5 year old nephew and get him really excited about our visit I tied the Castle into a story about a good knight and a bad knight that I was reading to my son. All of a sudden, cool things like Castle walls, canons, the moat etc, all started to take on a life of their own. As we walked through the castle he would use his own imagination to TELL ME the story of “what was going to happen to our good knight!”

 

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Let Them Be

 

As important as it is to engage kids, I think it is equally important to just let them be.  More often than not (I find) parents loose interest in being somewhere quicker then their kids.  Bring a few toys and plan to hang out in an area for a bit, even if it means you see fewer things in one day.

 

Bringing a few animals, cars, and cool new gadgets can provide the right amount of down time for kids to let them hang out, relax and expel some energy.  I brought a blow stick. You blow into it to raise a foam ball and make it float!

 

If you’ve been in the same spot for 15 minutes and you are ready to move on but they are still playing think about reconsidering and letting them have their breather time for another 10 minutes.

 

In planning for this trip I planned for some breather time, but never planned enough! I quickly learned that my 2 year old and my 5 year old nephew behaved better when they got plenty of time to just be silly. Plus this vacation was also intended as a way for us to spend TIME together, so what better way to spend it than hanging out, having fun!

 

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Don’t Underestimate the “Cool”

 

As adults, I find that we’ve seen and done so many things that we may not appreciate how cool  something is.

 

Here are some Cool Things for Kids at the St. George’s Castle, that I was happy to elaborate on and explore with my nephew and son.

 

The Wells

 

Wells are COOL! There is WATER under the ground for God’s sake, and if you dig a deep enough well you’ll eventually get to this water!  This fact has never ceased to amaze me, and you know what? My nephew and son were both fascinated by the wells as well!!

 

There are two beside each other, and if you whisper in one you can hear the person at the other side.  You can come up with all kids of stories of being stuck in the well, and tie this into many a well-based fairytale.

 

Time spent at the well?  A good 10 minutes (in children’s time that is like 2 and a half hours! )

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The Enemy

 

Castles protect from enemies.  Enemies attack! This castle was besiged by the Moors and Cristians and a great way to get the minds of children engaged is to think about what actually happened “IN THESE VERY WALLS”.

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Walking Along the Walls and Overlooking the City

 

One of the most incredible things that the St. George Castle offers kids (and adults) is the view.  The terrace offers panoramic river and ocean views.  Once inside the Castle walls, you can also go up the narrow (no gard-rail) stairs and walk all along the Castle walls viewing the entire city in each direction.

 

This experience was incredible but also a little scary.  My tips:

 

1) No strollers or elevators here, you must leave strollers in the Courtyard where you enter.  I have a portable stroller lock and locked mine up!

2) Carry your small kids.  My  Carrier can carry up to 20 kg (45 lbs), so I threw my son up on my back and he stayed there for the entire time we were walking along the walls

3) There are no guard rails.  Many of the walls sections are not protected with guard rails so hold your kids hands. Have them behave and stay close.  There are also a few stairs that are quite steep, so you’ll want to keep an eye out.

4) Wear shoes with a RUBBER SOUL and not  flip flops or leather soled shoes.  You’ll be more comfortable with a shoe that grips well!

5) Take pictures.  The view is stunning and worth the visit!

 

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Falcons and Owls

 

Another cool thing about the St. George Castle were the falcons and owls that you could hold and have your picture taken with for money.  I’m personally scared of big birds pecking out my eyes, so I stayed far away! However, someone out there must think this is cool!

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All in all this was a fantastic morning for the entire family.  We were there before lunch and in about 2 hours saw the whole Castle.  Here are my tips if you plan on visiting:

Stroller: To get to the Castle you have to walk up a steep hill and sidewalks are not always available.  Bring a very light stroller that can be closed easily.  Leave nothing underneath and put all of your provisions in a backpack so you can carry it easily.

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Back Carrier: As mentioned I found having my 2 year old on my back made me much less worried!

 

Water and Snacks:  Bring them both! There is a place to buy them, but it closes for breaks.  If you happen to be thirsty when it is closed you’ll end up sending your husband on a hunt that may take 20 minutes!

 

Lunch:  Right outside of the Castle there are many places where you can have lunch.  If you need a highchair you must do your research and call in advance to book it.

 

Pack a Surprise:  For each day of our vacation I always had on hand a wrapped small surprise for the kids.  I didn’t see it as spoiling them because it is their vacation too!  When I saw they were getting bored I would make a big deal about it and give it to the both of them….instant mood changer and a perfect distraction for a meal or to have some uninterrupted adult conversation (as IF that actually ever happened!)

 

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Btw.  I’ve mentioned before that I am a very excited person.  I’m known to listen poorly, move around frequently and I have the attention span of a 4 year old.  It could possibly be that I know how to get a child engaged because in many ways I am still one!

 

If you plan on visiting St. George’s Castle I hope this post helps! Visitor info can be found here.

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Jul 24

Lisbon, Portugal – First Impressions

You may have heard that I was in Lisbon for a week visiting my sister.  She still lives in Canada with her family, and 6 months ago gave birth to my beautiful niece.  I went to Canada two times last year, so this year a trans-Atlantic flight just wasn’t in the cards.  Instead, we we decided to meet up in Lisbon!

 

My sister did a three week tour of Portugal and the family and I joined them for the Lisbon portion of their vacation.

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Before this vacation I didn’t really know much about Lisbon or Portugal, but I knew I wanted to go!  A brief google image and pinterest search for “Lisbon” had me swooning over the landscape photographs of the city, the old-world charm and of course Portugal’s yummy custard tarts, Pastéis de Nata (which I now know should be eaten with a sprinkling of cinnamon!).

 

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Alfama

 

I find the most difficult thing about planning a vacation in an unknown city is deciding which area of the city to stay in.  I never want to be too far away from the tourist attractions (especially if I am there for under a week), because I don’t want to spend my precious time commuting (aka GETTING LOST).

I also never really count travel days as real days to explore the city, so even though we were there from Thursday to Tuesday, we really only had 4 days to see the city. If you want to see what I wore to the airport (dressing for travel is a thing in Italy!) I did a post about it here.

 

**As a side note, we ended up leaving on Wednesday and not Tuesday since TAP Airlines CANCELLED our direct flight home two DAYS IN A ROW!  I will blog about this eventually, but for now let’s just say that I ended up having 5 full days of sight seeing, one day of normal travel and one day of nightmareish travel! #neverflyTAP

 

I began my internet research and discovered that the Alfama area is Lisbon’s oldest and many would say most beautiful quarter.  It survived the 1755 Earthquake that destroyed much of the historic city so its buildings are covered with beautiful Portuguese patterned tiles in blues and whites that are very different from the rest of the city.  It also has spectacular views with many public terraces where you can stop and take a photo.

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I decided that if I was only going to be in Lisbon for a few days,  I wanted to maximize the amount of time I spent seeing beautiful things, so I searched for an apartment in Alfama.

 

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As I continued to research, I found that the Alfama area is not the easiest for strollers because the streets are narrow, they are cobblestone, many parts are MISSING sidewalks and they are all up or down hill….we’re talking 90° hills here people!  So then I started to research how I would/could get around the city.

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Jul 22

Do Italians Inherit Their “Good Taste”? – real mom street style

If you happen to read yesterday’s post then you know about my envy/obsession with put together women.  Specifically, the put together women I often see at the Bologna Airport as we head out on our European adventures.

 

This time, I decided I would be one of those women (here’s what I wore), and at the airport, I kept my eyes open for the “Italian Flyers” so we could exchange glances of “oh my, don’t you look great”!

 

It wasn’t long before I noticed not one but TWO very put together ladies.

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I was heading into the washroom and noticed the woman on the right as she entered.  I really wanted to ask her if I could take her picture for my Real Mom Street Style series so I waited for her until she came out of the washroom.  That’s right, I WAITED for her outside of the washroom….I have officially entered into creepy, stalker, street style blogger territory!  While I waited I noticed the stylish and mature woman on the left.

 

Her jaunty Burberry scarf, her modern yet not too young for her age t-shirt, her cool but not over-kill sneakers and OF COURSE her “piumino” meaning puffy coat!  The Italian JULY essential, especially if you want to avoid getting a chill!

 

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She was so nice that she let me take her picture and, as I was taking it, the woman on the right came out of the bathroom.  And, you know what?  They are mother and daughter!

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“Good Taste” – Taught or Genetic?

 

I can safely say this is a typical “good taste” Italian family.   Not only is this older woman looking totally stylish for her age, but her daughter has obviously inherited some of her style genes.  I love her shiny, glitter loafers, her rolled jeans, mirrored sunglasses and of course her 5preview top!

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I recognized this top because a friend of mine owns a little boutique here in Italy that is filled with the trendiest street wear out there and he carries 5Preview! You can find the brand online here.

 

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Jul 18

Il mercato

This blog is a work in progress, but if you’ve been following along you know that I work in fashion for my husband’s family business and they are exotic leather belt artisans.  Technically, we make some of the world’s most absolute luxury products but don’t make luxury money! I’ve written a bit about what it like to work in luxury without making luxury money here.

 

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Working in the world of the rich, when you yourself are normal, means getting creative. Creativity in dressing isn’t always easy because the stitching on a poorly made top is always going to be bad, and fake leather anything doesn’t cut it with clients who are decked out in the real deal. I try to seek out unknown designers, Italian artisan brands and of course vintage finds so I can recreate a certain look without looking too cheap.

 

I’ve found a lot of cute things online but one of my secret weapons are the stalls at the Market!

 

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Il Mercato

 

In Italy “Il Mercato” usually refers to a weekly, or monthly temporary market where vendors sell housewares, clothes, vintage items, toys and everything else!

 

Not to be confused with the vegetable and fruit market!

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Note if you are looking for one or the other be specific when asking for directions, for example “il mercato di frutta e verdura” for fruit and vegetables and if you are looking for clothes you could say “il mercato dell’abbigliamento e indumenti” and for housewares you could say “il mercato di casalinghi”.

 

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I’ve written here about Italy’s Antiques and Vintage markets, but these are focused on antiques and authentic vintage items and not necessarily sell-offs, cheap, discontinued or used items. At “Il Mercato” you can find brand new kid’s clothes from big brands for 10 euro a piece (they are probably from the collection from two years ago), retro and vintage finds for a few euros each, bras for 7 euro, and scarves for 3!

 

MANY ITALIANS SHOP HERE! In many ways “il mercato” is how you survive in Italy, sifting through the stalls until you find a brand new, name brand top for 5 euro, or last seasons winter coat for 30! Not everyone admits to shopping at the market, but you’d be surprised who you run into!

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I’ve picked up some of my favourite things from il mercato (the market) like this scarf, a Missoni inspired short sleeve sweater and an ombre beanie.

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I took a BIG BREAK from blogging last week but I’ll be honest and say it’s nice to be back.  I have a lot of blog reading to catch up on and in many ways this blog is now a little piece of my life so I really missed writing while away.  But sometimes breaks are necessary so I can concentrate on real life and just enjoying the moment, which I did fully!

 

 

Sharing is Caring – What I Wore

 

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If you read this post about my blue Kimono, you know that I’m a lucky girl when it comes to receiving free accessories and gifts.  Now that I have the blog I also get a few more “gifts” in exchange for mentions on the blog, but not always.  Often, when you work in fashion, gifts come with the territory.  A girlfriend of mine is a fashion journalist for one of Italy’s major fashion magazines and her closet is FILLED with gifted designer pieces (I’m not quite so lucky), but I did get this great pair of earrings for free!

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I wanted to share the love, so I’m giving them away!! This isn’t a sponsored giveaway, it’s more like a “pass it on” sort of thing.  My readers have become new virtual friends, so I thought this would be a fun way to pass on these earrings.  I’ve only worn them once (to take this outfit shot!!), they came from a friend’s designer jewelry boutique and retail for around 130 euro.  I’m opening up the giveaway worldwide and will personally pay for shipping, just to say thank you.  I may start doing this more often in the future along with the sponsored giveaways,  but closet is pretty full so why no pass along things I don’t wear?  What do you think?

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

My shorts are 100% linen bought online here during a flash sale for 7 euro aka 10 bucks!!

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Permanent link to this article: http://reasonstodress.com/il-mercato/

Jul 11

Is this too old to “blog”? – The Kimono

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I have a confession to make.

 

I wore this outfit THREE WEEKS AGO.  three. weeks. ago.  In blogger-land, that is like saying I wore this outfit in the 1970s and I’ve just decided to blog about it now.  I’m realizing that putting together a post takes me a lot of time.  I have to edit the photos, watermark them, upload, write the post, add in all of the tags, tweets, and everything else that goes with publishing something online that I actually want people to see!

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I really love blogging, and I have about 40 different posts I’d love to share but just can’t seem to churn out fast enough.  So, my confession is that I’m going to share them anyway, even if they are old news!!

 

The internet is FOREVER, and if the Kimono is back again in 2015 maybe, pairing it with cut offs and thong sandals (not that original, I know!) will inspire your own outfit.

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The Reason I Dressed

Before we went on vacation to the Riviera Romagnola, we spent a lot of time packing, washing clothes, and generally getting things ready, as all parent do before they go on any “get away”.   Since I exclusively watch Zeno, the poor little guy was stuck indoors with me while I prepared everything.  The weekend came and so, as a family, we spent a good 5 hours outside going to the park, buying some fruit at the market and breathing some fresh air so he wouldn’t get cabin fever.

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Permanent link to this article: http://reasonstodress.com/is-this-too-old-to-blog-the-kimono/

Jul 09

I’m going to see her face – an expat dilemma

On days like today I really hope that my husband isn’t reading my blog!  The house is a DISASTER, I have to finish packing…no wait, I have to START packing. The kitchen needs to be cleaned, I have to iron, prepare the travel sized versions of everything in the washroom, print maps, itineraries, walking tours, download, convert and upload to my iphone new episodes of my son’s favourite shows, find my camera, charge it…ahhhh the LIST GOES ON.

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And I only have one kid! What would I do with two?  What would I do if I was working full-time out of the house? How do other moms do everything?

 

Here I am blogging, so shhhh don’t tell my man.

 

Tomorrow I see her face.

 

Her sweet, beautiful, familiar and yet unknown face.  The face of my new baby niece.  The niece that was born a few months ago that everyone else in my family knows, and has held and has smelled and knows how to make giggle – in Canada.

 

I know I chose to live overseas.  I’m the one who decided to go away, who got involved with an Italian, who decided to “abandon” my old life, my family my country, my city, my everything in search of something that was missing.

 

My husband reminds me (often) that I CHOSE to come to Italy every time I want some sympathy for every birthday, Christmas, Easter, Picnic or family day at an amusement park that I miss. How can I complain if this is what I chose??

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Permanent link to this article: http://reasonstodress.com/im-going-to-see-her-face-an-expat-dilemma/

Jul 08

Street Style + Shoe Trends for SS2015

Real Mom Street Style – Dr. Marten’s

 

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Before I went away on vacation in Romagna with my son I really didn’t feel like grocery shopping and cooking!! I was already in a vacation mode, and since my man was often working late, my two year old and I would head out by ourselves for late evening walks and street food dinners alone.

 

The Reason She Dressed

I was at one of my absolute favourite Tigella places in Modena (I have yet to write a tigella post…sigh) and we were having our “fast food” dinner together when  I started chatting with this mom.

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She embodies the coolness I know I have in my soul but just can’t seem to channel.   Her straight cropped hair, her bangs, her big smile (that she is shy about!!) and her awesome style. She is married to an equally cool man and together they have two boys that my son really enjoyed playing with.  Oh, and you may have noticed her tattoo, a dagger she got AFTER she became a mom that bares the names of her two boys – love that.

 

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What She Wore

 

You may remember, way back when, in mid-December when I was researching this summer’s biggest shoe trend the “ugly sport Sandal” (here is the post if you missed it).  The chunky Teva sport sandal was all over the runway, and at the time I was shopping the online SALES trying to find a look that would be in-style for the summer.  I ended up going with these Asos leopard sandals (this is how I’ve styled them).

 

Later, in April, I did a “Trend Update” since at that point every blogger and fashionista was sporting a pair (pardon my pun!)  This look is really starting to grow on me and now I am eating my words about the trend being “ugly” because you know what….THIS TREND LOOKS AMAZING ON THIS MOM!!

 

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Jul 04

Missoni inspired in the Riviera

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A few months ago when went to Mantua for an evening walk, I noticed this Missoni bag in a fancy shop window.

 

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I fell in love INSTANTLY.

I wanted this bag.  I loved everything about it, the multi-coloured plexiglass chain (otherwise known as Methacrylate), the way the raffia was woven, the color, the fact that it screamed SUMMER, the chicness, the relaxedness ….everything that is, aside from the 300 euro price tag :(

 

I live with a budget, often preferring to do things like eat, have a roof over my head and TRAVEL instead of buying luxury items  But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the beauty of luxury fashion, especially since I am surrounded by them all the time for work.  I didn’t buy this bag, but I did keep my eyes open for items that would help me recreate this look and low and behold my search paid off.

 

After a VERY LONG “buy nothing”  shopping ban you can read about here and here, I caved at the local Antiques and Vintage Market in Modena’s Piazza Grande.  I’ve written about the Antiques Market here, and about how to find a market the next time you’re in Italy here.  I found a marbled cream and brown plexiglass loop necklace and a vintage, rattan purse that I really liked, and have since worn all the time.

 

 

 

 The Reason I Dressed . Evening Passeggiate 

 

I was in the Riviera Romagnola last week, if you’ve read my standard daily itinerary while vacationing on the Adriatic Coast, you know that each evening’s dinner is followed by a passeggiata aka walk.  I stayed in Cattolica’s Port area (which I’ve written a bit about here) so my walks were along the boardwalk, out onto the pier, through the Port area or into the city’s centre.

 

Look N°1 With Shorts

I love pairing this necklace and bag with simple clothes like a white tank, teal shorts and thong sandals. My belt is tan python leather made by my husband and my bracelet was bought for a few euros from a street vendor.

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Look N°2 With Skinny Pants and a Short Sleeved Cardigan

I reused all of the same elements and swapped out the shorts for skinny rolled pants on a chillier night. I threw a yellow, big polka dot scarf and thin, cotton knit, short-sleeved cardigan in my purse so I could layer once the sun fully set.  I’ve you’ve read this post, you know that Italians kids stay up LATE.  Usually my evening walks would begin around 9:30 p.m. and end around 11 p.m., and since the port area gets breezy I always like to have something to keep the breeze off my shoulders and neck.

 

I’ve written here about how much Italians fear that their necks get a chill, hence why you’ll always see people in the evenings with light sweaters jauntily tied around their shoulders!

 

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Jul 02

beach going like an Italian

I over packed for my trip to the Riviera Romagnola.

I didn’t mean to, but there is really no way that I needed three hats, 5 different bikinis and something like 7 different cover-ups for a measly ten days at the BEACH.

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I was at the beach for God’s sake!  I could have gotten away with wearing the same t-shirt and shorts for all ten days, but the problem is

THAT’S JUST NOT FUN!

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Beach wear marketers all over the world have convinced me that I will feel so much more glamorous if I’m in a big hat, sunglasses, the latest 50s inspired high-waisted bikini, and I accessorize with bejeweled sandals, bracelets, a big necklace and a jauntily tied sarong.

So, as a good fashion lover and marketing victim, I packed all of the things I would love to be seen in, and then, subsequently ONLY wore the things I felt comfortable in.

 

At the beach I did NOT WEAR:

BRACELETS – they leave tan lines on my arm

BIG HATS – The beach wind may blow them off, and I just didn’t have the courage to wear my big billowy hat to the beach

SARONGS – What? And not tan my butt?

BEJEWELED SANDALS – Only flip flops for the beach so that they could be easily shaken out / washed

50s inspired BIKINIS – And not tan my belly?

OVERSIZED NECKLACES – I wouldn’t want anyone to confuse me with someone famous.

 

The year I got pregnant with my son I went to the most luxurious area of Sardinia, the Costa Smeralda on vacation.  There, for some reason, I felt justified in all things GLAMOUR!  I wore my big hats, all kinds of jewelry and all things fabulous.  Please let me know if you’d like to see these looks, I will dig them out of the pre-baby archive!

I’ve written here, about why vacationing in Italy’s Riviera Romagnola on the Adriatic Sea is a perfect family beach getaway.  It does not have the glitz and glamour associated with it as Sardinia, and certainly the beach is no where near as lovely, but if you are looking to actually RELAX at the sea side with kids, this is the place to be.

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That being said, I really DID want to wear my fun beach accessories, so I wore them during lunch walks, post-dinner strolls and aperitivos!

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What I Wore

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