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2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

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My Art & Sole Custom Shoemaking Experience with Buick

Cars to me is what clothes are to most people. A way to make a statement without having to say a word. This sentiment is also shared by the design team at Buick who has put a considerable amount of time to help reposition the brand and create a vehicle that represents the highest quality of Buick luxury to date. The new Enclave Avenir has single handedly changed the way the way the world, myself included, will view Buick going forward. I know some of your perceptions have already changed just from reading my blog posts and following along on my IG stories. This brand transition has been successful because Buick has been taking cues from other industries that have a high regard for craftsmanship. The design team has used interior design, fashion and beauty trends as their main source of inspiration with one simple goal in mind. To create a vehicle that would be an expression of a discerning, fashion forward and conscious consumer.

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

Buick Style Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

To celebrate this new direction and their successes with the new premium Avenir trim line found on the Enclave and Lacrosse, I was treated to an intimate evening with the Buick team and some friends at the Art & Sole Academy; the first shoemaking school in Canada that offers workshops and classes in the art of custom shoemaking. I was chauffeured to the event in a white Enclave that has the same Avenir trim as my own and it was pretty nice actually to be able to to relax and enjoy the ridiculous amounts of legroom that’s available in the middle row. Learning the ins and outs of the shoemaking process from Art & Sole’s owner Jennifer Allison was amazing but what blew all of our minds was that we all got to design a custom pair of leather driving shoes for ourselves that night. Not just any old leather either may I add. We got to choose from the same leather options that are available in the 2018 Buick Enclaves. Now  that should say something about the quality materials used inside these vehicles. We each traced and measured our the bottom of our feet and instep and then went on to choose the base style, colour of leather, leather type, uppers, lace and trim details. So fun, yes, but the plethora of options made it pretty stressful, not going to lie. Then we went on to learn a basic stitching technique for leather fabrications from Jennifer. This was definitely not my strong suit but I will soon have a custom shoe to match the interior of my Buick and that’s pretty damn cool. Before heading home, we even had personalized keychains made by the lovely chap below with our initials on it.

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event

 

Members of the GM and Buick design team were on hand and it is really inspiring to see a group of women behind this dynamic team. Over the past couple years, I have gotten to know Catherine Black, Buick Colour and Trim Design Manager who in my opinion has the coolest job ever. Black is in charge of developing concepts, colours and shapes that reflect Buick’s customer alongside the marketing, engineering, and manufacturing departments. She is also the face of the design team often called upon to brief media on some of the trends they have forecasted several years prior to vehicles hitting the auto show circuit. I actually got to chat extensively with her about the design details for the Enclave Avenir over a year ago during it’s reveal in NYC at NAIAS and she has this to say about about where the Buick teams are today,

The whole synergy and interaction between the designers, clay and digital sculptors, engineering and colour & trim is extraordinary. Together we are charged with evolving the brand and the portfolio with the timeless qualities we value most – beautiful, premium, comfortable, effortless and intelligent.”

BuickStyle Event - So Sasha
Photos by Pamela Lau for Buick Canada

My custom shoes, fingers crossed, should be arriving in the next few weeks and I can’t wait to show you guys what I designed. Even more excited  to own my very first driving shoe that will not only look great but be functional too. Want in on customizing your own pair of leather driving shoes from Buick? Starting May 15th, you can express your own personal style by customizing and designing your own, which is pretty major. They will be available in very limited quantities, but on the upside, they will be made available on www.artandsoleacademy.com/buickstyle for only $189, when trust me, they are probably worth a lot more. Head to Buick.ca to find more information on the Enclave Avenir and full portfolio of Buick’s 2018 vehicles.

This post was created in partnership with Buick Canada however all thoughts and opinions are my own

My Wellness Experience at Le Monastère des Augustines with Buick Canada

I have been going non-stop since I had Maxwell. I took two short weeks off but after that it was pretty much back to my regularly scheduled programming. Truthfully, I haven’t been feeling my best and my body has slowly been giving me signs that it’s time to slow down a bit. I’ve been craving some breathing room and a reset to figure out what my next steps were going to be to help find balance during this time of transition as a working new mom. The idea for my mindfulness getaway to Quebec City’s actually came while driving Max inside my new car. I had made the decision to upgrade to the 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir in January. The extra space and safety features were definitely a catalyst for the change but I also loved the fact it has it’s own ionizing clean air filter that eliminates dust, bacteria and pollen in a car I spend a lot of time driving my daughter around in. It is a genius idea. Then I started thinking, as blessed as I am to be able to have things like this to help enhance the quality of my family’s life, nothing will trump how my energy and well-being will affect them at the end of the day. After my short stay at Le Monastère des Augustines, I implemented five small but important things that have made significant changes in my daily life. More on this later, but first let me share with you what this magical place is all about.

Le Monastere de Augustines- So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

So with that realization, I was on the hunt for a truly unique wellness experience and discovered a real gem about eight hours drive from Toronto. Le Monastère des Augustines is a little wellness haven found in the heart of Old Quebec (Quebec City). Occupying the restored wings of the former Hôtel-Dieu de Queébec monastery, one of Quebec’s most significant historic sites, the hotel is for those who are on or looking for a true path to holistic health. The property opened it’s doors back in 2015 after three years of rehabilitation and renovations that had to meet extremely strict historical guidelines and a carefully curated team of historians and architects spent an enormous amount of time researching every square inch of the the property; to ensure it was restored respectfully to the way it was 400 years ago. Inside you’ll find:

  • A boutique with teas, wellness products, books, healthy grab & go food options and meditation accessories.
  • A museum and archives with 1 linear km of documents and rare ancient books. It houses a permanent exhibition illustrating the social and spiritual involvement in the first hospital on the continent north of Mexico and the development of Quebec’s health system as we know it today. It also has the original pharmaceutical and medical objects, works of arts and artefacts that the sisters held on to for years and donated to the monastery. There are guided tours that recreate the experience of a 17th century cloister
  • The vault, located basically underground, is where many of the movement classes take place. It’s where I did my morning sessions and it has such great energy in there. Fun fact, this room was only a quarter of the height it is now. The original floor was removed and the ground was dug out to create this large space. The hallway leading toward the vault (found below) gives you an indication of how low the ceilings are in the original building.
  • A church where the nuns still congregate daily at 5pm for mass and to sing with the choir. Guests are welcome to meditate or practice yoga on there own outside of mass hours.
  • The spa where guests can receive personalized holistic and nutrition consultation services or indulge in facials, lymphatic drainage or their preferred choice of massage therapy in 30, 60 or 90 minute durations

Le Monastère des Augustines is also a non-profit organization. When you think of a wellness retreat, dollars signs is usually the first thing that pop into your head because let’s be honest, most are grossly overpriced. All funds and donations to the monastery are actually used to protect and enhance the heritage of the Augustinian Sisters, to help with Le Monastère’s mission to promote the wellbeing of individuals and society and to make it’s services affordable and accessible to as many people as possible.

Le Monastere de Augustines - Sasha Exeter

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

I feel somewhat inclined to clarify just in case it was not clear during my stay. If you’re for a luxurious getaway with Michelin star dining with a couple of cute yoga classes sprinkled in throughout your stay, this is not the place for you.  Taking inspiration from the Augustinian Sisters, who founded the monastery nearly four centuries ago, Le Monastère des Augustines, main goal is to take care of their guests mind, body and soul through meditation, food and a specific movement series. The design, programming, and food is all about simplicity and created with distinct purpose. The rooms are without clocks, TV or docking stations for iPhone/iPods to ensure that you have zero distractions in a space that should be reserved solely for sleep. However, they do have wifi throughout the property but they encourage guests to decompress and take a tech detox during their stay. The programming for the movement series, oddly not described in much detail on their website, are all scheduled before each meal and trust me there is good reasoning behind it. I promise, more on this later. As for the food; the restaurant’s approach is based on the principles of conscious nutrition using mostly organic, local and seasonal products.

The Accommodations

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Guys, the room’s at the monastery are probably one of the coolest aspects of the hotel and are the perfect design juxtaposition between old and new. There’s a total  of 65 rooms split almost evenly between authentic rooms restored in the spirit of monasticism and contemporary rooms with modern design and amenities. After my hotel tour on IG stories, people seemed to be fascinated by the character and charm of the authentic rooms. The teeny tiny doorways are an indication of just how small the sisters of Augustine were back then and it’s just so cool to be able to see exact replica’s of what their rooms were like dating back to 1639. For reference check out Marie-Eve standing in front of an authentic suite and she is only 5’2″. The majority of the furniture in these rooms are original, historic pieces with the exception of the beds, mattresses and sink – and have all been manufactured right in Quebec, which is really cool. However, these rooms do not have their own bathrooms so guests must use communal washrooms and shower rooms during their stay.

Here’s a peek inside one of the monastery’s authentic rooms

After a quick poll on my stories, most said they loved the idea of the authentic rooms but were not thrilled about the shared washroom facilities. To be honest, the communal facilities are actually quite nice but there’s nothing like having your own with a bathroom with a deep tub for pre bedtime soaks. My contemporary room came with the just bare necessities but really well appointed. There were lavender beads in my closet giving my clothes the most beautiful scent during my stay. The wool Hudson’s Bay blankets at the bottom of the beds in this wing is a sweet added touch. And even though Le Monastère claims that luxury is not what they are about, their plush white bathrobes say otherwise.

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

The Daily Movement Program

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastère is designed in a way to ensure that all ages and fitness levels are able to participate and benefit from what’s being offered. There are no high intensity workouts in sight and the programming is based on the practice of yoga, pilates and Qing Gong. You won’t find any difficult yoga flows or reformer machines. Each of the movement classes are primarily meditation based where breathing is the main focus with gentle movements from each practice incorporated into the 45 or 90 minute classes. Personally, not exactly what I am used to as I prefer something more challenging, however it forced me to slow down and focus on opening my body through my breathe. Turns out, I actually loved it and my body responded to it really well. I followed my midday practice one day with a massage and I was surprised my legs allowed me to walk back to my room. I was complete mush and so relaxed. The series is works well for those who are just getting into meditation, amazing for older guests who require more low-key activity and I even met one woman from the east coast that was there as part of her injury rehab program prescribed and suggested by her physician.

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

The classes are strategically scheduled at the exact same times each day before meals are served in the restaurant at 7am, noon and 5:30pm. Reason being, having food in the digestive system can interrupt with the rhythm of the body while going through these movements. While practicing yoga, pilates or Qing Gong (Tai Chi), the goal should be to have your energy be centralized towards the movement and poses, instead of going towards managing the process of digestion. Practicing on an empty stomach provides the chance to efficiently harvest the energy from the energy reserves of our body such as muscles, liver and body fat – encouraging the body to efficiently burn extra calories Not to mention, twists and turns with food in your stomach can also cause issues in the digestive tract.

The Food

Le Monastere de Augustines

“Le Restaurant” as it’s simply called is where I dined during my stay with the exception of one dinner I had off site at Chez Boulay because I was told by just about everyone I met there that I had to go. Chef Christophe Perny approach to creating the menu each day is fully aligned with Le Monastère’s holistic health principles. All meals are done buffet style with the exception of lunch and there are options for everything offering vegetarian, fish and meat dishes.

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Done in complete silence, post yoga breakfast consists of homemade yogurts, chia seed pudding, fresh fruits, artisan breads, jams, tea and coffee. Fresh juices and smoothies are also available. The sisters ate all of their meals in silence . Doing things with a mindful intention was very important to them, even when it came to nourishing their bodies. Not talking also meant that they took their time while eating, chewed more and had better digestion. The hotel thought observing silence for all three seatings would be a bit too severe for guests so it is only mandatory for the first meal of the day. It sounds a bit dramatic but I must say, starting the day off with the awakening series followed by a quiet and nourishing breakfast, can be just the thing you need to change the trajectory of your entire day.

Lunch is hands down the best meal served in their resto and also the largest. It is a three course meal beginning with an elaborate salad bar with two soups to also choose from. Your choice of main (vegetarian, fish or meat option), ending with a guilt free dessert. The kitchen actually doesn’t contain any processed or refined sugars whatsoever. As I ploughed through my second course of lunch, our tour guide/Monastery PR Manager, Marie-Eve, shared with us the reasoning behind this decision. Eating a larger lunch, gives way to a lighter dinner that has been proven to help with digestion. This has also been linked to better sleep.

Dinner did not blow me away as much as the lunch but it met it’s purpose. Similar to the breakfast, it was buffet style with a full salad bar, soup options and mains to choose from for vegetarian, fish and meat eaters. This too was followed by dessert. The items were all of easily digestible foods and I must say, I slept so much better the first night we dined in the monastery restaurant than the following when I devoured a steak at Chez Boulay.

My Le Monastère de Augustines Take-Aways

I think a lot of people leave wellness retreats with grandiose ideas of making huge life changes when they return home and within a day they get swept right back into their old routine. While their intentions may be there, sometimes the changes are so dramatic, it’s just not feasible to see it through in the real world when you have work commitments, kids, family and friends pulling you in a million directions. So here’s what I’ve implemented since I have returned home:

Meditation. 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. I had to be honest with myself, anything longer than that with Maxwell around, just won’t get done. I make it even easier for myself and do it right in the comfort of my bed. While 15 minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, believe it is torture for those who are used to going non-stop. This is my starting point but I am hoping to make it up to an hour by summer.

A Mindfull Approach. Slowly down. Taking my time. Being more mindful with everything I do. Taking the time to enjoy every bite of food I put into my mouth and concentrating while I chew. Taking in my surroundings during my runs and walks with Maxwell. Giving my daughter my undivided attention and not being distracted by the television, cell or laptop. I mean, there will always be times where I have to check my email, answer calls or respond to a text while Maxie is around but I am doing my best to keep some special time for just me and my girl.

Le Monastere de AugustinesSilence. As much as possible. When you live with a partner and a baby it is challenging to do this but I am no longer driving with music playing while I’m alone. I’ve chosen quiet over the radio unless I have a guest riding with me. On our way back from the monastery, Jess and I listened to the spa channel on my XM satellite radio

Le Monastere de Augustines
Photography by Jess Baumung and Le Monastère

Large(er) Lunches & Lighter Dinners. Not really a hard one to implement if I’m honest but I have trimmed down my dinner portions and now opt for heavier meats for lunch sticking with fish and veggies for dinner.

More Baths Before Bed. This requires no further elaboration. One of the reason we got our place is because of the bathtub in what is now Maxie’s bathroom. Bath time done right with low lighting and lavender scented epsom salts, always leads to a great night sleep.

For more information on Le Monastère des Augustines or to book your very own unique wellness experience in the heart of Quebec City, head to www.monastere.ca. 

This post was sponsored and in partnership with Buick Canada, however all views and opinions are my own!

The New “Head Turning” Generation of Buick

If you were born sometime in the eighties, chances are you had a grandparent, or knew someone who had a grandparent, that drove a Buick. Why? Being the oldest active automotive brand in North America and a car once known as the “Moving Couch” because of it’s plush interiors – Buick tended to attract a population of people 65 and over. But fast forward about three decades later, the brand is starting to reap the benefits of all their hard work and efforts in repositioning Buick not only as premium, but as vehicles attractive to a much younger target demographic.

Sasha Exeter - 2017 Buick Lacross - So Sasha

Sasha Exeter - 2017 Buick Lacrosse

Sasha Exeter - 2017 Buick Lacrosse
Napa Valley California in the 2017 Buick Lacrosse. Photo by Lauren McPhillips @ThisRenegadeLove

A feat thought to be impossible by many is slowly becoming more and more realistic year after year with serious financial investment from General Motors and most importantly a well appointed design team. Car companies live and die by two measures – product and pricing. Over the last couple of years, Buick has seen much success by employing a very basic strategy in regards to both: Do what others aren’t. Meaning, manufacturing high quality vehicles at a price point affordable to those who can’t quite make the leap to the luxury category. This has helped the company’s fleet not only gain the attention of the hard to impress car geeks on the auto show circuit but also attract a whole new, refreshing demographic, which I just happen to fall into – women between the ages of 25-45. As I’ve gotten older, or shall I say more mature, with major “adulting” lifestyle changes no less, I am now drawn to different vehicle amenities and attributes. I’ve bid adieu to the notion that my vehicle’s laniard symbol on the grill is the most important thing, followed by speed or where it falls within the luxury class. I remember when the BMW 3 series and Benz C-Class was the car everyone wanted post university to symbolize they’ve found their first good paying career job. Whereas now, I’m interested in seeing more value for (my) money in a car instead of it simply coasting off the prestige of it’s brand name providing the same offering as a base model Accord. Sorry Honda!

Sasha Exeter - 2017 Buick Envision
Sonoma Valley, California – Beringer Estates with the 2017 Envision. Photo by Lauren McPhillips @ThisRenegadeLove

Last year my interest was seriously piqued when I made the trek to Napa Valley, California with Lauren of This Renegade Love, for 36 hours to learn more about Buick’s 2017 Lacrosse sedan and it’s newest compact luxury SUV, Envision. The vehicle’s design cues, elegance and technology features drastically elevated the expectations of what a Buick can be.

Sasha Exeter - NYIAS - Buick Enclave Avenir
NYIAS – Javits Centre (NYC) April 2017

This month, I kept the travel a bit closer to home for the much anticipated reveal of Buick’s piéce de resistance…it’s first ever vehicle in family-oriented luxury; the 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir, which debuted at the New York International Auto Show. Similar to most other women in my age bracket, I’ve developed an interested in smart innovation and technology features but not at all prepared to sacrifice style for either of those things. So yes, I guess you can say I want it all.  Turns out, all come standard in the new Enclave Avenir and will play an integral role in setting the stage for Buick to successfully claim it’s deserved place in between the mainstream and luxury categories. How?

To make the new Enclave, we spent time in the homes of our loyal customers and the homes of competitive buyers, learning how they use their vehicles with an eye for making their lives more better, easier and more satisfying! – Global Buick Vice President, Duncan Aldred (shown below)

The exterior, which comes in five premium colours, visually sets itself apart. It’s sleek and slightly deceiving when it comes to size. Slimmer and lower bodied than it’s predecessor, plus roomier than it has been in the past. You wouldn’t guess this seven passenger SUV has more room behind it’s first row of seats than the Acura MDX, Audi Q7 and the QX60. However, it’s the interior that oozes premium, with it’s Avenir Chesnut and Ebony colour way, wood accented steering wheel and super luxe embroider first-row headrests. Pretty much what you would expect to find in vehicles 2.5 times what I predict the Avenir Enclave to be priced at, which won’t be revealed until later into the year.  And these well appointed design details are no fluke, but rather carefully curated and planned 3-4 years in advance by Buick’s highly skilled team; who looks at trends in fashion, interior and even furniture design industries to help develop a luxurious aesthetic that is also highly functional. In a way, creating consumer demands eons before we could ever dream of needing these attributes. Half a decade ago, would you ever think that you would need wireless charging capabilities for your phone, a 360-surround  vision camera system for easier parking, or a rear camera mirror that can function as a traditional mirror or a camera; virtually eliminating potential obstructions of the past like oversized headrests or passenger heads? And of course, I can’t forget access to 4G LTE wifi and Apple Car Play. All available now in the Avenir and select Buick models.

But what really blew my mind are the little things that the special teams thought to include that really enhances a family’s lifestyle and makes life easier. Think, second row SmartSlide Seats that provides easy access to the rear third row – normally a nightmare to access, especially when you have a car seat in the mix. It now has pitch slide functionality to allow you to fold the row down, even with an empty front facing child seat in it. How brilliant is that for growing families? My favourite lifestyle enhancing feature announced at the reveal is the Enclave’s air ionizer that not only eliminates odours but also provides better overall air quality – reducing bacteria, dust, viruses, pollen and debris, plus it turns out, all can significantly improve driver alertness. Are you thinking about the hassle of maintenance for this feature? I sure as hell was, but Buick has managed to find a way to manufacture this thing in a way that it requires no maintenance or filter replacement.

The most standard response from those who have seen the latest from the brand is, “That’s a Buick?!” which has ironically been their tag line and social media hashtag since switching into high gears of it’s brand repositioning. This little sneak peek across the border has left me itching with anticipation to get behind the wheel of the Enclave Avenir and the rest of the new fleet roll-out. So let’s just say my fingers are crossed for some adventures with Buick this summer!

Head to Buick.ca for more details on the 2018 Enclave Avenir or the rest of Buick’s current six car line-up.

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