Pram face…

I joked in a prevous post that the third question you always get asked when people launch into making your pregnancy conversation fodder, is ‘do you know the sex?’ but there is a fourth, and that is ‘what pram are you getting?’ I have to admit, researching prams has never been something I am particularly interested in or could get enthusiastic about. I’m of the opinion that if you were given a pram, you would probably think it was great, regardless of the brand and features as you wouldn’t know anything else. If however you happen to be on your third pram with more than one child, that kind of user comparison is pretty useful. Either way, with travel systems being a major financial investment, I can see why people feel the pressure to get it right.

We haven’t had any big factors to consider when making our choice, like easy collapsing for swift use on public transport or the size of the car boot, which has left the field wide open. I’m really keen to get something bright and colourful instead of black and I like the bassinet components but I wouldn’t pay extra for one. A lot of our friends recommended the iCandy Strawberry, and a few others the Bugaboo’s – either the cameleon or the bee (which I loved in bright yellow,) but my head was turned by the Cosatto range. We ended up going to a local shop and pitting the Bugaboo Cameleon against the Cosatto Giggle (they didn’t have any iCandy’s in store,) and given that the Cosatto was half the price I couldn’t find anything about the Bugaboo that made it worth spending so much more. The Cosatto includes the bassinet carrier for use from birth, the push chair for older babies, the usual things like a rain cover and fun extras like a matching changing bag, (- thankfully as I just cannot get excited about any of them right now either.) There are also matching car seats.

We are just at the point of placing our order, so before we go ahead I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Have you had a Cosatto or loved your choice of another brand? Are there any you would warn me off, or things I should consider before we place that order? I really haven’t been able to motivate myself to research much beyond what I’ve written here…

Thanks guys!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Girl About Town gets Out of Town: Roma

This month I was going to write about a recent glamping excursion to Jollydays in Yorkshire, but I realised that Rebecca had already done that. So I racked my brains trying to think about something exciting from the past four weeks to tell you about. I’ve been to plenty of bars and restaurants, but none of them could have filled a whole post. Then I remembered that I was taking a work trip for an event in Rome. Granted, the places we visited were a bit out of my usual personal price range but they were great, so for a special weekend break I’d definitely recommend them. I’ll certainly be re-visiting the city with Mr G (and his credit card) in tow.

In a similar style to my Dublin piece I’ll open with one or two recommendations for eating, drinking, sleeping and exploring and then I’d love you guys to pitch in with some of your own!

Where I stayed
The event was for a rather large group of people, and we required conferencing space so that ruled out most of the city centre hotels, due to their age and size. The central hotels in Rome are much smaller and tend to have less on-site event space, so we stayed just outside of the city at the Rome Cavalieri. A grand hotel in a traditional style, full of super-sized art work, furniture you can’t sit on, relics, artefacts and sculptures that make you jump at every corner – especially in the dark after only a few hours of shut eye, and a flute or two of bubbly! My favourite pieces were glass cases in one of the lift lobbies that contained the actual Rudolf Nureyev costumes from a staging of Giselle. He was surprisingly tiny!

Because it’s out of town guests also benefit from a resort feel at the hotel, with an indoor pool (part of the impressive spa) and a large outdoor pool set in beautiful gardens, overlooked by a lovely patio area – perfect for al fresco cocktails before heading in to the city for dinner. The view from the rooms is also amazing, stretching right across the city to the famous Seven Hills.

We made use of this view, taking lunch and breakfast on the roof terrace and it really is breathtaking. There’s a reason that this hotel, and specifically the top floor, is home to La Pergola, Rome’s only three Michelin starred restaurant. Needless to say, the closest I got to dining in here was when I stood outside it, with some Haribo (that I had packed for those low-blood-sugar-stress-out-moments) peering through the gap in the doors.

Shuttle buses from the hotel operate free of charge and frequently in to the city centre, so despite being a little bit out of the action, you’re never far from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

Before my big event kicked off, we had to stay in a smaller, city centre hotel as the Cavalieri was full to bursting with ATP tennis players. (Yes I did spend a vast proportion of my [very little] free time scouting the halls for them. And yes I did spy one, from afar). We stayed in a much more budget-friendly hotel closer to the city centre which was at the other end of the design scale entirely. Modern in style and compact in design, the Hotel Metropolis is walking distance to some of the city’s main sights and a great choice for a long weekend.

Where I drank
All over the place, and whenever I could, basically! I’m a big prosecco lover, and it was a very stressful weekend!

In terms of an actual recommendation, you can’t beat the Hotel de Russie, one of Rome’s most famous hotels, and it’s beautiful courtyard gardens for a swish drink, some posing and some people watching! Set between the Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps it’s right in the heart of the action. The drinks aren’t cheap, but the setting, the service and the styling make for a special evening out,especially if you have something to celebrate. Also, if you fork out for a couple of drinks, you can save some cash and skip dinner with the amount of freebie snacks they bring out! We ordered some Italian cocktails and then gorged ourselves on fresh mozzarella and crudities, spicy meatballs, gigantic juicy green olives and small salty black ones, deep fried polenta and still-warm foccacia with oil.

The vibe is elegant, but with a funky air as the mixologists fling their shakers about to the sounds of a DJ, ensconced in a balcony high up on the wall, not too dissimilar to that famous one in Verona…

Where I ate
I tried to pick between three restaurants but I couldn’t pick a favourite, so I’ll recommend the three but I’ll keep it brief!

Something fancy: Casina Valadier is set in the Borghese Gardens, and is an old private residence, converted to a beautiful restaurant and event space. The décor, location and view are all so beautiful it made me want to fly all my friends and family out to renew my wedding vows. Speaking to some locals, it seems that Casina Valadier is something of an institution, and all “special” evenings out in the city start with aperitifs in the gardens, overlooking the cityscape. Take your camera!

Something traditional: Antica Pesa is a little bit out of the way, in one of the oldest parts of the city, Trastevere, set amongst old crumbling buildings, windy streets and cobbled paths, but it was worth the taxi ride. A lobby literally covered in photos of famous faces (James Bond through to Taxi Driver, via Sharon Stone and Will Smith – who both sent hand written notes) suggests it’s going to be a good night! The service was brilliant, the wine list was longer, bigger and heavier than the Bible (we took a recommendation!) and a menu full of traditional dishes and local ingredients all eaten in the courtyard, under the stars, made for a wonderful meal. What absolutely made my evening however, was when I chose a “traditional Roman picnic” as my starter and, expecting a plate of antipasti, was amazed when an artist’s case came out. I actually did I little squeal. I love an innovative serving suggestion!

Something modern: Molto, located in the upmarket Parioli area of the city, is contemporary and stylish. Pre-drinks on the decking outside with some nibbles (local parmigiano dipped in lavender honey. Swooooon), and then modern Italian cuisine in the trendy, black and white interior made for a perfect evening. There are wine bottles lining the walls at one end of the restaurant, a sleek bar at the other end, and slap bang in the middle, a big food station where they slice the cold meats, mash potatoes and plate up your pasta.

What I did
Of course there are the usual recommendations to visit the main tourist attractions, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Sistene Chapel, Colosseum, Vatican City, Pantheon, Borghese Gardens, the Roman Forum and the giant “Wedding Cake” (which my dad used to tell me about as a child – and was most disappointed to see when I finally visited Rome for the first time as a teenager!), the famous Piazzas Navona, del Popolo and della Repubblica and of course the famous streets of Via dei Condotti, Via del Babuino and Via Veneto with their bars, restaurants, designer shops and cafes.

You can read about those in any guide book, and I suggest you pay them all a visit if you have time.

Having been to Rome before though, the best recommendation I was given for this trip was to visit Eataly. You may have heard about them as they are popping up all over the world, they are basically enormous food courts-come-marketplaces-come-cookery schools, you can park outside, pick up a basket (or a trolley, depending on how big your case is) and spend a good few hours shopping for fresh, local produce and traditional Italian foodstuffs, taste-testing your way around the various stalls and stations and then stopping for a bite to eat in one of the restaurants, and even book yourself in for a cookery lesson or some wine tasting. Located about 15 minutes from Fiumicino airport, you could stop by on your way home…

… and eat it all on the plane.

Ooops. ;-)

So, ladies, do you have any Roman recommendations? (Ed’s note – I’d particularly love to hear any more hotel recommendations you have!)

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

East London Calling…

This afternoon I’m hoping my readers will help me out, but not only me. Often when I write a post about something you guys chip in with brilliant suggestions and recommendations and today I’m relying on that. On this occasion it is purely selfish, as this weekend I’m heading off to London town for a weekend with Pete. We’ve been meaning to go for a while and I’m excited to be in London for once and not on business. Exciting though that often is, I never get to see the things I’ve earmarked, the shops I like or try the cool cafes and restaurants I rush past in a hurry. This weekend there will be serious lingering in coffee shops, mooching in boutiques, rummaging in markets and testing of cocktails. All in the name of research you understand.)


Image Credit: Andre Beato

And this is where you guys come in. I really need your help. I’ve got my hotel sorted (The Hoxton in Shoreditch, more on that coming soon) and now I need some places to go. My only must-do whilst in the big smoke is to visit Graham and Green, one of my favourite interiors destinations online and I’ve been desperate to see the actual shop for some years now. That will take us to either Regents Park or Notting Hill (I’m leaning towards the latter as I have always wanted to go,) but otherwise we’re pretty free to wander and explore.

The other reason I hope you’ll help out with your recommendations is that posts like this become a valuable resource for other readers, either searching for travel tips and stylish hang outs or inspiring trips away. The UK was one of the most popular destinations when you gave me your feedback on travel favourites here at Florence Finds and I’m hoping we can build that section up in the coming months.

So, spill the beans about your must visit areas or streets, foodie destinations, fascinating shops and favourite bars in the Shoreditch area, or around Graham and Green in Notting Hill.

Thanks guys! I’ll love you forever :)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Florence’s Favourite: Concealers

I have to say, although I am a bit of a make-up addict, I do tend to stick to some staples – I’m a creature of habit and if it ain’t broke, I say why try and fix it, so I stick with my favourites. I also find that as I’ve got older, I’ve really gotten into creating the perfect base – flawless but not caked on and have learned this is down to more than just one product, primers, tinted moisturisers or foundation, concealer, highlighter, powder…

More recently I seem to be stuck in the middle of an irritating hormonal break out and it has lead me back to my concealers – not an item I use every day, but one that when I do use it, I expect minor miracles from. After all, nothing restores your confidence better than a flawless base right?

So today, I’m going to share my favourite concealers and I hope you’ll all share any that you think are particularly worthy of mention too.

First up, my long time favourite(s) from Laura Mercier.

The reason for the elaborate graphic here is that I use the little pot of magic at the bottom, the Laura Mercier Undercover Pot. Hopefully The image illustrates that you can purchase one of these and try out several different products for minimal outlay. That said, I actually bought it pre-wedding, so had use for all of them, but if you just need one or another of them you might prefer to purchase individually.

Secret Camouflage is the key item here, which normally comes in a compact with 2 shades to blend for different areas of your skin (even on the face there can be a couple of shades difference) but you just get one pre-blended on in the pot. The reason I love it, is probably partly down to the dry looking formula that just blends fabulously and the brush that goes with it for said blending. (At extra cost.) I don’t know about anyone else out there but I find if you have dry skin or have picked and ‘gasp’ created a scab from a particularly troublesome spot, if you blend a cream formula in with fingers you don’t cover the top but form a ring of product around the problem, the just highlighting it. With this feather light brush it’s like airbrushing the problem away. Set it with the powder tucked under the pot and you’re good for the day.

The other item in the pot is the secret concealer. This is great for under eye shadows on those extra tiring days or when you’ve burnt the candle at both ends. I apply it with a different brush, or my finger and think it gives great coverage.

Next up, a relatively new find purchased when in desperate need off a flight to New York with Jess. After sinking the best part of a bottle of wine on board and the most marathon catch up ever, we emerged with a full day to make the most of in Manhattan looking like we hadn’t been to bed the night before. (I should speak for myself!) We headed to Sephora where I picked up the Smashbox High Definition Liquid Concealer. I actually wanted it to sort out my under-eye shadows, but have since found it to be a bit of an all around miracle worker. I part it in with my finger, or more often than not use this concealer brush I dug out from my kit to blend it in – it’s particularly great for areas of increased pigmentation around the nose or chin and for evening out larger areas.

Florence’s Tips:

  • Use the right brush. It might seem like extra expense but you only buy them once then clean them on face wash or shampoo then dry to keep them perfect for year after year.
  • Use the sales assistants! I never buy a product without trying it first. I had a Saturday job on the Lancome counter as a teen and know first hand they are dying for someone not to just run away from them. Doing a mini-make-over passes the time and I often then don’t buy there and then – particularly if I want to see how the product wears. A polite ‘Great, Thank you; I’ll see how it wears and pop back later.’ is absolutely fine so don’t feel pressured to buy. It’ll definitely save you money in the long run.
  • Although I’d normally be saying that if you use adequate sunscreen your skin tone won’t change much with the seasons, the fact is it can, so make sure you’re not using a too pale one in summer or a too dark one in winter. It just highlights the bits you’re trying to conceal and that is one of the bonuses to blending with the secret camouflage palette above.

So those are my recommendations for all of your concealing needs. Please do let me know if you rate any of these or if you’ve found a star product I should be trying :) I’d love to hear as usual!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Found: John Frieda Luxurious Volume Blow dry Spray

I make it my mission on Florence Finds to share with you any particulary great thing that I may have found and whilst John Frieda Luxurious Volume Thickening Blow Dry Lotion is not new, it is certainly noteworthy in my book.

I first stumbled across it recently on Liberty London Girl where Sasha Wilkins (LLG herself) had extolled its virtues (after her Diesel fashion shoot) in assisting with the perfect bouncy New York style blow dry she loves. I’m afraid we both may be a little behind the times however as when I mentioned it to my Mum she said that she and my sister had tried it a couple of years ago! So do accept my apologies if I’m preaching to the converted.

After my recent hair cut, I realised that when you have a chin length bob, it needs a bit of va-va-voom to stop the helmet hair look, particularly as the day goes on. I have plenty of hair but it is fine and although it blow dries straight easily enough, it does like to lie down on my head. Volumising product is a must.

So I headed down to Boots and picked up a trial size bottle – I love to trial things if possible and this was only £1.99 if you want to do the same, compared with £5.99 for the full size.

Bottom line, I’m really impressed. The spray has a heat protector built in and despite spraying all over (you’re supposed to concentrate at the roots) didn’t make my hair lank or worse sticky, at all.

I’ve been using it for almost a week now and as I write this I’m even more convinced of its powers – I forgot to apply it today and noticed as soon as I got into the car that my hair was getting flat. In a lightbulb moment I remembered why. I think when you miss something after not using it, that’s the real proof of the pudding, so I feel confident recommending it to you all :)

As you can see, I took some iPhone pictures the first time I used it to demonstrate the bounce (please excuse the makeup-less and pyjama-clad me) and I’ve also taken a picture of the day I forgot to use it. Flat as a pancake.

Let me know if you’re going to or indeed have already tried it.

Big bouncy Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Come back this afternoon for a Real Room make over sent in by Anna :)