Friday, June 30, 2017

Grand Velas Riviera Maya Review

Grand Velas Riviera Maya, I love you. But really though. Let me begin by saying, if you haven't been to this resort, you need to. I have had the great pleasure of traveling all over the world, and getting to experience new hotels in each location, but this hotel blew me away. Below you will find a complete and honest review of my recent stay with Grand Velas.  


The Rooms: We stayed in a Zen Grand Suite with a Nature View. This room was a little over 1100 square feet and felt extremely spacious and roomy for two people. Our beds were super comfortable, the room was clean and the amenities were amazing! I'm a big coffee drinker, so the highlight of the room for me was the Nespresso machine. Upon arrival, our room had welcome drinks and chocolate covered strawberries, the bar was stocked with desirable snacks and alcohol, and a bottle of complimentary tequila awaited us. Like the bedroom, the bathroom was also spacious and complete with a giant jacuzzi tub. Mornings on the terrace were extremely quiet and peaceful with a view of the Mayan jungle. We also got to experience the presidential suite, which if you have a little extra pocket cash, is extremely worth it! Holy beautiful

Food: I love good food. Go ahead and call me a food snob, I'm totally fine with it because I'll own it. For me, food can either make or break a trip. Prior to my Grand Velas visit, I had experienced another all inclusive resort in Riviera Maya a year ago. That trip actually ruined my perception of all inclusives. The food was awful, the drinks were watered down and I just never looked forward to a meal there. This trip, totally different experience. I was completely blown away by the quality of the food! I had read a few reviews from people ahead of time who stated the food was good, but me being my food snobby self, had speculations about their taste buds. They were absolutely right! The food was top notch at every place we tried! So much so, that I may or may not have ordered three different entree's at a few different meals (not sorry). Let me break down the restaraunts we experienced:
  • Frida: I don't know about you, but my mom tells me she thinks I should have been born to a Mexican family because I can literally eat Mexican food every day of the week. So why not start off our Mexico trip with none other than Mexican cuisine. We were traveling with a group of 8 girls, and basically everything looked amazing on the menu. So, we made the executive decision to order one of each appetizer for the table. Afterall, we were at an all inclusive - so why not? The yellowfin tuna was my favorite, but they were all good. My favorite entree of the trip actually came from this restaraunt, I had the fish fillet which happened to be Halibut that day! I also can't go without mentioning the chocolate ice cream! I'm simplistic when it comes to dessert, and prefer a scoop of ice cream over a piece of cake or something more extravagant. The chocolate ice cream at this resort was second to none!                                                           
  • Piaf: Welcome to Parisian luxury! This french restaraunt was romantic, dripped in crystals, and off the charts exquisite. If you like a more intricate meal, this is the place for you. The bread here was unbelievable, I had some sort of croissant puff filled with melted blue cheese - bye summer diet (worth it). Here I had the french onion soup (duh), short ribs, and obviously another bowl of chocolate ice cream. Although, the molten chocolate soufle was pretty tasty too!
  • Cocina De Autor: This was by far the most elaborate meal I've ever had! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that it was an 11 course meal full of surprises. Each course had a "not so traditional" flare to it, like quesadillas made out of mushrooms for instance. It was designed to be creative, playful, and bring new flavors together in what we would normally recognize as a traditional taste pallette. 
  • Chaka: Chaka was located near us in the jungle section. I ate breakfast here during out last morning and ordered room service the other two mornings (I'm not a morning person.) The breakfast buffet featured a wide variety of international foods, including everything from donuts and french toast to breakfast quesadillas and soups. 
  • Zen Pool: We ate lunch here two days in a row, and if I'm honest, I would have been totally content eating every meal here! The food was unbelievable. I couldn't get enough of the Tuna Tostadas and the fresh chips and guac. Everytime we ran out, we would just reorder another set of food! The drinks here were also great quality and delicious! If you're looking for something a little spicy, the Jalapeno Margarita is a great choice. In the mood for sweet, the Mudslide was my favorite indulgence!

Service: Again, above and beyond. We were greeted with smiling faces from the moment our transportation made contact with us at the airport, throughout our stay, and right up until they dropped us off. The staff at Grand Velas is truly customer service oriented, which is a breath of fresh air as I've experienced otherwise elsewhere! Francisco was our 24-hour personal concierge, which is standard at Grand Velas with any room. A group of 8 bloggers is a handful to handle, let's be real. However, he accomodated our every request with pure grace, including blowing up our Funboy pool floaties that were double the size of him. I know I have raved about a lot of things in this blogpost, but the service was truly top knotch and deserves to be recognized and applauded. 

Grounds: The property the hotel is situated on is absolutely stunning. There are three hotels located on the grounds, each with a different feel. We stayed in the Zen Ambiance building, which was fringed by the Yucatan jungle and really lived up to it's name. It was one of the most calm and peaceful places I've ever been too, and if you appreciate nature, there are all sorts of interesting birds and wildlife around to watch and listen too. 

The Ambassador is located right on the ocean and is the more family friendly hotel on the property. This pool was much busier and crowded than the Zen pool, so if you are looking for the party, hop on a shuttle and head to the main pool. If you're feeling adventourous and want to go for a walk, you can also follow a beautiful enclosed wooden pathway that will lead you to the Ambassador lobby. My only piece of advice would be to bring a flashlight or light of some sort if you have one as it is very dimly lit!

Spa: The spa is also located within the Zen Ambiance and we were fortunate enough to spend Saturday morning there for a Hydroptherapy sessions! See the full review on our experience, here

Overall, you can't go wrong at Grand Velas Riviera Maya! There is a reason why they won TripAdvisor's Travelers Choice Award, and rightfully so. We had such a great time, and it was by far the best all inclusive I have ever been too. If you're booking a trip, or you've already booked a trip here - stuff me in your suitcase please, because I'm jealous! Shane and I have already been talking about going back as a couple, or potentially exploring another one of their amazing properties next! 

*In partnership with Grand Velas Riviera Maya. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Grand Velas Spa Riviera Maya

Hello, relaxation! It's not a vacation in my book, without a trip to the spa. I recently visited Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Mexico with a group of blogger friends, and part of our stay included a hydrotherapy session at the resorts spa! 

 I love going to the spa. Fun fact, I actually never experienced a spa until I met Shane! Crazy, I know. But since then, I visit the spa on every vacation we take and we make the occasional trip at home, too. With that being said, I think it's extremely important to take a little time for yourself. For me, going to the spa means I can finally disengage from my day job, social media, blogging, and the million little things going on in my head at one time. I think it's the only place I know how to do this at. I leave my phone in the locker, grab a mimosa (or in this case a delicious mango juice), and enter the beautiful state of tranquility. 

The spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya was nothing short of amazing. Upon checking in, we were greeted with a smiling employee and a delicious glass of Mango juice (I drank four of these.) After a brief tour of the facilities, we were introduced to an eight step process known as Hydrotherapy. I've actually experienced hyroptherapy a few times, so I was familiar with the process. Prior to starting the journey, we rinsed off in their Experience Showers which were outfitted with multiple jets above and beside you. 

The Eight Steps in Our Water Journey:

Sauna: We began our experience with a 10 minute visit to the sauna, complete with cold towels and cucumbers over the eyes!

Ice Room: I'm a warm weather person, so the thought of an ice room traditionally isn't appealing to me. However, after experiencing the heat of the sauna, my body actually really appreciated the temperature change. Research shows that there are many benefits from exposure to quick temperature changes.

Color Therapy Steam: The steam room is probably my favorite place to be after a spa treatment, so I really enjoyed this step in the journey. If you're anything like me and have terrible allergies, the steam room really helps relieve the discomfort associated with that. It's also amazing for your skin, and can help boost your immune system!

Clay Room: This was one of the most interesting steps of the process for me, and one I had not experienced in prior hydrotherapy sessions. Upon entering the clay room, we were handed a tub of clay to rub all over our skin. After about 5 minutes, we rinsed the clay off with hand held jets and my skin felt soft and rejuvinated.

Polar Pools: As mentioned above, I am such a baby when it comes to cold anything (I can thank living in Florida for that). So, I was reluctant to switch from a hot pool, to a cold pool multiple times. However, I put my big girl pants on and was actually glad I followed through with this as the benefits far outweigh the few seconds of cold!

Waterfalls: After the Polar Pools, we moved right along to three waterfalls located inside of a large pool that massage your back. This actually feels really great if you have tense muscles. I personally have a ton of issues within my neck, shoulders and upper back - so sitting under these always help loosen my muscles back up.

Bubble Volcano: The Bubble Volcano is also located in the large pool. This part of the process is meant to stimulate circulation in your legs, similar to what jets in a hot tub do for you.

Water Bubble Bed: This is the last step in the process and these are amazing! It's a cement bed shaped to the human body complete with jets at the neck and bubbles that rise up around your body. Also located in the main pool, it's a great place to relax and enjoy the serenity of the entire experience!

Overall, this was such an amazing experience! I really can't rave about it enough. The employees are fantastic and extremely accomodating, the facilities are up to date and luxurious, and the experience as a whole is well worth it! If you're planning a trip to Grand Velas Riviera Maya, mark this down on your "to-do" list. It doesn't disappoint, and it's also worth noting that this experience is included in any 50+ minute treatment. 

For additional information on what the spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya has to offer, click here! Also, stay tuned for a full hotel review coming up this week!


In partnership with Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

5 Healthy Foods In My Refrigerator

It's finally Friday! Being that we are six months from our wedding date, and that the first "official" day of summer happened this week, I thought it would be fun to chat about five things we keep in our refrigerator at all times. 

We've made a conscious effort to start pushing towards a totally clean diet, and I plan to cut all indulgences out three months from our wedding date (say a prayer for me, the sweet tooth rules the roost around here.) I am a very goal oriented person, so I wanted to be able to follow some sort of structure without shifting towards pre-made meals. I follow the Kayla Itsines BBG workout program, so I figured it was only appropriate to start her 28 day healthy eating plan, too. With that being said, there are a few items her program consistently uses in it's meals!

Water (OVI Hydration- You're probably thinking, "okay, Vanessa - stating the obvious here." Yea yea, I know. However, drinking water for me is much harder than it sounds. Unless I'm working out at the gym, I simply don't get thirsty. This probably sounds super weird to you, but if it isn't coffee, - I'm "babysitting" my drink, or just not drinking at all. Insert my introduction to OVI Hydration. I talked a little bit about OVI on Instagram a few weeks ago, but I want to elaborate. Part of training and developing the regrowth of your muscles, is hydration. OVI makes drinking water interesting. It's low in calories, made of 10 ingredients, tastes good (Mango is my favorite), and simply put - easy. As pictured above, our refrigerator is stocked to the brim with different flavors, and I grab a couple each morning on my way to the gym and to work. It's available at big box retailers like Walmart, Lowes Foods and Harris Teeter. Since my Instagram post, I've also received a few messages from you guys about how much you like it -- so I think most would agree with me! 

0% Fat Plain Greek Yogurt - My greek yogurt of choice is Stonyfield. I like Stonyfield because it's not nearly as chalky as some of the others I've tried, and blends easily when used in recipes as a substitute! Yogurt is also an important part of your diet because of it's calcium content. Calcium allows our muscles and nerves to function, and eating yogurt is one of the easiest calcium sources out there! Kayla's program reccommends 2 1/2 servings of diary daily so we always have one of these in our fridge! 

Chia Seeds - I add Chia seeds to basically anything I can (including my above mentioned yogurt)! Chia seeds are a superfood in the nuts and seeds category, that are full of fiber! Adding Chia seeds to my smoothies, yogurt, and energy bites (ICYMI that recipe is here) helps increase my feelings of fullness after meals. 

Fruits and berries - Specific berries, like raspberries, are also a superfood! I've been a fruit and berry lover since my childhood days. Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries contain a high level of natural antioxidants and are great for giving your skin a healthy glow and protecting your immune system! Not to mention, they're super yummy in Kayla's smoothies and yogurt!

Veggies - last but certainly not least, veggies! Traditionally I buy a ton of veggies. Spinach, Kale, Brocolli, Asparagus, Green Beans etc. One of my favorite things to do with veggies, spinach in particular, is add them to juices! Spinach doesn't contain a strong taste, so adding it to a fruit juice doesn't alter the taste yet you still reap the benefits like its B vitamins! A little bag of veggies like the one pictured above is an easy "go-to" after a long day of work. I like chopping up some chicken, throwing it in a pan with a veggie mix, and calling it a day! Simple and healthy. 

Thats the scoop on my fridge sitch! I'd love to get your feedback on wether or not you are interested in additional content in the healthy eating space in the comments below! 


"Written in partnership with OVI Hydration. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Palm Print Wrap Skort in Riviera Maya

Happy Tuesday, babes! I'm currently wishing I was still in Mexico. It's a little gloomy in Charlotte today, and editing photos has me ready to press play on vacay mode again. I was saving this outfit specifically for our Mexico trip, but the second I saw the skort online, I knew I needed them! Okay, let's be real - "need" is an exaggeration, more like "want", but you know how it goes!

Anyway, palm print is definitely one of the most popular trends this summer. I'm also really excited that skorts are back! There's no better feeling than looking like you're rocking a skirt, but moving around like you're in shorts! Best of both worlds. Am I right? These fit true to size, and I'm wearing a small in both the top and bottoms. I consider my top a staple item this year! Traditionally, I wouldn't categorize something off the shoulder as a staple, but I've worn it so many different ways that I decided it was versatile enough for that classification. My bag is the designer brand, however, I found an exact dupe for under $70 that's just as swoon worthy! 

PS: Charlotte friends, Vestique is hosting a runway show on Thursday to benefit the Halway There Rescue! Come out and show some love for a good cause, I'd love to see you!


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Yumi Kim Carmen Maxi Dress


If this dress doesn't scream Tuscany to you, I don't know what will! I am absolutely obsessed with the color, the floral pattern, the high slit, and the off the shoulder ruffle overlay. It makes me wish we had a European vacation scheduled this summer, but I guess Ruru's in Charlotte will have to do. Anyway, if you're not a fan of the maxi length (I get it, it's summer and it's hot), it also comes in a shorter length here. I actually tried both on because I wasn't sure which I would like better, but I felt the maxi was more flattering overall. I also got tons of compliments on this when I wore it! 

Shane and I are taking it easy today! We have both been traveling nonstop this month and this is our first weekend at home together. Thank ya'll so much for the reccomendations on which islands were your favorite in Hawaii on Instagram! It looks like we have decided on Maui! Now that we have that out of the way, I'd love to know what you're restaraunt and activity recommendations are for that island!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wedding Wednesday: Design Tips + Inspiration

It's hard to believe we are halfway through our engagement! In just 6 short months, I will be marrying my best friend in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina! Eeeek. Being that we are midway through, I wanted to talk about choosing a wedding theme and colors, stationary, and WeddingWire's new Snapchat filter capability!

 Since we are getting married on New Years Eve, we decided our theme would be black tie optional. I feel like anytime you put black tie optional on your invitations, people immediately think: "what the heck does that even mean?!" Let me break it down for you. What this means is that we don't want guests to feel obligated to spend hundreds of dollars on a gown or tux if they don't already own one, but that the attire for the wedding is formal. Traditionally, most people own at least a suit or something a little fancier, so dress up! New Years Eve is a great excuse to get dolled up anyway, so why not carry that over to our Wedding Day! 

Inpiration plays a major role when planning a color scheme for any event. I'm the type of person who needs to see it to be able to invision it. So to start, I used WeddingWire's inspiration tab to take a look at real weddings and color schemes. Our venue is a plantation house built in 1786 on the Ashley River. There is so much natural beauty surrounding this property, that we didn't want to outshine that by adding bold colors to our wedding. So with a little help from the inspiration tab, we chose to keep things really neutral with green, white, champagne, and slate colors. The green will be encompassed by greenery draping chandeliers, and tables, our florals will be white, bridesmaid dresses champagne, and linens will be a mixture of creme and slate.


We chose to go with Minted for all of our stationary and I couldn't be happier thus far! Minted has such a great selection of wedding stationary to choose from, and their website is super easy to navigate! A few key things I found helpful were:

-Sample Kits: Minted allows you to order samples of any of the stationary you are interested in! In addition, our Save The Dates came with a sample kit for wedding invitations! They also offer the opportunity to have all of your stationary match. We didn't opt for this option as our engagement party invitations were designed by our hosts, but I do love the idea of everything being cohesive!

-Unlimited Design Rounds: If you're anything like me, you will probably change your mind about a few things along the way, so this is a nice option to have in your back pocket!

- Matching Wedding Website: How cool is this?! You can opt to have your stationary match your Wedding Website!

- Free Guest Addressing: This was a game changer for us. Shane has terrible handwriting, and I honestly felt overwhelmed at the amount of stationary that needed to be addressed. We had our stationary addressed for us through Minted and ordered a few additional blank envelopes in case any of our Save The Date's didn't find their home.

This is an exciting one to chat about! WeddingWire just launched the capability to create your very own wedding Snapchat filter completely customizable through their website! What this means is that you'll be able to choose a filter, add text, schedule start and end times, set the geographical parameters (otherwise known as a geofence), and pay for the filter all in one spot. Jackpot! WeddingWire also partnered with specific brands like Lilly Pullitzer and Paper Source to offer designs for not just your wedding, but any wedding related event. Hello, Bachelorette geotag! I can't wait to try this new feature out! Click on the "WEDDING WIRE X SNAPCHAT" link to see how it works!

Photography in this blogpost is by Julie Livingston of Julie Livingston Photography - ya'll Julie is absolutely amazing! Please make sure to check her out if you're in need of a photographer.

And a special thank you to Shelly Renee for the amazing hair!



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