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Yves Rocher Botanical Skincare Journey to France

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

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

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

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

A LITTLE HISTORY ABOUT YVES ROCHER

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

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

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

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

EXPERIENCING THE BRAND LIVE IN PARIS

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

Yves Rocher France

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

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

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

Yves Rocher France

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

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

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

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

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher

CONCEPT STORE VISIT

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

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher

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

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

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher

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

VISIT TO LA GACILLY

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

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

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

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

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

Chef Gilles Le Gallès at La Grée des Landes

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

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

Sasha Exeter - Yves Rocher Canada

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

To shop or learn more, visit YvesRocher.com

Casual Chic in Breton Stripes

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

Sasha Exeter - Hatch Collection

Photos shot by JessBaumung.com

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

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

SHOP MY LOOK


 

Chic + Easy Travel Style | Paris Edition

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

Sasha Exeter - Pregnancy Style

Sasha Exeter - Pregnancy Style

Sasha Exeter - Pregnancy Style

Sasha Exeter - Pregnancy Style

Sasha Exeter - Pregnancy Style

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

Sasha Exeter Pregnancy Style

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

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

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

Travel Tips for Wanderlusters

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

How to Avoid Jet Lag At Any Cost 101

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

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

     Book Like Like A Boss

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

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

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

Travel Hacks While in Transit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VOTED: MOST BALLER EXCURSION

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

VOTED: MOST DARING AND ADVENTUROUS

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

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

 VOTED: MOST NIQUE PLACE TO FIND YOUR ZEN

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

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

VOTED: MOST BAD ASS DESERT EXPERIENCE

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

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

VOTED: MOST BREATHTAKING VIEWS

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

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

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

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.

5 Important Tips For Better Sleep When You Travel

Getting adequate sleep at night in your own bed is a challenge in itself. Since January I have been doing research on the topic of sleep in search of effective ways to increase quality shut eye. You may have seen this chronicled right here not too long ago, where I shared some of the things my boyfriend and I have incorporated into our nightly routine at home. But sleep can be even more tricky when your traveling. If you don’t get enough sleep, especially when switching time zones, there is a good chance your trip, whether it be for work or play, may not pan out the way you intended. There’s nothing worse than traveling a long way for a fun filled trip and spending the first few days in the destination living in a jet lag fog. Of course, only to be outdone by being in a sleep deprived, induced coma when on a business trip. If you’re traveling anytime soon, you may want to take notes on the below so you can arrive at your destination looking refreshed and ready to take over the city.

ZzzQuil

ZzzQuil

1. Modify Your Sleep. This may be a very ambitious rule, but if you can figure out a way to do this, I can almost guarantee you will be unfazed by a time zone change and long travel days. Shifting your bedtime a couple days before you depart to be in line with what your destination’s time is a veteran trick. It’s natural to find it difficult to get on a different time zone – generally we become sleepy during the day and restless at night. Not ideal! Many well heeled travellers have a few tricks up their sleeves to combat this and one of mine is ZzzQuil. Although ZzzQuil is made by the makers of Vicks NyQuil, it’s not for colds. It’s not for pain. It’s just for sleep. It contains diphenhydramine – a big word for a small compound that can be used to relieve occasional sleeplessness. When used as directed and when you can donate a full night to sleeping, it reduces the time it takes for you to fall asleep. I make sure to have it packed inside my emergency travel kit that I store inside my carry-on bag, just as a precautionary measure in the event my luggage gets lost or misplaced. It helps  me fall asleep easily so I can wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

Sleep Better

2. Stay Hydrated. In high altitudes, it’s not uncommon for your body and skin to get dehydrated. Also, with prices at the airport being so expensive, it literally deters people from purchasing a couple bottles of Fiji water before take-off. Really, you should be increasing your H20 intake 1-2 days prior to your departure. To make sure you get adequate hydration while in transit, skip buying the pricey water at the airport and bring your own large refillable water bottle to fill up during the flight instead of relying on the miniature cups of water cabin crew hand out. Proper hydration will prevent you from feeling groggy when you wake up from sleeping on the plane.

3. Avoid Red-Eye Flights. Red eye flights are awful and I really only recommend them if necessary when flying overseas internationally. Many assume they are doing themselves a favour by flying overnight so they can make the most of their time in a new city. Not so much! In actuality, the transit time in the air is short in comparison to the time it takes to get to and from the airport, baggage claim, going through customs and getting situation at your hotel, basically throwing you off your sleep for most of your trip.

ZzzQuil

4. Dress For Comfort. Ok, it is very important to understand that I am not sagging that one shows up to the airport looking like a schlep, especially if you a re traveling for business. My father always told me to look presentable when traveling because you never know who you will cross paths with. However, you don’t want to be so uncomfortable that you can’t get rest on the plane. For flights over two and a half hours, I usually bring a pair of compression socks to avoid symptoms like heavy legs, leg pain, swollen feet and ankles. These symptoms can occur during long haul flights where movement is constrained and blood circulation in the legs is restricted. I also typically wear a long sleeve top, an additional thin layer plus a light weight cashmere scarf that can easily double as a blanket when the cabin temperature drops during the flight.

ZzzQuilLimbo Multiwheel Créme White Luggage c/o Rimowa Toronto

5. Reduce Stimuli. Whether you’re attempting to sleep on the plane or in your hotel room on the first night of your stay, reducing the amount of stimuli is crucial to getting good rest. I always find it funny when people say, “I don’t know why, but I can’t sleep on planes!” and then later find out they spend the entire time in flight working on their laptop, watching a movie marathon or blasting music in some pricey noise cancelling headphones. It’s no wonder they can’t get some decent rest. Restricting screen time of any kind; TV or computers and staying off your phone an hour before bedtime works wonders even when you’re not traveling. Light music is fine I suppose but I prefer a sound machine app, I mean who doesn’t feel calm hearing the sound of waves or falling rain, right!

ZzzQuil

In case you missed it, you can check out more of my sleep tips to help you get your best rest yet. This post is sponsored by ZzzQuil Canada but all opinions are my own. Before you take medications, it’s important to know what is actually in them. I always recommend you read the label and if you have further questions about the product, please consult your physician, pharmacist or call the 1-800 number on the product packaging. Head to ZzzQuil.ca for more information.

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