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The Ultimate Sweat Getaway – The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort

For the last few years my goal has been to find a warm and sunny place to seek refuge during the winter months. The ultimate wellness vacation, if you will, where workouts, spa treatments and meditation are literally the only thing on the agenda. I finally found it guys and turns out, I didn’t have to look very far. Located in the north end of Miami in the family friendly hood of Surfside, The Carillion Miami Wellness Resort is legit the perfect spot for the fitness obsessed. Not a newbie to the Miami scene, the property actually was built back in the early 1950s, but went through a major rebrand, plus an expansion. The hotel now consists of three separate towers of accommodations, a huge state-of-the-art fitness facility with featuring Technogym cardio and strength training equipment, multiple movement studios, restaurants, a juice & coffee bar and 750 feet of private beachfront.

It’s a luxury to stay in accommodations that make you feel just as comfortable as you do at home. We had one of the two bedroom suites (that range from 920-1,140 sqft) with partial beach views to call home during our stay. It had a separate living room with a pull out sofa, a fully equipped kitchen and spacious bathrooms.

SHOP MY JOE FRESH NIGHTIE (NOW 20% OFF) ON JOEFRESH.COM/CA

It’s unique; world-class wellness center is what sets this hotel apart from the rest in Miami. There are 20+ fitness classes a day for guests to choose from that caters to all fitness levels. Several digital program boards can be found throughout the property that lists the daily class schedule. Classes generally start at 7am, usually with sunrise meditation, which is absolutely beautiful when you get to see if during a class from the Ocean Studio, and end daily around dinnertime. There’s a mix of everything from yoga, cycling, boxing, kettle bell training, Pilates, strength training, Tabata, Barre, dance classes, TRX, roll & release and even treadmill running classes. Seriously, the list just goes on and on.

It was the perfect time to put some of the new Joe Fresh activewear collection to test.  I have been living religiously in their essential strappy sports bra for months, but a brand new design has been released just in time for summer. It has a deep v neckline with a cute and subtle mesh detail. The best design detail however I feel honestly lives in the back of this bra. Multi straps criss cross around the shoulder blades down to the band. Not only cute, but also functional. With my breast size cup being anywhere between a B & C cup, it actually provides me with enough support to wear across all the activities that I do. I liked pairing the light purple colour of the strappy mesh sports bra with these the new purple printed cropped leggings. If you adore this print and love activewear sets instead of separates, the strappy mesh sports bra comes in this print as well.

I wanted so badly to give you guys an inside peek at the group classes but we had to respect the privacy of the other guests and residents – yup, there are people that live at The Carillon year round and I am JEALOUS of their year round access. I did two boxing classes during my stay and it was the real deal.

Took a few boxing classes with this no nonsense coach during my stay and it was the best workout I have had in ages.

I used muscles I didn’t even think I had and could barely raise my arms for the remainder of the trip, let alone pick up Maxie. The instructor was badass and it was far from a fluffy class. We mixed up bag work and worked individually with him and the hand pads. I learned SO much about proper technique and developed a great foundation to build off of.

SHOP MY JOE FRESH STRAPPY SPORTS BRA AND HIGH WAISTED LEGGINGS ON JOEFRESH.COM/CA

Guys, these are the best fitting leggings I’ve ever worn. I’ve worn so many different style of tights over the years from different brands, but this high waisted legging with reflective feature may forever be my favourite. Ok, yes they don’t have the beautiful patterns that some of the other Joe Fresh tights have that are seasonal and this is probably done on purpose. It’s a style that carries over from season to season and is a collection staple. I first got them in green and decided before the trip that I couldn’t leave without another pair, and bought these. What makes them so great? They are the most supportive leggings without being restrictive somehow. They are a perfect length for ladies with long legs like moi and the waist band is high and actually stays put through during any and all exercises, even squats, downward dogs and lunges.

Shop my Ultra Soft Crop Leggings on JoeFresh.com/CA. Tank out soon but currently available in other colours here.

My comfort level is in strength and functional training, so I also managed to get in some solo workouts outside of the group classes, but I wanted to take the opportunity while I was there to work on my weaknesses. Yoga and meditation. Yup folks, it was time to progress a bit from the hand holding of guided meditation and headstands to being able to sit alone with my thoughts for an extended period of time and transition finally to balancing solely on my forearms. IT IS SO DAMN TOUGH. I did manage to get up after a couple of attempts and held it for what felt like forever (in real time about 20 seconds) and I was on a high for the rest of the day. Chilling in the Ocean Studio at sunrise or alone on the beach at 6am set was the perfect way to stat the day and was the perfect spot for solo meditation. Watching the sunrise in Miami is just magical. Almost as good as the sunsets.

I posted one of my solo workouts on Instagram during my time at The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort in their epic gym and I think I got just as many comments about the tights as I did about the exercises. You can view the killer upper body workout that I shared here. The peach and purple pattern on these printed crop leggings reminds me of a painting. I’ve paired them with my plum stappy sports bra, but I started my workout with the new tank top that comes in a gorge orange sherbet colour, that I knotted in the middle. The best thing about these tanks, besides being a flattering razor back and moisture wicking, is that they are only $16, or 2 for $24. I swear by them and have them in every colour they come in.

Still needs some work and foot placement is off but finally transitioning from a regular headstand to this.

Well, if the fitness facility hasn’t won you over, then I think the food and the wellness programming is going to blow your mind. Full spa amenities, obvi, with massage, face, body and Ayurvedic experiences. And hello, the property also has a thermal experience, which is the heart of their spa offering.

It’s actually one of the country’s most expansive hydrotherapy circuits. Similar to Body Blitz here in Toronto, the thermal spa has a series of hot and cold areas to help warm, cleanse and relax guests prior to treatments or after workouts. I am not kidding you, it’s open all day…closes as late as 8pm and it’s complimentary for guests of the hotel. I had to ask a few times just to make sure I was hearing correctly.

The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort also has a nutritionist on staff that you can speak to during your stay with to help design a tailor meal plan just for you or a 28-day kick start weight loss program. They even have a Grocery Guru program where you can get educated on how to grocery shop intelligently and even medical nutrition therapy is offered. If you’re all sorted on the nutrition front, you will be happy to know that the property has so many healthy food options on it’s in-suite dining menu and lobby resto, The Strand Bar & Grill. The seasonal and ingredient driven menu highlight’s southern Florida’s organic community and has tons of options for guests who are calorie conscious. We loved the breakfast so much there. Our favourite thing on the menu post workout in the morning was the insane, mile high Avocado toast.

Most impressive – the wellness lectures that are also made available to guests free of charge. They occur almost every single day and are held midday in the hotel’s wine lounge. For guests who are anti-aging obsessed, there several therapies such as; Cryotherapy, Salt Float Zero Gravity Therapy, Infrared Sauna and other methods to reverse the aging process. These non-traditional spa services each can provide pain relief, detoxification, relaxation, anti-aging results and promotes healing. These non-traditional service offerings can be a la carte or can be paired with additional spa services to enhance results.

Scoop Maxie’s pink polka dotted swimsuit for only $14 here

Now the million dollar question that I know some of you fit mamas are wondering, “Is the resort family friendly?” – it 100% is. There were definitely families around and it was still surprisingly, very quiet. The property is quite spread out, so even though they were at capacity during our visit, you would have never known. There were tons of beach chairs available every single day (no additional surcharge to lounge under a shaded chair between workouts) and always room poolside to chill and eat lunch between taking dips.

Our suite had a huge bathtub. It was amazing to soak in at night after the workouts and it made it easy to give Maxie her baths. The food options for kiddies were beyond delicious. Adults traveling without a family could enjoy their stay without babies and kids milling about, as there are sections of the resort and pools that are adults only. For families with older children, the hotel has options for kids to join in on the fitness fun. I saw a little girl around the age of 5 taking daily private ballet classes. I mean, how luxury is that?! There are also group family fitness classes on the north tower lawn a couple days a week where everyone in the family can get in a sweat together. Maxie is still a bit too young for that, so my mom and I made her feel included and created our own mini workouts with her. I almost cannot handle how cute these matching outfits are. Maxie’s bodysuit is from the Joe Fresh toddler activewear collection.

The bond between my mother and child is just incredible. Also, love how my mother has embraced knotted her tanks. SHOP OUR LOOKS: Printed Active Legging // Toddler Active Bodysuit // Mesh Back Tank

I think one of the best things about Miami is that the gastro scene is on point and there are delicious and healthy food options just about anywhere you go. We rented an SUV while we were there and returning back to Sacred Space Miami to eat at Plant Miami was a non-negotiable. If you’re planning an upcoming visit to Miami, pay a visit to this lifestyle complex that houses a gallery, plant-based restaurant, a curated wellness and lifestyle store, workshops, and Flow yoga and meditation studio.

The Sacred Space Miami

The Sacred Space Miami

The Sacred Space Miami

The Sacred Space Miami

The Sacred Space Miami

SHOP MY LOOK: STRIPED BIKINI BRA // OVERLAP BEACH SHORT, STRAW PANAMA HAT

Have you ever com to the end of a trip looking forward to going home and getting back to your routine? That’s usually me, except this time, this experience was such a vibe, I could have easily stayed a full week. Maybe even a month LOL. With Miami being only a stone’s throw away, I doubt this will be my last visit to The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort. Having experienced it for a few days, I could create an elevated experience to fully optimize the program and amenities.

You can shop my favourite active pieces right now from my very own “Make Moves with Sasha Exeter” product page and find the rest of our looks online by heading to JoeFresh.com/ca and from now until December 31st, 2019, you can enjoy 25% off regular priced items when you use my promo code “Sasha25”. Click here for full promo details.

This post is sponsored by Joe Fresh and The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, however all views and opinions are my own and not of the brands I have collaborated with.

Moments That Matter With Aeroplan: Miami Edition

Hot and sunny Miami. Another stamp in Maxwell’s passport and a pretty sweet place for Réjean and I to spend our third anniversary. Every year around this time when the weather gets cold, the two of us moonlight about spending our winters away somewhere warm like premature Snowbirds. Being down south for the entire winter is still quite a stretch but escaping the cold for a beach rendezvous a couple times during the season is somewhat reasonable and is now actually realistic thanks to some new benefits for Aeroplan Members.

Aeroplan + So Sasha

Aeroplan + So Sasha

Aeroplan + So Sasha

South Beach may not seem like the typical family vacation destination, but turns out more and more young families are heading to South Florida over other warm weather spots. The short three-hour flight is definitely a plus for parents traveling with young children, For us, it also made sense because Réjean’s parents are there all winter and we figured it was a great opportunity for them to spend some extra time with Maxwell. We had SUCH an amazing time during our trip and seriously wish someone had suggested this to me before. If you’ve yet to travel with your little one, there honestly couldn’t be a better destination to get over first family trip anxiety.

There’s lots of new features available to Aeroplan Members now, that we finally got a chance to take advantage of during this last family trip. Réjean and I earn miles in a few different ways. Through online purchases, but mostly through booked airline travel and credit card charges. We have a TD Aeroplan Visa Card, but Réjean just recently acquired an American Express AeroplanPlus Gold Card and we just scored a ton of Aeroplan Miles on it (I will share how a bit later!). In the past, we’ve only used our miles to book flights but this time, we actually used it to book our hotel stay and rental car. or earn miles on so much more than just flights. It’s been a long time coming but it was worth the wait. The new Aeroplan online travel booking portal allows members to use their miles or cash to book hotels and car rentals cars. It can be accessed through the homepage by clicking on the “Book Travel” tab. There you will not only be able to book but you will also find great deals based on recent bookings from other Aeroplan Members as long as you’ve signed into your account. And the new site has more than 25,000 hotels to choose from.

A pretty sweet and generous welcome gift from the Loews Miami team

I did some research specifically on family friendly properties in South Beach, which is how I discovered Loews Miami, then double checked to see if it was one of the preferred properties available for booking on Aeroplan.com. Not only was it there but by booking through the portal, we were able to earn four miles for every dollar spent, which HELLO…we can use towards future travel bookings. So we planned on four days and three nights there before heading to Deerfield to see the in-laws and it was the best spot in SoBe for our little family. A full baby concierge that provided us with a real crib (not a pack-and-play), bath time essentials, a bottle warmer and get this – even a stroller because guess who left Maxie’s Bugaboo back in Toronto by accident? I’ll save you the drama behind how that happened but our lives were saved upon arrival by the Loews concierge, who got a stroller for us within seconds of checking in.

The rooms at Loews Miami may be on the smaller side but more importantly, it’s quiet. NO CRAZY DAY PARTIES!  Day drinking foam parties isn’t really ideal when you’re traveling with a little one. The property has seven insanely delish restaurants that are SO good and convenient, you don’t even really need to go anywhere else if you don’t want to. We had the most exceptional buffet breakfasts every single morning at Preston’s Market, that truly felt like the ultimate indulgence. So much so, it left us no choice but to make sure we exercised at least once a day.  The best french toast I think we’ve ever had was served and I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in smoked salmon and capers. Max loved the mini pancakes and fruit kebobs from Preston’s kiddie corner. A separate section of the restaurant dedicated to guests under 10 years old.

Maxie was a good sport and allowed us a couple dinners out so we enjoyed a night of oysters and cocktails at the Lure Bar, also connected to the hotel, and relished the fact that we only had a short walk back to the room so we didn’t have to worry about drinking. South Miami probably has more restaurants per capita than any other city, so we did check out a few other spots as well like Byblos, who also has a Toronto location that I love. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar was just down the street from the hotel and seemed to keep coming up every time I searched or asked for the best foodie spots in the area. We even went to the neighbouring Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel’s restaurant, The Social, for a relaxed late night meal with live music.

Aeroplan + So Sasha

The pool is the hub of the hotel and flooded with families with small children, so Maxie made some friends there. With the Loews being oceanfront we also got some good beach time in. It also backs onto the infamous South Beach boardwalk, which was a dream. We were able to take long walks together as a family and Réj and I were able to get some runs in.

Being able to rent a car seat from Avis for our rental was super convenient

Four days in SoBe was more than enough for us and the last two nights were spent with Maxie’s grandparents. We rented the Dodge Journey SUV from Avis and you will never guess how much it cost us. Free.99 folks because we were able to use Aeroplan Miles for the rental, which was a blessing. For convenience, we rented it from the airport, so we were able to drive ourselves into the city and use the car to get around locally to take Max to The Children’s Museum and to discover the city. We were even able to rent a carseat from Avis at an additional charge thank goodness, so we were able to travel lean and light without having to bring hers along with our luggage. This is actually the first time we have rented a vehicle on vacation and I am so glad we did. Deerfield Beach is a lot more spread out than Miami was, so it was critical to have a set of wheels to get around while we were there.

Miami Children's Museum - So Sasha

Miami Children's Museum

Miami Children's Museum

We’ve traveled quite a bit as a family now. Short trips, long trips, destinations with different time zones…we learn something new every single time we travel. This trip was no exception. So here are the key learning’s:

  • Always, always, always check Aeroplan’s portal before booking a hotel. If where you want to stay at is listed on the website, you will get 4 miles for every dollar spent on your hotel booking. It’s genius and trust me when those miles add up and you have enough to apply it to your future travel bookings, you’ll thank me.
  • Book a room with a separate living space or an extra bedroom. Ok, so I know this may not entirely be realistic for everyone. but having traveled with a baby in one room with us and having a separate space for her to sleep during naps and at night is a game changer. This trip was the first time since Maxwell was a newborn that we all shared the same room and it did affect our sleep quality and I am sure hers as well. Having a separate space for parents once the baby is asleep also allows you to have some adult time watching movies or chatting over a glass or two of wine.
  • Whether it’s on purpose or by accident (like me forgetting our Bugaboo), travel as lean as possible. When looking at hotel options, it’s always a good idea to check to see what they can provide or have on site for babies and toddlers such as; strollers, bath amenities, toys, bottle warmers and sterilizers, so you can avoid having to lug a ton of unncessary extra stuff.
  • Rent a car. Don’t limit yourself from exploring the city you are in because you aren’t mobile. Depending on what city you’re in, especially in the United States, Uber drivers won’t take you if your child is not in a car seat. Having your own set of wheels and renting a car seat can definitely makes it easier and more convenient to get around.
ALL PHOTOS FROM THIS POST WAS SHOT ON MY IPHONE XS

So what’s next for us…? Well, you know we can’t stay put in one place for very long. We are heading to another sunny destination in early January but you will have to wait and follow along to find out where. A place we’ve both been to before on our own but never together as a family and the home of Maxie’s favourite musical artist. Yes I know, she’s only 15 months but she is obsessed with reggae music. Booking our January trip in full on the new American Express AeroplanPlus Gold Card scored us a ton of new miles, so who knows, there may be more travel adventures happening early next year.

December is the perfect time to set your wanderlust goals for the new year. Now that there’s are even more ways to earn and redeem your miles as an Aeroplan Member,  you can quickly make your travel dreams a reality.

This post is in partnership with Aeroplan however all views and opinions are my own!

Moments That Matter With Aeroplan: London Edition

London. A city that often gets a bad wrap because of it’s lack of distinct seasons and continuous rainy weather, but one I love so very much. I guess I am a little biased because it’s my mum’s hometown. I have tons many memories from my many travels there as a kid and desperately want to continue the tradition with Maxwell.

#withAeroplan - So Sasha

This trip however did not go as planned and to be honest, what happened while we were there made it very difficult to get this post written. Every time I sat down to write, flashbacks of my mom’s unfortunate accident kept flashing back into my mind. I missed several days of shooting with a photographer so this is not as photo content heavy as my usual travel posts.I know most of you had been following along on Instagram and were aware of the head injury she suffered on our second day in central London. I had an impressive itinerary set up for the ultimate girls trip with her and Maxie. Sadly, we didn’t get to do even half of what I had planned due to the incident that left her hospitalized, concussed and off her feet for the rest of the trip. She is finally turning a corner with her recovery.

Funny enough, the forecast was supposed to be sunny and clear for our entire trip but I still planned on us us hitting the ground running during the first two days on the ground just in case. It was my safety net in the event we were pummelled with rain sometime later in the trip, which really wouldn’t be much of a surprise. And guess what? We did pretty badly later on in the trip, but hey that’s London for you. We did ended up doing and seeing some really cool things while we were there so if you’re thinking of heading across the pond any time soon, with baby or without, you should definitely take note of my recommendations below. But first, for the mamas that had messaged me about what it was like traveling with a young child to London, here’s a few things that you should definitely know:

I’ve done a long haul flight with Maxwell before to Barcelona and it was our very first family trip, also booked using our Aeroplan miles. That being said, I knew I could handle the time in the air with her especially since my mum was there but things were very different this time around because she was almost nine months older. At almost 1, she was moving around a ton. Trying to be independent. Eating solids. Far different that when she was exclusively breastfed. SOLUTION: We flew redeye on the way to London and were on a 7am flight on the way home to try to capitalize on her sleep and nap schedule. So, London isn’t the most non-stroller friendly city and navigating around the city with a baby was a challenge, especially when using public transportation. The tube is very convenient for commuters and normally the easiest way to get around the city. But with a stroller, it can be a nightmare. Very few tube stations have an elevators or what the Brits like to call “lifts” so what you can expect…the highest escalators you’ve ever seen in your life. PRO TIP: If you’r traveling alone with baby, go online and get familiar with the stops on each line that, pray and hope a friendly bloke will help you get to street level when you get off, consider Ubers and black cabs as well. The infamous black cabs in London are so large, I was able to get the stroller in the backseat without even collapsing it. Find accommodation with a good walk score. It truly makes life much easier when you are within walking distance of the tube, sight seeing, restaurants, a grocery store and parks that you can take your baby to during down time.

WHERE WE STAYED

#withAeroplan - So Sasha

On all my previous visits to England I have always stayed with family. Economical, yes but you can never really feel like a tourist or that you’re on vacation. You feel awkward sleeping in. There’s no room service. More importantly, very little privacy. There are loads of amazing hotels in the city but we decided to rent a flat and secured one via KidandCoe.com – the luxury, family friendly version of Air B&B. If you’re a family with any upcoming travel, you have to check them out. Through the site, we got connected to Merino Hospitality who has apartments, towns and homes throughout London and honestly they were the BEST. Based in the Holborn area we were close to most city central landmarks within either a walk or short tube ride away.  The apartment was set up with everything we needed for Maxwell; crib, highchair, toys etc. It was brilliant and helped her settle in nicely. Our kitchen was stocked with all the basic essentials so we didn’t have to pop out to do groceries right away. We had what we needed for breakfast, snacks and such. Bonus, close to tons of cafe’s, grocery store, restaurants, and both Chancery Lane & Holborn tube stations.

WHAT WE SAW

Now that I look back at some of the photos for this post, we surprisingly got quite a bit accomplished. Mum got to at least hit up a couple places she’s been dying to go to. In between taking care of her, I somehow managed to venture out with Maxie solo while mum rested and we had our own mama/daughter adventures.

  • South Bank. With so many attractions in a close radius, the South Bank is the perfection location to check out when you’re in London. Once you are in the area. Everything is easy and accessible by foot but definitely more enjoyable when it’s not pissing down with rain. It’s London’s cultural district located right on the River Thames. There you will find the The Sea Life London Aquarium, The London Eye, restaurants and national centres for the arts, film and performance. You can take a boat cruise down the Thames, always a fave when I am in the city, and it’s also within a 10 minute or less walk from Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.

  • Big Ben. It’s actually the nickname for the Great Bell inside the clock in the north side of Westminster. Probably one of the most popular and historic London landmarks. It was our very first stop once we arrived and I was so bummed when we got there to find it was completely under scaffolding due it’s extensive refurbishment that will leave it out of commission for a few years. I wasn’t leaving without a photo though of me and my girl. I have one just like this with my mom when I was a little girl. The handsome Ben will be back in full effect in 2021 if you plan on any future travel to the UK.

  • Regent Street. You want shopping? Well London has no shortage of it but Regent Street has something for everyone, including my new favourite department store EVER…Liberty London. The building’s facades are all by famed architect John Nash and are some of the most distinguished architecture in the city. Every international brand has their London flagship here and if you tuck in just behind and around the top end, you will find the infamous Carnaby Street.

  • Carnaby Street. Ok, I am still talking about shopping but it’s impossible not to. This was such a treat to witness actually because it’s a spot where my mom spent a lot of time as a teen and it was the first time I’ve even seen it in person. Carnaby Street is soooo unique. The area is infamous because of the 60s era but it has reinvented itself over the decades and boom…today you’ll find nearly 100 shops and 60 restos nestled in this pedestrian street path in London’s West End found between Regent Street and Oxford Street. I popped in on a busy Saturday to find out it was Carnaby Street Eat food festival which I am sure was home of the longest picnic table ever. Of course I had to sample a few things – the burgers were delicious by the way and happily washed them down with Camden Pale Ale, even though I had just finished brunch at Arthurs’s inside Liberty London.
    Carnaby Street Eat Festival
  • Liberty London. No idea how I’ve never been here before but I first went in just for brunch and then got lost on floor after floor of contemporary womenswear and the most beautiful flower arrangements curated and sold by their in-house florist team. Upstairs after burning calories eating, I highly recommend you refuel with a quick bite at Arthur’s Restaurant. Named after the owner of Liberty London – Arthur Lazenby Liberty. It is basically interior goals and I was pleasantly surprised to not find the place on a Saturday flooded with influencers and instagrammers because the decor filled with wood, velvet, mosaic tiles and tons of millennial pink is what the gram literally lives for these days. Maxie thoroughly enjoyed being nestled up beside me in one of the velvet booths chowing down on her Mac & Cheese here.
  • Notting Hill & Portobello Market. This place gets the award for the cutest neighbourhoods in London. I think everyone has seen the movie Notting Hill and knows the quaint little area for their adorable, colourful row houses and home to Portobello Market; a tourist haven full of street vendors, performers, boutiques and cafes.

Aeroplan - So Sasha

  • Buckingham Palace. You only really need to see this landmark once and I’ve seen it several times over the years. The residence of the Queen and administrative office, it is a tourist trap for sure and impossible to get a decent picture in front of the palace’s epic gates but I couldn’t resist attempting one of my two favourite girls.

#withAeroplan - So Sasha

  • Covent Garden. Once a fruit and vegetable market in the early 1950s, Covent Garden is the spot to check out in the west end of London if you love food and theatre. We were lucky to be within walking distance to it and I would have loved to go back one ore time before heading back to Toronto. It may be modernized with all the current high end retailers, fancy restaurants and bars but this historic destination has preserved it’s cobbled Piazza and arches of the Market Building. It’s the home of street performance and somehow I got pulled into the mid afternoon performance in front of a crowd of at least 100 before heading off to one of the area’s most  famous restaurants’, The Ivy, to see and be seen.

Where We Dined

Lucky for me, Max is eating a lot of the foods I eat, and actually has quite a worldly palette, and also eats puree pouches that allowed me to eat just about anywhere I wanted to. Mornings we usually ate in or grabbed something quick on the go from Pret-A-Manger. They are literally on every single corner almost I swear and it allowed us to get moving and out the door quickly. I prefer to save my money for nice lunches, dinners and high teas rather than brekkies. Here’s some of our fave spots to nosh, see and be seen:

  • The Savoy. Well there are numerous places in London to have high tea. The Ritz is probably the most famous in the city but I’ve done it a few times already. I wanted to try something different and I wasn’t disappointed by my new choice. The entrance and lobby of the hotel property just feels so historic and of another era. The dining room is exquisite and the tea menu is great. Maxwell was obsessed with the live pianist plus the service was incredible. They even sent us home with a gift bag of the same loose leaf tea we ordered during our service, which was a nice touch.

  • Rosewood London. This gem of a luxury hotel is on High Holborn street so just a stone’s throw away from our flat and turns out that they have some pretty stellar dining there. I ate not once, but twice inside their Holborn Dining Room. The menu is quite heavy on seafood but they do have some stellar meat options like Cornish Rare Breed Sirloin and a 35 Day Aged Rib Eye but after having their popular Shrimp burger, there was no way I was deviating from it on my next visit. Not quite like I expected but better than I imagined, it was minced shrimp ground and formed into a patty, grilled and served in the most perfect egg bun topped with jalapeño tartare, which chips (fries) on the side. To drink, several rounds of their Green Elixir, which is NOT to be mistaken for a healthy cold pressed juice but rather the most delicious Gin cocktail I think I’ve ever had made with Beefeater, Green Chartreuse, lemon juice, elderflower cordial, cucumber and basil foam. Honestly, it is hard to describe in words but the taste I will never forget.

  • The Coral Room. Inspired by the 1920s, this classy additional to Central London’s libation scene is a MUST for those who want to be transported to another time via design decor and cocktails. Behind the bar you won’t find bartenders, but rather mixologists who take their craft very seriously. They take their time prepping their cocktails, really enjoy taking the time out to explain the process, and even surprised me with a couple fave mixes not found on the menu. The Coral Room is nestled inside The Bloomsbury, which is also home one of the city’s most beautiful indoor terraces that is lined with endless flower walls – Dalloway Terrace, that is open for all day dining and a hidden underground bar that is only open to the hotel guests and stays open late into the night. Somehow, my cousin and I managed to get in there after way too many drinks in the Coral Room,

  • Madison Terrace Bar & Lounge. I am a sucker for a rooftop terrace and usually try to find the best one when I’m visiting a city. If you Google “Best Rooftops in London” a fair amount will show up actually. The summer in London is extremely busy and just about anything worth going to requires a reservation made well in advance so I was lucky enough to get up to the Madison rooftop terrace. The only downfall, I had Maxie in her stroller as my plus 1 and children are not permitted in their bar and lounge, even outside. They were kind enough to let me up to see the epic view of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which means I will just have to return for drinks on my next trip to London.

  • The Dorchester. This was my first time here and it was not apart of my original itinerary but glad Maxie and I got to experience an evening rendezvous at the property’s infamous bar. We went early, other guests were still finishing up the last tea service seating around 6pm, so we headed to the back where we sat by the piano to take in the live music. We shared small bites and I sipped on Negroni’s served in bespoke glassware created specifically for the hotel. The musicians were so kind as to play a few nursery rhymes for Max on the saxophone and piano and then entertained me with some 90’s R&B that took all the diners by surprise. Although notorious for celeb sightings, we unfortunately didn’t see any but I am sure the walls hold many secrets.

  • Arthurs. This spot is not to be missed if you’re in the Regent or Oxford Street you have to pop in here for a bite. The decor alone is worth the stop in and it’s not exactly a terrible thing that it’s located on the second floor of one of London’s top shopping locations, Liberty London. Also known for their cocktails (are you seeing a trend here?) and inviting bar, Arthur’s serves contemporary British cuisine that I promise you, they have dining down to a fine art. They are open for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, early dinner and serve drinks all day long. I loved the Salmon Poke there, Maxie devoured her Mac & Cheese from the kiddie menu while mum was really into the smoke haddock fishcakes.

Now that we’ve settled back home, I am already getting the itch to begin planning our next adventure. Winter is literally around the corner and I can’t help but think about a warm weather getaway next. I always like to say that the fall season is the perfect time to start thinking about travel goals for the new year and whatever your travel plans are, Aeroplan can help you get there. If you’re already a member you’ll already know this but accumulating miles may be easier than you think. If you think outside the box like we have, you can literally earn miles on hotel stayscar rentals, retail purchases, insurancebanking (credit cards), even online when you shop your favourite retailers like Sephora, Apple, Indigo, Hudson’s Bay, and so much more on the eStore getting you closer to that next trip faster. Not an Aeroplan member yet? Well, there’s really no better time than the present as they say and there’s some very exciting updates coming soon that I can’t wait to share with you guys. But until then, registering is easy and you can begin earning miles right away. For more information head to www.aeroplan.com.

This post is sponsored by Aeroplan however all views and opinions are my own.

Our First Family Vacation to Barcelona

Some of my favourite memories as a child are from my travels with my family. My mother had us on a plane traveling all over the world before the age of one. By the time I was 10, I had more stamps in my passport than someone three times my age. Being exposed to different cultures, food and language helped to make me the rounded individual I am today. I knew very early on, if I was lucky enough to have a child, I would do the same thing for them.

I’ve been an Aeroplan member since 2003. For years I had only been accumulating miles through booked airline travel and gas purchase. What a rookie mistake! When I was pregnant with Maxie I discovered there are endless opportunities to earn more miles to help get me one step closer to my goal – taking my family on our first vacation abroad.  If you were following my pregnancy earlier on this year, you may remember my nursery tour which was brought to life by purchases from Aeroplan’s retail partners on their eStore.  An online hub where you an shop from so many of your favourite retailers and earn miles on all your purchases. Believe it or not, I actually earned miles on all the big purchases and decor items for Maxie’s room. As an added bonus, we racked up extra miles over the last two years on groceries, date night dinners and just about everything in between using Réjean’s TD Aeroplan Visa Card.

The Destination – Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Choosing a destination for our first family trip was no easy feat. With wanderlust permeating through my veins ever since I had to stop traveling after 34 weeks pregnant, I was overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of destinations we had to choose from. A wise person once told me, “A vacation with a baby is not a vacation. It’s a change of scenery!” Hearing that deterred me from a beach vacay this time around, knowing that I wouldn’t able to spend countless hours on the beach in a half induced piña colada coma. I decided that this would be a great opportunity to visit a city in Europe neither one of us had traveled to before. While most new parents think about a potential language barrier, time changes and travel time being an issue; we made that the least of our worries. We only wanted to make sure our destination had a great ‘walk-score’ because we wanted to explore the area mostly by foot. After much deliberation, we finally decided on Barcelona, Spain. It’s a baby friendly European city known for their food, art, historical sites and shopping. The winter time, although mild, is considered low season for this tourist friendly city, so traveling during December meant we were able to avoid crowds and line-ups while sightseeing.

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Barcelona with Aeroplan

La Pedrera Cafe

How We Traveled – Life As A New Family of Three

Traveling with a newborn for the first time is one of the most nerve wracking things I’ve ever experienced. I was stressed throughout the entire planning process but my anxiety reached a whole new level about a week from our departure. Questions like; “Will I be that person who has a baby that screams and cries during the flight?”. “Should we bring a car seat along?“. “Is our stroller going to be suitable for travel?“. “What about her diapers? Should we bring them along or purchase when we arrive?”. “Can we travel with pre-pumped breastmilk?” “Will the restaurants we want to go to be child and stroller friendly?”. I am telling you, the list of questions were endless and at one point I got so overwhelmed, I wanted to cry and cancel the whole thing. Thankfully, my circle of savvy traveling friends with kids got me to settle down and ensured me that everything would be alright. Our game plan was to travel as lean as possible. Pack only the essentials and anything else we felt we absolutely needed, we would just get it while we were there. I’m thinking about doing a separate post where I share what worked and didn’t in regards to traveling with Maxie, in hopes to give other new mums the confidence to board a plane early with their littles.

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Barcelona With Aeroplan

Barcelona with Aeroplan
Barcelona Cathedral – Gothic Quarter

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Barcelona with Aeroplan
Casa Batillo – designed by Antoni Gaudi at night

Cable car ride up to Parc Montujïc

Olympic Stadium – 1992 Games
Park Montjuic Magic Fountain
Park Montjuïc Magic Fountain
La Boquiera Market of La Rambla. Home to tons of food stalls with fresh seafood, meat, fruit, veggies, spices and candies all made locally

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Our Barça Accommodations in Dreta D’Eixample

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Without a doubt, we knew that the only way this trip was going to happen was if we stayed in an AirB&B. Having an apartment that gave us access to some of the things we have at home; laundry, kitchen etc just made me feel more comfortable. We were even able to query for properties that are “baby/child friendly”, and those properties were willing to provide a crib upon request. Plus, Euro hotel rooms are notoriously small and claustrophobic, so the AirB&B option gave us the space we needed. The challenging part was determine which area of the city to stay in. If we were traveling sans baby, I would have wanted to stay in the Gothic Quarter or El Borne but the amount of noise and foot traffic late at night was a slight concern. Consequently, we chose to stay in the Dreta d’Eixample (Right Extension) area, which was recommended by my dear friend Diala. The neighbourhood is home to Barcelona’s high end shopping streets, wide open plaza and footpaths, tons of Gaudi’s work and popular areas like Passieg de Gràcia, Casa Mila and Casa Calvet. We couldn’t have chosen a better hood to call home for the week. Personally, I would recommend the area to anyone and actually have to a couple friends and followers looking to travel there in the new year. Clean, trendy, easy access to taxis/public transportation plus close to amazing restaurants, galleries and some of the best shopping Barcelona has to offer – all within walking distance may I add. Here’s a sneak peek inside our humble abode on a quiet side street called Carrer de Diptacio in Dreta d’Eixample:

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Barcelona with Aeroplan

What To See & Do in Barcelona With a Baby (or Without)

I truly thought eight days in Barça would be more than enough, leaving us with a couple days off just to rest but turns out, we actually ran out of time and didn’t get to cross everything off our list. When I put a request out for Barcelona recommendations on my IG stories before we left, we received an outpour of messages of every nook and cranny we should explore. After day one we quickly realized that having Maxwell along with us was not going to cramp our style at all. There are babies EVERYWHERE in Barça. I’m pretty sure 1 in 3 adult pedestrians were pushing a stroller. And that’s not all. In North America, we have a tendency to say our lives revolve around our kids schedule but in Europe it is the other way around. They believe their lifestyle should not have to change just because you have children. So it is very typical to see parents with young babies dining at restaurants past 10pm, shopping on Passieg de Gràcia late on a weekday evening and hitting up art galleries and museums. We decided to follow suit and take Maxwell to the Gothic Quarter, La Rambla, Parc Montjucïc, countless museums, galleries, rests etc and she did a lot of her napping on the go. This easy going lifestyle meant that almost everywhere was stroller accessible and baby friendly, so we never felt like we were missing out on anything while we were there. However, there are a lot of stairs in this city for some reason at a couple of historic sites so if you’re traveling with a baby, you may want to think about bringing a baby carrier.

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Flax and Kale Barcelona

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Flax & Kale – seriously look at all the colours in their food

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Barcelona with Aeroplan
Gothic Quarter – 8:30am

Barcelona with Aeroplan

Barcelona with Aeroplan
Photos shot by myself and Olya Lisova

Must See

  • Gothic Quarter – You cannot go to Barça and miss this historic area so full of character. The narrow streets, the Barcelona Cathedral, tiny shops, cafes and museums, it is one of the most popular spots in the city. That being said, if you are looking to take photos, you better make sure you have an early start before the tourists all come flocking in around 9/10am.
  • Arc de Triomf
  • La Boquiera Market – I was obsessed with this marche and went three times during our visit. Arguably the best market in the world with rows upon rows of controlled stalls selling everything from the tastiest meats, seafood, chocolates, candies, seasonings, fruit, veggies, fresh juices and the infamous jamón in a cone – all locally made.
  • Christopher Columbus Monument
  • La Ramblas – a 1.2km pedestrian street lined with restaurants, cafes and shops starting at Plaça de Catalunya and ending at Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell.
  • The Sagrada Familia – The largest Roman Catholic Church in the world designed by famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. If you decide go, make sure to book your tickets advance and show up on time as they are strict. Also, the rooftop views are spectacular and worth the extra $.
  • Parc Güell – an expansive park composed of gardens and architectural elements created and designed by Antoni Gaudi. Built between 1900 and 1914, the park was officially open to the public 26 years later. In 1984, it was declared a World Heritage Site under “Works of Antoni Gaudi”.
  • Picasso Museum 
  • Parc Montjuïc – home to the 1992 Olympic Games in addition to museums, art galleries, Poble Espanyol (artisans’ village), and The ‘Magic Fountain’ that famously has a spectacular light show at night. You can get to Montjuïc by taxi, foot if your fit and adventurous, which Maxie and I attempted during a cab strike. Not easy as the hills are quite steep or by the cable car, our mode of transport on our second attempt to the top.
  • Passeig de Gràcia – One of the major avenues and known for the best shopping in Barcelona. Also, has some of Barcelona’s most celebrated pieces of architecture; such as Casa Baillo and Casa Milá (La Pedrera).

Where to Eat & Drink

  • 7 Portes – arguably has the best paella in the city. Cool trivia, this spot opened back in 1836 and got its name from the seven doors that leads into the restaurant. Pablo Picasso also used to eat here in his day.
  • Firebug  – Just on the outskirts of Eixample, we stumbled on this spot on our very last night and was not disappointed. A small space that serves large size tapas and sharing plates that are so delicious not matter how full you are, you will be hard pressed to order more. Plus the drinks are amazing, even the virgin cocktails.
  • Flax & Kale – perfect for lunch and brunch. The superfood bowl and cold pressed juices I would recommend but pancakes and pasta dishes are also fantastic.
  • Bar del Pla
  • Gallito
  • The Green Spot
  • El National – Ok, so this may be somewhat of a tourist spot and located just off Passieg de Gràcia but the set-up is pretty cool and something you should experience once. It appears to look like a flea market from the outside but once you’re through the doors you step inside a large gallery space that contains 4 bars and 4 restaurants comprising a very unique gastronomical Barcelona experience.
  • The W Hotel – Even if you’re not staying at this hotel during your time in the city, you MUST eat and drink in one of their restaurants. The property is located on the beach and the views are phenomenal.
  • Granja Petitbo
  • Bar Cañete
  • EL Passatge del Mur Muri – One of the best squid paella’s I’ve ever had in my life. The restaurant doesn’t open until after 8pm for dinner but the hotel also has a cozy lobby bar with great drinks and you can also order the full dinner menu from there if 8pm is too late for your dinner start time.

With the new year just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about what destination you would like to check off your bucket list next. Whatever your travel plans are, with Aeroplan you can get there. Pro Tip #1: Think outside the box when it comes to earning your miles. As an Aeroplan member you can accumulate miles on hotel stays, car rentals, retail purchases, insurance, banking (credit cards), even online when you shop your favourite retailers like Sephora, Apple, Indigo, Hudson’s Bay, and so much more on the eStore. Need help devising a plan on how to make your travel dreams a reality? Tell Aeroplan what your plan is for your miles. Pro Tip #2:  Tell Aeroplan what your plan is for your miles and they will help you get there. All you have to do is enter a few details pertaining to your goals here and you will be provided with a detailed plan.

I couldn’t think of a more better way to close out such a big year for us than this trip to Spain. I am so proud that we are exposing Maxwell to travel at such an early age and I do hope that she adopts our love of seeing the world. Thank you Aeroplan for being apart of this very special moment. I am already planning our next #TravelWithMaxie adventure. In the meantime, stay tuned for a forthcoming post with tips on how to travel stress free with your baby!

This post is sponsored by Aeroplan however all views and opinions are my own.

Yves Rocher Botanical Skincare Journey to France

May was a very busy but special month. After celebrating my last childless birthday on the 5th, I jetted across the pond to France for a week to get immersed in the world of Yves Rocher, a brand I have fallen quite fond of over the last year or so. I have been a long time fan of French skincare because seriously they seem to know a thing or two about good quality but I guess you can say my level of interest in this particular brand was extra high the moment I realized the amazing botanical science behind their products.

Sasha Exeter - Rimowa
Paris bound to Yves Rocher Headquarters. Luggage c/o Rimowa Toronto

The key Yves Rocher skincare necessities waiting for me at Hotel Adele & Jules to help my dehydrated skin bounce back after the long flight

My journey with Yves Rocher began quite differently than a lot of other brand experiences I have had to date and I mean that in the most refreshing way. Sure, our initial meeting last summer consisted of some brand education and why I would be a good fit as a partner, however there was absolutely no hard sell. I was simply encouraged to take my time getting to know their products, specifically their best sellers, over the course of a few months and that “We would go from there…”  Well to me, this meant one thing – Yves Rocher was so confident in their brand, that they knew I would be on board once they gave me the chance to get properly acquainted with their products. And they were 100% right! Offering extensive product lines across all skincare and beauty categories, I took my time initialling honing in on facial and body care and the results have been amazing because I am experiencing my best skin yet. But this you may have already known if you read my post on my Yves Rocher Botanical Skincare Routine in April.

A LITTLE HISTORY ABOUT YVES ROCHER

So there are several things that makes Yves Rocher very different than its competitors, which has made them immensely successful in France and throughout Europe since their launch 50 years ago. A pioneer in natural skincare and beauty, Mr. Yves Rocher founded the company with the belief that nature will be their guide in producing its products, which are made from plants and approximately 250 natural ingredients locally harvested. To this day, it has been the key to their success.

To have discovered the properties of plants is not our greatest achievement but to have made them available to all women is our greatest pride. As the only brand in the beauty industry to have chosen to control all the aspects of our activity, we are able to reduce our impact on the environment at every stage in the life cycle of our products”   – Yves Rocher

If you can imagine back in 1967, the idea of a man launching a skincare and beauty brand without the use of any chemicals, targeted to women and marketed using his name, sounded ludicrous and nobody believed it would work. However, Rocher did not let this stop him. In fact, it motivated him and pushed him and pushed him to get the wheels in motion.

The only way to ensure Yves Rocher’s vision was executed properly meant that from the very beginning he insisted on controlling every step of the production cycle to guarantee safety and quality, providing his clients with products free of chemicals, colorants, and parabens.

EXPERIENCING THE BRAND LIVE IN PARIS

My press trip to France began with a tour of the Yves Rocher Headquarters in Paris to see how the products are made in their state-of-the-art laboratories and to get a deep dive in the company’s rich and rooted history.

Yves Rocher France

Housed in one of the most modern buildings I saw in a city so full of rich and old architecture, there were several labs dispersed on one large floor responsible for each of the brand’s categories; skincare, cosmetics, body care, hair care, bath & shower and fragrances. It was refreshing to see it is run predominantly by young women. Somewhere within the building’s labyrinth was a small room dedicated the the brand’s olfactory family and fragrances. Bottles upon bottles of fragrance notes meticulously displayed in beautiful glass bottles and sleek refrigerators that housed samples of each scent the brand has made categorized per year. While learning about Yves Rocher’s past and present was vital, I was very intrigued to learn more about the direction of the where the brand is heading. As the originator of botanical beauty, how do they stay ahead of the curve in an industry where so many brands are vying for a piece of the “natural and organic beauty” pie, so to speak?

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher
Yves Rocher France Headquarters Olfactory (Fragrances) Room
Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher
Christine Dalfault-Sara, Yves Rocher Communications Director (Directrice Communication)

I chatted extensively with Christine Delfaut, the brand’s Communications Director, to learn more about the brand’s exciting upcoming product releases for the rest of 2017/2018. While most of the innovations that were shared are still under embargo so I can’t share (sorry guys!) however Christine did allow me to take home their newly formulated, long lasting, ultra matte red lipstick to test out which won’t be coming out until much later in 2017. Having had issues finding the perfect “red” for years, I can say my hunt is now officially over. Without any of the harsh chemicals that usually dry out my lips, this deep red at first goes on with a slight satin finish but after a few seconds it becomes definitively matte and lasts all day.

Yves Rocher France

They have also just launched a range of concentrated shower gels that lasts for 40 showers (shown above front and center) in Mango & Coriander, Olive Petitgrain, and Bourbon Vanilla which is my personal fave. With 4x’s the amount of product, 50% less plastic and greenhouse gases than in their 400ml bottles these heavenly smelling shower gels cost only $8 – not to mention, no parabens or preservatives and with 97% of the ingredients having a natural origin. With every bottle purchased, the Yves Rocher Foundation plants one tree in the community. Just in time for summer, a newly formulated Solaire Peau Parfaite sunscreen without harmful chemicals, The Chic & Bohemian Collection with a cornflower based body wash, eau de toilette and perfumed hair mist that smells heavenly and more.

LOW COST, HIGH QUALITY: HOW DO THEY DO IT?

English (CAN) quality products usually come with a hefty price tag. Sure, at a certain price point you can expect to see brands use aesthetically beautiful packaging, usually employing the help of actresses and celebrity spokespeople to sell their products which can be found perfectly curated in department store kiosks and shop-in-shops. All these bells and whistles that go into the marketing of competitors products come with a high cost, which is ultimately absorbed by the end consumer – YOU!

Yves Rocher’s competitively priced product ranges are only possible because their products aren’t sold in luxury and contemporary department stores but rather in their own stand-alone retail shops and of course online, allowing them to offer prices significantly lower than other brands. However this could be the reason why the brand awareness isn’t as high in North America as it is in Europe. I am fascinated by this idea, so a visit to Yves Rocher’s concept store on Boulevard Haussmann was a no brainer.

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher

CONCEPT STORE VISIT

Nestled in what appeared to be a bustling and busy district, is a three-storey temple of beauty, where you can receive skin diagnosis at the ground level Botanical Beauty Bar, shop the brand’s extensive beauty line and range of honey, jams and sweet treats, indulge in cold pressed juices developed exclusively for Yves Rocher in their in-house juice bar, or receive personalized face and body treatments in one of the seven private cabins within the Beauty Spa.

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher

One of the private cabin’s inside the Yves Rocher concept store’s Beauty Spa

Being inside the Boul Haussmann location made me immediately calm and gave me a sense that I was amongst nature thanks to the green and ecological decor botanical concept walls created by Botanist and inventor Patrick Blanc. I promise you, the photos don’t do it any justice, its beauty is much more spectacular in person. I took my time going through the multi-floor flagship, with extra time spent checking out the products not yet available in Canada and cruising the beautifully merchandised fragrance section on the second floor where I was taken on an olfactory journey through the important notes that make up the company’s best selling fragrances – mine currently being the sensual and refined freshness of their  Neroli Eau de Parfum.  

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher

Yves Rocher Olfactory Wall of Fame. The brand works with some of the best in today’s fragrance industry to help create their signature scents

VISIT TO LA GACILLY

But my trip wouldn’t be complete without taking a trip to La Gacilly, in France’s Bretagne (pronounced Brittany for us Anglo folks) region which is happens to be the birth place of both Mr. Yves Rocher and his namesake heritage brand. A beautiful and quaint village just a three hour train ride from the Paris city centre made up of cobblestone streets, small stone houses, local boutiques and La Grée des Landes, the Yves Rocher Eco-Hotel Spa and Hotel that you may remember seeing on my Instagram and IG stories.

Centrally located in the town, is the childhood home of Rocher, fondly referred to as No. 2 Rue St.-Vincent, where in his early twenties, he turned the home’s attic into a make-shift manufacturing facility for their very first plant based product. A visionary of sorts and a man with thinking far beyond his years, Yves Rocher was the first to introduce the “mail-to-order” concept as a way to sell his products to customers all over France.

Monsieur Yves Rocher’s childhood home where the brand first launched

Below are some shots we captured from inside Rocher’s first home where he used the attic to produce his first product and also acted as the office where he fulfilled his mail-orders from customers…

As he watched the company grow exponentially, he began to conjure up the idea for La Grée des Landes, a truly Eco-friendly establishment built without causing any harm to the environment that feeds guests using only locally sourced products and ingredients from their land. Essentially creating a gastronomy experience of multi-course meals prepared by Gilles Le Gallès, Chef at the hotel’s restaurant, that would legit blow your mind. There was no doubting the freshness and quality of our meals. As we enjoyed breakfast in the mornings, we often saw the kitchen staff in the garden pulling out herbs and vegetables that were going to be used in the preparation of our lunch and dinner later that day. Not once did we look at a menu. Chef prearranged each meal based on what is in season and would make a good compliment to the ingredients grown on the grounds of the property.

Chef Gilles Le Gallès at La Grée des Landes

While many hotel properties believe integrating the word “spa” into their property name means they understand the concept of wellness, most really don’t have the faintest clue as to what that actually entails. Whereas this little slice of heaven, which made sure to include all four elements of nature to ensure a harmonious balance on their grounds, anticipates guests needs before they can even think of it and offers activities and services to help you find your optimal mental and physical wellness with yoga/meditation classes, hiking, underwater workouts (AQUATraining & AQUACycling) plus restorative and relaxation services offered in the hotel’s spa.

I have always used a variety of products from different brands on my skin and to be honest, I will probably continue doing so but Yves Rocher products currently make up the majority of my skincare regimen right now. Taking care of my skin has become a huge priority in my thirties and I’ve seen some dramatic improvements since I have started using Yves Rocher products. I fell in love with the new “Pure Calmille” line while in France and was lucky enough to bring it back home with me prior to its launch in Canada (available here in September 2017!).  After pre-cleaning with wipes, I have been using the Pure Calmille Cleansing Gel mixed with the Scrub to Mix Gommage exfoliant, the Pure Calmille 2 in 1 Cleanser & Toner and the Pure Calmille Moisturizing Cream. For body care, I have become OBSESSED with the Monoï de Tahiti products that literally smell like tropical paradise in a bottle – using the Lagoon Body Wash, Dry Body Oil and finishing off with the Eau des Vahinés Eau de Toilette.

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher Canada

Overall my trip to France has a success! I got a chance to really get to know the brand and even got to indulge in spa treatments using Yves Rocher professional products. The best part is that all the products I was introduced to are safe during pregnancy. With affordable price points and products for all different ages and skin types, Yves Rocher has successfully made their brand accessible to everyone.

To shop or learn more, visit YvesRocher.com

Casual Chic in Breton Stripes

Breton stripes somehow always reminded me of French fashion, so when I found this chic little Hatch Collection dress, I immediately snatched it up for my recent trip to France. To be honest, I hadn’t realized exactly why I associated stripes with the capital of fashion but during my visit I learned that the Breton stripe originated in Bretagne (pronounced Brittany in English), a region in the North West coast of France. I just so happened to spend a couple days in one of it’s small towns, La Gacilly, with Yves Rocher. The original knitted Breton shirt with blue and white stripes was made for the French army and the stripe pattern is so closely linked to Bretagne, that their flag even contains the Breton stripe pattern.

Sasha Exeter - Hatch Collection

Photos shot by JessBaumung.com

WEARING: Jacket (similar here) |  Dress |  Boots (similar here) |  Sunnies |  Bag | Hat (vintage)

While non-maternity fashion has dominated majority of my looks during my pregnancy, I have stumbled across some brands with pieces so great, that I couldn’t resist getting – and truthfully, if I didn’t tell you they were maternity, you would have no clue at all. If you’re expecting you NEED to check out Hatch Collection for their cult fave dresses, jumpsuits, tops, denim and swimwear. I picked up this Hatch 3/4 Dress from Ani & Wren here in Toronto.

SHOP MY LOOK


 

Chic + Easy Travel Style | Paris Edition

Packing for my trip to Paris this time around was not an easy feat being six months pregnant. I had no doubt in my mind that I would have to leave ample room in my suitcase to bring things back home with me. This meant three things; pack smart, pack light and choose pieces that could easily mix and match to create multiple outfits. If you have seen at any point in the last few months, chances are I’ve been wearing this black jumpsuit because it’s so damn comfortable and miraculously has worked through all stages of my pregnancy so far. Réjean on the other hand, is not so fond of this romper (probably because of the drop crotch and close resemblance to a child’s playsuit) and I wouldn’t be surprised if wearing it one more time would totally push him over the edge from my repeated overuse. But you know what, as ‘Man Repelling’ as jumpsuits may be for some men, I put a high value on being comfortably stylish.

Sasha Exeter - Pregnancy Style

Sasha Exeter - Pregnancy Style

Sasha Exeter - Pregnancy Style

Sasha Exeter - Pregnancy Style

Sasha Exeter - Pregnancy Style

But seeing as though I’m in  Paris and Réjean safely 6000+ miles away home in Toronto, I’ve worn this Zara piece happily as three completely different outfits; on it’s own sans jacket for lunch and sight seeing, with an oversized distressed denim jacket and paired with a white sequin bomber and hat. Each working well with either a simple black heel or Adidas Stan Smith – which seems to be the official sneaker of Paris. Truthfully, I would have worn these three looks exactly the same whether I was pregnant or not, meaning expecting or not, these outfits for work for anyone. And the best part, I didn’t pay a dime over $20 for it.

Sasha Exeter Pregnancy Style

Sasha Exeter - Pregnancy Style
Shot on location in Paris by JesBaumung.com

What I’m Wearing: Black Drop Crotch Jumpsuit from Zara (no longer in stock) // Oversized Denim Jacket from Zara // White Sequin Bomber Jacket c/o H&M (old) // Black Pumps c/o Express // Adidas Stan Smith c/o Adidas Canada // GG Marmont Mini Chain Bag from Gucci // Hat (vintage)

My Zara jumpsuit may no longer be available (sorry!) so here’s a few other jumpsuit options that I’m also loving:

Travel Tips for Wanderlusters

If you’ve spent any time exploring foreign destinations, you know that traveling is the only thing that you can buy that makes you richer. But as exciting and adventurous travel can be, it can be unpredictable at times. The interesting thing about traveling, no matter how frequently you do it, there are always elements you can’t control; flight delays and overbooked flights, shitty weather, exchange rate spikes, lost (expensive) luggage, foreign viruses, hotels misplacing your reservation – the list can just go on and on. But for those who have wanderlust in their veins, the potential risks are all worth it. There are a few things we can control though! I am prepping for my next adventure to Paris and thought I would share some of my most useful travel hacks with helpful tips from some of my favourite savvy travellers.

How to Avoid Jet Lag At Any Cost 101

  • Adjust your sleep before your departure. It’s natural to find it difficult to get on a different time zone when we travel, but shifting our bedtime a couple days in advance so it’s in line with your destination’s time zone works wonders – trust me. If falling asleep is a occasionally challenge even without throwing travel and time changes into the mix, then ZzzQuil may be your answer. Although ZzzQuil is created by the makers of Vicks NyQuil, it’s not for colds. It’s not for pain. It simply just for sleep. It contains diphenhydramine, a small compound used to relive occasional sleeplessness. When you can donate a full night to sleep and use as directed, it reduces the time it takes for you to fall asleep. It helps me get the rest I need while traveling so I can wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day in a new city. Savvy Traveler Tip: Pack ZzzQuil in your carry-on with your other emergency travel kit items as a precautionary measure, in the event your luggage gets lost or misplaced.

  • Avoid or limit alcohol in flight. As tempting as cocktails at take off may seem, especially when settling in for a long trip, altitude changes and dry cabin air dehydrates passengers and can increase the effects of alcohol. So friends, rule of thumb is; one drink in the air is equivalent to two or three on the ground. So as relaxing as a few glasses of vino may seem at 35,000 ft, the chance of worsening jet lag symptoms when you arrive is not worth it.
  • Opt for overnight flights. Red eye flights usually get a bad rap but, they can actually be a savvy travellers best kept secret to avoiding jet lag when crossing multiple time zones. You’ll have dinner at a normal time and be much more likely to get some sleep than on an afternoon flight, allowing you to stick to your normal schedule as much as possible.

     Book Like Like A Boss

  • Fly on a Boeing 767. Just because you may not be able to travel in first class, doesn’t mean you can’t still be comfortable in economy. If you happen to be choosing between similar priced flights and one happens to be on a Boeing 767, do yourself a favour and choose that one. Why? This particular aircraft has less of what I refer to as “Miserable Middle” seats than other planes. If a Boeing 767 isn’t an option, you can always check out SeatGuru.com, a site created by TripAdvisor. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. You can get a layout of the plane and determine which seat will be best for you. It’s so damn detailed, it even has information on seats susceptible to heat/cold, seats with lots of bathroom traffic – the worst, and info on equipment boxes under seats.
  • Choose the window and aisle seats when traveling in a pair. Whenever I’m traveling with someone else, I always select the window and aisle seats for us. Sounds a bit weird I know, but when people go online to choose their seat, they are less likely to choose an empty middle seat if there are empty aisle and window options. Meaning, theres a good chance you’ll get the entire row to you and your friend – amazing! Worst case scenario, it it’s a full flight and someone ends up nabbing the seat between you two, you can just ask to swap with them.
  • Go stealth with your browsing mode. When you first start your flight search, try using “private/incognito” browsing mode so airlines cannot track your website visits, a common and well calculated play often used by TV Host and Lifestyle Blogger, Melissa Offner of Melsays.comwho has spent the better part of her life exploring and surfing the world and over the last year has traveled coast to coast across the United States and Canada in a van with her hubby:
Melissa Offner of Melsays.com in on the road in California

“I like to open a private window when booking flights so airlines can’t raise the fares on me if I visit their site multiple times. I also use a variety of aggregator websites to shop prices and always look out for special deals before making my final purchase.”

  • Booking round-trip flights is so 2016. Booking round-trip travel seems more cost effective and is definitely easier but sometimes flying with two different carriers and booking two one-way tickets can be a lot cheaper than booking that desirable round-trip. And if significant cost savings isn’t enough for you to put in the extra work, it may also get you better departure and arrival times because you mixed and matched flights.
  • Fake where you are when you book. Your P.O.S. or “Point-of-Sale” is where your ticket is purchased and can 100% affect pricing due to what is known as regional prices. So this means, the price of a plane ticket can be much lower in a country with a lower standard of living or also when travel companies are attempting to break into a new market destination.  For example, you will find different fares on Expedia.ca than you will on Expedia.co.jp, the Japanese version, or on an international carrier’s website by changing to the airline’s home country. But please, proceed with caution and remember you will be seeing prices in local currency – not yours, so make sure you convert before booking.
  • Avoid US airlines, if possible. For those of you who have traveled extensively internationally, you have learned that foreign carriers almost always have better amenities than U.S. ones, and yes, even if you’re traveling in “Cattle Class” – providing hotel towels, blankets, pillows and even food without having to pull out your credit card.

Travel Hacks While in Transit

  • Get into the airport lounge, even if you’re flying economy. Killing hours of time before your flight boards or during long lay-overs or cancelled flights is the worst. Actually, scratch that, passing this time by and spending an exorbitant amount of money on airport food is the worst. Having premium airport lounge access is a definite game changer, will redefine the way you travel moving forward and guess what? You don’t need to have a certain frequent flier status to obtain access. Airport lounges often sell day passes, allowing you to pay access to them. They can be a bit pricey though but you can sometimes find steep discounts if you purchase them online in advance. Also, check your credit card to see whether or not being a cardholder can obtain you lounge access.
  • Stay warm and cozy AF. The chilly cabin air during a flight can be such a nuisance, especially if you’re underdressed. Gone are the days where every single airline provide you with blankets, unless you’re in business class of course, so it’s always best to travel with layers you can pile on or your own blanket to keep you warm like Canada’s most well traveled and infamous stylish twins Cailli and Sam Beckerman of BeckermanBlog.com
Cailli and Sam Beckerman
Cailli and Sam Beckerman from Beckerman Blog in NYC

…Both of us always travel with a fleece blanket, eye mask and neck pillow. We sleep with our neck pillows on backwards so that the snap is in the back. That way, when you drift off to sleep, the neck pillow catches your head when it falls. Like a donut! LOL”

  • Special meal requests. I know it’s rare to get served a meal on a plane these days but it still happens from time to time depending on the carrier and your destination (but is usually reserved for long haul flights only). This one requires some advance planning and maybe forgoing the meal everyone else is getting but you request a special meal, such as vegetarian or kosher, you will actually get served before the rest of the passengers. Meaning, you can go to sleep sooner without having to wait for the entire dinner service. More importantly, those special meals usually taste way better!
  • Not a lover of food fare in the air? That’s ok, neither am I. If you have a picky palette, eat super clean or have dietary restrictions then it’ s always best to not depend on food choices picked for you by someone else – aka an airline. I almost always pre-plan and pack a tasty and healthy meal before my flights, especially if they are a long haul jaunt. I go to my local grocery store or stop somewhere on route to the airport and pick up a wholesome salad with protein and a few snacks to keep my hunger at bay, which turns out to also be far more affordable than making purchases at the airport.

But the best advice of all comes from food writer, savvy traveler and new Mommy to Luka, Solmaz Khosrowshahian, who pens the travel content heavy website TheCuriousCreature.com – who believes having an open mind leads to the best travel experiences:

In my opinion, the best travel hack is learning how to adjust your mindset. By letting go of all expectations and judgements you can experience cultures and destinations as they truly are., not as you want them to be. Also, I strongly believe that locals know best. When visiting somewhere I haven’t been before, I reach out to random strangers (at stores, online or on the street) to get their recommendations. Most people are more than happy to share their faves and, in my experience, they places they’ve sent me have ended up being some of my fondest memories.”

And on that note, I am currently packing and prepping for my next adventure tomorrow to Paris. First time doing a long-haul flight pregnant, so I have no doubt I will develop a few more travel hacks throughout this journey. Stay tuned!

I created this blog post as a paid collaborator for ZzzQuil. All opinions and advise are my own and I only work with companies I genuinely love and have used prior to being contacted. To ensure this product is right for you, always read and follow the label.

5 Reasons to Fall in Love with Las Vegas, Nevada Off The Strip

For the 30+ years I’ve been on this earth, I’ve travelled the world for both work and play but Las Vegas was never amongst my list of conquered destinations. This action packed location just outside the desert has become almost a right of passage if you will, for most North Americans in their 20’s looking to celebrate moments like milestone birthdays or their last days of single life before tying the knot. Usually filled with champagne showers and epic night outs, that may or may not be remembered, after their “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” weekend experience is over. After discovering that Vegas hosts nearly 40 million visitors each year, it had me thinking that it’s quite possible the city is not as one dimensional as I once thought. This past January, with my interest piqued, I flew to the state of Nevada for four days to see if there really is life and entertainment off the strip. And let me tell you, I was in for a big surprise.

Obviously well known globally for it’s lavish hotels, casinos and nightclubs, turns out Vegas can also be added to the bucket list of anyone who is an adventure seeker or loves the outdoors. I can easily say that the only time I was indoors during this trip was to either eat or sleep in my hotel room and have zero regrets. If you followed along IRL on my Instagram stories, you may recall some hilarious, outrageous and breathtaking moments but I am summarizing the best of the best below that will 100% have you thinking a bit differently about this destination.


VOTED: MOST BALLER EXCURSION

When it comes to sightseeing experiences, I don’t think there is anything cooler than a helicopter tour. I’ve done a few  of them over the years and it never gets old. If you’re anything like me and the Grand Canyon has been on your bucket list for as long as you can remember, a heli tour over the canyon’s vast expanse and down to the depth of it’s floor in one of Papillon’s state-of-the-art choppers is definitely a must!  During our hour long customized tour, my mind was blown by the most majestic topography I’ve ever seen in my life; 100% making the canyon worthy of it’s status as one of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders. Papillon, the world’s aerial sight seeing company has helicopter tours starting at $200 and is perfect for a romantic date for two (ideal setting for a proposal) or a small group activity.

VOTED: MOST DARING AND ADVENTUROUS

If speed and excitement is your thing, Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon will not disappoint. Just a 30 minute drive from the strip and starting at just $159 per person, it’s the perfect adventure for those obsessed with adrenaline. After a brief drive up the hills of Boulder City, followed by a short hike to the top, is the first of four separate runs that span over a total of 1.5 miles long. If you have a slight fear of heights, the scenic views and friendly guides are just the recipe you need to overcome it and enjoy the experience. We laughed our asses off for days about Jenn’s elegant finished on the final run of the day. So thankful to have have captured some of the fun and laughs that morning in an Instagram video:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BP_TlfaAglA/?taken-by=sashaexeter

 VOTED: MOST NIQUE PLACE TO FIND YOUR ZEN

I used to think that I had done yoga in some very unique and beautiful places but leave it to Vegas to take my yoga game to new heights, and I mean literally, with a 60 minute vinyasa flow at 550ft in the air inside the High Roller Vegas. The pièce de resistánce of the LINQ’s outdoor shopping and entertainment promenade, the High Roller is the world’s tallest observation wheel, eclipsing both the London Eye and Singapore Flyer. Facing both north and south and running parallel to Las Vegas Boulevard, the gigantic observation wheel, is compromised of 28 glass enclosed cabins, gives riders expansive views of Vegas and the strip and if you planning on adding this to your list of things you “Must Do” while you’re in town, and is most spectacular at sundown.

Each revolution of the wheel takes 30 minutes to complete, so our private session with our Silent Savasana yoga instructor meant that we got double the pleasure, doing the journey around twice. And as if the experience wasn’t already cool enough, we all donned state-of-the-art LED headphones so we could be guided through the sequences while also listening to a curated playlist of Beyoncé remixes.

VOTED: MOST BAD ASS DESERT EXPERIENCE

I don’t care who you are, how old or where you come from, everyone should experience at least one ATV excursion in their lifetime. Sure, it can be a bit intimidating at first and depending on what type of landscape your driving in, it could get pretty messy but you’re guaranteed to have a blast. Most of the others who joined me on the trip were ATV virgins and so I contently sat back as I watched each of them get fitted for their helmets and goggles with some slight fear in their eyes.  I’ve done it a handful of times before on press trips and from experience it always winds up being a fave of everyone on the trip. A few hours riding around the desert might seem like too long but trust me when I tell you, this is one activity you will be begging you wish went on just a bit longer. It wasn’t long before the ATV newbies got in their groove and with increased confidence we were able to pick up some speed and handle some more technical driving along the dusty trails.

We chose Awesome Adventures for our ATV tour of Eldorado Canyon, located only 45 minutes from Las Vegas, and our guided tour took us through desolate desert trails and through the Tecchaticup Gold Mine – the oldest, richest and most famous gold mine in Southern Nevada. The gold mine ran from 1861 to 1942 and most of what is on site was is preserved and looks exactly the way it did 70+ years ago. The Eldorado Canyon tour starts at $199 for a single seater ATV and $160 for a two seater and also includes round trip transportation from wherever you’re staying, a professional guided tour in addition to a boxed lunch.

VOTED: MOST BREATHTAKING VIEWS

With the most awe inspiring views you wouldn’t expect to see so near to a major metropolitan city, the desert beauty of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area was the perfect way to conclude our active trip to Nevada. Not to worry if you’re not a highly skilled hiker or mountain climber, because I’m certainly not. Due to being so quiet and isolated, the conservation area has become very popular amongst tourists, sightseers, joggers and cyclists as a temporary getaway from the craziness of the strip and expertly recommended and arranged by the overly accommodating concierge at the J.W. Marriot hotel.

More vast than you can imagine, there are actually a total of 19 trails with differing difficulty and gains – making this activity appealing to all. For those not able to explore the grounds by foot, you can still experience Red Rock’s beauty by car via the 13 mile scenic drive loop. The speed limit around these parts is actually 35 mph (and in some areas even lower) to purposely encourage drivers to enjoy the spectacular scenery and also for the safety of runners, cyclists and wildlife. On a time crunch and of course thirst for the most epic landscape photos, our crew hit up Calico Tanks trail. With a distance of just 2.5 miles and rated as “moderate” on the difficulty scale, it’s a great trail for families or those wanting a relatively short intro to Red Rock Canyon because it combines all the elements that make Red Rock famous – a colourful mixture of sandstone, a hidden water pocket and an awesome view of Las Vegas. Open daily between 8am – 4pm. Entrance into the conservation area is only $7 per vehicle and free for cyclists and hikers who park and leave their cars at the loop.

Have I enticed you to re-think your own outdoor adventure to Las Vegas? For more Vegas inspo head to LasVegas.com or be sure to follow the destination on Instagram and Twitter.

Travel Smarter with the CIBC Air Canada Conversion Visa Prepaid Card

While my travels outside North America have been far less than in previous years, I’ve had countless business travel south of the border for work projects this year. As you can probably imagine, I’ve had my fair share of nightmares on the road during business trips. Like having my credit card and/or debit card compromised while abroad, resulting in my financial institution having to shut them down for security reasons. Trust me, it is THE worst! And my struggles don’t end there unfortunately. Over the last year for some strange reason, my bank client card began having issues in most ATM machines outside the country. With my frequent travel to NYC for work projects, it had started to become quite an annoyance.

The last thing anyone wants to worry about while traveling is having issues accessing money. So, I’ve learned a few tricks and tips along the way helping turn me into a savvy traveler, but of course the learning never stops. I usually make sure to never leave the country without some cash in my destination’s currency but this starting to pose as an issue when the Canadian dollar continued to plummet. I mean, have you ever had leftovers of a foreign currency after a trip and tried to re-convert them to Canadian dollars? If not, DON’T!!!

cibc-air-canada-ac-conversion

Enter the new CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion VISA Card. I did some research on CIBC’s latest card offering a few weeks ago, desperate to discover anything that would help me in my future travels. I’ve dabbled with a prepaid credit card or two in the past, but this one is in it’s own league. Similar to other prepaid Visa card options, you load the card with funds and you can use it for transactions anywhere Visa is accepted. But one of the biggest things that sets the Conversion card apart from the rest is that you are able to load it with up to 10 currencies, and manage your funds through a dedicated app. Yes, that is not a typo – 10 different currencies, so naturally it is an appealing option when traveling or booking ahead and can also be used at restaurants, stores, for online purchases and even for withdrawing local currency from ATMs.

So what does this mean? 1) No more line-ups at banks and currency exchange centres, 2) No more fear that your bank card will not work in ATMs abroad (FINALLY) and 3) Allows you to avoid those crazy credit card fees, making this card one hell of a travel companion. And if that’s not enough, if you order your card before December 31st , you can receive 15% off select Air Canada flights.

CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Card

I took the card out for its first test drive a couple weeks ago on my last trip to New York and was able to check my card balance, view current exchange rates, move funds between different currencies, reload more money to my card and view all of my NYC transactions right through the mobile app on my phone. All sounds great right? It did to me but that didn’t stop me from delving a bit deeper into things such as CIBC’s Air Canada’s Conversion card’s supported currencies, expiry policy, transaction limits and associated fees, so here’s the skinny:

Support Currencies:

  1. Canadian Dollars – CAD
  2. United States Dollars – USD
  3. Euros – EUR
  4. Great British Pounds (UK) – GBP
  5. Mexican Peso – MXN
  6. Hong Kong Dollars– HKD
  7. Australian Dollars – AUD
  8. Japanese Yen – JPY
  9. Turkish Lira – TRY
  10. Swiss Franc (Switzerland)– CHF

Expiry Policy:

Luckily, the funds on this card will never expire. However the card itself will expire on the last day of the month printed on the card. There’s no need to worry if the card expires with a balance on it though, all you need to do is call the number on the back of the card to get a replacement. *A replacement card will not be sent out automatically after it’s expired – it must be requested.

Transaction Limits:

Minimum load amount (single Transaction) $100 CAD equivalent
Maximum load amount (single Transaction) $3,000 CAD equivalent
Maximum balance $20,000 CAD equivalent
Daily (24-hour) maximum point of sale purchase limit $3,000 CAD equivalent
Daily (24-hour) maximum ATM withdrawal limit $2,000 CAD Equivalent

 Fees:

Are there upfront fees? No, it is free to activate your card and should you choose to ship it to your home via courier, you’re looking at about $15. While all ATM withdrawals are free within Canada – there will be fees charged by CIBC in other countries with a chance that non-CIBC ATM providers may charge additional fees. That being said, it’s in your best interest to stay away from ATM withdrawals abroad unless absolutely necessary.

CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Photography by JessBaumung.com

Are you ready to start traveling smarter? Click here to learn more about the CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card.

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