pizza

The lake has numerous restaurants, pizzerias and gelaterie offering vast menus making decisions difficult with so much on offer. Fresh water fish is abundant as is sea water fish being so close to the Adriatic. Pasta mare e montagna, (sea and mountain) usually combining mushrooms and fish and a speck and raddicchio pizza, a firm favourite of mine ,which cannot be found here in Ol’ Blighty.

ice cream

However, I shall try my damned hardest to cram as much in as possible. One lovely thing about italians is they are very child friendly and welcomed in many eateries so lack of babysitters is no excuse.

I shall also be scouring the local supermarkets for products to bring home with me and that list will definitely include some wine, some balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

shop

And then the souvenirs, the beautiful towns of Lake Garda are packed with leather shops, ceramics, food, art and of course fashion. I can’t wait!

I shall also hope to be getting one of the water taxis on the lake to take day trips to the opposite shores and visit some of the other towns dotted around the edge such as Malcesine with its Scaligeri castle, Riva at the top, Lazise and Sirmione at the bottom famous for its therapeutic spa water that comes from the bottom of the lake.

Wish you were here? :)

Today I have left the country, car packed to the hilt off on our summer vacation (love that word!) and I am co pilot and will be reading directions from The Map – a Philip’s Multiscale Europe, 2009 to get us from Calais to Brumath for our overnight stopoff.

I have coloured post its attached to pages to allow me to move from page to page with ease and follow the yellow brick road all the way to Lake Garda. Our route will take us through Switzerland which will be a first for me and one I’m very looking forward to. I pray for good weather so I can take a few photos on our stop offs to share.

Last year I successfully got us from Calais to Playa Montroig in Cambrils, Spain, about an hour’s journey below Barcelona. We were quite scared at the prospect of driving around Paris, our friends had told us numerous nightmare stories, but we did it. Yes the traffic is intense, yes, there are many lanes and you have to keep an eye on the signs but we managed, we even took in driving underneath Charles de Gaulle airport runway! Very weird feeling.

So with my routemaster directions to follow and a 7.20am Eurotunnel crossing I will direct the family across the continent, to the beautiful region of Alsace where a delicious glass of white wine awaits me.

I find it hard to understand anyone (either sex) who can’t read a map as for me it’s so simple. How can you get it wrong? Is there a knack to following a road on a map? If you follow the road signs as you go and check them as you pass on your map, you automatically know the direction you’re going in and can continue safe in the knowledge you’re on the right road.

So how do people get it wrong? And why are women so notoriously bad at it?

So whenever I see ‘..and women can’t read maps’ I have to make it known  that I can, and very well indeed thank you very much.

Back soon x

Map of Lake Garda (Lago di Garda), Italy Designer: Markus Bernet)

…and I cannot wait a moment longer :)

Lake Garda Peschiera at the southern end is our destination and I am a woman of many lists right now.

Ours is a Keycamp holiday and we’ll be staying in a three bedroom mobile home with all home comforts to make sure we have an enjoyable stay. Luckily through Keycamp we were able to book travel cots, high chairs, a baby bath and a potty which cuts our luggage down dramatically, however I do need to think about the following

  • clothes, shoes, cardis, jackets etc x 3
  • Bed linen and travel cot mattresses for the girls, pyjamas, teddies, baby monitors, egg room temperature thing
  • Kitchen – sponges, tea towels, barbecue tools, mugs, salt and pepper mills, multipurpose cleaner, plus more
  • beach gear –  2 bags! Plus toy bag
  • Toys, books, puzzles, Twin DVD player plus DVD’s, My first Scribbler
  • blow up swimming pool plus bag of balls and bubbles with bubble maker
  • Portable docking station plus iPod, cards, Yahtzee (still can’t find it!)books, needlework and laptop plus dongle
  • First Aid kit ie plasters, savlon, germoline wipes plus our stuff ie Nurofen

and much more will be thrown in the car – just in case – as we’re packing.

We’re driving down through France and stopping off for a night in Hotel L’Escale in Brumath which we found on www.booking.com. The journey is 810 miles and we downloaded it from Keycamp’s routeplanner. We’ll also be using the Eurotunnel for the very first time and I’m really looking forward to the experience.

We shall be leaving home at the crack of dawn for our 7.20am crossing and I have a picnic planned for breakfast, lunch and snacks throughout the day. I love the ‘Aires’ in France along the motorway which make for perfect stopoffs allowing a toilet stop, a run around in a green grassy area, tables to eat at and even showers at some!

To keep the little ladies amused I have invested in 2 x My First Scribblers from the Early Learning Centre and a bag full of books, teddies and little people which seem to be a firm favourite right now.

I am sure to have forgotten something as I have been packing our house up contemporaneously so as I seem to have lost the Yahtzee I will most likely forget other bits too but the important thing is going and once we’re there getting on with having fun together as a family. Of course, it mustn’t be forgotten to mention I’ll be seeing my other two children, my granddaughter and many many friends who I haven’t seen since last August.

Ciao ciao :)

Here’s what we thought of our Keycamp Holiday

At the end of April we went on a family outing to Godstone Farmwith our 21 month old twin girls. A short drive from the M25 brings you to the farm in the Surrey countryside where an ample ‘green’ car park awaits.

godstone farm

The total entrance fee was £8.00 with no time restriction and as we passed through the gates we immediately came across a map of the farm and large posters inviting us to wash our hands after viewing the pets.

There is no set course to follow but wide paths lead you in between the various animal enclosures where through wire fences you can spot turkeys, goats and even llamas. Further on, is a large shed where from a balcony you can see the lambs and calfs in pens. A blackboard listed the births and all around were information posters with information on gestation and the growth of the animals.

godstone farm

On leaving these enclosures there were child sized sinks inviting everyone to wash their hands with warm water, plenty of soap and paper towels. For our girls this was just as exciting and quickly became a highlight of their trip around the farm!

godstone farm

The restaurant on site has a fairly priced menu that covers most tastes and the souvenir shop is full of ideas from cuddly farm animals to jigsaws and pictures to hang on the wall.

Other animal enclosures include guinea pigs, rabbits, pigs, ducks and donkeys, each full of explanatory posters on their life cycle, their feeding habits and even their names, some can even be held under supervision.

godstone farm

Once the children tire of the animals there is a large soft play area with a small cafeteria where they can let off steam, a huge sand pit full of buckets, spades and diggers. A very well equipped park with ships to play on alongside the slides, swings and climbing frames.

Godstone Farm may ring a bell as it was the focus of media attention last September following an outbreak of E Coli resulting in 36 children being affected and the hospitalisation of a few. The farm was shut down temporarily and these issues have since been thoroughly dealt with.

Hygiene is of paramount importance and members of staff can be seen touring the farm constantly. A little common sense and extra care washing small hands after visiting the pets and I can promise you a fun packed day with some delightful memories for your little ones.

Roberta and I met many many moons ago. We were both in our early twenties, full of life and love and enthusiasm for out futures.

Roberta already had a little boy from a marriage that had already collapsed and was a single mum juggling childcare, dreams and general life commitments like the most of us.

A brilliant skier she and my ex husband would find themselves every year up at Passo Tonale fighting for a place on the Maestro di Sci course (ski instructors) which was incredibly difficult to obtain. Please rest assured should you ski in Italy the instructors are incredibly talented as only the best get through to the numbered places.

She did get there eventually, she also had another little boy from a different relationship that also collapsed even if this time it lasted a little longer.

During one of her last relationships she was convinced by her then partner to sell up her house in Northern Italy and invest in a farm in Tuscany, an agriturismo as they are known in Italy. Against public opinion, she sold up and followed her heart and her man and moved down to southern Tuscany with children in tow uprooting them and starting afresh with a new dream.

I had lost touch with her over the months and years and on the breakdown of my own marriage and my decision to return to the UK I took my own children for a holiday in Sardegna before I left Italy for good. On our way back the ferry dropped us at Piombino so I drove over to Roberta’s to check up on her.

I found her in a dreadful state, the evening before there had been an incredible argument and he had walked out again leaving her to cope with everything. The farm had had some work done on it but was nowhere near completion and what she needed was funding as she had run out of money.

She showed me around the place, I could see where the apartments were going to be, I saw the room where she made honey and she patiently explained the process to me. I listened to all of her plans and helplessly shrugged my shoulders at her dilemma, I had no money to invest and couldn’t help her even if I wanted to my own life sitting on a precarious line as it was.

When I worked at the Italian Tourist Board I wrote a monthly newsletter and would include her farm as often as I could but still felt it wasn’t enough until now.

Recently she sent me an email with this link and I am so proud of her. She has turned the place around and it looks beautiful There are four different apartments to choose from at Pian d’Acquaio each expertly designed with all the latest mod cons.

Please go and have a look at what she has achieved, a remarkable woman. She gets my 1st womanomics award! But I have yet to create a badge for it :)

If you haven’t been to Tuscany I would truly recommend it. Situated in middle Italy it offers the sea, the country and the beautiful towns of Florence, Pisa, Grossetto, Siena and many many more. The food is beyond culinary paradise and I’d heartily recommend a Bistecca Fiorentina washed down with a bottle of red Tuscan wine, an experience to die for.

I don’t have a mammoth readership but if you do like what you see, please pass it on. She’s worked incredibly hard and someone might like to take a visit there. I know they will love it and I’m booking for next year.