Archive for the ‘Destination Portrait Sessions’ Category

#LearnedtheHardWay – Footstone International Post 8!

Friday, August 5th, 2016

As a few already know, we have arrived back home safe and sound and are enjoying seeing familiar faces again.  Our Scotland wedding and our sessions in Italy were better than we could’ve dreamed, and we can’t say how grateful we are for the blessings of these experiences.  However, as many know, international travel with children doesn’t always feel like a blessing.  Today we’re going to share some of the funny, unfortunate and slightly embarrassing things we’ve #learnedthehardway through our travels.  Hopefully this will be entertaining and perhaps even helpful for your future travel adventures!

  1. Order kids meals when booking an international flight

traveling with childrenWhen making an international 8 to 10 hour flight, it is preferable to be able to feed your children a solid meal before hopefully they fall asleep for a few hours.  Somehow, this year we didn’t check the appropriate box when booking our flights for two kids meals.  Needless to say, grilled pork sausage with bramley apple sauce, buttered spring onion mash, carrots, peas and gravy was not exactly what our boys were expecting to see sitting on their tray tables.  So neither of our boys ate dinner that night, instead snacked on the potato chips and cookies I had packed from home.  Thank the Lord for movies.  At least they were distracted from their rumbling bellies.


2. Read up on Street Signs – They may be in another language!

traveling in italyIf you like the idea of being self-sufficient and want the experience of driving in a foreign country, you may want to consider doing some homework and reading up on the meanings of street signs. Seems rather obvious right?  Well… the first time we went to Italy, got our rental car, made it about a quarter mile down the road, we then shrieked upon our first arrival at a toll plaza!  We had no idea what lane to enter, what any of the words meant, I’m not even sure we had euros yet… eeeeekkkkk!!!!

Now we giggle a little bit every time we pull up to a toll plaza because it’s relatively simple once you know that cassa means cash and carte means card.  Knowing enter & exit signs, road closed signs, & pedestrian only signs is quite helpful.  We got a ticket in Florence once because we drove down a pedestrian only road.  There are cameras everywhere, and they’re happy to put a friendly ticket in the mail that you receive upon arriving home.

3. Hotel keys give you Power

Footstone Photography in Venice Italy - Italian Vacation Travel Journal 06 #footstoneinitaly

This is something we seem to forget every year.  For most of our trip we stay in houses we’ve found on AirB&B or VRBO, but at some point throughout our travels we’ll stay one or two nights in a hotel.  When we arrived in Milan our first year in Italy, we couldn’t figure out why none of the lights were working in our hotel room.  We walked around flipping every switch on and off.  We then checked all the lamps.  The air was on so we knew we had power.  The receptionist at the front spoke ok English, but we were a bit afraid to call down and talk to her over the phone!  I think it was Paul who finally noticed this small black box by the door.  It has a small slit in it but nothing else.  Paul slid the key in the slit and voila!!  All the lights came on!  You see, Italians are very energy efficient so when you leave your room, all the power turns off behind you.  Hopefully this will help save you that scary few helpless minutes upon entering your first Italian hotel!

4. Strollers in Venice

Footstone Photography in Venice Italy - Italian Vacation Travel Journal 06 #footstoneinitalyI’m going to give you a visual most of you will recognize… you know when you end up at Disney on a rainy day?  Parents are in ponchos they just paid $20 for yet are still drenched, kids are in strollers pulling the cover down in front of them, or those super unlucky kids in the umbrella strollers that are soaked and have the most pitiful looks on their faces???  Yep… you all know what tragic moment I’m talking about.  We experienced this moment, but worse, one year in Venice.  Our youngest was 3 and so a stroller was definitely needed for traveling.  But upon arrival in Venice, the sky opened up and a torrential downpour ensued.  That year we packed way too much so I was rolling two bags, our 6 year old was rolling a bag, and Paul had a rolling back PLUS a stroller with Brasher in it!  In VENICE!  There are 420 small bridges in Venice… and no ramps.  Venice floods very quickly too so within just a few short moments, the water seemed to have already risen to our ankles.  So we trudged through the narrow unfamiliar streets, drug our bags through the rising water, and Paul somehow managed to lift the stroller over the bridges with one hand and rolled a large suitcase with the other.  TRAGIC.

Now, the rain you can’t avoid.  But too many rolling bags and not being prepared with how difficult a stroller can be, you can.  If you must bring a stroller, we suggest you bring an umbrella-style, light weight one that can fold up easily and you can manage lifting it with a child in it over the bridges.  If you can bring a baby backpack where the child could ride, this is ideal, at least on the main island.

5. Dropping of rental cars 

In the States, if you have a really early flight and need to return a rental car, there’s always a drop box, right?  Drop the keys in, get your trash out, and you’re on your way.  Not always the case in Europe, as we found out.  On this year’s trip, we arrived at the Venice Mestre train station at 6:45am to make sure we had enough time to return the car and catch our 7:30 train.  Never did it cross our minds we wouldn’t be able to just drop the car off.  The rental office opened at 8am, which meant we were stuck.  Paul was able to change our tickets to a later train (for a hefty fee, of course), and we drove around until we found a public park where the boys could run and play.  However, being as we left the castle at 5am, I (Kristin) decided to lay down in the back seat of the van and plug in my headphones with my white noise app.  Blame it on the pregnancy (did you see that announcement on Facebook?!) or just travel exhaustion, but I couldn’t force myself to get out of the van and join in the play.

Thankfully the boys had a good time!

6. Not all adapters are created equal

Not all power is equal.  When you travel to a new place, it’s always good to research what their power voltage is.  Otherwise, your appliances could end up like my curling iron on our first trip – fried.  Rick Steves has some excellent info on adapters and voltages, and here’s a link so you can read up on it!

7. Public verses Private Beaches

Footstone Photography in Italy - Italian Vacation Travel Journal 02 #footstoneinitalyWhen we first saw the Ligurian sea a few years back, we were so excited!  We grabbed bread, prosciutto and fruit from a market and headed to the beach.  We took our shoes off, the boys were splashing in the water, and we started eating our sandwiches.  It was so beautiful.  Then we were chased off by a burly lifeguard yelling at us “No public beach!!”  We quickly learned that most beaches in Italy are private.  All that means is that you go into the main entrance of the beach club, pay for however many beach chairs you would like, and then you have access to food and lifeguards and sometimes even swimming pools.  There are public beaches that don’t cost anything, but you have to look for them.  They are usually small stretches of sand, and are usually pretty full of people not wanting to pay for the beach!

8. Washing your Clothes… by hand?

There is this tricky balance of trying to pack light when traveling abroad while knowing you may not have access to a washing machine for quite some time.  Luckily, if you stay in an AirB&B or a VRBO, you should have a washing machine.  What you definitely won’t have is a dryer.  However, over the past couple of years we ended up needing to wash clothes before we made it to an actual machine.  One year I bought a bar of detergent soap thinking it would travel better than liquid.  Bad idea.  I also didn’t have anywhere to hang the clothes after.  This past year we (Sally!) brought powdered detergent that dissolved in water which worked MUCH better and also a sink stopper, which was Rick Steves handy piece of advise.  Bringing roll of clothes line and some clothes pins is a must too.  You may not believe me, but taking the time to wash clothes is SO much better than lugging around an additional suitcase.  If you don’t believe me, I guarentee you’ll remember this post as you drag an enormous suitcase up the concrete stairs at a busy train station!

9. Ordering sea food

planning a trip to italySomething you may not know about Italian cuisine is that Italy is known for it’s seafood.  Makes sense because it’s an island, but it’s not something I expected our first year here.  When you’re on the coast, I highly recommend braving to order seafood, but what you should know is that you’re likely going to get the whole animal.  Ordering fish?  Be prepared to see a whole fish.  Ordering prawns, yep, still a prawn not a small little round bite that doesn’t resemble the animal.  This may not bother some people, but I (Kristin) am one of those that likes to pretend it’s not an animal.  You can ask the server to break it down for you if you don’t mind the snickering.  Or if you see the world “fillet” that likely means the fish has been deconstructed.  When I do order sea food and it comes out very much in tact, I gently slide my plate across to Paul and he breaks it down for me.  It’s not that I don’t know how, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

10. Parking Garages 101

(this one is written by Paul) A few notes on parking garages.  First, take your parking ticket with you.   Most of the time you will have to pay at an automated machine when you are returning to your car, not when you exit.  Second, if you’re driving anything larger than a Fiat 500, just know you may not make it back out of the garage.  The garages are small.  Really small.  Quick story – we were in our passenger van (which dwarfs most of the vehicles over there) and pulled up to a parking garage.  It had a sign that said 2 meters max height, so I knew I was ok.  It even had the height bar that hung down, and I went under that no problem.  The problem happened once we got into the belly of the garage.  There was a water pipe that ran along the ceiling that made it just low enough that we couldn’t fit.  About 2 inches too tall.  Understand I had just gone up several levels of super tight circular tunnels to get here.  There was no reversing out of this pickle.  Fortunately the exit tunnel was on our side of the water pipe, and with some James Bond type maneuvering (picture James Bond driving a minivan really slow in a parking garage) I was able to get to the exit tunnel.  With inches to spare on either side, we descended towards the exit.  With literal light at the end of the tunnel, the exit gate only 50 feet away, I heard something go thump.  Thanks to the 2 meter max height sign, we were now wedged in the tunnel.  The top of the van was hitting the top of the tunnel, and this was the only way out.  Long story short, I had the boys climb to the back of the van, and with Kristin and 2 large Swedish men on the back bumper, we slid that puppy out to daylight.

Enjoy watching as we realize it’s about to get tough.  The noise you hear is our antenna hitting the roof.

We hope this was a fun and helpful post for future international travelers.  We are big Rick Steves fans and anytime we travel abroad, we buy his corresponding book.  Our clients have asked how we’ve learned how to navigate Italian cities the way we do… well, it’s mostly thanks to Rick.  And of course… many trials and lots of errors!

Behind the Scenes in Italy – Footstone International Post 6!

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

At this point, we have been abroad for two weeks and are about to welcome our second family to Italy.  Lem, Dana and their daughter Cakki survived the flight over pretty well.  Lem said he slept about 4 hours and Dana said she closed her eyes for maybe a couple minutes.  Cakki surprised us when she arrived bouncing with energy and full of questions about everything she set her sights on.  She was amazed at the ancient buildings and the winding cliff roads. As she munched on her AutoGrill sandwich (see the significance of this sandwich in the last post), she talked her mom’s ear off as they made the trip with Paul up the mountain to join us at the castle.

Here is a video of their arrival.  Notice Cakki had jumped out of the vehicle before the gate opened and was already running along the grounds.  They look great for just having made a full day’s journey!

If you’re just joining us for our international posts, this summer’s journey included photographing a wedding in Scotland and then two families in Italy.  Our last post shared a little behind the scenes with our first clients, Steven and Charlie.  Today’s post we’ll share a few fun stories of our second family.  Of course, once our clients see all of the spectacular pictures we took of them during their stay with us, we will share those with you as well.

traveling with childrentips for traveling with children

Because our international travels take us away for weeks at a time, our two boys always join us.  Now, when we make small trips we are happy to leave them with Nana and Pop and the boys are happy with this too.  But for our summer trips, we’ve had to learn how to survive international travel with this little guys in tow.  This was Cakki’s first overseas trip and she handled it beautifully.  When Lem and Dana first told Cakki that she’d be flying over the ocean Cakki admitted she was afraid.  But with movies and snacks and constant affirmation from mom, Cakki was on her way to becoming a world traveler.

There are days during are Destination Sessions where we are all together at the Ceconi Castle but there are two other days where we venture off to Venice and Wine Country.  So Lem and Dana were able to spend some of their time just playing as adults and Cakki stayed back playing with our boys and Sally at the Castle.  Sally, for any new readers, is Paul’s sister and works with us at Footstone.  This is also her third year coming with us to Italy so she knows the lay of the land and helps us with the boys, logistics of traveling and helping us make our clients are comfortable.

Ceconi Castle IMG_5524

For a special gift for Cakki, we made a gift box of crayons, markers, coloring books and some Italy activities and fun worksheets that was on her bed when she arrived.  She and Brasher are coloring outside the castle on the day we took Lem and Dana for a wine tasting and tour of the Friuli wine region.

The kids also hiked down the mountain a little ways to play in the Arzino River. This river runs through the mountain and has several waterfalls plus natural pools and rock beaches were you can swim.  On the weekends, there will be rows of cars parked precariously along the winding roads on the mountain and for a long time we wondered why.  When Dario, our friend and marketing director for GraphiStudio, walked us down to one of the larger natural pools, we then realized where these locals were going.  In this area, your “beach” or pool time is playing near the waterfalls and natural pools along the river.  If you search Arzino River, you’ll see incredible images of the area.  Paul took pictures of the river with his pro-body so we’ll share those soon.  Sorry Win for posting this image, but it was just too cute.  🙂arzino river

While the kids played, we drove to Venica & Venica, our favorite vineyard in the Fruili region.  Before our wine tour, we stopped in the adorable little town of Cormons for lunch.  This year we chose a new restaurant, which we often don’t do with clients because we never know what we’re walking into.  We typically like to scout it out first, but Lem and Dana were up for adventure so we braved it.  It was a beautiful little restaurant but what we quickly realized is that no one spoke English.  The good news about that is the food will be amazing… bad news is we had to order in Italian!  Believe it or not, we knew enough to find exactly what we wanted and our server was delightful as we attempted our Italian.  Dana actually knows Spanish very well and she was often able to recognize words and translate them quickly.

The funny thing that happened while we ordered is that Dana ordered three different plates thinking they’d be small because the prices were so good.   For an appetizer, or aperitivo, she ordered a shrimp dish.  For her meal, she ordered a caprese salad and a meat and cheese plate.  Seems like a great meal.  But we should have been tipped off when the only thing our waitress said in English was, “For you?”  Haha!  When the plates came out, Dana laughed and cried!  Each plate was enormous and our waitress just giggled every time she put a new giant plate in front of Dana.  Let’s just say we had a lot of leftovers to take home that day!planning a trip to italy IMG_5143

Here’s just a glimpse of the little town where we dined.  We’re leaving the restaurant and heading to our wine tour which if you notice the mountain in the distance and the small white church, that’s where we were driving up to.

traveling abroad with children

Our last night with Lem and Dana before they would be embarking off on their own to spend 3 days in Florence, we had dinner with Davide again.  Right outside the restaurant he has this lovely little playground so while adults sit outside, enjoy the wine and spectacular views, the kids can run and play.  As I write this post, I just had the idea of asking our two families to share some of things they learned as they made this trip.  I’d love to hear what they found surprising and what they’d do the same or differently if they came again.

Paul and I are so completely humbled and grateful that our clients would brave the long trip and spend this time with us in Italy.  I feel like we are more like tour guides than we are photographers.  The pictures are hopefully just a bonus after the end of a wonderful trip.  Thank you to Steven, Charlie, Lem and Dana for allowing us this honor of sharing this time with you.  We can’t wait to relive the journey when we return home and share all of the pictures!

For our readers, stay tuned for our next post about our family time in Positano on the Amalfi Coast.  This is one of our favorite places in the world and it was the part of the trip with just us and our boys.  Thank you for reading!

We’re off to Italy! – Footstone International Post 5

Monday, July 25th, 2016

After 5 incredible days in Scotland for Ashley and Scott’s wedding, we packed up what we considered our “winter” gear and planned to ship it back to the States so we didn’t have to lug it around in Italy.  We found a local market that gave us some boxes and we were able to stuff our jackets, boots, sweaters and jeans into two relatively small boxes.  They were taped up and ready to go and our friends Bea and Leslie, also guests at Ashley and Scott’s wedding, had offered to take the boxes Sunday morning and ship them back for us.  Paul and I (Kristin) were so excited because as we’ve #learnedthehardway, overpacking in Italy can ruin your day.  (stay tuned for a post coming soon about some of these stories)

Paul did a little research online about the cost because we’d have to leave Bea and Leslie with some cash for the shipment.  Well…. Paul found out it would be about $140 to $150 dollars to ship ONE box.  So, at about midnight the night before we left out at 5am for the airport, Paul went on the hunt for a cheap suitcase instead.  The price to add a bag on the plane was a fraction of what it would have been to ship, so we decided this was the better idea.  You ask why we couldn’t just put it all back in the bag we had because it obviously all fit on the way over?  Well, funny thing happens when you travel… your stuff seems to multiply.

Our good friends Steven and Charlie were our first clients to join us for a Destination Portrait Session.  We introduced them in an earlier Scotland post because they were also guests at the wedding.  So they flew with us on the same early flight to Venice.  Because we had already adjusted to the time change, this time flying into Italy was such a joy.  As soon as we landed in the Venice airport, we felt like we were home.  Paul knows this airport incredibly well so he walked us right to a little cafe near where he’d be picking us up shortly in the rental van.

Now Paul was driving on the “right” side of the road again and these roads are very familiar to him.  He LOVES the way Italians drive, I think I’ve shared that before… they are serious about driving.  You’ll even see drivers wearing driving gloves.  You get where you’re going and you get there fast.  Or you get out of the way!  I would honestly be a little scared to drive.  Paul must be scared of me driving too because I’ve never been a designated driver on any of our rentals (I get the hint!). Paul asked a policeman one year how strict they are about speeding.  The policeman answered in his thick Italian accent, “Well, let’s just say… police are a little different here.”

Amazing Destination Portrait Session Experience with Footstone Photography in Northern Italy.  Even the AutoGrill or Rest Stop in Italy offer an amazing Italian dining expereince.

Our first stop after picking up clients is going to sound funny to you.  Unless you’ve just gotten off a full day’s journey having missed lots of sleep and feeling much like a zombie at the moment you’re reading this post.  But we stop at an AutoGrill on the interstate, or autostrade.  With Steven and Charlie, our first clients this year, they happened to be flying with us because of the wedding.  But with most, Paul will pick you up from the airport, put your sleepy self in our rental van stocked with soda, water and snacks, then head to the first AutoGrill and let you choose a yummy sandwich and anything else that may make you feel better at this point.  What we love about this moment is watching our clients take their first bite into their sandwich of choice.  We know what they’re thinking… “why are Paul and Kristin making me eat a sandwich from a rest stop?  I’m starving and tired and this is my only option?”  Haha!  Within five seconds of your first bite you’ll look at us is disbelief and utter joy.  You see, these sandwiches are on fresh bread with fresh Italian meat and ridiculously yummy fresh Italian cheese.  What we’d pay $15 for at a restaurant in the States, you’re getting from a rest stop for maybe 5 euros.  There are so many reasons I love this country!

For Steven and Charlie, they got to experience their “first yummy Italian sandwich moment” at the cafe in the airport while Paul got our van.  We headed off from there to meet Dario, the marketing director at GraphiStudio, for the keys to the Castle!  Steven was actually interested in a short tour of the GS plant.  You see, years ago before we opened Footstone, I worked for Steven with Herff Jones Yearbooks.  Steven has worked in the book printing industry for decades and has heard me rave about my obsession with the quality of GS books.  He had to see it for himself and Dario was happy to show him around and share some of the key components of their printing process.  After our tour, Dario took us next to the the Ceconi Castle!

Amazing Destination Portrait Session Experience with Footstone Photography in Northern Italy.  An exquisite album is printed from GraphiStudio from your experience.

Amazing Destination Portrait Session Experience with Footstone Photography in Northern Italy.  It begins at the Ceconi Castle in Italy, owned by GraphiStudio.  www.footstonephotography.comCeconi Castle Italy

Here’s a short video of us pulling into the Castle for the first time this year.  Wow does this place never disappoint!

After we got settled into our rooms in the castle, Dario treated us to dinner at our favorite local restaurant down up the mountain where we were excited to see our host, Davide, who remembered us from last year.

Destination Portrait Session Experience in Northern Italy with

Our Destination Portrait Sessions this year were planned where the first day we spent the afternoon at the Ceconi Castle, a private castle owned by GraphiStudio.  Our wedding and family albums are all printed here and because of our close relationship with them, we have the incredibly opportunity to bring clients to stay in the castle. Our second day we spent exploring the magical city of Venice and our third day included a wine tasting and tour of the extraordinarily beautiful Fruili wine region.  Of course, our clients will be the first ones to see their portraits from their session so I can’t share them yet with you today.  But I can say that our time with Steven and Charlie was incredible.  Steven commented at one point that his favorite part was that he didn’t have to think or navigate.  He and Charlie could sit back, look around, enjoy themselves and not have to worry about directions, trains, transitions, the time or anything but what they’d be eating and seeing next.

Destination Portrait Session Experience in Northern Italy at the Ceconi Castle with

Our second family to join us were Lem and Dana along with their young daughter Cakki.  Lem and Dana are friends and clients of ours and we’ve had the honor of photographing their family portraits every year for the past few years.  This year, for a special birthday present for Dana, Lem surprised her with this trip to Italy.  Our next post will be sharing a few behind the scenes videos and pictures of their trip plus the fun the kids had playing at the castle!


For information on our 2017 Destination Portrait Sessions, email

What are you doing on July 11th?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Every time I (Kristin) describe this trip to someone I have somewhat of an out-of-body experience hearing myself say words like “stay in a castle”… and “the Italian alps”… and “we’ll pick you up in Venice”…

Well, all of these words are real and true and happening for two families THIS July.  Paul, our two boys and I are returning to Italy this summer and will be staying in a private castle owned by GraphiStudio.  We have ONE more spot available for a family or couple to join us.  Yes, that’s right.  We’ll pick you up in Venice and you will stay with us in a castle in the Italian alps.  🙂  The dates are July 11th through the 13th.  THIS summer.

Every time we leave this country we leave part of our hearts behind.  We’d love to share this part with you.  Call the studio today if you’re interested!


352.562.3066  //

Guess Who’s Going to Italy!?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

A couple weeks ago, we told you there was an incredibly lucky lady who had no idea her husband secretly booked their Destination Portrait Session with us for this summer!  We were seriously giggling at the anticipation for her to finally find out about what her husband had managed to pull off without her knowledge.  We knew she would be beyond thrilled, and we just couldn’t wait for her husband to spill the beans!

Last week we celebrated with Lem and Dana for Dana’s birthday party at Sabore Restaurant in Gainesville, Florida.  Lem started by sharing a sincerely loving toast about his precious love for his wife and daughter.  Then he presented Dana with a box that included 3 8×10 prints inside. The first one read…

“You have”

Then she flipped to the second card that read…

the #besthusbandever!

The third card showed the Italian castle where their family will get to stay with us this July!

I teased Lem that in about five minutes after his announcement, the other husbands in the room started an “I hate Lem Club”.  Please excuse the “non professional” quality of these images!  Paul convinced me it was a bad idea to take in a pro body camera… guess that would’ve given away the surprise. 🙂

traveling in italyitalian vacationdestination photographytravel to italyplanning trip to italyfamily picturesplan a trip to italytrips to italyLast night we actually had dinner with Lem, Dana and Cakki and began planning what adventures in Italy they will have with us, plus talking them through helpful hints of packing, cell phones, train rides, etc.  Paul and I cannot even begin to describe how honored we are when families decide to join us on this great journey.  We understand it’s a significant investment of time and money to travel abroad.  So to Lem and Dana… thank you for trusting us and we are thrilled with anticipation at what an amazing journey we will share this summer!