Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016

It's been a weird old year, 2016! We've suffered massive political blows, and there have been some horrific things happening around the world. It's safe to say that I think many people have high hopes for the next year or so. I'm certainly hoping for peace and compassion, especially for those having a tougher year than I could even imagine.


Despite the struggles of 2016 worldwide, personally I had a pretty good year. At the beginning of the year, I was promoted which has brought it's ups and downs, mainly showing me how much I value working hard. I've travelled to six different places, and loved every single one of them! Dan and I have made some important decisions about our future, and I've had some of the best times with friends and family - V festival, Edinburgh with Georgia and celebrating my Grandpa's 80th birthday.

I've seen films that have made me laugh, and read books that have made me cry. 2016 has reminded me of how important it is to spend quality time with friends and family; whether that's exploring a new place together, or just meeting up one day for breakfast. Helping others, and being close to those around you is so important.

2016 has been a year of realising my resilience, and also acknowledging that being an adult is tough at times. When I finished uni, I had a vague 5 year plan that I felt absolutely certain I would be sticking with. According to that 5 year plan, we'd be moving into our own home in the first quarter of 2017; which we technically will. However we'll be renting instead of buying! House prices are incredibly high in this are so we're going to wait it out and save some more whilst still taking that next leap.

2016 has taught me to kick the life plan out of the window. I've always believed that everything happens for a reason, so I need to start trusting that that is so. 2017 will be able taking a step back, and hopefully letting life run it's course the way it should do! I'm already excited...

Here's to 2017

Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 in Travel

 2016 has been an excellent year for travel for me. As this was my first year working full-time, we knew it would be pretty travel heavy as there are so many places we wanted to see, and this seemed like an excellent time to start.

In April, we chose to go to Amsterdam. A gorgeous city, only an hours flight away from the UK. We both absolutely loved it, and wished we could have had a bit more time to explore the city and Holland in general actually! We stayed just by the Rijksmuseum and had a fantastic three days seeing what Amsterdam had to offer us. Highlights included the Heineken tour, cycling around Vondel Park and eating hot chips whilst walking the main street from the station. Definitely a city to visit if you only have a few days!


In May we headed to Paris; mainly for a visit to Disneyland with my sister and her boyfriend. We took the Eurostar for the first time (which I loved) and stayed in a questionable hotel that cost us all £37 for two nights. We spent one full day in the Disney parks, and had the best time ever. None of us wanted to leave, but thankfully we had a morning to explore Paris the next day! I definitely want to go back and see what else Paris has to offer as it was such a fleeting visit.


June took us to Lindos in Rhodes, Greece. We had the best week away relaxing and enjoying the Greek food and sunshine. The village of Lindos itself was truly stunning, and the best place for us to be able to recharge our batteries and enjoy each others company. Days were mainly spent chilling by the pool playing uno and reading books, whilst the evenings were spent ambling the streets of stunning Lindos, with its white wash buildings and roof top restaurants.


September was my next trip, and this time I was off to Edinburgh with Georgia from Mapped Out Blog. We had such a fun weekend exploring Edinburgh which I can only describe as a magical city. It drew us in from the start, and we loved exploring it. Plus, as it was relatively small, it meant we could see most of the things we wanted to in the weekend we were there. Definitely one to visit if you want a weekend away!


October was our biggest trip of the year; we were heading to New York. It's been somewhere we've both wanted to see for a very long time and decided that we should just go for it and treat ourselves. We had the best week, and loved exploring the city that never sleeps. Waking up every morning to the city views was incredible, and we slept with the blinds open on more than one occasion! Next time we'll go at Christmas because I can't even imagine how special it would be then.


Our final the trip of the year was Dublin in November; a surprise for my Dad's 50th. We had a blast, and loved walking the streets of Dublin with the family. It was such a great weekend, and I'll definitely be heading back there to explore some more. We stayed in a lovely hotel right near the centre, had some incredible food and saw all of the sights!


I've had the best year exploring some of the most amazing places, it makes me excited to spend time in different cities and countries and enjoying the culture, language and food whilst I'm there too. Here's to the places I'm hopefully going to explore in 2017!

Where have you been in 2016?

Friday, 23 December 2016

New York | Marco Polo Spiral Guide

 I have spoken for my love for Marco Polo Travel Guides on Suitcase and Sandals previously here and here so I was so grateful when I kindly recieved one of their Spiral Guides for my latest adventure to New York City. One of my favourite things to do in the mornings whilst we were there was to sit by our window and read all about the exciting things we were going to be getting up to that day!


The guide is excellent because it goes into so much detail about the tourist attractions and things that can be seen in the city they are written about. I learnt so much about places we were going to see; such as the Statue of Liberty and Grand Central station. Dan was impressed when I told him some of the things I'd learnt whilst reading up on them; such as the fact that the Statue of Liberty has 7 points on her crown to represent the seven continents/seas of the world. You definitely wouldn't have got such interesting information on the internet, and part of the reason I travel is to learn something new, so I love reading up on the city I'm going to before I go!

One of the main things I love about these guides is the way they are laid out. Starting with the magazine section at the front for more general information about the city, finishing with "do's and don'ts" tips on the final page. The magazine is great because its gives you a little bit more information about the city itself, including interesting facts about films that have been set in the city and the best Fashion you can find in The Big Apple! As we're trying to save for our first house, we really appreciated the Budget Bests - a selection of things to do so you can "see the city on a shoestring"!

Finding Your Feet is another great section; as I can be quite an anxious traveller, I love knowing where I will be going as soon as I land, and I found this section really helpful in planning our onward journey from the airport.

The rest of the guide is laid out in sections according to the area of New York; for example Midtown Manhattan and Greenwich Village. As there is just so much to see in NYC, laying the guide out like this is great. If you are savvy like we were and planned to spend out days in different areas of the city, this will help you out a lot as you don't have to constantly flick between sections to find out information for what you need. For each attraction, it tells you a guideline price, location, website/contact information and the nearest station/bus stop which makes planning your trip a lot easier too.

The real highlight of this Spiral Guide for us though was the map. Whilst NYC is one of the easier cities to navigate, we found the map incredibly helpful. Especially on our first night, as after having been awake for close to 24 hours, we were struggling a little to find our hotel; but thanks to our Marco Polo map we made it! I'd love to show you a decent picture of this beloved map, but unfortunately we used it so much that it actually has a small hole in it now...It was the best map we've ever used, and I would choose it over google maps anyday!

If you're heading to New York anytime soon, I'd definitely recommend the Marco Polo spiral guides (or if you aren't going to NYC, check the Marco Polo website to see if they do a guide for your destination)! It's only downfall? It doesn't fit in my travel handbag. I'll just have to get a bigger bag...

Have you ever used the Marco Polo travel guides?

*I kindly recieved the Marco Polo Guide for free in return for a review - I must say though, they are excellent.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Doing More | Bastille

 Bastille are a band I have always enjoyed listening to. From weeks into first year, I would listen to their first album after being introduced to them by my cousin. It reminds me of the incredible fun we had in our first year halls, so when I saw someone selling tickets on Facebook, I immediately pestered Dan to come with although it didn't take much persuading! We were joined by our friends from first year, Dan's flatmates Andy and Theo.


Our tickets were only £32 and it was so nice to be out and doing something different on a Tuesday night - definitely going for my new resolution to do more over here! As it was at the O2 we headed up after grabbing dinner on the way, and met the boys for a drink beforehand. I love going to gigs, and was so excited to see Bastille!

Whilst our seats were pretty high up, we got an incredible view of the stage! I quite like being up high because you get to see everything happening and I think it really adds to the whole atmosphere of an event. We were able to see everything - from Dan coming into the middle of the stage, to the smoke and glitter bombs that went off during "Rhythm of the Night" - incredible!

As they have recently brought out a new album - Wild World - most of their songs were much newer! We knew quite a few of them, but it was their "old" music that really got us dancing - probably the nostalgia talking! Icarus, Pompeii, Things We Lost in The Fire and Weight of Living are all songs that take me back to my first year of uni, and also the first year of being with Dan so it was great to be there with the boys.

Bastille were one of the bands you go to see, and you realise that they sound exactly like their recorded tracks. Their voices were incredible, and the musicians were so talented. I love that they have such a unique sound, you can instantly tell it is a Bastille song when one comes on because it is so different to anything else in the charts. I'd definitely see Bastille again, and couldn't recommend them more as a band to see live!

I had the best evening dancing to some music I love, with some fantastic people. It really was an excellent change to my usual midweek events, and I'll definitely be doing it again - or so I hope.

Have you seen Bastille live?

Friday, 9 December 2016

London | The Breakfast Club Hoxton

 I'd heard great things about The Breakfast Club, and when Georgia (Mapped Out Blog) suggested we go there on a girly day out to London, I jumped at the chance! We decided to head to the Hoxton branch, although they have quite a few cafes in London as it was easy for all of us to get to. We met Candela in the queue which The Breakfast Club is so famed for...


Whilst we didn't have to wait long, be prepare to queue as it is a very popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Unfortunately it was raining, but it didn't dampen our spirits as we knew what awaited us inside would be worth the wait! We eventually got in, and were lead to our table. The decoration inside is minimal but homely; it isn't one of those places where you almost feel afraid to move because everything is so white and clinical.

Georgia and I opted for the ice tea which was delicious! It had a fresh taste of mint and lemon and was the perfect drink for brunch. It was so refreshing, and came in such a gorgeous bottle as well. It's all in the detailing.



Drinks on the table, we all placed our food orders. Being super adventurous, we all opted for the Pancakes with Bacon and Maple Syrup. We were in for a treat when a huge stack of pancakes arrived for each of us. They were American style pancakes which worked perfectly with the salty bacon and super sweet maple syrup. At £9, they certainly weren't the cheapest breakfast I've ever had, but they were definitely one of the best!


The Breakfast Club is the perfect venue if you are looking for something different in London. It's delicious, not awfully expensive and has a lovely chilled out vibe. I think part of the reason you queue is because they don't overcrowd the cafe itself - there's no rushing necessary which is ideal when you are catching up with two of your favourite girls!



Have you ever been to The Breakfast Club?

Friday, 2 December 2016

10 Reasons To Go To Turkey

 I fell in love with Turkey on my first visit back in 2011. It's a gorgeous sunny country with some of the friendliest people I have met. The weather is divine, the food is delicious and I love the Turkish culture. I'd recommend Turkey if you are looking for somewhere to completely switch off and soak up a different culture. It's easy to fall in love with Turkey, especially if you go off the beaten track!


The People

You may argue that of course the people are friendly, they want your business - but they really are lovely. One of the restaurant owners (who also ran the boat trip we went on) was very helpful, and really looked out for me and my friend who were in Turkey alone for two weeks; going to the lengths of picking us up from our villa to ensure we were safe which was very nice of him! Everyone is so happy and friendly.



The Markets

Losing myself in a Turkish market is one of my favourite things to do. Whilst the market in Kusadasi is a place I find incredibly intimidating, the market in Davutlar is glorious. There's fresh food to the right, and every kind of knick knack you can imagine to the left - from clothes to door knobs and olive oil. They also sell the most incredible Turkish pancakes called Gozleme. Divine!



The Food

The food in Turkey is delicious, and one of my favourite things about visiting the country. We buy copious amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables from the local stall which is owned by a family who have set up under a tree near our villa! It's so cheap, delicious and good for you too. I love the meatballs and chicken shish that are so typically sold in Turkey.


The Beaches

Stuning sandy beaches are one of Turkey's jewels. I'm not normally a huge fan of spending time on the beach itself, but in Turkey I'm always up for a trip to the beach. There's sunbeds, water sports if you fancy it and plenty of restuarants. The sunsets are always some of the most spectular I have ever seen, especially with the back drop of the mountains behind the sea!


The Sea

 Whenever we're in Turkey we always head out to sea at least once on a boat trip. There are quite a few tours that go out - one of them has a foam party whilst the others are much quieter and we always pick the more relaxing trips! It's so peaceful to be out at sea and enjoying the sunshine whilst seeing some of the stunning scenery of the local national park. It truly is amazing, and I'd definitely recommend a boat trip if you are in Turkey.


The Mountains

Where we stay in Turkey there is a gorgeous national park in the next village along from ours. It's so nice to see all the mountains and you can even see the Greek island of Samos from the beach! Truly stunning and nice to have a mixture of different sceneries to explore.


The Language

The Turkish language is so different to many of the languages I usually hear when I am travelling and exploring, but it is easily one of my favourites. I love the sound of it, and find it so interesting to listen to. Whilst I haven't learnt much Turkish, I do know a few phrases which is another thing I love about exploring a  new place.


The Weather

We always tend to go to Turkey in late August, although one year we were there until mid-September and the sun was still blazing hot - around 30°C every day. Thankfully there is a bit of a sea-breeze due to being fairly close to the coast which is lovely when you are exploring the local towns and markets. I love the sunshine, and Turkey always delivers!




The Public Transport

A Dolmus is effectively a mini-bus which is used as a public bus. Whilst it may not sound that exciting, trust me - you are wrong. Travelling by Dolmus is inexpensive and great fun! Each driver tends to decorate his own Dolmus in his own unique way - so I've been in ones focused on Religious decoration, whilst others are full of football memorabilia - I love it! It adds a personal touch.


The Wildlife

I have seen some of the most amazing things in Turkey; normally when I am on the boat trip. It was the first time I ever saw Dolphins in the wild which was truly incredible. They were swimming under the boat, and alongside us - which was insanely cool. We also saw Turtles on our first trip which was pretty special.


Turkey is a stunning country, and well worth a visit. I'm hoping to visit Istanbul as I'd love to see somewhere a bit more built up in Turkey rather than the coast. Maybe one day I'll learn a bit more of the language too, but for now you'll definitely find me in one of the markets!

Have you ever been to Turkey?

Friday, 25 November 2016

What Are You Thankful For?

 Yesterday was Thanksgiving across the pond and it is a holiday that I definitely wish we had here in the UK. I've never underestimated the power of being thankful, but sometimes I think it's far too easy to focus on the negatives. Whilst I was at uni, I started up a gratitude journal so that I could remember to be thankful at least once a day, and nearly two years later I am so thankful for this little journal that stays beside my bed!


I am thankful for the fact that I have a job, a car so I can get to this job and a warm home. I am thankful that everyday there is food on the table, and that this is not a worry for me. I am thankful that my parents have welcomed Dan and I back into my family home so we can save for a deposit to buy our own house. I am thankful to even have this opportunity when so many others do not even have a family home.

I am thankful for Dan, my best friend. I am thankful that he puts up with my awful moods, and my unhappiness at times. I am thankful that he is always there to lift me up, make me laugh and make me feel safe. I am thankful for his kindness, and his passion. I am thankful that we found each other at such a young age and that we have been given so many amazing opportunities to see the world together!

I am thankful for my wonderful family, all of whom are so supportive. I am thankful for the love my parents have always given me and my sister, and the fact that we are incredibly close as a family. I am thankful for my younger sister who is like a best friend to me. I am thankful that I have all four of my fantastic grandparents, at the age of 23 this is a rare and wonderful thing. I am thankful for their kindness, wisdom and their instant ability to make me laugh and cheer me up! I am thankful for my wider family, and the connection we all have.

I am thankful for my wonderful friends. The friends who have accepted me for me, who lift me up and who help me to deal with my anxiety. I am especially grateful for the friends who are there to listen to my embarassing stories which should definitely NOT be shared on this blog. I am thankful for the support they give me when things are tough, and the hilarious times we've had.

I am thankful for being born in the UK, for all of it's flaws. I am thankful that I wake up, and I do not hear the sound of explosions and see the signs of warfare. I am thankful that I was born in a country where I largely have an insane amount of freedom. I am thankful that I am not living in fear because of war and poverty.

What Are You Thankful For?

Friday, 18 November 2016

Book Review | How Not To Travel The World by Lauren Juliff

 How Not To Travel The World is one of those books that you literally devour in days, but find yourself still thinking about it weeks later. I'm only days after finishing it but I know that this book is going to stick with me; I couldn't get enough! Lauren Juliff is a woman from near London, who packed up her bags five years ago to go travelling...and she still hasn't made it back to London permanently - incredible!


I've been following Lauren's blog for a little while now, and just before my birthday I noticed she'd written a book. It went straight onto my birthday list and my lovely parents kindly picked it up for me. I'm so grateful because this book was even better than I knew it was going to be!

I laughed (and I laughed so hard that my cheeks hurt!) and I cried. I felt anxious, but also really empowered. Mostly though, I felt like packing my life into a backpack and just going. Which is so very unlike me. Lauren's story was inspiring; at 23 years old after years of dreaming about it, she packed up and started her year of travelling in Eastern Europe. As someone with severe anxiety, this was especially challenging and reading about her journey inspired me.


Lauren describes the countries she visited in the most amazing way, and it was almost like I was there myself! The only downside to reading the book was the fact that it highlighted to me even further that I wasn't travelling and seeing the world myself, as much as I'd like to be! I would love to be brave enough to just say "Yes" and explore the fascinating and exotic places that Lauren travelled to herself.

If you are someone who loves reading about travel, this is the book for you. Lauren is honest, and realistic about her travels. She does not pretend that her life was a dream for that first year, travelling alone and travelling with anxiety is bound to be tough. What she does do however, is recognise the amazing opportunity she had and used her travels a way to better herself, and broaden her horizons which is really what it's all about.

How Not To Travel The World is one to pick up if you've ever wanted to travel - even if you aren't necessarily keen on doing it by hostels. I felt inspired, and I know that this is a book I'm going to read more than just once!

Have you ever read How Not To Travel The World?

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Back On Track

Isn't it amazing how a weekend of doing very little can completely change your outlook on everything? This weekend I went for brunch, read my book, had a bath, blogged and relaxed. We also sorted out our room completely and changed the layout around. This is something we've wanted to do for ages but had been putting off. It actually feels like a huge weight had been lifted as opposed to it being strenuous! I feel so much more rested....


In the recent weeks, I've wanted to blog so badly but there's always been something else. I've not been able to find the words, or I've been catching up with the TV programmes that are on at the moment. My instagram had been left for about two weeks, despite me still occasionally posting on twitter. I adore social media, but I've just found it too draining recently.

As it gets colder, and darker,  my body finds it harder to cope. I am so much more tired, and like most people find the coldness more challenging to do most things. I would rather be wrapped up in a blanket with a good book than trying to find the inspiration to write an inspiring piece of content. No matter how much I enjoy blogging, I don't think I have been in a consistent routine for more than two months for about 18 months now.  It really really bugs me, but the motivation to do anything about it never comes. So I'm taking a step back, and I'm going to go with the flow more.

I have about 16 posts in my drafts which I'm never quite happy with, yet I just can't bear to delete them. I worked hard on those posts, despite them not living up to my standards. It's super easy to compare yourself to other people and that's probably why some of those posts are still sitting in my drafts, with dust gathering on them. Eventually, I know I will post them but yet again I struggle with the fact that I've not done anything with them yet.

Despite all of this, I'm learning. It's absolutely fine not to post more than you feel like doing so. If that's once a week, or twice a day - that's all down to you. Maybe I just need to focus on the fact that I began this blog so I could remember all the things I got up to in my early twenties, rather than thinking of it as yet another place to be marked against my peers and friends. I think I'm finally back on track with where I want Suitcase and Sandals to be heading; it's always going to be somewhere for me to reflect on the good times, an escape from the things that stress me out.

Does blogging sometimes get on top of you? Do you find it hard to remember the reason why you began to blog in the first place?

Sunday, 30 October 2016

23

 Every year goes by so much faster than the last, and sometimes I fear I'm going to blink and I'll be 43. I truly can't believe that I turned 23 earlier on this week! This past year has been incredible, but has gone so very quickly and I'm sad that I'll never be able to sing "22" again with such meaning! Small losses...


This year has certainly been an exciting one. Tough at times but what year isn't. I guess everything happens for a reason, and even if that initially challenges me, it will ultimately help me grow into the person that I am, and want to be.

Focusing on the good, it's definitely been a year of travel for me, and I've been to five places in my 22nd year; all of which were new places I had never been to before. It's been incredible, and I love exploring new places. Amsterdam, Paris, Lindos, Edinburgh and New York - all very different places but all equally amazing trips. One of my favourite things to do is explore a new location so I've been incredibly lucky this year!

I've done some incredible things like going to V Fest for the first time ever, and heading to Disneyland Paris on a whim. I've been back to Canterbury multiple times too to go to our university Summer ball and visit one of my best friends. It was also the year that I went to my first ever blogger meet up which I enjoyed alot; it was great to meet some local bloggers! This year has been crazy, but amazing. I've challenged myself to do more, and say yes to more things because life is too short. I'm hoping I can continue this mindset into my 23rd year!

When I was younger, I always had visions of where I would be at age 23. Now, I can't really remember exactly what I wanted for myself at this age, but I'm pleased that I am learning to go with the flow more. Personally, I always feel hugely pressured by "expectations" of where I should be at what age, but slowly I think I'm going to learn to let go of these feelings and just realise that being happy is the most important thing. Things aren't always going to work out the way you want them to, and after the initial pain and hurt you may feel; that's totally OK,

Here's to another incredible year, I hope being 23 is just as much fun as being 22. I'm ready to learn a lot already...

Do you reflect a lot around your birthday? 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Canterbury | Clarins Skincare Consultation

 I recently went to stay with Mary, my best friend from university, back in Canterbury. A few weeks back, she'd gone into Boots in Canterbury and had booked herself in for a skincare consultation at Clarins. Thankfully the lovely lady at Boots had space to fit me in too so we headed down to Boots on the Sunday Morning for a Skin Consultation! My only regret was not having gone sooner, it's a complimentary service and I learnt so much about my skin. Julie, the consultant, was lovely and I could not recommend her enough if you live near Canterbury.


We started off by having the most delicious fruit infused water, and it felt just like we were in a spa! Then we spoke briefly about how we find our own skin and what problems we face with it. My skin is "Normal" on the whole, but does experience dryness during the colder months; including chapped cheeks which can get pretty red in the extremely cold weather. Julie had already laid out some main products for us to try, but after hearing how we found our skin she adapted our routine to fit with how we felt our skin was. It was really great that she did this as it meant she was using products which would really be beneficial for us!

As we went through our routine, Julie went through the benefits of the products we were using, and showed us the best techniques to use those products. It was so interesting, and I learnt a lot - the reason we wipe outwards is because our lymph nodes are at the sides of our faces which help to clear the skin. You should also never use normal moisturizer underneath your eyes because the skin is so delicate it needs creams/balms/gels specific to that type of skin. It was also interesting to learn how important it is not to forget your neck, and that you should only exfoliate once or twice a week; however that once or twice a week is crucial.

Once we had been through the skin care routine that Julie had planned for us, she gave us a light make over with the Clarins BB Cream, Supra Volume Mascara and coloured lip balms. The make up was so nice, and it felt good to be using something that was giving our skin a treatment whilst covering up minor blemishes; rather than using products that will clog my skin up even more.

I'd definitely recommend heading to your nearest boots for a Clarins Skincare Consultation. It was so helpful to really hear about the products, and the benefits of them. There was a huge focus on the product being made by natural ingredients and plants which I really enjoyed. I definitely came away with some skincare treats after treating myself to the One Step Cleanser and a Daily Energizer Moisturiser cream.

Have you ever had a skincare consultation? Was it with Clarins?


Clarins offer complimentary skincare consultations. I enjoyed mine so much that I decided to blog about it.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

New York City | Aladdin on Broadway

 I have always loved going to the theatre, but living an hour away from London, it becomes a pretty pricey trip. Whilst in New York we decided to book tickets to a show on Broadway, and we were lucky enough to get tickets to Aladdin at The Amsterdam Theatre during our stay. Our seats were located on the Mezzanine which was the second out of three tiers, and I have to say we were both very impressed. We only paid $62.50 dollars each for the tickets and we could see the whole show perfectly! For obvious reasons I wasn't able to take any photographs of the performance, so I'll have to leave that part up to your imagination...




The Amsterdam Theatre was a great venue; it was a decent size so there was a good enough atmosphere, without there being too many people because there is nothing worse than places being too crowded. There were two halves of the show with a small interval between these two halves and it was the perfect length. I only wished it had lasted a bit longer because it was that good - I loved it! You were really drawn into the story of Aladdin which was altered as little as possible to be able to adapt it into a show.


I am no theatre critic, but I have to say that the cast was excellent. They all suited their roles extremely well, and they were all incredibly talented at singing, dancing and acting. My favourite character was the Genie, who was absolutely hilarious. I was laughing out loud for a vast majority of this musical, and it really added to the original story which isn't necessarily focused on humour. As huge Disney fans, it was also pretty spectacular to know that Jafar was being played by the man who voiced Jafar in the original film!

The outfits of the cast were unbelievable and it was clear that a lot of thought and work had gone into making them authentic and original! I was a woman obsessed with the amount of sequin glam the cast wore throughout the show; the costume designer was absolutely fantastic. It truly felt like we were watching real scenes in Agrabah because of the excellence of the costumes, and of the set design as well. I was really impressed by the set, but the costumes really were incredible. They stole the show for me!

Of course, it wouldn't be Disney without some incredible music! I am still humming the songs now over a week after seeing the show. All of the originals were included which was great, as sometimes you find your favourite songs being missed out of remakes and theatre. Luckily, they had managed to fit them all in, and some! There were new renditions of classic favourites, and some new tunes too which were very catchy. They finished with some of my favourites from the film and it was just great music overall! The band were actually underneath the stage and it was great to have them playing live whilst the cast sang.


If you are heading to New York and are hoping to see a show on Broadway I would definitely recommend Aladdin - both of us were still in shock about how good it was the next morning. We both knew it would be good, but it definitely exceeded even our expectations. You can get reasonably priced tickets, and it is worth entering the digital lottery which you can find more information about here as you never know, you could be successful!

Have you ever seen Aladdin on Broadway? Or have you seen it in London?

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

New York City | Courtyard by Marriott Manhattan/Central Park Hotel

 Whilst we're not a 5 star hotel kind of couple, we definitely appreciate a nice hotel when it comes to a city break. New York was probably our biggest challenge yet; everything was just so expensive! We wanted somewhere based fairly centrally so we could make the most of it but it was seemingly impossible at first with the prices! However, my mum struck gold and found us the Courtyard by Marriott Manhattan/Central Park Hotel which was based between Times Square and Central Park.


We had booked a King Size Room with city views, and I'm so pleased that we did. Whilst our room wasn't huge (I saw people moaning about the size on Trip Advisor, like seriously you're in New York, get the hell out of your room!) it was definitely big enough for everything that we needed it for. The bed was absolutely massive. I could have fitted about 4 more people in it with me! It was also incredibly comfortable; which was ideal as we walked a lot during our stay so a good nights sleep was always very crucial.



The room was kept clean on a daily basis, and the bathroom was always very hygienic too. We had a shallow bath, and a shower too which was so powerful! I could have stayed in it all day. For such a huge hotel, I was so impressed that the rooms were kept so well, and obviously very pleased about it too as it made our stay so much nicer. In our room we had a TV, a safe which was very easy to use and an excellent hot drinks machine - it was very much so a pinch yourself moment looking out onto New York city with a green tea in hand. We were very lucky with this hotel that's for sure! Interestingly, our hotel was actually the tallest hotel in North America, so that was pretty cool...




Whilst we didn't make the most of the facilities of the hotel, there was a gym on the 35th floor, a mini market (although we weren't able to find it!) and a bar too which hosted football nights three times a week. We opted to spend time outside of the hotel, but did notice that a lot of conferences were held at the hotel throughout the week so these facilities would be perfect if you were there for a business trip or event!

The part that really made our stay for me was the fact we had been given a room on the 30th floor of the hotel. The views were incredible, and we were both in awe from the moment we arrived there late on the Saturday night. We even slept with the curtains open on numerous occasions so we could enjoy the view at night, and also when we woke up the next morning! Whilst we couldn't see anything of real tourist interest, we were blessed with our views, and it was incredible to see some of the huge skyscraper buildings from our bedroom. I loved it, and would go back in a heartbeat if I could!


If you're looking for a cheaper, gem of a hotel near the buzz of New York City, this hotel has got you covered. Just make sure to book a room with a city view like the one we had - you won't regret it!

Have you ever stayed at a Courtyard by Marriott Hotel?

Sunday, 9 October 2016

New York City | El Mitote Upper West Side

 Whilst wandering the pretty streets of the Upper West Side on our last day in NYC, we stumbled across a cute little Mexican called El Mitote (208 Columbus Ave). With seats outside, and the sun shining high in the sky, we took a chance and our seats. Our waiter immediately brought us out ice cold water free of charge, which was a massive 'yes' from the start off, as it truly was a boiling day and we were both in desperate need of a drink after pounding the streets for hours beforehand.



If you do ever head to El Mitote, go expecting Mexican and only Mexican, as Dan wanted to have a diet coke but they didn't actually sell them. Not a bad thing, just something worth noting! I chose a Watermelon juice at the recommendation of our waiter, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It was such a refreshing drink, and I found it delicious! Sometimes when you order fruit juices you get the bits of the fruit left over but this was perfectly smooth which is just how I like it.


The menu was extensive; and you could order from a range of starters but we were both ready to get stuck into the mains! After much deliberation we both opted for "Make Your Own Burritos" which were priced at $10 each (approx. £8) which may seem a little pricey for just a burrito but they were delicious,huge and incredibly filling too! We both had the Chicken Tinga, although you could have a different range of fillings including chorizo, lamb or wild mushrooms. You also get a choice of either rice or quinoa. After selecting your meat, you are given the option to have 3 different toppings such as cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo (onion and tomato salsa) etc. As I am not a cheese lover, I stuck to the lettuce and pico de gallo which was delicious!





Our meal at El Mitote was the perfect way to finish our time in New York - after a week of really unhealthy food, it was nice to have a little bit of a fresher option! I would definitely go back to this mexican restaurant, to sample a few of their other dishes. If you are looking for a pit-stop whilst exploring central park, this place really isn't far at all! I can imagine it being a really pretty place to eat at night as there were lightbulb fairy lights hung up on the awning.


Do you like Mexican? Have you ever been to El Mitote?
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