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Road Trip to PEC’s Drake Dev Fuelled By Costa Coffee at Shell

I’ve done my fair share of road trips over the years and often times prefer the journey behind the wheel rather than flying and spending unnecessary commute time sitting in airports, but having done so many, I have learned through trial and error that there are a few key elements that go into making a road trip not only bearable but fun – a comfy ride, the right company, good tunes (hello XM Satellite radio) and of course coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

In an effort to spend some much needed quality time together, the mister and I took take a day trip to Prince Edward County in partnership with Costa Coffee at Shell to explore the adorable town two hours outside of Toronto and to be amongst one of the first to have a Costa experience here in Canada. So here’s the honest to goodness truth, I quit drinking my daily perquisite of 4-5 cups of coffee a day a little over a year ago, which bummed out my boyfriend because his coffee obsession is next level but from time to time, I still treat myself to a good cuppa joe. Rejean on the other hand my friends, is well known for his coffee obsession and was the perfect partner in crime to taste test hot bevies from the UK coffee chain that has gained a devout following of coffee lovers since opening it’s first shop in 1971. We won’t be expecting stand-alone Costa Coffee shops, well not soon anyways, but instead the brand has installed innovative, state-of-the-art, self serve bars where you can get quality barista style coffee on-the-go at select Shell gas stations here in Canada. I know you’re probably thinking there is just no way coffee at a gas station can rival the premium roasts found in the city’s most loved coffee shops but this is exactly why I had my guy’s discerning coffee palette on hand for some taste testing. To be quite honest, the promise of keeping him caffeinated helped me get him out of bed at 5:30am on a Sunday morning!

The self-serve bar is a far cry from coffee stands in most gas stations with an easy to use, beautiful touchscreen display with more than 250 drink combinations that allows you to easily create any of your fave hot beverages you would normally order during your daily stop in at your local coffee shop like espressos, ristrettos, macchiatos, cortados, cappuccinos, americanos, chai and vanilla lattes. Not a coffee lover? No problem! Costa Express at Shell has you covered with non-caffeinated options like white and black teas and even flavoured hot chocolates. The best part – as you wait for your customized beverage to be created, mini surround sound speakers play jazz music and also mimic normal background sounds one might here in a cafe (i.e. baristas at work preparing drinks) to give you that coffee shop feel which we thought was a hilarious and very cute added touch.

So with both our Cadillac XT5 and our bodies fuelled up with americanos and vanilla lattes at Shell, we were ready to tackle the snow covered 401 eastbound to beautiful PEC. Last Sunday’s snow storm put a bit of a monkey wrench in some of the surprises I had up my sleeve for Rejean with so many of the stores and wineries closed down but we are Canadian so I wasn’t going to let the weather stop us from having some fun at the Drake Devonshire Inn on the Lake. PEC is a magical little place that I discovered a few years back and have made it a yearly tradition to make the trek down in the summer to spend time at beaching at Sandbanks Provincial Park but this was my first time being in the area during the winter season. After taking a look at the current activities the Drake Dev had going on, I was pleasantly surprised to see morning Vinyasa Yoga classes which was truly the catalyst for our ridiculously early departure from Toronto. With hour long vinyasa flows offered a couple days a week with instructor Sam Ravenda in the beautiful “Glass Box” space in addition to their newly offered Devonshire Detox Weekend Yoga Retreats, the Drake Dev is a prime spot for all you yoga lovers to get your zen on. We spent a lot of time walking the exterior of the property, which is lakeside, and during the winter is as close as you’re going to get to feeling like you are in a snow globe. It’s absolutely stunning (if you can brave the cold temps) but we cheated the cold by fire pit with piping hot Costa Coffee.

Known for their 13 kitchy guest rooms, the countryside retreat is equally known for their food and drinks. The hotel boasts five menus that focus on seasonal, crowd pleasing dishes and upscale comfort foods with insanely delicious brunch options, served all day on Sundays that include my favourite- apple compote and fresh creme buttermilk pancakes, chill-maple glazed friend chicken with pecan waffles and a breakfast burger. And oh the drinks…the wine list boasts whites and reds from some of the top vineyards across PEC, natch and cocktails that kept Rejean and our friend Jess content like infused bourbon and maple syrup, classic Manhattan’s and epic caesars.

Post brunch we lounged in the “living room” which houses the Drake Dev’s permanent and rotating art exhibits that are commissioned by both local and international artists that create work which visually reflects, interprets and enhances the Drake Dev experience. The exhibit’s current rotation on now is called “About Face” and will run until March 14th, 2017. It features pieces from artists shedding new light on the faces that surround them, in the forms of various portraiture; painting, photography, textile and sculpture. After the rest of our property tour, we headed back to the Glass Box for a several rounds of ping pong, cocktails (Mocktails only for this designated driver!) and many, many laughs before heading safely back to the city.

Photography by JessBaumung.com

Want to elevate your commute with quality Costa Coffee now available at Shell? Click here to find a Costa Coffee at Shell location near you!

#FindNewRoads in Chevrolet’s 2016 Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro Six

Over the last few years, I have test drove various vehicles and have been on countless journeys but test driving one of America’s most classic cars across the desert states was an incredible way to get acquainted with the all new Chevrolet Camaro. Chances are you are too young to remember the first generation that was introduced back in 1967, but it was an instant hit and an integral part of the muscle car era and road racing. To this day, the ’67 Camaro with orange houndstooth interior is amongst my top 10 favourite cars of all time. We got the chance to spend 36 hours on an epic road trip with a pre-production car to celebrate the launch of the sixth generation Camaro.

Find New Roads Camaro

We departed Toronto last week with a quick connection in Denver to New Mexico. Here is where we commenced our “Oprah and Gayle” adventure to ‘Find New Roads’ and help Chevrolet take this special fleet of new Camaro’s across all 48 contiguous states along with over 100 other media and journalists. With very limited guidelines or rules from brand, we were challenged to learn as much as we could about the vehicles features, while trying to hit as many points of  interest within the sphere  of our driving leg.

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

We touched down in Albuquerque just in time for sundown and took the opportunity to explore the city by foot before the all the driving started the next morning. If you’re a fan of “Breaking Bad”, you would have been completely geeking out. Majority of the hit show was filmed within a 10 mile radius of where we were staying. The next morning the Chevrolet brand team informed us that the cars would be given out at random to the media and journalists on this leg of the drive. This news immediately created anxiety amongst myself and the rest of the male auto journalists. There was a mix of automatic and manual transmissions, V6’s and V8’s and one or two SS’s thrown into the mix. My desire for a manual transmission v8 came as a bit of a surprise to the rest of team. Unfortunately this time around luck was not on my side and I ended up with a Summit White V6 2.0L Turbo with an 8 speed paddle-shift automatic transmission. I mean, not a bad consolation prize but I was dying to test out the 6 speed manual. However, when we pulled out of the hotel parking lot and I heard the deep throaty sounds coming from the twin exhaust pipes, my FOMO started to disappear. This V6’s guts and responsiveness took me by surprise – in a good way.

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

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Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

With our ride packed, which we fondly called Walter White in honour of Breaking Bad’s leading character, we hit the road for five hours across New Mexico to Alamangoro to White Sands. Located at the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert lies the Tularosa Basin. Rising from the heart of this basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the white sands of New Mexico. Great wave like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert here and created the largest gypsum dune field in the world. We originally had other plans to drive up north to some points of interest in Colorado but when we found out about this little gem, we diverted from our plans and headed out for a little adventure. The dunes, brilliant and white, are ever changing. They grow, crest but always advance thanks to strong southwest winds.

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

The brand portfolios within General Motors has always impressed me with their advanced technology and entertainment features, which were definitely welcomed as we racked up all that windshield time. We relied heavily on the Camaro’s OnStar system and Apple CarPlay, which you have heard me rave about before in my most recent Chevrolet posts. With just a touch of the Blue Button located on the rear view mirror, we had highway concierge at our disposal during our trip, that helped us find where we were going and even find a place to stay at our next destination in Arizona before we left White Sands. With 4G LTE Wifi and Apple CarPlay, we were able to cruise the desert and be connected to our beloved social media channels while also being able to use our iPhone functionalities that were paired through the vehicle’s instrument panel; directions via Apple Maps, sending/reading and receiving iMessages, making calls, listening to our fave tunes from both our phones and Spotify. In very remote areas there was no cell phone reception and at times the wifi signal in the car was not strong enough, but we were thankfully able to receive turn-by-turn directions to the vehicle in the wee hours of the morning to help us navigate our way across state lines.

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Find New Roads Camero

After venturing off our pre-planned route to explore the white desert sands, we were left for a quiet and lonely 9 hour ride to Sedona, Arizona. To say it was desolate was an understatement. All the towns we passed through had closed down by 7pm. Stores, restaurants and gas stations…all closed. No street lights.

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads CamaroPhotos by Nathalia Allen www.amillionminds.ca

We arrived in Sedona after 3am so we had no idea what was around us when we arrived in this adorable town until we woke up the next morning and discovered that we were surrounded in the most beautiful of landscapes. With less than four hours of sleep we woke up and took advantage of the little time we had before having to hit the road to our final destination and did a bit of hiking around Red Rock.  When we got to the summit, the views of the rocky red terrain left both Nathalia and I breathless. Suddenly I became jealous of having skyscrapers as my playground at home instead of mountains. The change of scenery was just what we needed. Here’s a sneak peek at the #CamaroSix:

So here’s the skinny: in my opinion the transformer-esque coupe has an appealing body type and is significantly light, roughly 200 lbs lighter vs the 5th generation. This is partially because it rides on a version of the Alpha platform that also works well with the Cadillac ATS and CTS. Both the driver and passenger seats provided the comfort we needed during our long highway drives but as you probably imagined, the rear seats are purely ornamental and can be compared to those of a Porsche 911. Non-existant. Also, the HVAC vents were oddly placed quite low in the centre stack, so it channeled the air low towards my hand on the gear shift. It’s low profile and open front grill helped keep the Camaro grounded on all the winding desert and mountain roads. I also loved the standard features like the new Driver Mode Selector that gives you Snow/Ice, Tour and Sport modes allowing for easy adaptation to changing driving conditions plus  the leather wrapped flat bottom steering wheel was easy on the hands after several hours behind the wheel at a time.

For more information plus pricing on the 2016 Camaro 2.0L Turbo and it’s 6.2L V8 and 3.6L V6, click here. 

Endless Music at Your Fingertips with Spotify Canada

Spotify Canada

Music is a huge part of of everyone’s lives. I am pretty certain that 18 hours of my day is spent listening to music, so it’s no wonder I quickly become bored of my playlists on iTunes. After plenty of rumours and much anticipation, the announcement of Spotify launching in Canada last week was music to my ears (pun intended). For quite some time I have had to listen to my American friends gloat about the vast variety of music they had access to via Spotify and over the last seven days I have been thoroughly enjoying the convenience of having millions of songs at my fingertips. Everything from current hits, fave classics and new discoveries…there is literally something to suit every mood.

Spotify Canada

With so much time commuting in my car and logging km’s on my training runs for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, Spotify has become my new best friend on the road and I have also been enjoying listening to endless selections of tunes while working from my computer. When you train as much as I do, it’s important to have music that compliments your workout. Spotify has a genre specifically just for this, where they have brilliantly categorized playlists for everything from cardio, HIIT, dance workouts, yoga, crossfit mixes, marathon training and various run mixes based on tempo/pace/BPM’s. My friends at Nike have teamed up with Spotify to create an official Run Nike Women account which houses tons of training playlists and the ultimate playlist for race day, which you can be found here if you have already signed up for your account.

Although I am a huge music fan and well versed on many genres, it’s always cool to stumble on new artists and this is a great way to discover new music. The program/app’s discover page helps you out by suggesting new music based on what you’re currently listening to…and this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can also get social and share music on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and your blog and get entertained for hours with Spotify radio. You can get all of this and more for free but if that’s still not enough, you can always upgrade to a premium account for only $9.99 per month which allows you to download music so you can listen offline in high quality audio with no ad interruptions and no commitment.

Spotify Canada

For more information on Spotify and to download it for free on both your computer and other fave devices click here  and  here.

My Luxury Road Trip to the W Hotel Montreal with Cadillac

W Montreal

The W Hotel brand has gained notoriety across the world as the ultimate luxury hotel and last week I had the absolute pleasure to call their Montreal property home for a few days. Located in the city’s historic Banque du Canada building and just blocks away from Old Montreal/The Old Port, it’s a phenomenal location for out of town visitors and for locals interested in a chic stay-cation! Staying within the theme of luxury, we traveled in Cadillac’s new 2014 XTS sedan, which turned out to the best road trip vehicle. With room for four long-legged adults with excessive luggage, 2 rear TV’s with wireless Cadillac headphones, the ingenious CUE (Cadillac User Experience) interface for all our entertainment, navigation and technology needs, our smooth and comfy ride was even better than taking a flight in my opinion. And we weren’t the only ones in love with the vehicle. The XTS’s finely crafted exterior gained so much attention on the streets in Montreal, the valet and hotel guests.

Cadillac XTS

Cadillac XTS

Cadillac XTS

W Hotel Lobby

W Hotels prides themselves with taking their guests through a journey that awakens and engages all of their senses during the course of their stay. Upon entering the dimly lit lobby, I was engulfed in the most sweetest of scents, which turns out to be the brand’s signature mist that is sprayed throughout the property. It has become so popular and synonymous with the hotels, that is now available for sale through W location lifestyle boutiques and online. The music played in all the common areas is unlike what you normally hear in hotels and sets the mood for an ultra chill vibe. When I inquired about the trendy playlist I was informed by the property’s PR & Marketing Manager that the W actually has their own Musical Director, Michaelangelo L’acqua, who carefully curates soundtracks for each location.

Wunderbar

Visually, each square foot of the W Montreal exudes comfort and luxury and with 2.5 bars, home to one of Montreal’s best restos, Otto; and the tranquil Away Spa…let’s jus stay it was sensory overload in a good way. Sidebar, 2.5 bars in fact isn’t a typo. The hotel actually has one of the smallest bars in the world, Bartini, hidden on the ground floor behind the elevators. This tiny space is perfect to kill time waiting to check-in, a quiet pre-dinner drink or even ideal to rent out exclusively for a small bachelor or bachelorette party before hitting the Montreal streets. Directly across from Bartini is the sleek designed Wunderbar, where you will find amazing cocktail concoctions created by highly trained mixologists and music that will have you stumbling to your guest room wee into the early morning. And as if the bar wasn’t already super cool, the gorgeous staff all wear custom dresses by Canadian designer Travis Taddeo. If you’re looking for a more laid back vibe then Plateau, the mezzanine level bar, is just the space for you. Taking some design cues from other W properties in other markets, they definitely made it a point to integrate a Canadian theme with the usage of maple leafs etched into the beautiful bar. And with it’s unique design, wood plank flooring, high ceilings and furniture, it creates the illusion of chilling outside on the perfect summer night!

W Montreal Bartini Plateau Bar

W Montreal Wunderbar

The chic decor and ambiance of Otto is the perfect setting for the restaurant’s elegant italian cuisine. There, you will find seasonal dishes infused with local ingredients created by Executive Chef Yves Lowe and a pretty extensive wine list with bottles from all over the globe. I thoroughly enjoyed my dining experience there and noshed on delish seared scallops with chorizo, soya beans and honey mushrooms to start, followed by black cod and honey cake for dessert.  I finished off the meal with a Chateau Faillefer Lafon 2012 ice wine made specifically for the W Montreal – how cool is that? Not to be outdone by the restaurant,  the in-room dining service is pretty phenomenal as well. The signature W Montreal breakfasts in bed were the perfect way to start each morning!

W Montreal

If you have yet to stay at the W Montreal, or any W for that matter, guest room accommodations are available in three general categories and are all very generous in size. The basic guest rooms, which believe me are not basic at all range from 252-328 sqft and the mid-size suites range between 422-580 sqft. All these rooms have oversized windows, ultra-modern design, the ultimate mini bars, open concept bathrooms and plush white robes. The ridiculously stunning penthouses; appropriately named the “Wow” and “Extreme” suites are exactly that and range between 1000-1336 sqft with a multi-level layout, dining area, 20 foot ceilings and large outdoor terraces. Ever left your face wash or fave body lotion at home when traveling? You will be happy to hear that the hotel has Bliss Spa amenities. It is the only hotel I can travel to where I would feel comfortable leaving my Korres face wash behind at home because their amenities and beauty products are so amazing!

W Montreal

W Montreal

W Montreal Mega Room Accommodations 

E Wow Suite

E Wow Suite

E-Wow Suite

E Wow Suite W Montreal

 E – Wow Penthouse Suite

Other Services/Amenities Worth Nothing:

  • FIT Fitness Centre, a beautiful workout environment with state of the art equipment for strength training, pilates and cardio. Open 24/7 for guests convenience
  • Certified “Green” Hotel that practices waste minimization and practices environmental excellence. Each day a guest declines housekeeping services, they are rewarded with 500 Starwood Preferred Guest Points. More in here 
  • The good life at the W Montreal isn’t only for us humans. Your fur babies can also get the star treatment during your stay. With dog walking, grooming services and pet birthday cakes and even an in-room dining menu from Otto, this is a vacay your pet will never forget. More info on the W’s pet policy, fees and menu items here 
  • Away Spa, located on the lower level of the hotel, is a place where guests can restore harmony and balance in a space designed to help you decompress. I enjoyed a few services during my stay and highly recommend the Aroma Polish, which is a 90 minute treatment that includes a full body exfoliation utilizing a volcanic scrub and a 60 minute massage. During my massage my amazing therapist detected some my problem areas due to excessive stress and running and was so kind as to take me through some exercises that I can do at home to help relieve the pain.
  • W Hotel Worldwide App: If you’re a fan of the W properties, then you need to download this free app immediately, which allows you to find and book a room, see special offers, shop the W Store and even download special W Hotel music playlists created for different moods and activities by Musical Director Michaelangelo D’acqua and the brand’s fave DJ’s from around the world.

Here’s the skinny…the property is approximately 10 years old and although it looks aesthetically pleasing to the eye, I think they will be due for a few updates in the next little while. Rumour has it that the property will be undergoing some renovations this Fall to the guest rooms. They do not have complimentary wifi in the guest rooms and it must be purchased for $15/day however, wifi is available for free in the lobby lounge. Minus these two small issues, our stay at the W Montreal was pretty amazing. Going forward it will be difficult to stay at any other hotel property in Montreal as the W’s hospitality game is ON POINT! It’s a hotel that is family friendly but still cool enough for celebrities and stars alike – during my stay I saw Actors/Comedians Seth Rogen and Chevy Chase. Travel Tip: Summer time in Montreal is extremely busy with concerts, conventions, film, music and comedy festivals so it can become a difficult task to find accommodations. I suggest when traveling between May through August, you book as early as possible.

Click here for more information on the W Montreal and follow them on Twitter and Instagram. For more on W Hotels Worldwide, destinations and events, head to WHotels.com. Stay tuned for my full review on the Cadillac XTS

Automotive Review: The 2014 Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD

2014 Cadillac ATS

Summer driving is always made more pleasant with a set of sweet wheels. Thanks to General Motors, I recently enjoyed a very extended test drive experience with the 2014 Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD. The luxury automotive brand’s full sized CTS sedan, built to go head-to-head with imported competition, has increased in size this year and is now comparable to the BMW 5-series. This left room in Cadillac’s portfolio lineup for a compact luxury vehicle to compete in the entry level luxe class with the BMW 3-series and Mercedes 3 Class. A few weeks ago I picked up my ATS in Opulent Blue Metallic, which was equipped with all-wheel drive,a 2.0L turbo engine (boasting 321 hp) and the luxury collection. I literally drove it all over the GTA and as far as Montreal for a weekend jaunt in hopes to test out every single feature. As a legit car enthusiast and lucky enough to sit behind the wheel of some of the most beautiful cars manufactured, I was shocked at how much attention this little vehicle garnered at stoplights, gas stations and valets.

Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD

Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD

Exterior innovations help to make the vehicle more fuel efficient and uber quiet. Sculpted side mirrors which are firmly positioned to reduce wind noise in addition to an acoustically laminated windshield and side door glass, expertly deflects noise making this one of the quietest cabins I’ve ever driven in. The 18″ wheels, dual exhaust, illuminating door handles, and vertical LED signature lights help to make this sporty body look extra chic. In regards to the interior, I am confident that those who have never driven in a Cadillac before would be blown away by both the features and design. The vehicle was equipped with some of the most advanced safety innovations including the brand’s Driver Awareness Package. Utilizing sensors and strategically placed cameras allows for the driver’s seat to alert of the driver of potential danger via seat vibrations, in addition lane departure alerts, rear cross traffic alert, side blind zone alert, front and rear automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, which was really beneficial on the 5 hour drive to Montreal.  I could understand if some found these constant vibrations to be an annoyance while driving, but I found it to be extremely helpful. For those that would much prefer to have their rears vibrate while driving, the functional option can always be easily turned off on the auxiliary panel.

2014-Cadillac-CTS-Dashboard-Done-Small

I was also treated to an upgraded steering (that has a heated option obviously not beneficial for right now but still an amazing feature forWinter) and the much talked about CUE (Cadillac User Experience) interface aka the heart of the interior; controlling navigation, media, climate control and more. The latter combined with BOSE surround sound made listening to my favourite Sirus XM Satellite channels a really enjoyable experience.

Cadillac ATS 2.0 AWD

Outside the St. Germain Hotel in Montreal, Quebec

So here’s the skinny, the manufacturer rates the ATS 2.0T AWD’s fuel efficiency as 6.9L/100km for highway driving and 10.4L/100km with city driving, while my approximate fuel mileage came in around 6.9L/100km and 10.9L/100km respectively. For a premium vehicle, it was nice to discover that premium gasoline wasn’t mandatory but rather only “recommended”. This is a huge deal as majority of other vehicles in the luxury category require premium gasoline usually making fill-ups pretty pricey. The ATS starts at $35,695 but the ticket price for this model with the luxury collection and all other aforementioned packages/upgrades brings the price point at $49,290, which is just a smudge under the $50K sticker price for the BMW 329i xDrive with similar bells and whistles. Surprisingly, overall I preferred the ATS. Although both vehicles are almost identical in size (minus one inch), the Cadillac’s interior feels a bit roomier and it also ticks all the boxes when it comes to speed, luxurious design and functionality.

For more information on the brand’s vehicle lineup head over to Cadillac.ca and for details specs click here. To follow along all my past and present adventures with Cadillac, use the hashtag #RideInStylexCadillac on Twitter and Instagram!

Luxe Stays |Hotel Le Germain Montreal

Hotel Le Germain

During the Summer months one of my favourite places to visit is the city of Montreal. If I could, I would travel there each weekend from May to August and do nothing but shop, eat copious amounts of pain au chocolat and enjoy some of the cities amazing dining experiences. I recently took a little weekend trip to “La Belle Province” in the new 2014 Cadillac ATS sedan and stayed in Hotel Le Germain, one of the cities most premier accommodations. Owned and operated by a small family owned company appropriately named Groupe Germain, this chic hotel is situation in the heart of downtown Montreal, yet resides on an uber quiet street – allowing guests to be in the midst of the hustle and bustle within seconds but sleep at night without noise pollution. The location is perfect for guests without vehicle transportation, as the hotel is within walking distance of Rue Sherbrooke – which is the home of high-end luxe stores such as Holt Renfrew, Hermes, Catherine Malandrino, Tiffany & C; art shops and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Also within a close radius, the popular Saint Catherine Street and plenty amazing dining opportunities.

Hotel Le Germain Montreal

Hotel Le Germain Montreal

Hotel Le Germain Montreal

Images above are of Hotel Le Germain’s Deluxe Room with queen size bed

I have stayed at many boutique hotels during my travels and usually find that there is more of an investment in the building’s design and style than there is with hiring competent and helpful staff. Luckily, Le Germain did not cut corners on either. The staff was beyond accommodating to both myself and my dog Brooklyn (yes, this is in fact a pet friendly hotel!) and went the extra mile to ensure my pup had an equally comfortable stay by providing her with a comfy Germain dog bed, food/water bowls, and of course treats. Concierge also eagerly advised me upon check-in that they could provide dog-sitting services should I want to venture anywhere that is not dog friendly, provided restaurant recommendations that are actually cool and not run of the mill tourist traps, and even packed my vehicle with an ample supply of their branded water bottles to ensure I stayed hydrated during my daily excursions.

Hotel Le Germain Montreal

With loft like design, concrete ceilings, earth tones, contrasting textures and modern design, each of the guest rooms felt and looked ultra roomy.  I am very particular about hotel bathrooms and it’s not uncommon for them to be so small it’s difficult for two people to get ready in there simultaneously. However, the washrooms in Le Germain are all oversized, even those in the regular guest rooms.  They contain ultra plush white robes, tubs and showers overlooking the bedroom and luxe toiletries from Molton Brown, the UK’s bath and body product connoisseurs. Although this was primarily a trip of leisure, I still had work to do, which was made easy with the room’s expansive work station. And the best part hands down had to be the hotel’s beds and accompanying bedding, which was designed exclusively for Le Germain by Quebec fashion icon Marie Saint Pierre. The high thread count and plush duvet and pillows made me feel as if I was  literally sleeping on a cloud. It has been years since I’ve slept that good. In need of extra space? not to worry… in addition to the 99 guest rooms, Le Germain also has two penthouse suites that each have two floors, 1.5 baths, full kitchen and large dining and living rooms and surprisingly only goes for $950 a night.

Hotel Le Germain Hotel

Hotel Le Germain Montreal

Living and dining room of the 16th floor penthouse suite

Although Le Germain impressed me on many levels, they did fail in one area. Minor, due to the fact that I was only there for a couple of days, but could be an issue for those guests who are staying much longer. Their restaurant Laurie Raphael fell flat in my personal opinion. Headed by Executive Chef Daniel Vezina, the presentation of the dishes that I was served during the dinner service was indeed pretty but the taste was subpar, which was a disappointment seeing as though Restaurant Victor in Groupe Germain’s Toronto location on Mercer is absolutely exquisite. Furthermore, the service (in the restaurant only) was less than stellar. However, a deluxe breakfast is included in the room rate, which is served buffet style. For those that have food sensitivities to gluten and dairy may find it a bit challenging to eat during the breakfast service as it’s filled with breads, bread putting, cheeses and oatmeal.

Other services/amenities worth noting:

  • Espresso bar on the main level
  • Computer with high speed wifi in the lobby in addition to complimentary wifi throughout the hotel
  • Valet (which is needed as street parking is very limited in the area)
  • Renovated fitness room with cardio and weight equipment, towels and water
  • In-room massage and spa services

In the end, I had a fabulous stay…the concierge and front desk staff were so amazing I was sad to leave after the fews days I spent there – and I look forward to returning as a guest hopefully during my next visit to Montreal. For more information and rates on Le Germain Hotel, head to their websitand you can stay up-to-date on current and future deals via Twitter. One of the most active twitter accouts I have ever seen from a hotel, if you have any questions, concerns, feedback or require help at any time, make sure to tweet @HotelGermain 

 

Four Seasons Hotels Takes it’s Luxury Service to the Skies

Four Seasons Private Jet

Synonomous with first class luxury across the globe, it’s hard to imagine that the Four Seasons could offer savvy travellers something more extravagant than what is found at any of their 92 properties in 38 countries, but somehow they have managed to take customer service to all new heights. The Toronto based company has recently announced the launch of their (and the hospitality industry’s) first fully branded private jet service, which the brand will replicate the amenities privileged travellers experience in any of the Four Seasons hotels and resorts but now 30,000 feet in the air – pretty insane right?

Four Seasons Private Jet

Starting in February 2015, the FS Jet will take to the skies on it’s inaugural flight in a custom, retrofitted Boeing 757. Just to give you some perspective, commercial planes of this size normally seat upwards of 200 passengers but this hotel in the sky will have seating for only 52 lucky guests in a 2-2 configuration. With custom handcrafted leather flatbeds with mattresses, pillows and duvets made to replicate the beds in the hotels, an onboard concierge, on-call client services manager, a dedicated Four Seasons chef preparing in-flight menus inspired by culinary influences from around the world, air travel, ground transportation, expert guides for excursions and accommodations at Four Seasons hotel & resorts…I think it’s safe to say that this would be a experience of a lifetime.

This Four Season experience will begin with three 24 day, one-of-a-kind journeys:

Around the World – February 9th to March 4th, 2014: For the brand’s inaugural trip, the adventure begins in LA, will end in London and will hit a total of 9 fabulous destinations which include; Bali, Bora Bora, Kona (Hawaii), Sydney, Mumbai and the Taj Mahal in India, Chiang Mai in Thailand, and Istanbul, Turkey with a private tour of Hagia Sophia. Cost: $119,000 (double occupancy) and additional $11,000 for single occupancy totalling $130,000 if you’re flying solo. Clearly bringing a plus one is recommended.

Backstage with the Arts – April 20th to May 5th, 2014: For those obsessed with the arts and exploring European culture, this trip explores six cities including Prague, Lisbon, Milan, St. Petersburg, Istanbul (departing and returning to Paris) within 16 days. Guests will receive all-access and backstage tours of some of the most famous theatres and museums in the world…and if that’s not enough, attend a private gala outside St. Petersburg’s Pavlosk Place. Cost: $69,000 double occupancy and $80,000 for single occupancy.

Around the World – August 16th to September 8th, 2014: In this edition of the “Around the World” experience, travellers will head to Tokyo, Beijing, Seattle, the Serengeti, the Maldives, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, NYC and Marrakech. The best part…this trip will include hotel stays in three of the four newest Four Seasons properties in the world in addition to the company’s first safari lodge in the Serengeti. Cost: $119,000 and $130,000 for single occupancy.

The Four Seasons Private Jet Experience Trips are open for booking now. Obviously not affordable travel for most, it’s still fun to see what options are available if you had a disposable income that would allow you to drop six figures on a vacay!

For more information head over to FourSeasons.com/AroundTheWorld. Stay up to date with the hotel’s latest property openings and specials by following their global accounts on Twitter and Instagram. In Toronto? Check out the brand’s local Toronto Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Product Review: Cuisinart’s Life Changing Juice Extractor

Cuisinart-CJE-1000Over the past month of so I’ve been using Cuisinart’s juice extractor at home and I loved it so much that it was the focus of the second episode in the Cuisinart video series I am doing with my “Cooking With Cuisinart” crew; Garrett of Gtonge1.com and Casie of CasieStewart.com. For far too long I avoided prepping my own juices at home worrying about it being too time consuming and the thought of a difficult clean up process, but learned my fears were completely unwarranted. Although I have used both the large and compact juice extractors, turns out that the larger one better meets my juicing needs. Majority of my juices are prepared with hard fruits and veggies and the 5 speed control dial and 1000 watts of power allows for optimal extracting with ingredients such as beets, carrots, apples, and ginger – some of the ingredients I use on a regular basis. With a 3″ (7.5 cm) tube opening, the juicer can accommodate larger items without having to cut them into smaller pieces, virtually eliminating the prep time for recipes. After trying out every single recipe from the Cuisinart Juice Recipe book (which is included with the machine) within the first two days of using it, I was thrilled to discover that it has a built in foam management filter disk.

Cooking With Cuisinart

Similar to the rest of the products offered in the Cuisinart brand portfolio, the quality and sleek design is unmatched by any it’s competitors. Also setting it apart from the pack, this machine is uber quiet. I was shocked to discover that I could quietly juice early in the morning and not disturb anyone else. And the best part, the clean up is super fast and simple. I use a small compost bag  to line the 2 litre pulp container and it conveniently contains the waste, allowing for easy disposal. The locking hinge eliminates necessary spills, the entire machine breaks down so easily and is dishwasher save, making clean up ridiculously simple.

Cuisinart Juicers

Want to learn more about this kitchen necessity? Visit Cuisinart.ca or visit the brand on Facebook and Twitter.

Chevrolet Lifestyle Road Trip with the 2014 Chevrolet Clean Cruze Turbo Diesel

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

As a daily commuter into the city I spend a significant amount of time in my car and an obscene amount of money on gas, which trust me I would rather spend on shoes and the Celine Trapeze handbag. When I heard Chevrolet Canada had released a diesel version to their sleek Cruze sedan, that would put my car and all other non-hybrid passenger cars gas mileage to shame, I had to find out more. And that is exactly what I did in November with Garrett Tonge, Founder of lifestyle website Gtonge1.com. Thanks to Chevrolet, Garrett and I got to take the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel on an amazing lifestyle road trip to our nation’s capital of Ottawa to explore what the city has to offer.

 

Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

Our road trip journey began at Toronto’s chic Hotel Le Germain where we quickly got acquainted with the vehicles amazing features. A road trip wouldn’t be a road trip without some great music, so armed with our best playlists, Garrett and I immediately connected our iPhones to the Cruze’s MyLink System, which let us control everything at tip of our fingers from the steering wheel and colour touchscreen display. Determined to make the most of this drive down we took the scenic route and stopped at a quaint organic coffee shop called The Human Bean and hit up a museum both in the town of Cobourg. After another three hours we arrived at our home for the next few days, The Arc Hotel, and decided to walk around the downtown area before heading to dinner at Play Food & Wine. Located in the Byward Market, this modern, tapas style restaurant uses local, seasonal and sustainable products in their dishes. We loved that resto’s Wine Director detailed her suggested wine pairings under each menu item for an optimal dining experience.

Chevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

Day two in Ottawa started out super early with brekkie in bed and a run on the Rideau Canal (a must during the fall as the scenery is so beautiful), followed by a scenic drive to the east side of Ottawa. We then got dressed up to the nines for some sightseeing around Sparks Street, Parliament Hill, then headed for a swanky high-tea at the historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel. The amazing day was finished off with a spectacular dinner at what I would say is Ottawa’s top restaurant for both food and service, Restaurant 18. And of course there is no way we could have made this 4.5 hour trek without indulging in a famous Beavertail post dinner. If you’re unfamiliar with this national Canadian treat, its simply a fried dough pastry that is hand stretched to resemble a beaver’s tail and comes with a choice of toppings such as; nutella, peanut-butter M&M’s, whipped cream, banana slices, crumbled oreos, etc. Worth every single calorie if you ask me!

Chevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselHeading out on our last day of the road trip, still on the same tank of gas may I add, we decided to keep it low key and head over to the National Gallery of Art to check out some of the gallery’s current exhibitions. Was really pleased to see some work by one of my all-time favourite abstract artists Jackson Pollock. Before we knew it, it was time to embark on our trek back to Toronto. After a quickie lunch at the area’s oldest and tastiest vegetarian restaurant The Green Door, we hit the road singing along to music from the car’s built in XM Satellite radio. Which was a lifesaver after already listening to our playlists on the way down. I can’t think of a better vehicle to have used for this lifestyle trip. It had roomy interior with leather seats, spacious trunk space to accommodate all of our Rimowa luggage, OnStar’s auto security, car safety and navigation system, rear/back-up camera and it was super efficient in regards to gas giving us 4.2L per 100km of highway driving. Believe it or not, we returned back home without having to re-fuel after driving approximately 1,200 over the duration of the weekend. Many thanks to Chevrolet, Odyssey International and Garrett Tonge for such an amazing time and for allowing me to be a part of the #CleanDieselCruze lifestyle experience.

Ani + Wren | Toronto’s Chic Lifestyle and Maternity Boutique

Ani + Wren

This may come across as extremely shallow but the thought of having to wear nothing but Lululemon joggers during a pregnancy makes me more nauseous than first trimester morning sickness. I cannot even count how many girlfriends I have who struggled to maintain their style while being preggers – not to mention the countless designer jeans they cut the tops off of to sew in an elasticized waistband, just to be able to still rock their fave skinny jeans.

Ani + Wren

Thankfully sister-in-laws Lani and Lauren Levy has been so kind as to open a fabulous lifestyle and clothing boutique in the heart of Rosedale with some pretty dope contemporary brand that have been carefully curated so that women can actually wear these pieces before, during and post pregnancy – how brilliant is that? Similar to most genius ideas, this concept was born after Lauren (Wren) struggled to find clothes that reflected her personal style aesthetic with her growing baby bump. With the sissy’s winning combination of Business/Commerce and Apparel Buying backgrounds and superb store location, there is no doubt in my mind that Ani + Wren is going to be a huge success.

Ani + Wren

Ani + Wren

Ani + Wren

What to you can expect to see at Ani + Wren: A stunning, light space with exposed brick and clothing racks made out of plumbing pipes, plush, over-sized change rooms perfect for mom’s toting two toddlers and a Maclaren stroller, cult denim labels, chic evening wear, trendy outerwear, not be be outdone by some MAJOR accessories and lifestyle products. With brands like 360 Sweater, Anniel, DL1961, DVF, Enza Costa, JBrand, Paige, Rebecca Minkoff and Vince (just to name a few), it makes it easy peasy for women in different stages of pregnancy and different styles to shop in the boutique . And let me be frank…I love the idea that I can also find stuff for myself while out shopping with my preggo gal pals.

Ani + Wren is located at 1172 Yonge Street Toronto, ON. 416.944.1260 www.aniandwren.com

CONTEST: Thanks to the beautiful ladies at Ani + Wren, I am able to giveaway a special package of pampering treats from UK company Bloom and Blossom that would be perfect for new/expecting mothers or let’s face it, any beauty obsessed junkie. The package will include an indulgent bath oil, revitalizing leg & foot spray and the brand’s best selling anti-stretch mark cream. Bloom and Blossom is a premium skincare line from the UK for expecting mothers, yummy mummy’s and babies using the minimum number of ingredients to achieve maximum results – with no harmful ingredients or additives.

*Entering the giveaway is simple…you must be following both myself and Ani + Wren on Twitter and tweet me stating the following, “I want to win the Bloom and Blossom beauty package! #AniandWrenGiveaway”. Contest closes on Thursday November 21st at 6PM EST and the lucky winner will be announced on Friday November 22nd at noon EST. Good Luck!!!!

**Contest open to U.S. and Canadian residents ONLY**

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