5 years in the making!

Friendship 5 years into expat life

It’s the final week of the school holidays, and I’m pondering while the kids are busy with their friends. Whilst they have fun and enjoy the diverse friendship groups they have built, I am sitting here wondering how on earth they have easily constructed a group of so many friends, each and every one so different in many ways! Children seem to have a talent for making friends regardless. I love that about them. I love the attitude they have toward making friends, and hearing the shouts of “sure, come and join in.” I can’t help but wish adults were more like that!

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I often chat to the children about how different our lives are to what we left behind in the UK, and it always comes back to ‘friendships’, mine and theirs. We all still pine for our ‘mates from home’ and talk fondly of the friends we miss.

Recently I’ve been aware of the importance of true friendship to them. I can see the kind things they do for their buddies, and I hear the way they talk about them too. I can see how, over time, they have carefully filtered their friendship group and worked really hard to nurture particular friendships, which I’m certain they’ve done without really thinking. How amazing is that!

I love that they have embraced every minute since we arrived down under, and although I never imagined that we’d still be here 5 years on, and I hadn’t considered we’d be building a future in Melbourne, watching us all with our newest friends, makes it seem so worthwhile.

Being 11,000 miles away from family and friends can make or break you!

The past 5 years have made us rely on each other for things that maybe in the UK we would have leant on someone else for. It has made us raise resilient kids who shine through new beginnings and it has taught us we’re pretty good at making new friends after all. For me, it has reinforced how much more important my friends, new and old, have become to me.

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It’s no secret I’ve always been precious about my friends back in the UK. It has been the constant pull for me to up sticks, go back and slot into that old life we had before. The friendship thing has been hard for me, and still is today.

This summer however, I feel like I have turned a corner. I have realised for the first time since arriving in Australia, I can stop searching. I don’t need to keep looking, because I am completely content with the awesome men and women I call my friends here, and I am determined to make an even bigger effort to let them know just how much I appreciate them.

For a long time, friendship here was about making sure I have someone to help me, and if they come with a sense of humour that’s a bonus! I was looking for the friends I could text: “can you grab him from school, I’m running late” or “are your kids free to play today” because let’s face it, I took my two away from their friends and I’m feeling the guilts.

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As an ‘expat’ the hunt for real friends can feel overwhelming.

Friend hunting is like online dating only with a much more critical audience, and ‘mums’ are far less willing to give you a go!!!

“Should I be funny Liv?”

“Should I be serious Liv?

“She’s English, she’ll be a laugh” ***Not always the case BTW

“I have to like her because her kids are in my kids class..”

“She has lots of friends so I should try and join her crew”

“Oh god I don’t even like Taylor Swift but now I am broke, and at her concert because I needed to fit in.”

**Yes, I’ve tried most things when it comes to sussing out potential friends.

I remember laughing with my girlfriends in the UK about getting a T-shirt printed with “I love gin, be my friend” and just wearing it to the park to see if I could ‘pull’ a mama.

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5 years down the road, I’ve got friends who I can really call friends.

Now I have friendships that have grown, and mean so much more than the random play date because our kids like each other, or the “can you grab her for me please” text messages.

I have made sure that I’m not swapping numbers with someone just because I feel pressured into it. I’m not hanging with people just because our kids get on.. although that helps massively. I am happy to have created a group of ‘gal pals’ who are amazing, not just because they offer me support, but because they are interesting, talented, kind, generous, creative, funny, smart, brave…. and will drink wine with me at the drop of a hat!

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The thing is, I was basing everything on first impressions and of course, “what do my kids get out of this?” However, friendships aren’t about first impressions, and my friendships shouldn’t be about what the kids can gain from it, it should be about me too!!

New friendships shouldn’t be one bit like online dating, they are about far more than that. They are built over time, between people who don’t feel any pressure at all to be anything other than themselves.

So, if you are new to a country, the new mum at a school gate, or you’re looking to switch it up a bit, my advice is, give it time.

No great thing is created suddenly, and all great achievements take time. You’ll know when you’ve found your crew! 

Liv xx

Have you found your crew? Tell me how you found the whole “friendship” thing!

 

Australian Open Kids Ballpark – Non stop entertainment!

If you thought the tennis was intense, you should see everything on offer for Kids & Families this year!! An unforgettable experience awaits!

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The Australian Open is one of the worlds greatest sporting events, and this year, it’s even better… especially for the kids!

 

The incredible AO Ballpark presented by Emirates has officially opened at Birrarung Marr and has grown a whopping 4 x in size this year! That’s right, 4 times in size, taking up both the upper and lower terraces of Birrarung Marr. I told you it was whopping!

The AO Ballpark is the place to be for all of Melbourne’s cool kids, catering for a range of ages from the very small to the…well…very grown up! The fun isn’t all tennis focussed, far from it. Aside from the hot shots tennis courts where the kids can go all McEnroe on you, there are go karts, a zip line, LEGO fun, a super soaker battle zone, a nail biting sky flyer ride, a Ninja Warrior style obstacle course, a wonderful Disney themed section, and an awesome splash zone too! That’s where we’ll be cooling down!

There’s something for all ages from tiny tots to 10 year olds, and the NEW AO Hilltop especially for 10+ year olds.

It’s unbelievable I know, but all of this fun is on offer for just $5. The Australian Open kids ground pass ticket grants access to the new location in Birrarung Marr, encompassing both the Upper and Lower Terrace. For all you foodies, rest assured there are plenty of options, my personal favourite being the Pinchy’s Lobster bar! Yes maaaam’!

Offering kids of all ages even more summer fun than ever!

Let’s face it, we only go to the tennis to catch a glimpse of Rafa’s biceps, so for all the parents out there who’d like some time out to “watch the tennis” without having to keep one eye on the kiddos, get them booked into the awesome Kids Club and kick back!

The AO Kids Club is the first-ever childcare program offered at a Grand Slam, is even bigger and better than before, and in 2020 it’s in a new and easily accessible location at Deakin Edge at Fed Square. #winning

All the info:

A kids ground pass is just $5 for kids 3- 14 years and free for kids 2 year and under.

More information

Date: 20 January–2 February 2020
Times: Daily from 10am–7pm, Fri 31 Jan 2pm –10pm, Sat 1 Feb 10am–10pm, Sun 2 Feb 12pm–10pm
Price: AO kids ground pass $5, Adults $54
More information
Book tickets

Onsite childcare is available every day at the AO, making the event even better! Your kids will have nonstop fun at the tennis and entertainment program.

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Liv’s top tips:

  • Take drink bottles. There are lots of refill stations!
  • Pack your hats!!!
  • Pack plenty of sunscreen. Although there are lots of shady areas, it is very exposed, and you’re outdoors for many hours.
  • Pack your swimmers and a towel. The changing facilities for families are great so don’t worry about where you can change!
  • Take a packed lunch, and snacks because food is pricey.. delicious, but pricey!
  • Save your pocket money for ‘merch’ as there is some awesome AO 2020 merchandise on offer!
  • Wear comfy shoes, and make sure the kids have closed toes as they won’t be allowed on the rides or to climb without them.
  • Get a good night’s sleep beforehand as it is a big day at the Open!

Have fun

Liv xxx

Tow small, travel big! Go by Go Pod

Camping and I have a strange relationship! I love being outdoors, I don’t love the dust and dirt. I love the wildlife, I don’t love the creepy crawlies. I love the freedom that the children have, I love the camp cooking, I love the kids excitement at bed time when we’re all snuggling down. I do not love (or even like) tents! Nope! If all I have is a tent, you can go without me.

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Part of me envies the hoards of families who camp, and have all the stuff! Their camps look like they could sustain life for years and years, in a perfectly happy state, with not one meal missed or one iota of sleep even slightly disturbed. We do not camp like that! We don’t have nearly enough equipment, we barely have any camping knowledge, and to be honest I have always felt that ‘holiday sleeping’ requires, at the very least, a decent bed and a fluffy duvet! (Aka a hotel!)

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Hold on though….. You may find this hard to believe, but even I have been persuaded to fall in love with camping after testing out the gorgeous Go Pod Teardrop Caravans last weekend!

We picked up our beautiful GoPod at about 11am, on the hottest Victoria day since records began. Honestly, the thought of arriving at a campsite and having to erect a camp in this heat would have been hell. Not with our GoPod. With lots of great tips and advice from Kayleen, we hooked the teardrop caravan up to the car, and drove off toward the ocean, knowing there would be very little do do, in order to get comfy on arrival!

We have never towed anything before, not even a trailer, and as Mr W was a little ‘tired‘ after his work Christmas party the night before, I was in charge!  The glory of the GoPod is that it is very lightweight and super easy to tow. Thank goodness!! We made it safely to Anglesea with me at the helm, even negotiating Bunnings and Hungry Jacks on the way! *You may applaud now!

Set up was done and dusted in about 20 minutes. We unhooked the GoPod, rolled it into the best position, plugged it in and put up the tent! Once the table and chairs were up, and the kids were bouncing on the jumping pillow, we kicked back to enjoy our weekend. That is perfect camping in my mind! No stress, no arguments about who put the groundsheet in the wrong place, just an easy set up and a perfectly snug place to sleep…. with the fly screens tightly shut!!!

The GoPod 90 has double doors ( a godsend for extra air and midnight toilet trips!) and a deliriously comfy queen bed. (Bedding can be hired on booking). There was so much storage I felt like we could have travelled for weeks and weeks even with Monty’s desire to change his clothes every thirty six minutes. Everything has been meticulously thought about from the mattress to the tool box. Even the MukMat, chairs and table were included. Like I said, nothing had been left out!!

We make sure you have the confidence to set off and are always a phone call away for our hirers. With the support of YouTube, a manual and our advice you have everything you need for a great trip’- GoPod

The GoPod kitchen was lovingly filled with everything your little camping heart could desire! Gas burners and fridge, crockery and lights, enough storage to be able to make a Christmas feast if you so wish! The GoPod has plugs for chargers, USB sockets, heaps of storage for clothes, toys, UNO (of course), and all the other camping paraphernalia you need. There really is no easier way to hit the road!!

Everything you need for a simple getaway is right here. – GoPod

As we were four and the GoPod 90 sleeps 2 (or two adults and a small child), we added on a tent for the boys! Everyone was happy! Even the tent had a fab mattress, duvet and fan which doubled as a light. It barely felt like camping, as we were all so comfy!

I know camping is a little like Vegemite, you either love it or you hate it, however, if you are anything like the Wilsons, and are divided down the middle,  you need to look at the GoPods. These cute caravans are wonderful alone, and a marvellous addition to any camp setup. They are especially splendid for those of you who like to have home comforts whilst on the road! (Think cuddly duvet and wine glasses).

There are a few different types of GoPod, some sleeping up to four people, so they are perfect for everyone, plus, they are offering great deals on long term hire too for you adventurers! Another great use for the GoPod is for guests when you don’t have the spare room at home! Imagine giving your guests their own GoPod for the weekend, within reach of your dinner table and witty conversation! Best sleepover ever!!!

For people who want an easy towing experience for a safe and amazing getaway. GoPod Teardrop Campers are the caravans you never knew you needed. – GoPod

If you love the idea of hooking up and escaping, without the hassle, if you love the idea of being in the great outdoors whilst sleeping and cooking in luxury, this is the caravan for you! Tow small and travel big is the GoPod motto, and trust us, these are 100% made for big adventures! Who’s coming with us on our next trip??


BOOKING INFO

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VICTORIA

GoPod 90    GoPod 82   GoPod Plus

NSW

GoPod

Prices start at $80 per night (insurance included)

Click here for all the contact details

 

One who lives, sees much. One who travels, sees more!

Liv xx

Will you find the $400 nugget at Sovereign Hill these school holidays?

We are so lucky to live in such a wonderful part of the world where there seem to be endless ways to entertain the children!! It’s no mean feat trying to keep everyone happy, all summer, but I’m pretty sure, this may be the answer to your prayers!! 

This summer, Sovereign Hill is set to be busier than it’s been since the goldrush of the 1850’s. With brand new activities every day and the chance to win a $400 gold nugget every week, it feels like the gold rush is happening all over again! We cannot wait to get over to Sovereign Hill to experience some of the fun!

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Each day of the week, for six weeks, a different adventure awaits. From ‘Make it Mondays’, to ‘Find it Fridays’, there is something for everyone to enjoy. 

All of your favourite Sovereign Hill activities will also be on, including bowling, the gold pour, costume photos, as well as Sovereign Hill’s new sound and light show, AURA. 

You can read about our last adventure to Sovereign Hill here!!

If you think you and the family would love to experience everything that’s on offer, you absolutely can!!!! Purchase a  *Sovereign Hill Annual Pass, which provides you with unlimited entry to Sovereign Hill and the Gold Museum, 364 days a year, as well as discounted mine tours, coach rides, and other special offers. 

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For full program details visit www.sovereignhill.com.au

PROGRAM OF EVENTS:

MAKE IT MONDAYS – Try your hand at butter churning and cheese making, make your own block candle or help us sew the Eureka Flag. 

TROTTING TUESDAYS – Meet the Sovereign Hill horses, get your photo taken with a Clydesdale and watch our horse team change over the horses that pull the Sovereign Hill vehicles. 

WHATS’ THAT WHISTLE WEDNESDAYS – Learn about steam engines, take a tour of some ruins and hear stories of child miners on the goldfields. 

TRADE THURSDAYS – Watch rare trades in action, have a go at the traditional process of Cyanotype, go behind the scenes of the Sovereign Hill coach builders. 

FIND IT FRIDAYS – Rush to the diggings for the chance to discover a $400 gold nugget, take a photo with the Australia nugget (worth over $85,000) and see a coin press machine in action. 

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SWEET SATURDAYS – Take a walk around lollipop lane, take a photo with a giant jar of Raspberry Drops and join an exclusive hands-on experience in Brown’s Confectionery. 

SOLDIERING SUNDAYS – Dress as a redcoat and join their parade, learn a Trooper drill and watch on as a mass license hunt takes place in the Red Hill Gully Diggings. 


All the info

What: Sovereign Hill’s Summer Gold Rush

When: 26th December, 2019 until 27th January, 2020

Time: 10am – 5pm 

Where: Sovereign Hill, Bradshaw Street, Ballarat, 3350


*Sovereign Hill Annual Pass

PRICES Annual Pass Single Entry
Adult $119.00 $58.20
Child (5–15 years) – only available when purchased with an Adult, Family or Single Family Ticket/Pass $31.50 $26.20
Concession* (To be purchased as Adult Pass) N/A $46.80
Family (2 Adults and up to 4 Children) $255.00 $148.00
Single Adult Family (1 Adult and up to 3 Children) $165.00 $106.00
Conditions: Annual Pass is valid for 12 months from date of purchase. Current Annual Pass card and photo ID must be presented on each visit. This Annual Pass is not transferable. A surcharge may apply for entry to special events. Only the Annual Pass holder whose name is listed on this card is entitled to free entry to Sovereign Hill. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Discounts are not accumulative – only a single discount can be applied to purchases.

Extra charges apply for some activities and major events.

BUY NOW

 

Oink-tastic Peppa Pig High Tea at the Langham Melbourne

We were so excited to be invited to be amongst the first tasters of the Peppa Pig High Tea at the world famous Langham Melbourne, before it arrives later this month!

What a treat to be sitting in the iconic Melba restaurant surrounded by squeals of delight, sweet treats and happy faces!

Don’t be fooled in to thinking that Poppy & Monty are too old for this exciting high tea. Both of them were Peppa Pig super fans back in the day, and whilst ‘nostalgic’ may not be the right word, they definitely loved being able to embrace their old love for everyones favourite piggy and I would say that all children are the perfect age to appreciate the deliciousness that comes with a Langham High Tea, Peppa Pig style!

 

Peppa Pig will swap muddy puddles for The Langham, Melbourne during the summer school holidays. On weekdays from Friday 27 December 2019 until Friday 24 January 2020, The Langham, Melbourne will host a Peppa Pig-themed high tea for little piggies and grown-ups.

Just like our loveable friend Peppa, we all enjoy dressing up and adore a fab day out, which makes thePeppa Pig High Tea at The Langham, Melbourne an ideal outing for families with Peppa Pig fans who love a bit of luxury.
Little Piggies are encouraged to dress up as their favourite Peppa Pig character and have an oink-tastic time tasting Peppa’s shortbread cookie, muddy puddle dip cups with strawberry and marshmallow fruit skewers and more. Yes mums, there’s a lot of sweetness, so be prepared!!

 

Whilst the children ate their way through lashings of fairy bread (I’ll never get used to this Aussie delicacy), cheese and Vegemite brioche, chive and Parmesan quiche and honey and soy chicken skewers (Monty’s favourite), I got to devour the Langham’s signature Wedgwood high tea and sip on sparkling wine! Sounds prefect doesn’t it? It was!!!!

The Peppa Pig High Tea is incredible, however it is not for the faint hearted! Go with an open mind, deck yourself in your favourite pink outfit (not compulsory) hold your sugar rationing at the door, make sure you’re hungry (really hungry) and take your camera as it’s just too cute not to snap! All little Piggies will be given a plush toy, colouring activity and Peppa Pig ears which they will love to take home and cherish!!

This would be the perfect Christmas gift for a little Peppa Pig fan!

 

‘There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea’ – Henry James


All the info

Dates:27th December 2019 and concluding 24th January, 2020 Weekdays only

Time: The Peppa Pig High Tea is available at 10am until 11.30am and at 12.30pm until 2pm

Cost: Child: $69* per child including one plush toy, colouring activity and Peppa Pig ears. Peppa Pig high tea stand and toy items are charged per head. Extra toys can be purchased on the day subject to availability.

Adult: $69* per adult for Christmas with Wedgwood menu including a glass of sparkling, coffee or tea * +$5 on public holidays. Toys can be purchased on the day subject to availability.

Bookings may be made via melbarestaurant.com.au  by contacting 1800 641 107 or by email to rest.res@langhamhotels.com.

 

The Being Brave Book: A Novel And Guide

The following book review was written by me and first published on KidTown Melbourne

The Being Brave Book: A novel & guide about finding courage and strength by Sema Musson and Hester Leung.

I have recently enjoyed this delightful book with my 11-year-old daughter, who herself has moved schools and walked, in many ways, in the shoes of the main characters. Not only did it encourage us to discuss the power of positive thinking, but also started conversations on the importance of being determined, brave, honest, imaginative, and best of all, kind. Lessons that we could all take on board and talk to our children about a little more frequently.

‘Ellie and Alyssa have been best friends since pre-school. One chatty, one shy, one adventurous, the other considered, one Australian, one with Chinese heritage, both supportive and giving. It’s easy together. Then they change schools.’

Being Brave is a novel and personal development guide for young girls with themes on self-esteem and resilience. It’s the first novel/guide we have read and I’m glad we did!

We are all aware of the challenges children face while growing up, but it’s stories like this that teach us all how to put one foot in front of the other regardless of how big the climb! It’s an important read for youngsters as it confirms their feelings are not out of the ordinary, and therefore they’re not alone.

Please grab a copy and join Ellie and Alyssa on this important journey through the everyday pressures of school and family life in this all-Australian girls’ adventure story, where girls triumph and the main characters reflect Australia’s wonderful ethnic diversity.

Get a copy, cuddle up with your girl, and take some time out to enjoy the togetherness whilst learning some positive personal development tips!

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Check out the Being Brave Girls on Facebook

The Being Brave Book: A Novel And Guide By: Sema Musson and Hester Leung is available to buy online at Booktopia and other leading book stores.

RRP $19.95

‘It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are!’

Liv xxx 

Carols by Daylight -Friend in Me

If you are a parent in Melbourne, you will have heard of the amazing gang at Friend in Me. If you haven’t, keep reading because you need to know about the wonderful work they are doing!FIM3.jpg

Friend In Me enhances social inclusion and spreads kindness in childhood in the effort to break the cycle of mental health conditions that derive from being ostracised from society. These guys deliver all the magic that is sadly missing from some children’s lives! Talk about AMAZING!!!

Friend in Me are on a mission to make sure that no child is left behind.

‘We want to children to be empowered to celebrate their uniqueness and have the confidence and the tools to build their tribe so they can go forth with life when they never thought possible. We are working and collaborating with organisations to have an impact on social change through our events and workshops.’ – Friend in Me

Friend In Me is having an end of year celebration at the iconic Melbourne Museum on Saturday, 14th December 2019 with some amazing acts including;
 
Team Dream 
Signing Choir
Bethany Fisher and her dance crew
Santa
Headlining act by Harrison Craig winner of the second series of ‘The Voice’ 
Snow Queen Elsa 
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To join in all the fun at Melbourne Museum, in support of Friend in Me, you can purchase adult tickets for $30. All of the money will go directly to Friend In Me to make sure even more kids are supported! Kids are free  (or gold coin donation).
**Tickets include free entry into the Museum after the event so you can all make a day of it.

Check out the event here

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Please share this post with your friends and family, and get the word out there about this wonderful event!!!

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NGV Kids Summer Festival 2020

We are so excited to tell you that the NGV Kids Summer Festival returns in 2020, and this year it’s inspired by the NGV’s summer program featuring KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness and Keith Haring | Jean Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines. If you haven’t seen this exhibition yet, then you need to get to the NGV pronto!!

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Running from Saturday 11 – Sunday 19 January this year’s summer program follows the theme of Party Time featuring hip-hop workshops, dance parties and hands-on art-inspired activities hosted in the NGV’s Great Hall. Now who could possibly turn that down?

Drawing on the emotive characters featured in KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness, kids can design a portrait using bright colours and expressions to explore identity and emotion. Taking inspiration from Keith Haring’s iconic New York subway chalk drawings, kids can share their own chalk art on an installation responding to the NGV’s Great Hall stain glass ceiling.

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KAWS: PLAYTIME Relaxed Mornings will run from Monday-Friday during the Kids Summer Festival offering children with autism or disability a quiet and relaxed session in the free kids space.

During the January holidays, teens get the opportunity to master a new skill at a screen printing workshop at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.

Make sure you head to the NGV website and get hold of all the information, so that your little darlings don’t miss out on all this wonderful fun!

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11 January 2020 – 19 January 2020, 10am-5pm | NGV InternationalFree entry

All activities running during the Kids Summer Festival are free.

**Bookings required for KAWS: PLAYTIME Relaxed Mornings.

 

Assisi – A breathtaking day in Umbria

From where we were staying at La Pievuccia  (Castiglion Fiorentino) it took us about 55 minutes to drive to Assisi. Once we’d left the motorway, we followed fields full of sunflowers, along winding, tree lined lanes, making our way toward what looked in the distance to be something from a film set. A beguiling destination that many a religious pilgrim has travelled to since the 13th century, in honour of St. Francis. The ancient town of Assisi is a sight to behold.

With it’s narrow streets, steep hills and stunning piazzas you could easily imagine you had stepped back in time whilst exploring Assisi. The views from every laneway are breathtaking, the little ornate doors on every building promising even more beauty behind.

You can’t visit Assisi without making your way to the vast Basilica di San Francesco complex, home to an unimaginable collection of medieval frescoes as well as the tomb of St. Francis.

The Basilica di San Francesco. 

The Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi is named after St. Francis who was born here and founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in 1208. UNESCO collectively designated the Franciscan structures of Assisi as a World Heritage Site in 2000, and it’s obvious why. This is absolutely the jewel in Assisi’s crown! The majestic Basilica has to be seen to be believed. The whole complex is magnificent.

The upper church – Basilica Superiore, is decorated with 28 frescoes by Giotto and are the stand out artistry in the church in my humble opinion. Each fresco depicts a scene from the life of St. Francis. They are stunning! It’s hard to believe these vibrant frescos were completed centuries ago, and almost incomprehensible for the kids!

The lower church – Basilica Inferiore, is home to more frescoes, this time by Cimabue, Pietro Lorenzetti, and Simone Martini. In the lower sanctuary is the Cripta di San Francesco – the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi.

The upper church definitely has a different ambience to the lower, undeniably more about the celebration of life. The lower rooms are darker and seemingly solemn, more of a reflection of the spirit of St.Francis and his Franciscan order.  Note: There are plenty of worshippers and people who have obviously come here solely to pray, so it’s vital that visitors are respectful of that.

Whatever you plan for your day in Assisi, give yourself plenty of time to explore this incredible church. Take your time, breathe in your surroundings, and I promise you will be blown away!

According to the UN, the town of Assisi has a singular importance for its role in the diffusion of the Franciscan Order and for its “continuity of a city-sanctuary” from its Umbrian-Roman origins to today.

Top tip: Out of respect, you mustn’t take photographs or make too much noise inside the The Basilica di San Francesco. 

Like most of Italy, Assisi has a long history of local artisans. You can see throughout the town that many are still going strong today.  **Save your holiday money and spend it on local crafts. There is plenty for the kids to buy too, so make sure you set their budget before going!

Small delicatessens are bursting with regional specialties like local cured meats, dried pasta. Umbrian chocolates are a MUST. We spent a whole day wandering the lanes of Assisi, making our way in and out of beautiful churches, and of course eating our way through some of Italy’s finest nougat, gelato and cakes. Even with young children, Assisi is an easy and ‘must do’ day trip.

Note: Your shoulders must be covered in The Basilica di San Francesco

The town of Assisi is spotlessly clean, and filled with many cafes and restaurants for when you need refreshment. Make sure you find out what the restaurant cover charge is, as it can be really pricey to sit and eat in some places.  We visited in September, which I imagine was one of the quieter times of year, yet it was still hard to get a seat in the restaurants, without a huge surcharge.

Top tip: No matter what, stay in town for an early supper and watch the sun set, overlooking the valley.

I highly recommend Assisi, not only for the incredible scenery, but also for a huge learning experience for all ages. This is a place steeped in incredible history, which you can feel with every step you take.


 

Other highlights in Assisi

Rocca Maggiore – a 12th-century fortress perched high in the hills, and the Roman Temple of Minerva and Roman Forum. The Rocca Maggiore is a majestic castle which dominated, for more than 800 years the citadel of Assisi and the valley of Tescio, constituting the most viable fortification for their defence.

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Rocca Maggiore – Visit Assisi

Duomo di San Rufino – The San Rufino Cathedral or simply Assisi Cathedral is a favourite spot among pilgrims due to its connection to St. Francis’ life.

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Duomo di San Rufino

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva –Not to be confused with the church of the same name in Rome, this church is built inside a converted 1st century BC temple dedicated to the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva.

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Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Santa Maria degli Angeli- St. Mary of the Angels is a 16th-century, domed church located about 2.5 miles down the hill from Assisi.  We drove down and parked very easily. This Basilica is most famous for being home to the Porziuncola, a tiny stone building believed to be the home of St. Francis and his followers. Today the Porziuncola is a small church on the inside of Santa Maria degli Angeli with qeues of devout Catholics waiting to get inside and say their prayers. This incredibly ornate building is thought to be the house where St. Francis founded the Franciscan order and also where he died. This church is not only a must see for the devout and for pilgrims but also anyone with an interest in history and history of the Catholic church.

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Fun fact: the Porzuincola isn’t the only building within a building owned by the Catholic Church. The Holy House of Loreto is a structure that was brought to Italy, with some difficulty, all the way from Jerusalem because it was thought to be the house of the Virgin Mary. Like the Porziuncola, it’s a major pilgrimage site.

Spot : The gold-plated statue of the Madonna degli Angeli (“Madonna of the Angels”), will watch over you as you enter the square.

 

Whatever time of year you decide to visit Assisi, make sure you do your research online beforehand. There are many religious festivals, which increase visitor numbers hugely.

Have a beautiful time!

Liv xx


 

Getting to Assisi

Flights – We flew Royal Brunei from Melbourne to London (approx. $4,500 for us all), then British Airways, London Heathrow to Bologna (approx. £500 for us all). Flights to Italy were hard to come by as we left it fairly close to lift off before we booked. We checked our luggage in when we left Melbourne, and it went all the way through to Bologna which was awesome, and saved us the hassle of checking in again!

Drive – We hired a car with Budget/Avis and collected it at Bologna airport. We drove from our Farm Stay in Castiglion Fiorentino which was a little under an hour away from Assisi.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. – St. Francis of Assisi

The Reject Shop brings wheelchair-inclusive costumes for Halloween 

 

Australian retailer The Reject Shop has just launched it’s fab range of wheelchair-inclusive Halloween costumes for children, part of a mission to become more inclusive and allow children of all abilities to be a part of special occasions. Can we get a “Hell yeah!!”

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Partnering with national charity HeartKids, the range features two costumes that fit over a child’s wheelchair, and easily attach to it with velcro. With the puff of a magic wand, one of the costumes transforms the chair into a gorgeous princess carriage, while an ‘Ahoy Captain’ will see the other transform into a pirate ship. As every wheelchair is different, multiple velcro pieces are included with each costume to ensure that it fits. 

“The Reject Shop has long been known as the place for affordable Halloween costumes, but we wanted to ensure that all children were able to join in the fun of Halloween celebrations,” says The Reject Shop’s Acting Chief Executive Officer, Dani Aquilina. 

For the launch, The Reject Shop is collaborating with their charity partner, HeartKids, who is dedicated to working with children with congenital heart disease, who often find themselves in wheelchairs post-surgery and throughout their recovery stage.

“Our wheelchair-inclusive range is the first step in ensuring that inclusion and diversity are inherent in our organisation. We’re excited to introduce the range to parents and children this October, as part of our broader strategy to help more families live on a budget.” 

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“We’re thrilled to partner with The Reject Shop on such an important initiative,” says Rob Lutter, CEO of HeartKids. “These costumes will allow wheel-chair bound children a much needed distraction from their time in hospital, and the chance to simply be kids again and enjoy Halloween celebrations.” 

Along with The Reject Shop’s full range of kid’s costumes, the Halloween wheelchair range will be available in selected stores nationally, just in time for Halloween.

Retailing for $49 each, it’s hoped that the range will make children in wheelchairs feel every bit a part of the Halloween celebrations. 

Further information on the range can be found at www.rejectshop.com.au