Tag

TRAVEL

Browsing

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:

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

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

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


VOTED: MOST BALLER EXCURSION

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

VOTED: MOST DARING AND ADVENTUROUS

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

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

 VOTED: MOST NIQUE PLACE TO FIND YOUR ZEN

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

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

VOTED: MOST BAD ASS DESERT EXPERIENCE

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

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

VOTED: MOST BREATHTAKING VIEWS

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

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

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

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!

Travel Smarter with the CIBC Air Canada Conversion Visa Prepaid Card

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

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

cibc-air-canada-ac-conversion

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

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

CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Card

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

Support Currencies:

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

Expiry Policy:

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

Transaction Limits:

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

 Fees:

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

CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Photography by JessBaumung.com

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

8 Carry-On Essentials for Light Air Travel

For years I’ve always envied people who are able to travel with only carry-on luggage. And to be honest, I was not only envious, but also confused. Very confused. How can women travel for more than one night with a 21″ rolling case? I mean, how does she manage to squeeze in all the unnecessary outfits that she will never wear during her trip? Doesn’t she want to bring her ionic blow dryer? Isn’t it tough to pack multiple shoes, especially with high heels? And what about ALL her beauty and skincare products? *gasp*  During my travels on numerous press trips, I have learned a few tricks that has allowed me to join the club of savvy travellers who are not chained to the bag carrousel at their destination. This learning curve has allowed me to fit all the necessities into just one carry-on bag, although I do also bring along a backpack or large tote along as my handbag to cram in anything else that may not fit in my rolling luggage. So since “sharing is caring” here’s some of carry-on MUST HAVES that makes me feel like I have the basics covered:

  1. Rimowa Limbo Multiwheel 22″: Traveling with carry-on can only be done if you have the right bag. I’ve long been a fan of Rimowa luggage for it’s aesthetic, functionality, durable materials, and superior quality. No matter the size or type of bag, Rimowa always offers tons of storage components it’s internal set, taking away some of the anxiety of traveling with one piece of luggage. The multiwheel feature allows the bag to glide seamless in tandem by your side or pulled from behind.
  2. Dermalogica Skincare: On shorter trips, I have learned to edit down my skincare to just a few products. This is a huge feat seeing as though I use anywhere between 15-20 products a day on my face at home. Traveling can cause stress, skin accumulates dirt and debris and we all know that cabin air during flights wreak havoc on skin so it’s important to travel with some options to keep your skin clean, clear and hydrated. Clear skin all lies in how you cleanse. Before washing my skin, I use cleansing wipes (not pictured above) and Dermalogica’s Precleanse. The latter’s nourishing olive, apricot, and kukui nut oils removes make-up, sunscreens and oil-based debris. Also, I love multi-duty products like Dermalogica’s Multivitamin Thermafoliant. This powerful, self-heating skin polisher has chemical and physical exfoliants to not only refine your skin’s texture but also promotes skin firmness and enhance the penetration of vitamins into the skin. The best part, it’s formulated without artificial fragrances and colours. $55 CDN for Precleanse $77 CDN for Multivitamin Therafoliant
  3. The Esteé Edit “Beam Team”: Ummm this product is absolutely brilliant if you dropping majority of your skincare products like third period French class to be able to travel checked-in luggage free. Beam Team is a double duty daily moisturizing lotion. The tube contains a lightweight illuminating and hydrating lotion and wait for it, if you flip the cap top you will find a flattering for all skin shades, highlighting balm. $42 CDN
  4. Jo Malone “Wild Bluebell” Cologne: Who doesn’t love scents by Jo Malone? The brand has a wide variety of colognes ranging from; citrus, floral, fruity, spicy, and woody that can satisfy just about any scent palette. One of my go-to’s when traveling is Wild Bluebell in the 1 floz (30ml) bottle. The size couldn’t be more perfect for travel, plus the light, fruity scent won’t overbear your in-flight neighbours. $65
  5. Hermés Belt: Why travel with multiple belts when you can have just one chic, reversible option. I love my double sided Hermés belt kid. I’ve had it for years. I have misplaced it three times and literally felt my heart stop beating each time I did. The epsom calfskin leather strap in black (with tan on the reversible side) with gold plated metal buckle, literally goes with everything. I can’t say it’s cheap but hey, it’s essentially two belts for the price of one, so it’s all about perspective right? $1,405 CDN
  6. Apple 11″ MacBook Laptop: Size matters. When I am not traveling I love have access to a desktop monitor or larger laptop screen when I’m traveling, the 11″ MacBook has become my trusty companion for both work and play (I mean, I still have to stay up to date with my fave shows when I am on the road). It’s much thinner, lighter, faster, and sleeker than it’s predecessors and also have improved graphic performance. If that’s not enough, up to 10 hours of battery life.
  7. The Barest Lip Colour by The Esteé Edit: You don’t need to travel with an army of lipsticks and lip pencils, trust me. When I have limited luggage space, I stick to just one lippy that I can easily rock from day to night. Loving this neutral shade by The Esteeé Edit which is available at Sephora.ca. $26 CDN
  8. Shoes – a flat and a heel option: I don’t care whether it’s business or pleasure, I think every woman should travel with both a heel and a flat. I love these neutral shoes from Ann Taylor (left) and Loft (right) which are sadly from their summer collections and no longer available.

Interesting in learning more of my skincare secrets? Stay tuned as I will be sharing my skin story with Dermalogica Canada over the next few weeks. Follow along by using the hashtag #MyFaceMyStory on your favourite social channels.

Home for the Holidays inside Shangri-La Toronto’s Winter Wonderland Suite

ShangriLa Winter Wonderland

There is something very special about Shangri-La hotels. The Toronto property is one I frequent quite often whether it be for drinks in the lobby bar with friends, a meal at their signature restaurant Bosk, a leisure afternoon enjoying their famed high tea service or for a quick staycation when I’m in need of some R&R. All the guest rooms and suites are roomy and well appointed here but there is one suite that has a special place in my heart. The Garden Suite, which you may have seen covered here earlier this year, has become my “home away from home”. For the very first time, the suite has been transformed into a luxurious Winter Wonderland by the renowned design team at House & Home magazine and is the perfect oasis for visiting family members from out of town or the perfect gift to yourself, if you’re looking for our own personal retreat during this busy time of the year.

Winter Wonderland Suite Living Room

Close up of living room Winter Wonderland Suite

After an intense travel schedule over the last couple of months, my little family and I checked into the Shangri-La for some quality time and relaxation. Even with so much going on around the city during this time of year, we enjoyed just lazing around in our robes, watching Netflix, and using the properties amazing amenities and facilities. As per usual, there was nothing overlooked during our stay. The Shang staff pays extremely high attention to detail and never fails to surprise me when they go the extra distance during my stays. Even our pup was set up with an oversized plush dog bed, beautiful feeding bowls and bottled water to ensure she had the comforts of home.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Close up of master Bed in Winter Wonderland Suite

ShangriLa Winter Wonderland

ShangriLa Toronto

ShangriLa Winter Wonderland

Private Patio Winter Wonderland Suite

Decorated in just the around amount of holiday accents; including a collection of books and decor from Indigo’s holiday collection, classic wreaths, pine cones, icy hues, faux fur with hints of inspo from the Great White North, makes this the perfect space to get into the holiday spirit. Every square inch of this Winter Wonderland suite oozes comfort and style and designed to make you forget that you are not a home. With an oversized walk-in wardrobe, four poster bed, chevron wood floors – usually a favourite of guests staying here, a master bathroom that drips in natural sunlight with floor to ceiling cararra marble and a secondary full sized washroom; I can guarantee that this suite is nicer than most condos in Toronto.  And if 800 Sqft of living space inside wasn’t enough, the re-styled accommodations also boasts a large private patio overlooking central downtown and features hints of festive magic. With this mild winter weather, one could easily host their own mini holiday cocktail party under the stars or enjoy a hot-toddy alone with their special person:

We are thrilled to be partnering with House and Home and Indigo to decorate the hotel’s first ever Winter Wonderland suite” says Shangri-La Toronto General Manager Richard Cooke. “We see this collaboration as an opportunity to delight our guests with a one of a kind experience whilst providing the unique Asian hospitality we are known for throughout the world.”

Check out the video below to get some behind the scenes access into the creation of the Winter Wonderland suite by House & Home’s Joel Bray (Editorial Design Team) and Reiko Caron (Stylist for House & Home Online TV)…

One of my favourite things to enjoy when I’m home and have a day off is high tea at Shangri-La. From now until January 3rd, their tea service is extra special  with a “Nutcracker” themed menu where each delicious item reflects a different a part of the famed ballet production. You can expect all the usual high tea extravagances such as clotted cream, house-made berry jam and honey, to go with classic and warm candied ginger scones. The selection of finger sandwiches is just incredible with my personal faves being the roasted turkey with cranberry preserve on herb country bread, truffle poached egg salad on granary bread and the lobster with herb mayonnaise on brioche buns. All followed by delish Nutcracker inspired pastries. You don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy this afternoon treat and it’s the perfect add-on to a day of holiday shopping or after taking in the Nutcracker ballet across the street at the Four Seasons Performing Arts Centre.

Winter Wonderland Shangri La

Winter Wonderland Shangri-La TorontoPhotography by Teddy Chau and Nathalia Allen

Want a chance to experience a night in this heavenly oasis for yourself? Throughout the month of December, to celebrate the launch of the newly re-designed Winter Wonderland suite, The Shangri-La Toronto has created the “Wish Me A Winter Wonderland Stay” contest on Instagram for a chance to win a luxurious weekend stay in this signature suite, that also includes dinner for two at Bosk. To enter all you will need to is:

1) Follow @ShangriLaTo on Instagram

2) Post a photo of your “Winter must-haves” and tag @ShangriLaTO and use the hashtag #OasisAtShangriLa

*Contest ends December 21st, 2015. Click here for additional contest details and best of luck!

Current rate for the Winter Wonderland suite is $3,030 CDN and includes breakfast for two and valet. For additional information on the Shangri-La Toronto property, pricing, and availability, head to Shangri-La.com/Toronto or call 647-788-8888.

2015 GMC Canyon Stampede Adventure

2015-GMC-Canyon-Sasha-truck-1x1-2

I have always considered myself a savvy traveler but found it a bit odd that I have galavanted all over the world without discovering all the beauty Canada has to offer. This summer all of that changed with the opportunity to hit the road again with General Motors and some friends to explore Alberta with the all new GMC Canyon. This trip was a unique dichotomy, where we got to experience working ranch life in Lundbreck and finished our adventure taking in the largest outdoor festival in the world…the Calgary Stampede.

2015-GMC-Canyon-truck-shotsSW-3

2015-GMC-Canyon-Gift-Sierra-West-Ranch-2

2015-GMC-Canyon-Gift-Sierra-West-Ranch-1

2015-GMC-Canyon-SierraWestRanch-14

In an effort for our group to both bond with each other and our set of wheels for the trip, we flew from Toronto to Calgary and connected to Lethbridge. There we jumped into a fleet of black GMC Canyon’s to make the trek to Lundbrek, one of the sunniest and flattest places in the country, where we gladly called Sierra West Ranch our temporary home. Probably as remote as you can get in the province, owners Randy and Ginny Donahue affectionately say its “where the pavement ends and the west begins.” The two, who are sweeter than strawberry-rhubarb pie, have a long history in rodeo, riding and of course ranching, which was a the perfect precursor to Stampede. The ranch, nestled among the scenic foothills, was everything I imagined and more. We each were blessed with our own rustic accommodations but us gals decided it would be much more fun to have a slumber party in Sierra West’s loft style log cabin – the largest on the entire property.

2015-GMC-Canyon-Sasha-Grace-Karen-2

2015-GMC-Canyon-Sasha-Grace-Karen-19

2015-GMC-Canyon-Calf-Roping-Dinner-23

2015-GMC-Canyon-HORSES-11

2015-GMC-Canyon-HORSES-1

2015-GMC-Canyon-HORSES-8

Our crew dove head first into our cowboy/cowgirl duties. Learning the ins and outs of ranching, roping cattle and spending tons of time with the beautiful horses. Time spent on social media and our laptops was replaced with cozy bonfires, late night chats and live music played by a real-life cowboy. Although life on the ranch was pretty amazing, I would be lying if I said we didn’t miss being dialled in to what was going on in the “real world” on Instagram and Twitter. Our social media obsessed group was pretty lucky being able to use the 4G LTE wifi from our convoy of pick-up trucks. After a taste of the simple life in Lundbrek, it was time to get behind the wheel of our trucks and continue on with our Prairie adventure. Our first stop on route to Calgary was in Turner Valley, a small town with a rich history in oil and gas in Alberta, to check out Eau Claire Distillery. Alberta is home to the best grain and they harvest for spirits all over the world, so it’s only a matter of time they got into the craft spirits game. Most have heard of “Farm to Table” in the culinary world and Eau Claire is now making “Grain to Glass” something to talk about by producing artisanal, small batched, craft spirits. It seemed as though our tasting began one minute after the legal time to start drinking and over an hour we got schooled on Turner Valley’s checkered history while sipping on single malt & rye whiskey, premium vodkas, London style dry gin, and specialty blends.

GMC Canyon Experience

We were welcomed to Calgary with a hail storm. Yes…in July. It was the craziest thing I ever seen because the temperature had been above 30 degrees celsius for days. Outside of the Hotel Arts, we sought refuge in our trusted Canyon; using the truck’s wifi to snapchat this freak of nature to our friends back in Toronto.  For some reason we decided to put our luggage in the roomy second row of the truck, instead of the bed and that probably was the most intelligent decision we made all day. Funny enough, there’s a well known saying around Alberta, “If you don’t like the weather you need not to worry as it changes every five minutes.”

2015-GMC-Canyon-sasha-truck-11

2015-GMC-Canyon-truck-shots-10

2015-GMC-Canyon-Smithbilt-AlbertaBoot-12

2015-GMC-Canyon-Smithbilt-AlbertaBoot-1

2015-GMC-Canyon-Smithbilt-AlbertaBoot-28

2015-GMC-Canyon-Smithbilt-AlbertaBoot-37

There was a few things on my wish list while in Calgary. Quintessential things that I was told by my friends I absolutely had to do and see while I was in town. First on the hit list: go to the iconic cowboy hat manufacturer Smithbilt to tour their facility and obtain one of their famous white hats that they have been proudly making since the 1940s. Considered a legendary symbol for the city of Calgary, the white Smithbilt hat has been presented by the city’s Mayor to visiting dignitaries, politicians, and celebs like the Dalai Lamai, Vladimir Putin, Prince William, Kate Middleton and even Oprah over the last 60 years – as the key to the city. After meeting the owners and learning the history, we were each bestowed with our own white Smithbilt before heading to the Alberta Boot Company. The Alberta Boot Company just doesn’t just make any run of the mill boots. They are known for designing and manufacturing the footwear for the Royal Canadian Mountie Police and consumers who are looking for custom cowboy boots. Cowboy boots are as classic as you can get, so it’s design aesthetic will never deviate far from the basic style of boot. Most would assume that Alberta Boot Company’s production technology may have changed to reflect the current times, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the way they made their boots 35 years ago, is still the exact same way they are making boots today.

2015-GMC-Canyon-Smithbilt-AlbertaBoot-61

2015-GMC-Canyon-Smithbilt-AlbertaBoot-63

2015-GMC-Canyon-Smithbilt-AlbertaBoot-70

Clad in our western regalia in our pick-up trucks, our crew was finally ready to take on Stampede.  Attending a rodeo event in anything other than a pick-up truck would be blasphemy. The 2015 Canyon was tough enough for ranch life, chic enough for the streets of Calgary and still gave us some Aberta credibility. It has substantial power that makes it useful for trailering or hauling, but inside the cabin remains ultra quiet due to advanced interior engineering, while also being roomy enough for my crew and our gear. I am used to driving mid to large sized vehicles but for the others who are less familiar, they were happy to have the assistance of the standard rear camera to help them navigate in and out of parking spots. Truth be told, although categorized as a mid-sized truck, the Canyon handles more like a sedan.

I’ve heard many tales about the 10 day rodeo extravaganza, but was not at all prepared for what we experienced. The grounds, or otherwise known as the “Mainway” is a large version of a State Fair or carnival you may find in the U.S. Think – rides, games, merchandise vendors, and FOOD. Lots and lots and lots of food. If you were following along on snapchat, you were lucky enough to see what we were indulging in first hand. Everything was super sized and fried. Fried cheesecake, fried oreos, snickers, ice cream, pickles. You name it…it was there. Fried and delicious – as you can imagine but could only handle it for a day or so. We indulged in between catching all the action behind the scenes in the chutes. Frighteningly close to the horses, bulls and their ridiculously fit riders, I got a whole new appreciation for the sport. Every day at 1:15 over the near two week event, cowboys and cowgirls face off in a furious display of grit and skill, with each win building towards Showdown Sunday – the Rodeo’s main event.

Stampede2

Stampede1

Stampede5

Stampede4

Stampede3

While in the chutes ducking dirt and manure from the horses as they kicked their way into the ring, I took advantage of this time to ask questions about how elite rodeo cowboys stay in shape. This is something that has always fascinated me. Their time on the horse or bull may be short, approximately 8 seconds, but those few seconds are a lot for the body to take. These athletes are on the road for months at a time, competing in more than 100 rodeos per year, often sleeping in motels with no gyms. They squeeze in push-ups in tiny rooms or against their trucks at rest stops. During my impromptu chat with one rider, he explained that it’s all about strength and core, “Being lean is crucial. You don’t want to get too big. The bigger you are, the harder you fall,”

2015-GMC-Canyon-truck-shots-1Photos by Amee Rehal

Click here to learn more about how the GMC Canyon is refining the mid-size pickup truck and head to GM.ca to learn more about the company’s complete brand portfolio. This experience was made possible by the amazing folks at General Motors Canada, and GMC brand team, in conjunction with Gary Sowerby and Lisa Calvi of Odyssey InternationalThe GMC Canyon experience is just one of many amazing adventures I have had with the GM crew. In case you missed it, make sure to catch my Chevrolet Colorado experience in Sqaumish, British Columbia here.

Frequent Flyer In-Flight Essentials

Frequent Flyer In-Fight Essentials

I used to have a difficult time on long-haul flights often suffering from extreme boredom, nausea, occasional claustrophobia and severe skin dryness but now I think I have this “frequent flyer” thing down pat. Although I hate the process of checking in, security and customs, I have come to relish the quiet time I have during a flight and enjoy catching up on some much needed sleep, writing, reading and newly released films. Over the week I have spent some considerable time traveling with the Nike Canada team covering the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco and Nike Women Summit in New York City and had pleasant in-flight experiences with the help of a few of my “MUST-HAVE” items.

ON BOARD BEAUTY

evian facial mist

I like to keep my make-up minimal when traveling…I mean, how else do you expect me to fall asleep on the shoulder of the passenger beside me without leaving a makeup imprint from my face behind? Therefore, while on board I’m sans makeup with the exception of a neutral colour lip balm like Smith’s Rosebud Salve, which has proven to be a lifesaver and frequently spray my face and neck with Evian Facial Spray. The cabin air is stale and dry, which can be harsh on the skin. Evian mist not only moisturizes but also refreshens and tones as well.  I always purchase the 50ml bottle, which is small enough to not cause issues with the TSA regulations. For additional skin hydration I lather on Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream and Moroccanoil’s Hand CreamPrior to landing, I usually apply a bold lipstick like a classic Chanel red or Ruby Woo by MAC to brighten up my face and Younique mascara to open up my tired eyes. Last but not least, with this ebola virus scare and just germs in general, it’s imperative to carry hand sanitizer. The smell of hand sanitizer bothers me but L’Occitane En Provence’s Lavender Hand Purifying Gel has lavender and other essential oils that makes it smell heavenly.

ENTERTAINMENT ESSENTIALS

next issue

As a lover of fashion and interior design, I am usually the girl with 200 page magazines in my carry-on luggage complaining my bag is too heavy BUT that issue is now a thing of the past with Next Issue.  Its a genius app that can be downloaded onto your computer or fave wireless devices that gives you access to over 100 of the best magazines in the world. On my way from Toronto to San Francisco I spent the entire flight reading the latest issues of InStyle Architecture’s Digest, and Vogue. If I’m not knocked out catching up sleep, working, or reading, I am watching movies or listening to endless music on Spotify  with my Revo Wireless headphones from Jabra that turn out to be perfect for drowning out the sound of a baby crying.

SLEEP & HEALTH NECESSITIES

dream water

Sleep is ideal when heading to a destination where there is a time zone difference and seeing as though my sleeping pattern is pretty erratic, I usually require a bit of assistance. A sleep mask is mandatory for early morning flights and I’m really digging my new chic Agent Provocateur Eye Mask – it does a superb job at blocking out annoying sunlight pouring through the windows.  I also discovered a product called Dream Water a few months ago…it’s so brilliant, I can’t travel without it.  It’s an all natural, drug free sleep aid that contains a mixture of GABA (Gamma Amminobutyric Acid) and Melatonin; both supplements to aid to relaxation and sleep.  Just a small sip of Dream Water and I’m asleep until the Pilot announces our decent to our arrival city. Last but not least, I always make sure to have Aleeve on hand when traveling. There is nothing worst than putting a wrench in your travel plans by arriving in another country or city with a headache.

Also, I always keep these “must-haves” stored in a backpack or large hand bag that easily fits underneath the seat in front of me. If it’s packed in a case it will stay above me in the overhead compartment the entire flight.  Tweet me and let me know what some of your in-flight “Must Haves” are @sashaexeter!

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

The Miraj Hamman Spa by Caudalie Paris at the Shangri-La Hotel

Miraj Hammam Spa

Marrakesh has long been on my travel “bucket list” and seeing as though I’m not heading to there anytime soon, I figured a good consolation would be to enjoy a Moroccan inspired treatment at the Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie Paris located on the fifth floor of Toronto’s Shangri-La Hotel. Within this expansive 9,000 sqft, otherworldly oasis, patrons can enjoy unique body and face treatments by the spa’s highly trained staff using Caudalie Paris products – known for their anti-oxidant properties.

Miraj Hammam SpaMiraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie ParisShangri-La High Tea

I began my afternoon with an hour long tea service in the hotel’s heavenly smelling lobby lounge. I would like to consider myself somewhat of a high tea connoisseur and for the past couple of years has been my favourite high-tea service in the city. After noshing on delectable treats and a lavender custom tea blend from Pluck Teas I was welcomed by the spa’s warm staff and immediately escorted to the lavish change room to begin prepping for my Hammam and Gommage treatment. After dressing in a traditional sarong, I was then guided into a private Jerusalem gold marble steam room, infused with an intense amount of Eucalyptus. This Eucalyptus was used to help me detoxify, relax and help open up my respiratory passage.

Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie

My treatment commenced in the High Intensity steam chamber, set at 115 degrees, for a 15 minute detoxification. This was then followed by a 15 minute body exfoliation in the Low Intensity area with a temperature set at 105 degrees. Here I lay on a large marble slab and used my sarong as a protective layer between myself and the slab, while my informative and sweet therapist Kassie (you must request her, she is a dream) exfoliated my body from head to toe using traditional black Moroccan soap…infused with Eucalyptus and made with an olive oil base.  This black soap mixture helps in drawing out more toxins, allowing my skin to be fully prepped for maximum exfoliation and was applied with a “Kessa” mitt. The mitt is somewhat of a traditional exfoliation glove used to remove dead skin cells, leaving behind nothing but new, smooth and rejuvenated skin.  I had to fight to stay awake to ask my questions about this procedure because I was literally being rubbed into a dream-like state. Once the exfoliation was finished, my body was hosed down and I was able to see the copious amounts of dead skin cells that collected on the sarong. I highly suggest adding the Rhassoul Clay Body Masque following the exfoliation. It is a stimulating mineral rich clay that leaves your body feeling invigorated and more nourished.

If Hammam steam baths are not your thing, not to worry. Miraj Caudalie has a wide variety of body, facial, massage, hand & feet treatments and they even do St Tropez tan applications. After finishing off my treatment I chilled out in the Miraj Relaxation Lounge. Here guests can enjoy delicious Baklava and fresh grapes which is served with the spa’s exclusive Black Moroccan Chai Mint tea blend, which will have you begging the staff for some to take home. Unfortunately, this is specially imported by the head office in Vancouver and is not available for sale. My Miraj Hammam Experience was truly wonderful and will forever change the way I spa in the future!

Miraj Hammam Spa

 

Additional MUST-KNOWS about Miraj Hammam Spa…

  • Spa guests spending $150 or more on services are granted free access to the Shangri-La’s fitness centre and pool *The pool was ranked one of the top 10 hotel pools in the world by Conde Nast.
  • The relaxation lounge also includes a sun deck in which patrons can dine on lunch or sun tan during the Summer months.
  • Reservations can easily be made via the spa’s online reservation system.
  • Extended hours Monday-Saturday 9am to 9pm and Sunday 9am-7pm making it easy for even the busiest of clients to find time to unwind
  • Valet parking available at the Shangri-La Hotel
Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: