Secrets the Vine: an all-inclusive where luxury is no secret

Secrets the Vine puts Cancun on the map when it comes to merging the beautiful scenery of Mexico with the luxury few all inclusives can lay claim to.  When booking an all-inclusive I am usually very nervous.  It’s like putting all of your vacation eggs in one basket.  They become the go-to of your room, your restaurants, your drinks and your pool, so a bad choice can kill the vibes of your vacation in moments.  Walking into Secrets Vine solo the first night those worries vanished as I entered into the scene to their gorgeous property.  From bottom to top the space screamed luxury, from the grand entrance to bars and pools so I made sure I made myself right at home for a beautiful stay in Cancun.

So first things first is the food. I stuck to my normal rule of ordering anything they would let me get my hands on to make sure I got a taste of everything I could.  If you aren’t a little greedy at when the food is included how will the all-inclusive pay you back for the money spent up front?  So I walked right in to the Bluewater Grill and took my seat ready for a feast and a feast I was delivered! I am pretty sure the other guests wondered why would one person need so much, welp mind your business momma needs to kick her vacation off.  From that moment on anything I tasted from lunch overlooking the beach to poolside snacks to even moonlit dinner the food was consistently amazing.  And drinks, as they walk hand in hand, were equally luxurious and readily available as I double fisted my days away by the pool on drinks that were green and very, very mean.

 

Next thing up is accommodations. So I hate when a hotel shoots for the moon but barely makes it to the street light once you get out of a magnificent lobby.  Secrets the Vine had some luxurious accommodations for the rooms and special touches like a champagne bottle waiting for you made sure you would take your beautiful ocean view and not waste it.  The pools were of course beautiful but this trip in particular helped me recognize that Cancun has some of the most magnificent beaches so that is where I usually hopped off to.  With beautiful white sand and a perfect crispy temp the beaches are at the top of my Mexico list.

Last but not least of course is the fun. While some adults only all inclusives can get a little bit on the creepy old people range of things this was a great mix of reserved fun.  I like this in a hotel because Cancun gives a wide assortment of options if you want a night on the town and my mom always advised not to eat where you … well you get the drift.  With fun additions like casino nigh where the top winners took home real prizes and a live band playing at the bar you could start a laid back night at the hotel and keep the party going wherever you choose.  All in all I give the hotel 5 stars for bring together a wonderful blend of food and fun for a getaway you are sure to remember.

Packing in the adventure at Xel-Ha in Rivera Maya Mexico

Xel-Ha park takes the very best of the exotic and beautiful terrain in Riviera Maya Mexico and turns it into a family fun park that gives everyone a dose of the adventure and fun they desire.  My trip to the park was a bit of a surprise as in trying to justify the ride to get to Tulum we thought by adding more excursions to our day we would feel better about the drive time.  So after battling the sun and heat of the Tulum ruins we piled back on the bus and headed to Xel-Ha not sure what would be instore.  Upon arriving we were told the bus would not be heading out for another 6 hours and the immediate thought was of dread that there was no way two adults would make it that long in an adventure park.  Well that view was short-lived as you take a look at the map it is quickly clear that the park houses a huge assortment of treasures that normally would take days of excursions to conquer. 

From cenotes to lazy rivers to slides and pools the park literally has everything under the sun all while honoring the rich tradition of the Mayan culture.  But before conquering the fun and rides first things first, it’s time to eat.  The most impressive thing for me about the park set up is that food and drinks are included.  Yes you read right the park offers restaurants and bars that serve a huge selection of food and beverages, including alcohol are all included.  We choose the Mexican restaurant as American food seemed off in the beautiful Mexican setting and we were pleasantly surprised.  The buffet offered a wide selection of very authentic dishes as well as American fusion dishes and even some notable favorites of mine like freshly handmade tortillas and churros.  Honestly hours disappeared at the restaurant as we drank Miami vices and had shots galore and enjoyed the wonderful family fun vibe the park exudes. 

So many drinks and shots and plates of food later it was time to take on the challenge of exploring Xel-Ha.  I love swimming and fun in the sun and the expansive parks provides all of that.  Even better most of the adventures are included with the park with only a limited amount of options being an additional charge.  From biking, to cenotes, to caves, to snorkeling to bike riding to so much more the park is a perfect full day getaway.  Because the activities are so extensive and different you could spend more than a day exploring them all.  For an adrenaline junkie like me its almost too hard to decide but a definite highlight of all the activities was the river tour.  It is a natural lazy river as you begin along a tree lined stream that outlets to the larger river.  As you float along you fully appreciate the beauty of the location and the park as it is has been built around the natural beauty instead of over it.  The result is a truly unique magical adventure park that is truly one size fits all.   

Taking the usual out of a trip to Mexico with a visit to Tulum

More and more as I hunt for great destinations Tulum, Mexico has begun to pop on my must visit list and of course I always try to go where the winds take me so in my most recent trip to Cancun I booked a day tour to Tulum.  Once a busting city and port Tulum embodies the spirit of native peoples who once inhabited the land.  When trade became prohibited by invaders from the East the bustling city died and was only rediscovered as a tourist destination in modern times.  A trip to Tulum is just a short car ride from Cancun and many of the hotspots both pay reverence to the history and people that cultivated the land and showcased the beautiful landscapes of the area.

While Tulum offers some of the most amazing beaches in Mexico and popular freshwater cenotes on a day tour your limited time forces you to prioritize what you want to see most.  Without question for me it was the Mayan ruins the walled city of Tulum is renowned for.  The attraction built around the ruins features local vendors and showing and water holes, even some of the familiar sort such as Starbucks.  The fact that it is a tourist destination is well established so if you are looking for deals and steals when it comes to shopping you will not find it there.  What you miss in bargains you gain in a chance to journey back to the Mayan port at its peak.  They have Mayan pole flyers and other performers dressed in traditional Mayan clothing and performing centuries old rituals and dances.  That alone was enough to get me super excited.  Form this entrance hub you can chose to visit the beach onsite or visit the Tulum Ruins.

As history is my thing the Tulum Ruins were my top choice.  We visited with a tour that gave a brief history of the beautiful lands and people of the Mayan civilization so it really put in context just how amazing the ruins were in their time.  With the quick tour out of the way you are able to explore the seaside village.  Something about ruins always opens my mind to exploring just life was for people in this well-established civilization.  From their housing to buildings to even worship centers the city is a tribute to their advancement and ingenuity.  Do take note that although exploring is fun this is a pretty hot very open area.  There are few places to run for cover and even as early as April it is pretty hot with few places to stop and rest.  The ocean breeze becomes even more refreshing in this case as you have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Cliffside views from the ruins.  Although short Tulum was a great break from standard Cancun expeditions and when you add in excursions you can make a day or weekend of magic in this Mayan playground.

 

Adding a Carnaval twist to the Champagne Campaign with Veuve Cliquot

All the music, fun, and sun that comes to mind when you think of Miami was turned on and amplified for the Veuve Cliquot Carnaval.  This annual Veuve extravaganza celebrates all the vibrancy of Miami in a fun twist on their typical events.  As a frequent attendee for the Polo Match I was curious to see what this MIA variation brought to the table as partygoers celebrated the dancing and music of Carnaval with a Veuve twist.

So in an easy answer to the question “How was the Veuve Champaign campaign at the Veuve Carnaval in Miami?” is that it was fantastico! Set in the Biscayne Park, the venue was both centrally located and offered great views of both the water front of Biscayne Bay and neighboring downtown Miami.  The staples for veuve events were of course present as well with food trucks and Veuve bottle tents conveniently spaced throughout the celebration.  For the Miami edition I think the location layout tops even some of other popular polo venues as right away when walking in you were faced with the very difficult decision to buy a bottle or glass of your favorite Veuve.  The food truck options presented a wide range of selections from bar food and pizza to some more lavish possibilities like my choice, an outstanding lobster roll food truck.  They offered some great variations on the traditional lobster roll and the bite was the perfect base for the bottles of Veuve on deck.

What really makes this event unique is the music and entertainment. With live performances from local bands and a thrilling performance from Swing Latina there was an instant fiesta vibe tingling throughout the entire event.  What is best about good vibrations is that they are contagious so even in the threat of an afternoon Miami shower or bearing the mostly standing only seating options you still feel energetic as you sway to the beat and check out all the cool kids that are certainly in the building in any Veuve event.

Mastering work life balance with Caroline Clarke, CBO of Black Enterprise

When it comes to legacy building it often can seem like an impossible task to get everything in order in the career that makes your lifestyle possible and to blend in the family priority that makes it all worth it. One family that has certainly excelled in this area is the Graves Family, making the Black Enterprise publishing wheelhouse a force to be reckoned with in the media arena.  Caroline Clarke, a writing powerhouse in her own right, has become a lynchpin at Black Enterprise running projects from the Women of Power Summit to being the Chief Branding Officer and juggling projects of her own including two books and her steadfast priority of her family.  Needless to say when it comes to legacy that balances work and family she knows a thing or two.

The Graves family has long built media as the basis of their enterprise so once she stepped into both the Graves family and Black Enterprise family Caroline was able to share this love. Caroline knew early on that writing would be her love and has weaved this love in throughout her work and her career.  Despite having writing as her first love she has been able to ensure that the tapestry of family was the most critical component of all. A big key to success for Caroline has been the ability to nimbly utilize her often autonomous role at Black Enterprise to allow her to care for her family and children.  The gift to prioritize what is most important to her without having to have this weigh down her career she credits to taking a lot of stress off her mind and the choices she made.  For Caroline a woman being able to have control over how she manages her family frees her mind to be much more productive and effective for her career.  Judging by her successful roles at Black Enterprise and work life balance it is hopefully a model that other companies will begin to see value in.  Especially as many companies are moving into the sandwich generation where women become the caregivers not only for their children but for the aging parents as well.

Outside the passion Carline has for prioritizing her family, Caroline’s career has been based off of two other loves that speak to the core of who she is, her love of writing and her love of serving a greater purpose in whatever way she can. Her love of writing started young and she finished college she sought to have a career based in doing something she loved and somehow find a way to make money from it.  Eventually this made Black Enterprise a perfect fit, however, the true journey of her career has occurred because of her love to serve a higher purpose.  In doing so she has moved around at Black Enterprise based off the desire to ensure the success of the magazine and to fill needs as they arise in serving that greater good.  This has led her from ventures into publishing, television and even as the head of the Women of Power Summit.  While the summit began as a brainchild of her mother in law Barbara Graves, Caroline has become an exceptional leader for the summit.  True to her desire to serve Caroline stepped in at a time of need and continues to serve the Women in Power Summit as the event connects and inspires so many women year after year.  Her reactionary service has cemented not only her legacy as an inspiration leader and writer but also as a mother, wife, and daughter.

My favorite things: Miami weekend pop up edition

There is something so special about a quick weekend trip because you are willing to put your foot on the gas to make sure you get all the fun in on one weekend. When your turn around trip has a destination of Miami you already know it is going to be one helluva weekend.  So while my trip to Miami was filled with pre-planned fun like the Museum of Ice Cream and the Veuve Carnival, I also wanted to make sure to get in some of my old and new favs to check off my list

To start the hotel. The location of your hotel can be tricky because you have to balance the cost of South Beach hotels with the convenience of being close to the action.  For me being centrally located in a city where you are on the move helps you keep the party going when the wear and tear of a busy weekend may start to kick in.  For this trip I pulled a sister hotel from one my Miami favs and stayed at the Redbury Miami.  This hotel is new to the SLS properties and while just across the street from sister hotels like the SLS South Beach and the Delano it definitely offers its own unique twist on luxury Miami hotels.  As the hotel has had recent upgrades it has a very retro renaissance vibe that is completely different.  The rooms are definitely a pleasant surprise from some of the South Beach tiny quarters.  With bigger spaces in both bed area and the bathroom you get more of a chance to really stretch out.  What may be missing in the lux factor is definitely made up in two other important areas, price and access.  Yep this hotel hits a much lower price point than say the SLS and offers breakfast as part of the room packages.  To add to that attraction you also get all the access to the sister hotels such as the restaurant at the Raleigh, the pool, club and beach at the SLS and even the infamous Delano pool.  If your goal is to be on the move than access alone makes the value of this hotel triple what the charges are.

Next comes the fun. Miami is a great to do a little of everything so yes to strolling clubs on South Beach and also yes to planning a more purposeful evening at a club like Liv.  With the first night being filled with Museum of Ice Cream fun we decided to check out one of the tried and true bars Wet Willies.  Located in the middle of ocean of course you head there for the strong frozen drinks but the crowd of all walks of life that frequents the bar is equally amazing in a people watching train crash kind of way.  Sunday was of course reserved for Sunday Funday starting with the infamous brunch at Nikki Beach.  While it is not for the club like atmosphere the brunch is also delicioso.  With live music and dancers, food at every turn, and drinks pouring all while enjoying the ocean breeze it is a must for anyone who likes a side of fun with their food.  And as if that was not enough Sunday Fun we headed to the pool at the Mandarian Oriental giving phenomenal views of the city and a posh place to relax or turn up as you choose.  Later on in the night we took on the challenge of Liv which of course comes with long waits at the doors and high entrance fees.   All that said wondering up on a performance of Gucci Mane and Little Wayne at the club is just a normal thing that could happen during your visit.

Finally is food. Yep there is ton of titillating treats to eat in Miami so do not dare miss out on some of the deliciousness.  This time I tried something a little new with Prime Italian.  With patio seating that keeps you in the middle of the action and food that is simply amazing it is a great way to add some real laughs into what could be a quiet evening.  When all this is done while you stuff your face with impeccable scallop stuffed lobster there is no shortage of must haves for the night.  So when in Miami for the weekend do not be afraid to take on the challenge and she just how much moving and shaking you can get done in a weekend!

Day 3 of BE Women in Power highlights Success, Fashion and Adventure

So yes sitting in seminars can be inspirational, but in Day 3 of the BE Women in Power Summit we were reminded that all work and no play make for a pretty boring conference.   By mixing dynamic speakers with fashion highlights, opportunities to relax and network, fashion therapy and some magical adventures only Disneyworld can provide you take a conference from good to extraordinary.

The day kicked off with something that really got me ready to launch on chasing my dreams. In a conference tailored for women we had our one and only male speaker, none other than Richelieu Dennis, the founder of Shea Moisture and new owner of Essence Magazine.  His harrowing rags to riches tail is a true example of the American dream and a testament to why hard work and perseverance will always be the stepping stones to greatness.  From refugee to street vendor to CEO of a game changer in the beauty market for women of color and now the owner of one of the most impactful magazines for black women, Richelieu’s life has all the makings for any great success story.  But the true awe of the story is how he has managed to travel so high and remain so humble and manifested things in his life many would never dream of all starting.  It all began with the birth of Shea Moisture and first identifying his guiding star.  This foundational principal in which both business operates to not only launch his business to places unknown but also to anchor it to its customer base as he saw his grandmother do as a provider for her family and leader of her village of Sierra Leone. Of course storms always test any philosophy so when its recent branding problems arose they were able to use it as a guiding light back to who made them, them…Black Woman.  It also led them to share just how deep the love for their base was rooted as they spent years reinvesting in communities and the customers that grew the company from a homemade, handmade shea butter production company to a global beauty brand.  Through these decades of struggle Richelieu transformed his love for our culture to appreciate it as an asset.  Not one to be created and driven it only to have others monetize it but to own reclaim our stories from the narrative, to the distribution and capital to lead to economic independence.  Needless to say hearing this story is a true reminder that you can indeed reach to the stars if you chart a path to success and stay determined on your journey.

Outside of a great start from Richelieu and amazing seminars the Women in Power conference made sure to mix in some fun. Work life balance can be a challenge and the seminar took time to remind participants you have to take time to prioritize and appreciate you.  From massages to caricatures to even a full on fashion show put on by Macy’s Day 3 of the summit really was a great celebration of women.   Whether you spent that time in personal business or financial coaching, or checking out a seminar or chatting with a friend that day allowed you to really soak in some gems learned in the seminars and reconnect to some neglected power in you.  To add a magical extra the closing ceremony was a special night at the Animal Kingdom Park at Disney.  From future to fashion to relaxation to magic the conference offered so many little pieces of life that I needed to feed my soul…Well done Black Enterprise, the conference is something you should not miss!!!

5 Powerful takeaways from Day 2 of the BE Women in Power Summit

As day two of the Black Enterprise Women in Power Summit began, the conference again picked up the pace of motivating, empowering and connecting women in the powerful and tangible way the conference has become known for.  After an inspirational morning it was hard to imagine how the conference could top the words and insight from Donna Brazile, Edith Cooper and Glenda McNeal but somehow they did.  Here are the top five things I gleamed from Day 2 of the BE Women in Power Summit

Value Genuine Connections: At a certain point in your life there is a renewed excitement about making new friends. At this age the mystery around it is gone so you can make genuine connections without the need to put on airs.  You can just be uniquely you and attract those who find those qualities to be a win.  I was able to meet people who were not just great companions, but were a compliment to the skills I bring to the table.

Hop in on the conversation: While it may seem like nothing ever changes the truth is that honest genuine communication can change the world.  A huge part of the summit was to get the conversation started.  Not just on stage but by presenting information powerful enough it kept guests discussing it between breaks and during dinner.

Encouragement counts: Ever wonder why we love anthems, something like a chorus running through your head pushing you forward to put you in the mood to conquer the world. The same is true in a room full of powerful women using their power to propel you further.  To think harder than you thought, to challenge yourself to do more, to be surer of your steps, even into the unknown.  While it is listed as third this may actually first as it is one of the most powerful bonuses of the Women in Power Summit as even from strangers the chorus of yes you can has an amazing ability to help you see yourself in a new light.

You are the brand: Whether you are an entrepreneur or corporate climber the heart and soul of any career path you set off on is you. By being careful on how you curate the brand of you work to ensure your works speak for you even when your name is unknown.

The Power of Numbers when used to give knowledge: At the Accenture seminar the facts were put on the table about fighting wage discrepancy. What was even better is that not only did they show some astounding numbers as to the current status of wage disparity for women and in particular women of color, it also worked to use this information on what we can do for change.  Yes while the facts still show black women make $0.54 for every dollar a white man makes we also learned that transparency has a direct impact on addressing unconscious bias so you can both identify advocates and most importantly advocate for yourself.  All this knowledge can work to effectuate change in the lives of the participants.

Conversations that matter with Day 2 of the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit

No need to stop with just one day of fabulousness as the Black Enterprise Women in Power Summit.  And to kick off the first full day of the summit they found the perfect way to continue on the tremendous energy of night one.  Yes, they brought back the speaker responsible for the fire at the end of the night of course!  Day 2 of the Black Enterprise summit started off early with can’t miss segment with the phenomenal Donna Brazile.  Yes we were again pulling ourselves up by our vaginas and getting ready for a big dose of real with Ms. Donna.  With a pinpointed focus on where we can go and grow to next as a community Donna Brazile offered strong words in where we go from where we are now.  Simply put she works both in the present and in the future, wanting the community to learn from leaders of today while also looking for the leaders of the future.  That often means learning the game over and over again to avoid being left behind.  Issues like being smart about cyber hygiene perfectly demonstrated her strong warning of taking lessons of today proactively instead of reactively.

To follow up on all that fire early in the morning, the Summit brought out some real heavy hitters for up close and personal conversation about success with Edith Cooper, Executive Vice President for Goldman Sachs, and Glenda McNeal, President of Enterprise Strategic Partnerships with American Express. Both women have rose to astronomical levels in corporate America, but still took time to share some of the gems of their experience.  Ms. Cooper, steady, consistent, and driven at for Goldman Sachs proved that indeed risk can be some the best advancement advice, even in a very conservative environment.  Her ultimate success had several critical pivot points including the decision to make an international move with her family in tow.  Throughout it all she kept her personal internal growth at the heart of her decisions, ensuring departure choices she made worked to inspire and develop her.  The process left a lasting impact on how she prioritizes being present and intentional in her work and pairing that intention with preparation and engagement made sure her mark.  As tables were filled with other woman who supported her and were supported by her at Goldman it was clear her mark would be left not just in her company but also in the people who rose with her and even after her.  This focus allowed her to build a legacy that took the time to pay attention to people, trusting in how empowering these true and honest interactions can be in building extraordinary greatness in others.

Mrs. Glenda McNeal showcased a true “I am woman, Hear me Roar” philosophy based in action not words. This passion assisted in moving her away from the typical step up to role at American Express and instead propelling her all the way to the top in an untraditional matriculation through the credit powerhouse.  She offered the advice she has garnered in moving to success from the inside out.  Her guide to moving up and moving out of your own way starts with believing in you.  By centering who you are you can set a pace to move forward and not blocking off the potential of the future by setting boundaries of just how far you can go.  Next she advised to choose courage.  Ultimately balancing the demands of being a brave, daring, risk taker with having humility and being vulnerable provide lessons on both sides of the coin that are critical to conquering uncharted territory.  Her final words were of encouragement to strive for intentional living where you can be deliberate not just in how you what you do but in your time.  Being present in these fleeing moments in time as that is the most valuable resource of all.  By women in living to their best authentic self that not just makes for personal development, but for a legacy you can fill proud of.  Donna Brazile, Edith Cooper, and Glenda McNeal shined a path for not just hope and inspiration but to light a fire under us that any goal is possible when you do the work required to get there.

I Scream, You Scream, we all Scream for the Museum of Ice Cream

I love Ice cream, I love museums, but I never thought combining the two would end up in creating one of the most coveted tickets you can get today at the Museum of Ice Cream. In today’s world of viral attention I often can be left feeling a little skeptical over things that are hyped.  So when my friend first was interested in the Museum of Ice Cream when we were on vacay in LA I thought how much fun can a museum about ice cream be?  So as I prepped to head to Miami and got the scoop from a friend that the travelling museum had extended its stay in Miami I thought well why not, if it’s so in demand let me go check out what all  of the hoopla is about.

In approaching the lit building hosting the Museum of Ice Cream in Miami I quickly had my low expectations checked at the door by the entertaining host. We were each told a little about the museum and most importantly were challenged with coming up with an ice cream name.  The energy and spirit of fun that this set at the door and carries throughout your visit makes the museum the unique and sought-after go so space that it is.  You quickly learn you are not going for the ice cream you are there for the experience.  So with my friends and I hype and my name “Unicorn Sherbet” on lock we began to wind our way through the museum.

As I entered the pink dipped building I began to understand that despite the name the “museum” was more of an ambiance than a place. Yep the full vibe was confirmed with our firs stop, the sprinkle pool.  Yes a full pool filled with sprinkles, plastic albeit, was a great way to literally dive into the fun of the Museum of Ice Cream.  And as you weave your way through the ascending stops you find each room of the museum was uniquely dedicated not specifically to ice cream, but to some of the best nostalgic feelings around ice cream, that of your childhood.

From the look of old school ice cream parlors to giant floating balloon installations to word scrambles and even sandboxes the museum is less about ice cream and more about the laughs and fun of your childhood that gives ice cream the romanticized feeling that it has. As I worked my way through the rooms with my friends, each room providing a completely different look and ice cream sample, my mind was not just filled with fun times from my past but incredible times from my presence and the opportunity to leave the adulting and just have fun.  So no, the ice cream was not the best part of the tour.  Instead the best part of the museum was found in the reconnection to an 8 year old who loved to dance, swing, build sand castles and most of all soak in every moment as the future seemed too far away and the past was a distant memory.  If ice cream was a big part of your favorite memories check out the ice cream museum to reminiscent and if not just go out and take 45 minutes to be a kid again and love every second of it.