Tuesday, 21 January 2020

On Your Feet! at The Marlowe Theatre

I adore going to The Marlowe Theatre and when I changed jobs in July, one of my leaving gifts was a Marlowe gift voucher. When I received the voucher I went straight onto the Marlowe website to book tickets for a performance of On Your Feet!: the Gloria and Emilio Estefan jukebox musical, managing to secure 2 premium seats in the stalls for £58 (one £10 discovery ticket and one full-price adult ticket). My parents are big Gloria Estefan fans and she was a household name when I was growing up. My Dad introduced me to her greatest hits album after a trip to Walt Disney World in 2009, where we were fortunate enough to eat at the Estefan family's Bongos Cuban Cafe restaurant at Downtown Disney. I instantly became a fan of the Miami Sound Machine too and when I heard that Gloria and Emilio had a musical of their own in the works, I was determined to get tickets for one of the UK dates. Skip forward 6 months and last night it was time for my Dad and I to go and see the production, which was just as brilliant as we'd hoped it would be.

On Your Feet! at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Gloria and Emilio's families grew up in Cuba and fled to the USA after the revolution and the start of the Castro regime. The musical takes place in Miami, Florida in the 1970s, when the pair met and the band began. We learn that Gloria is a keen songwriter but she doesn't like the limelight and the idea of performing for Emilio and the band is terrifying. Throughout the show she grows in confidence, as she becomes closer to Emilio and the band gains some momentum. The pair marry very early on and together with the band they put every effort into gaining US and worldwide success. "Dr Beat" and "Conga" are some of the notable hits that help them become global music superstars and the journey to this point in their career completes act 1.

The Act 2 On Your Feet! set at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Act 2 has a very different tone as it covers the horrific car crash that the Estefan family were involved in, at the height of Gloria's career. The accident happened in 1990 and doctors feared Gloria would never walk again after the crash. We learn that she needed to have a very severe operation and spent nearly a year in physiotherapy, gradually building up her strength again so that she could make a comeback at the 1991 American Music Awards. Spurred on by fans, Gloria makes a full recovery and performs at the American Music Awards to a cheering crowd. Ending with a lively finale full of Gloria and the Miami Sound Machine's major hits and covers, On Your Feet! ends on a high celebrating Gloria and Emilio's amazing careers.

On Your Feet! musical collectable pin

A feel-good and empowering musical, On Your Feet! is a musical about family, dreams and never giving up. Unlike other jukebox musicals, there are only a handful of key characters but this really helps showcase the talent of the leads. Gloria and Emilio are on stage for the majority of the performance and Philippa Stefani was absolutely incredible in the title role. On Your Feet! has given me a newfound appreciation for the Estefans and everything they have given to the music industry. On Your Feet! is at the Marlowe until Saturday, so definitely try and get tickets if you're based locally.

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Sunday, 12 January 2020

2019 travel goals revisited

Hello 2020 and the start of a brand new year of a travel. It may only be the 12th January but 2019 already feels like yesterday and all of our trips for the first half of 2020 are now booked. 2019 was a busy year featuring 2 new countries and a 2-week trip to a Florida. For the year I set myself a series of achievable goals, given that we'd be spending most of our annual leave on a dream trip to Florida. A year on and it's time to look back at these goals and see the progress made.

Kat and Stuart outside the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

1. Reach 25 countries.

Nyhavn at night, Copenhagen

I started 2019 having visited 23 countries and I had planned to make it to 26 by the end of 2019. We ended up cancelling our August Ukraine trip the day before so we didn't quite make it to 26,  but I reached my goal of 25 after our December visit to Copenhagen.

2. Ride a canal boat in Amsterdam. 

Canal boat tour in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

A flying visit to The Netherlands in May left us with 12 hours to explore the Dutch capital. One of my must-do's for Amsterdam was to go on a canal boat ride and we managed to squeeze it into the final hours of our time in the city. We caught the last boat tour of the day and sat in a warm, glass-roofed boat, watching the world go by and hearing about the city's history.

3. Visit 3 continents in one year.

Kat and Stuart visiting the Asian side of Istanbul, Turkey

Technically I did reach this goal as we went to Asia for the day whilst visiting Istanbul in September. The city is spread across two continents and tourists usually only visit the European side. We decided to head over to Asia for the novelty on our final day and it allowed me to complete this goal. We'd originally planned to go to Marrakesh or somewhere further afield like Thailand for a week but after going to Florida in March, we couldn't afford another long haul trip this year.

4. Spend every mid-year bank holiday abroad.

Over the Easter weekend we visited Malta for 3 nights and during the month of May we made it to both Amsterdam and Paris thanks to the 2 bank holidays. We had plans to visit Kiev over the August bank holiday but I was poorly the night before and early in the morning we were due to travel so we had to cancel the trip last minute. Through this experience I learnt the importance of securing 'free cancellation' when booking hotels. We couldn't get any of the money back for our Ukraine hotel and since then, I always pay the fiver or so extra to have the hotel covered. Unfortunately we didn't reach this goal, but we had planned to.

5. Visit a Christmas market outside of Germany.

Nyhavn Christmas Market in Copenhagen, Denmark

Back in March I spent ages researching European Christmas Markets. Every time I stumbled across 'Best Christmas Markets to visit' articles I was pushed to Leipzig, Cologne, Dresden and more which was exactly where I didn't want to go in December 2019. I took to YouTube and found recommendations for Tallinn, Prague and Copenhagen and after checking the flight times and watching a beautiful video about the Copenhagen Christmas Markets, I knew we had to visit Denmark for Christmas in 2019. The markets sold bratwurst, seasoned fries, pretzels and traditional Christmas market food, but there were also lots of unique Danish offerings too. I loved Denmark's unique take on Christmas market arts and crafts; you could find local amber and glass products at some of the stalls.

I managed 4 out of my 5 goals (thanks to an Asia day trip when we visited Turkey) and for a year that mostly focused on our Florida trip, I think that’s pretty good progress. In 2020 we don’t have a big trip planned so I’ll have more budget and time for city breaks and I’m looking forward to setting myself more challenging goals for the year ahead. 2020 looks like it’s going to be the year that I reach 30 countries before 30.

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Wednesday, 8 January 2020

A cosy dinner at The Horseshoes in East Farleigh (gifted)

Kat Last at The Horseshoes in East Farleigh, Kent

Back in December I was invited to the press preview of the new and improved The Horseshoes at East Farleigh pub and restaurant, about an hour away from Canterbury on the opposite side of Kent. I couldn't make it to the event because of personal commitments, but I was able to reschedule and visit the restaurant at the start of January. Set in a pretty village on the outskirts of Maidstone, The Horseshoes was recently renovated in late November 2019 and with an exciting new menu, I couldn't wait to visit and try the food.

The Horseshoes pub and restaurant in East Farleigh, Kent

I was instantly in awe at the stylish but cosy decor. January can be such a horrible month and there's nothing better than stopping at a warm and cosy pub on a miserable, rainy evening. We were sat in a beautiful room with wood beams, a high ceiling and our table was right next to a radiator so I was comfortable for the entire evening.

Floral decor at The Horseshoes in East Farleigh, Kent

Amy was our server and she was a delight: offering us recommendations when we couldn't choose between 2 options on the menu. I went for the vegan menu, Stuart had the main menu and on both there were a huge variety of options. For starter I had the Roasted Lentil Falafel, something I've enjoyed eating for years but rediscovered how great it was last year in Istanbul, Turkey. This falafel was served with beetroot hummus, Lebanese-style dip and ciabatta and wow, what a combination of flavours. The hummus tasted almost tomatoey and as someone who never fully finishes a course when I'm out for dinner, I was proud to say there was a clear plate at the end. Stuart picked the Balsamic & Rosemary Lamb Koftas and for the meat-eaters among you, you'll be pleased to know that he thought this dish was delicious too.

Falafel starter at The Horseshoes in East Farleigh, Kent

For my main course I ordered the Spiced Coconut Curry with miso sesame aubergine, broccoli, a scorched red chilli and sticky jasmine rice. It was very spicy with the chilli, but the coconut flavouring was fantastic. It smelt amazing too, which is always a plus point. Stuart's main course was in another league though. He had a huge portion of pork belly with scallops on dijon chive mash, cavolo nero, crisp prosciutto and a red wine & sage jus. When it arrived we were both amazed at the sheer size of it and by his reaction to the taste, it's safe to say that the restaurant are onto a winner with this dish.

Coconut Curry main course at The Horseshoes in East Farleigh, Kent

Pork Belly main course at The Horseshoes in East Farleigh, Kent

After a short break it was time for puddings and the dessert menu alone had 13 choices. I was instantly sold on the idea of a triple chocolate cookie with ice cream and Stuart picked The Ambassador's Melting Chocolate and Hazelnut Bomb on Amy's recommendation. One of the ice creams I picked was honeycomb and it tasted delicious when combined with the chocolate. The bomb desert was pretty spectacular and fun too as it's a challenge to crack the chocolate shell.

Chocolate desserts at The Horseshoes in East Farleigh, Kent

A cosy setting, fantastic food and a quaint location not far from one of Kent's main motorways, The Horseshoes is a wonderful restaurant to visit. The range of menus on offer takes pub food to a whole new level and if you book a table at The Horseshoes, you're getting a true culinary experience. I just wish we lived a little closer to East Farleigh as this would be a dream local restaurant. If you're local to Kent and fancy kicking the January blues, book a table at The Horseshoes this Winter with friends or family. It won't disappoint!

A dining area at The Horseshoes in East Farleigh, Kent

Thanks for reading my blog today.


*Our 3 course meal and drinks were gifted in exchange for a review. A big thank you to The Horseshoes for hosting us.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

My 2019 travel scrapbooks

2019 has been another big year of travel for us, but it's been very different to 2018. The majority of our annual leave and travel money for the year was spent on a 2 week dream trip to Florida in March and a bucket list week in Istanbul, Turkey so all of our other travel plans for the year have been squeezed into the Easter weekend, both May bank holidays and odd days of annual leave either sides of weekends. I visited 7 countries in 2019 including 2 new ones (Turkey and Denmark), taking my total to 25: not far from my 30 countries before 30 target. We've revisited some big cities including Paris and Brussels, using the Eurostar for 3 out of 8 trips - a new record for us! Even though we visited less countries than 2018, I managed to fill 2 8" x 8" Hobbycraft scrapbooks with our adventures and as always, I am going to share my favourite pages with you all. There is nothing I enjoy more than making scrapbooks of our travels, so that in years to come we'll have lots of tickets, postcards and photos to look back on.

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium pages in my 2019 travel scrapbooks

A flying visit to Brussels in January, we spent 24 hours in the Belgian capital at the start of the year when Eurostar prices were at their lowest. We stayed in Hotel Retro on the Saturday night and at only £40 for a double room for the night, it really was a budget trip. We managed to meet up with some of my friends whilst we were there and we all ate a wonderful Belgian meal with a view of the Grand Place.

Walt Disney World, Florida

A preview of my 2019 Florida scrapbook

We collected so many postcards, tickets and stickers whilst we were in Florida that I ended up dedicating a whole scrapbook to our 2-week trip. We visited all 4 Disney parks, Disney Springs and 2 out of 3 of the Universal parks and the trip was 14 days of pure magic. It was so special for me to be able to visit all of my favourite places with Stuart and it's a trip that I'll remember forever.

Sliema, Malta

Malta pages in my 2019 travel scrapbooks

Escaping to the sun over the Easter period was absolutely lovely. At just over 3 hours from Gatwick, Malta was an ideal destination for a 3 night short break in the sunshine. Putting together the scrapbook pages for Malta was great fun as it's a very Summery destination. I kept with a blue and yellow theme, reflecting the beaches and sand surrounding the island.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam pages in my 2019 travel scrapbooks

Tulips is the word that best sums up our 2-night May bank holiday trip to Amsterdam. We didn't get to see any growing in the fields but we got to visit the Flower Market and the Tulip Museum in the city centre. Finding tulip stickers for my scrapbook was a real task but I eventually found some on eBay after we got home. I couldn't have not included tulips in my scrapbook!

Paris, France

Paris pages in my 2019 travel scrapbooks

The late May bank holiday was the first time that I've spent more than a few hours in Paris city centre. We stayed in a beautiful hotel in the Opera district and spent both evenings of our trip in Montmartre. The Paris Pass was brilliant for our time in Paris as it encouraged us to visit more tourist attractions than we'd usually go to. It meant I also collected lots more tickets for my scrapbook.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul pages in my 2019 travel scrapbooks

Wow, what a trip! I've wanted to visit Istanbul since hearing about the giant city spanning the Bosphorus Strait back at school. The markets are some of the most exciting I've ever visited, the mosques are gorgeous and the Hagia Sofia is one of the most spectacular buildings I've ever seen. Turkey is relatively cheap for British people to visit and we were able to visit all of the sights, stay in a luxurious hotel and eat lots of delicious food on a minimal budget. My scrapbook pages for Istanbul are very colourful as Istanbul is a vibrant city and I believe the pages should reflect the place as much as possible.

Disneyland Paris, France

Disneyland Paris pages in my 2019 travel scrapbooks

Seeing the Halloween and Day of the Dead decorations at Disneyland Paris was rather special. I'm not usually a huge fan of Halloween, but the Fall decorations and pumpkins certainly made the Disneyland Park feel very Autumnal. I had a blast finding Fall-themed craft materials to decorate these Disney pages with. By mistake I ordered 32 sheets of Halloween stickers on Amazon, when I meant to order 2 sheets! At least I have plenty of Halloween stickers for 2020 now though.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen pages in my 2019 travel scrapbooks

Denmark was a dream at Christmas. We managed to visit 5 of the Copenhagen Christmas markets in 48 hours and we picked up some lovely festive collectables for our home including a Santa tree decoration with Nyhavn painted on the front. We even found some 'Gl├Ždelig Jul' (Merry Christmas in Danish) stickers for my scrapbook and card making.

It's been an incredible year of travel and I've had so much fun displaying these memories on scrapbook pages. 2019 is the first year where I've split my adventures into multiple scrapbooks and it's certainly given me more room to cover trips in detail. In one large scrapbook (what I used for 2018) we really only had space for a few pages per trip. I'm excited for our 2020 travels and potentially a completely different scrapbooking strategy again!

Thanks for reading my blog today.