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Our Niagara Falls Girls Trip

I’ve been visiting Niagara Falls for as long as I can remember. As a child, I found it rather boring. It was a long drive from where we lived, which was 40 minutes east of Toronto. I never understood how we could drive all that way to look at a waterfall and then turnaround and do the drive back. Considering it’s the honorary 8th wonder of the world, I was determined to make Maxwell’s first trip to the falls an epic one and to prove that Niagara can be a really good time for families of all ages. Also, I just desperately needed an escape from the city. My recently acquired CAA membership was actually the catalyst for our action packed falls getaway.

A few months ago I looked inside my wallet and was shocked at the amount of membership and rewards cards I had stuffed in there. There were definitely more than 10. What can I say, I’m a sucker for earning points, air miles and getting discounts. After doing some member and rewards card inventory, I soon realized I wasn’t taking full advantage of them and turns out; my CAA card was the least used card in the bunch. That changed real quickly after taking a deep dive onto the CAA (SCO) website a month ago. Sure, I had confidence knowing that I was protected with excellent roadside assistance should I need it, but I was missing out on tons of amazing access and discounts for members from their thousands of retail and service partners. Last weekend I took Maxwell on a short road trip to Niagara Falls for the ultimate mommy and me getaway that I think would put me in the running for “Mom of the Year” award, but the real MVP was CAA. I used my CAA membership to build our itinerary and for discounts on everything from our hotel stay to our chopper excursion. Here’s the scoop on how I pulled this off.

ROAD TRIP PREP

Just because I have a CAA membership, it doesn’t mean that I want to risk having any issues with my car on a road trip. Especially with a baby on board. Believe me, checking my car’s vitals before hitting the road is not anything new for me. I am actually annoyingly obsessive with vehicle safety, a quality I probably picked up from my Dad. I couldn’t get an appointment with Audi before leaving town, so I ended up getting a last minute appointment close to my house. CAA does all the legwork to create a network of repair facilities that have a high quality of service but at a fair price. It’s a brilliant resource available to members. CAA’s Approved Auto Repair Service AARS facilities also offer Member-exclusive benefits such as 3% in CAA Dollars® on all repairs, which you can use to renew or upgrade your CAA Membership or for items at a CAA.

WHERE TO STAY IN NIAGARA

Obviously there are loads of places to stay in Niagara, but if you’re making the trek out there for a weekend getaway, it only makes sense to choose a hotel with a falls view. My first choice for accommodation was the Sheraton Fallsview because of its close proximity to all the activities I had planned during our day, however it was fully booked the weekend we were going. We ended up staying at the Hilton Hotel at a reduced rate. If you’re a member, you can find a full list of top hotel partners around the world on the CAA’s hotel rewards page. Our suite was huge with a living room area, spacious bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub plus a view of both the Canadian and U.S. falls. The Hilton is currently under renovations, but so far it only affects the lobby level and some of the restaurants. Not a ton of time was spent in the room if I can be honest. We preferred to be out and about because the weather was amazing for this time of the year. We did enjoy having breakfast in bed and staying up later than normal at night giggling and listening to music like I was there with a friend my age, not a two-year-old toddler!

MUST SEE and MUST DO at the FALLS

If you think that the falls is the only thing to see in Niagara Falls, you are sadly mistaken. I am not kidding, there is something for everyone, which also means if the weather isn’t great when you choose to go, there are still loads of things you can do, if you’re not able to see the falls due to rotten, inclement weather. We thankfully had the best weather, minus the two hours of rain on the Saturday morning.

So here’s the deal, I didn’t really know where to start when planning this weekend and truthfully, when it came to the itinerary, I saved myself some time and just went to CAA’s attractions rewards page and checked out all the attractions, theme parks and adventures listed on there. It rounded up not only the best experiences to choose from but it also offered me discounts to the things I wanted to do.

We stayed relatively close to everything on our agenda for the two and a half days we were there so we didn’t use our car until we were headed to our last activity. We walked to most things but we also had two day access to WEGO, the hop on – hop off bus that picked us up and dropped us off right in front of the Hilton that was part of Niagara Parks package we had pre-purchased online. Here’s the short list of activities we absolutely loved:

CLIFTON HILL – They don’t call it the street of fun for nothing. The Clifton Hill strip is jam packed with activities, restaurants and is perfect for all ages. There is literally something on every corner including it’s newest attraction, the Niagara Speedway, Canada’s first ever elevated go-kart track. Not something we were able to enjoy this time around because Maxie is so young, but we had a blast hitting up the Niagara Skywheel, Dinosaur Adventure Mini-Put, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

I’ve never been to any Ripley’s museums so I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest but turned out to be a good move. It is a bit of a strange place where you’re going to find odd, shocking and dare I say strange exhibits, but that’s part of the fun. You’ll find everything from a replica of the world’s tallest man, a Tibetan skull, a giant Lite-Brite installation and several optical illusions. Max was obsessed and there were quite a few installations and exhibits that even toddlers could enjoy.

You can find everything in Clifton Hill. I loved that we didn’t have to venture far from the action when we wanted to get a bite to eat. There are tons of options around for dining in the area. Some are even CAA preferred dining partners where we were able to receive exclusive offers and discounts only for CAA members.

HORNBLOWER CRUISE AND THE JOURNEY BEHIND THE FALLS – The piece de resistance and the reason why millions flock to the tiny city of Niagara each year, the Falls is obviously an incredible site to witness in person, especially on a beautiful day like we had. We could have totally just witnessed this beautiful wonder from afar but I couldn’t resist wanting to get a closer look so I pre-booked tickets for both the Hornblower Niagara boat cruise and the Journey Behind the Falls. It’s been almost 30 years since I did the Maid of the Mist boat tour so this was definitely a highlight for me. And yes, we got very wet but that’s all part of the fun I think. The cruise travels down to the falls, turns around and heads straight back and the whole thing is done in about 25 minutes. It was the perfect length of time for the activity. Any longer and it could get miserable on a cold or windy day.

The Journey Behind the Falls is quite an extraordinary experience and one we weren’t able to fully indulge in because we were short on time, but it’s something that should be a part of everyone’s Niagara Falls itinerary. You descend 150 ft and get a chance to explore 130 year old tunnels through the bedrock. The observation deck is at the bottom of the 13 storey falls so you get the best possible view of one-fifth of the world’s fresh water crashing down in front of you.

FALLSVIEW INDOOR WATERPARK – This place is a dream for kids, so be prepared to spend the better part of the whole day there because they won’t want to leave. Consider yourself warned. That being said, I would drive back to Niagara in a heartbeat just to see the smile on Maxwell’s face playing in the water. Fallsview Indoor Waterpark is located just a stones throw away from Clifton Hill and right by the Sheraton Hotel, which is why I had wanted to stay there originally.

Shot on iPhone 11 Pro

They have designed the 125,000 sqft water park in a way that families of all ages can enjoy the space. There’s a mammoth play area with a 1000 gallon tipping bucket perfect for toddlers to pre-teens, an age appropriate splash pad for toddlers, Jacuzzi’s for the adults. There’s private cabanas for the anti-social folks that don’t feel like intermixing with the masses, a full sized wave pool, six storey water slides for older kids and adults and a restaurant/bar.

NIAGARA HELICOPTERS – Obviously saved the best surprise for last. The Niagara Heli tour was the COOLEST experience ever. I found this gem of an excursion on the CAASCO member website and booking it was a no brainer. The bonus, is that I was able to receive 20% off the price of the excursion with my membership WOO HOO. Let me tell you, looking at the falls close up is cool, but getting an unobstructed aerial view of this magnificent wonder really is a next level experience and something that we will never ever forget.

Photography by Jess Baumung and shot on iPhone 11 Pro

Now that we are back and settled, I am already started to plan our next girl adventure and I will definitely be utilizing my CAASCO member benefits and rewards to get the best out of our future travel experiences. There are SO many benefits of CAA outside of roadside assistance and I’ve already reaped so many rewards since getting my CAA Plus membership. To register for your membership or to discover how you can benefit from your existing membership head to caasco.com.

This post is in partnership with CAASCO but all views and opinions are my own.

Mommy + Me Grey County Adventure

I’ve done my fair share of road trips with Maxwell since she was a newborn and as difficult as it may be hitting the road with a teeny tiny traveller, we have created memories that will last a lifetime. That being said, road trips with a toddler are NO JOKE!  I’ve learned that a) it’s best to not schedule the days and to go with the flow because at this age, everything is unpredictable – sleep, mood swings…you name it and b) if you must go, don’t do it alone! My girlfriend Solmaz (and one of my favourite travel bloggers/writers behind TheCuriousCreature.com) invited Max and I to tag along with her and adorable son Luka to explore Grey County and I couldn’t say no to discovering one of the most picturesque Ontario destinations. So armed with backpacks crammed with snacks, juice boxes and an iPad downloaded with a seasons worth of Paw Patrol, we were off.

As two marginally intelligent women and traveling mamas, we were smart enough to add two stops on route to Grey. One to change diapers and let the kids stretch their legs then a little over the half way mark to our final destination, we took some time to explore Scenic Caves Nature Adventures. It was actually our second time visiting this spot. The first was last winter where Maxie and I went snowshoeing  along the grounds. Experiencing this tourist attraction in the summer months may be my fave because there are a ton more things to explore on the grounds for every age.  Solmaz and I were blown away to be honest at how many child-friendly activities were offered there. There’s tons of nature hikes on site, but there is also a super cool Gemstone Mining activity where kids can go panning for semi precious jewels to take home with them, mini-put, the infamous 420 ft long suspension bridge, a massive playground, bird feeding and Rocky the Train. Luka and Maxwell could have rode on that thing for hours. In hindsight, this could have easily been a full day stop, so if you plan to head up there, make sure you give yourself enough time to explore and also make sure to wear closed toes shoes (THEY ARE MANDATORY!).

Photo by Solmaz of @TheCuriousCreature

If you’re traveling sans toddlers you can also enjoy other dope activities like zip-lining down Ontario’s largest twin zipline, treetopping adventures and discovering the unique caves and caverns that were formed by ancient glacial ice. I’ve yet to try these things but if there is ever a chance I am back in the area and have someone to watch Mawell, the zip lining will be the first thing I do. There is food is available on-site with  a seasonal BBQ during this time of the year. We ordered yummy chicken burgers and the kids got chicken tenders and fries. There’s also a snack bar that is opened year round and tons of souvenirs available for purchase. Personally, I found the prices are reasonable based on what you get. General admission will run you $26.50 for adults and $24.25 for youth (under 18) + HST. Group rates are also available and this gives you access to the playgrounds, caves, all the nature trails for hiking, the suspension bridge, train and tractor rides. The mining, mini gold and all other activities cost extra. Prices can be found on their website.

WHERE TO STAY

We ended up staying in Georgian Bay, which was a first for me, at the beautiful and quaint Cobble Beach. Ask anyone who has stayed there what they think about it, they will not stop talking your ear off –  it’s that amazing. If you’re looking for a road trip getaway to somewhere a bit off the beaten path, you’re going to want to book this spot IMMEDIATELY. The property sits on an expansive 574 acres and is located only 10 minutes from Owen Sound, in the Township of Georgian Bluffs. Surrounded by the most perfectly clear lake water and views, every where you turn looks like a painting.

Photo by Solmaz of @TheCuriousCreature

Photo by Solmaz of @TheCuriousCreature

The property is known for it’s epic, world-class golf course and from what I hear people travel from far to play 18 holes here. The Inn at Cobble Beach also has a spa, plunge pool, 2 immaculate tennis courts, almost 20km’s of trails, 10 guest suites in the main building and 5 newly built, stunning lakeside cottages. You guys, the accommodations are TO DIE FOR. Bright, airy and minimal. At first we were going to just get separate guest suites but decided last minute it would be a good call to shack up in a cottage for our two night stay. It worked out perfectly because we were able to enjoy some much needed wine-time at night in our living room once Luka and Maxwell went to bed. We each had our own spacious bedrooms and bathrooms (there are two of each in every cottage) a small kitchen set-up with all the necessities we needed to keep items refrigerated or up during our stay.

Cobble Beach is year round resort with plenty of things to do each season, but I will say this, summer and fall really are great times for those heading up with families. The beach club has a park for kids, canoes and kayaks for those who want to be in the water. The trails are a perfect spot for long walks or runs to take in the fresh country air. It really is a dream. We brought strollers for the kids but turned out we didn’t even need to. You can rent this jogger caboost, which can actually connect to a bike, bicycles, and even helmets from the Own Sound Tourism Centre. These two loved being shuttled from the cottage to the club house for meals in it (not the golf cart LOL) and it’s super cute.

So the Inn at Cobble Beach is really small, however they do offer onsite dining in the club house at Sweetwater Restaurant. They offer a daily buffet brekkie each morning that we absolutely loved. Baked goods, cereals, yogurt with the fixings to make your own bowl situation, with of course traditional breakfast chow we all know and love like eggs, bacon, with mini french toast and mini pancakes that were the perfect size for the kids to handle and feed themselves. We did our dinners at the hotel as well, just made sense, and was easy seeing as though the club house was literally 30 feet from our cottage. If you’re there during the weekday, don’t miss Pizza Night on Wednesdays. It’s so bomb. It ends promptly at 6pm though so make sure to get in early. We lost our minds over the wood oven pizzas that the mamas paired with a yummy Pinot Grigio and the kiddos the region’s finest apple juice LOL! It and was not to be outdone by our final dinner of the Atlantic Salmon served on a bed of coconut rice with broccolini, curried mango and acidulated raisins. That plate was packed with the most insanely delicious flavours. I should mention that the menu is seasonal so this salmon dish has been updated and altered slightly on their current Fall/Winter menu but still sounds just as good.

WHAT TO SEE

There are loads of activities within a short driving distance that will easily keep you and the family entertained and seriously, at a price point that will not break the bank. Here’s some stops that I would highly recommend should be on your “MUST-SEE” list if you make the trek to Grey County/Owen Sound.

Harrison Park

Ummmm hello, this place under promised and seriously over delivered. Harrison Park is a dream and made of about 40 hectares of of streams, trails, gardens, playgrounds, forest and green space. Similar to Scenic Caves, this could easily be a full day experience for anyone that loves the outdoors or has kids. On the grounds you’ll also find a full serviced campsite, dining options, outdoor musical instruments, a swimming pool, basketball courts, a bird sanctuary, boat rentals, mini-put and more.

Just a short walk away from the park’s core, is also Weaver’s Creek Falls, a small waterfall that we were able to trek to in only a few minutes with the kiddos. It’s amazing that so much nature and beauty was so accessible. But you know what, besides the playgrounds (which was almost impossible to peel the kids off of) we really enjoyed our paddle boat experience on the Sydenham River. Luka looked like he had a blast and as for Max, she gave me a couple heart attacks  on our little boat cruise, wanting to jump off  to go pet the geese and then spent the rest of the time barking instructions to me as to which way she wanted to go.

Inglis Falls

Now that I think about it, waterfalls seemed like a theme on this trip. We snuck in a quick visit to Inglis Falls on the day we were departing back to Toronto and we were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to catch views of this beautiful site. Located within the 200 hectares that make up the Inglis Falls Conservation Area, the 18 meter high cascade brings tons of visitors each year.

Photo by Solmaz of @TheCuriousCreature

Also in the conservation area, you will find almost 8km’s of nature trails in varying difficulties, historical grist mill, geological potholes, picnic facilities and access to Bruce Trail. Entrance into the grounds costs a mere $6 per vehicle, heads up they only take cash, and once you park, you are only steps away from the falls. Impressive because that pretty much makes it stroller and wheelchair accessible. There are a handful of steps, maybe no more than 6 or so, that will bring you to the lookout point where the kids watched the water, however the falls can be seen without going down them.

Grey Roots Museum 

So this turned out to be the perfect rainy day activity. The site was actually a lot larger than we anticipated housing both Grey Roots Museum and Moreston Heritage Village on the grounds. We popped in to let the kids take in the summer exhibit “Under the Canopy: Animals of the Rainforest”. They were both obsessed with the Owl that they got to watch eat it’s dinner of mice and pet snakes, while I almost passed out in fear. I love that this place has tailored activities for toddlers. During the month of October, they will start “Toddlers Take The Museum” a morning series of stories, songs and crafts lead by a Grey County Early Years Literacy Facilitator for toddlers and pre-school ages kids and its FREE!!!!.

Other Notable Mentions: The Flying Spatula Diner

Well, there is no trip up north complete without a heritage diner experience. We were told we MUST not miss a chance to hit up The Flying Spatula before heading back to Toronto so we did exactly that. We were so determined to eat lunch there even though it was in the middle of nap time, Solmaz went in and pre-ordered our food and got everything set up allowing me to stay in the car while Max got some much needed sleep after our Inglis Falls excursion. What makes this spot so special? Chef Greg Galoksa, who has appeared on foodie reality show Chopped Canada, the original decor and of course the joint’s main server Nina. Seriously, between the comfort food and Nina, I would make the drive up there just to eat and then go back home. I splurged a bit and decided to go all in with the fish tacos and fries, then finished it off by splitting a slice of coconut cream pie with Solmaz. It was so damn good, I ordered an entire pie to go…but wait for it, then accidentally left it behind in the midst of packing up all our stuff. I realized this when we were about 8km’s away and still turned around to drive back to get it. IT WAS THAT GOOD. And you know what, Miss Nina was waiting by the door for me withe pie and homemade cream all packed up. That’s what I call good people.

Photo by Solmaz of @TheCuriousCreature

I’m not sure if this has convinced you to visit Grey County but I will tell you know,  writing it has definitely convinced me to go back. I would love to rediscover this area in the fall with the beautiful colours of the changing leaves. A special thank you to the Visit Grey team for hosting us last month and helping us put together such an epic itinerary. We were wiped by the time we got back to Toronto and it took me two days to recover but Luka and Maxwell had the time of their lives, which is what it’s all about.

 

5 Reasons to Staycation With Kids at the Ritz Carlton Toronto

This city has no shortage of luxury hotels, but not all of them know how to do luxury for guests traveling with kids. Our schedule hasn’t really allowed us to plan our usual big summer vacay, but I have been determined to find little pockets of time this season for short trips and staycations. Someone tipped me off to a link for weekend getaway deals with the Marriott group of hotels and for the first time ever, decided to stay at Toronto’s Ritz Carlton Hotel. I shared some details during our two night stay at the property, but I figured with the questions still pouring in about our experience, I would share a few things that may have you interested in your own vacation within the city at the Ritz with the family.

Location Location Location

Sure, trips up north for the weekend sounds fab but you know what does not sound fab…the commute and traffic. When you only have a two day weekend to spare, time is of the essence. It took us 25 minutes to get to the hotel on a Friday afternoon. If I had to give the Ritz Carlton a walk score, it would be a 5 out of 5. It’s centrally located and walking distance to restaurants, theatres, Scotia Bank Arena, Rogers Centre, and tourist destinations – CN Tower, Centre Island, Ripley’s Aquarium and more.

The patio vibes for brunch is amazing. The waitstaff also has kiddie kits around to keep little guests occupied during meal times with colour pads and books

The Suite (Sweet) Life

Whether you are traveling with one rambunctious toddler, like me, or checking in with a family of five, the Ritz has room and suite accommodations to make any size family comfortable. We stayed in one of the one bedroom corner suites on the 14th floor that had city views, floor to ceiling windows, a pull out couch in a separate living room, powder room and oversized spa bathroom.

Ritz Carlton Toronto - Sasha Exeter

OMGGGGG they brought Max a robe so we could match

Cribs are also available upon request. There was tons of space for Maxwell to run around and have a section of the 650 sqft room to herself to play and hangout. Truthfully though, we normally book larger accommodations, but the Simcoe or Wellington suites were both unavailable during the dates for our stay. These are amazing options if you’re looking for a suite over 1,000 sqft.

Family Fun Packages

One of the biggest tasks while vacationing or staycationing is finding fun activities for the whole family to enjoy. The Family Fun packages are what sets this hotel property apart from the rest when it comes to family friendly experiences. Now that I think about it, it is totally more of an experience for them than it is for the adults and includes the Ritz Kids check-in and welcome amenities, an in-suite movie screening during each night’s stay with choice of snack, access to the exclusive Club Lounge with complimentary EVERYTHING (more on this later) and your choice of family activity to enjoy during your stay

Ritz Carlton Toronto - Sasha Exeter

  • Ritz-Carlton Camp – features in-room tent set-up and special camp themed amenities (e.g. flashlights/glow sticks, stuffed animals, children’s bedtime/ghost story books etc.).
  • Fin’tastic Family Adventure – includes 4 Anytime tickets to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
  • Explore Canadian Art– includes 4 tickets (2 adults and 2 children) to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
  • Dig into Canadian History – includes 4 tickets (2 adults and 2 children) to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
  • Culinary Creators Experience – Virtual Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream Sundae interactive activity for 2 children in the kitchen with a Ritz-Carlton, Toronto Chef

Maxwell lost her mind when she saw the circus themed tent set up in our room, which came within the hour of us checking in. The staff and concierge wasted no time and go above and beyond here to make sure kids feel like VIP’s during their stay. Her latest obsession right now is the ocean and the world of animals that live in it, so we also scored passes to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, which you can get as part of the ‘Fin’tastic Family Adventure option. The aquarium was the perfect Saturday morning activity. It’s a short walk from the hotel, there’s tons to see and do inside and so many food options.

*Extra benefits that come along with the Family Fun package – you can upgrade to one of the corner suites for an additional $100 and complimentary wifi.

The Exclusive Club Lounge

Get ready to have your minds blown people. Without a doubt, the club level is what really elevates an experience at the Ritz Carlton and the other properties that fall under the Marriott umbrella. The newly renovated oasis located on the top floor offers guests comfort and intimacy in a sleek lounge overlooking the CN Tower and Lake Ontario. Access to Club Level comes at an extra charge which can be applied either online during booking or at concierge when you check in and seriously is worth every single penny. Inside you’ll find well appointed furniture and a continuous culinary offering all day long – breakfast, light snacks, appetizers, alcoholic beverages, sweets and more. The cost for Club Level access is around the same price as you would pay for a hotel breakfast for two people so naturally it makes sense.

Ritz Carlton Toronto + Sasha Exeter

Having Club Lounge access means you also get complimentary enhanced wifi access, a dedicated concierge that can assist with in making resto reservations anywhere, they booked our Saturday night dinner at A Toi, a theatre show, concert, local tour, etc during your stay and even complimentary garment pressing during your stay.

Ritz Carlton Toronto - Sasha Exeter

Kiddies will LOVE the lounge too. It’s super kid friendly and I saw tons of tweens popping in and out on their own sans parents for snacks and treats throughout the day. It was also like a hangout spot for some too. There is a space for them to play boardgames and cards plus the TV area is designated Ritz Kids zone for watching TV and movies in a private setting.

*When you stay at the Ritz Carlton Toronto property, access to Club Level comes at an extra charge which can be applied either online during booking or at concierge when you check-in.

Lavish Lobby Perks

At most hotels, the lobby is just the gateway to getting somewhere else in the property or to leave it. The Ritz Carlton has made sure that their lobby is a space guests will want to actually hang out in while they are coming or going. On the Friday evening when we checked in there was a Limoncello cocktail station for adults, there is a daily ice tea station using a tea of the day from the infamous Sloane Teas on the weekends there is a pop-up candy bar for the kids and on the Sunday as we were checking out, they had a cart doing ice cream sundaes to help beat the heat!

The lobby Limoncello cocktail bar was such a treat

Between the suites, club level lounge, family friendly packages and central location, we highly suggest the Ritz Carlton for your next family staycation or vacation. Check the rates for your desired dates for a weekend of fun this summer!

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:

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