Entries in ‘Travel’ Journal

Oxford, Mississippi: Things to Do

Friday March 7, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 3 Comments

william faulkner, statue

Get your picture taken with William Faulkner in Oxford, Mississippi

Are you visiting Oxford, Mississippi for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in sophisticated little Oxford- (quote from William Faulkner)


When I have a visitor from out of town the first place they want to see is the Historic Downtown Square but I also take them to Rowan Oak, home of Author and Nobel Prize Winner William Faulkner, as well as the University of Mississippi campus for a more local, authentic experience.


walk of champions, oxford, mississippi

The Walk of Champions welcomes University of Mississippi football fans to the Grove in Oxford, MS.

When I want to escape the tourists, my favorite place to visit is the Grove on the Ole Miss campus for a picnic with my family.

If this is a romantic trip, I recommend sitting on the statue bench with Mr. Faulkner in front of City Hall or the Balcony of any square restaurants for kissing with a view.

Are you traveling with pets? The best place to walk the dog is the downtown area.


Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit Avent Park on Park Street. There’s also a Skatepark in Oxford thanks in part to a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.


shrimp & grits, boure

Shrimp & grits from Boure in Oxford, Mississippi.

Oxford, Mississippi food:

If you are looking for typical Southern cuisine, I recommend Boure, Ajax Diner and Snack Bar. Snack Bar is where I had my first taste of grits (with mushrooms.)

The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat is Bottle Tree Bakery- they have the best humble pie pastries and an oversized cinnamon roll perfect for sharing.


Looking for cheap food in Oxford? Our teenager loved Ajax Diner. We’ve also heard good things about Handy Andy BBQ.For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to City Grocery


The Snack Bar is the spot for late night dining and is the spill over restaurant when Big Bad Breakfast is filled to capacity. As both restaurants are run by the same owner, we decided not to wait an hour for breakfast at the popular diner when the majority of the same menu was available next door.




Seeing a lot of “hotty toddy” references – this is a popular expression at Ole Miss. I can’t wait to experience a football game and tailgate in the Grove!


When you come to Oxford, get your picture taken with the William Faulkner Statue in front of City Hall.


The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Balcony’s on the Square. The balcony off Square Books offers great views and is the best place to watch or experience the Double Decker Arts Festival – held the last weekend in April each year.


In Oxford, outdoor enthusiasts will want to bike and walk. Walking tour brochures are available at Visit Oxford Visitors Center and bike trails are located on the visitoxfordms.com website.


Lucius Lamar

Visit the post-Civil War home of Lucius Lamar in Oxford, Mississippi

Looking for a little exercise? Walk along the Bailey’s woods walking trail between the University Museum and Rowan Oak, home of author William Faulkner. You can also visit St. Peter’s Cemetery and Faulkner’s grave site. Not surprisingly, you’ll see bottles of Jack Daniel’s left in tribune by the author’s tombstone.


If you are a museum lover, Oxford’s best museum is the University Museum. It was also recommended that I visit the post-Civil War home of L.Q.C. Lamar by my guide, Jack Mayfield, a fifth generation Oxonian and history columnist for The Oxford Eagle. The Oxford Eagle will keep you posted on what’s happening in Oxford.Needless to say, I didn’t have time to take in all the sites of Oxford, but mark my words, I will return!


Looking for exciting night life? Go to Proud Larrys or the Lyric for live music.


In the spring you should attend Double Decker Arts Festival – last weekend in April. Also in the Spring- Ole Miss Baseball is a big deal!

Did you know that Oxford is known for Southern Artists Culture? Plan a visit to Southside Gallery on the square in the fall and don’t forget Ole Miss Football and the Grove.


Lafayette County Courthouse

Lafayette County Courthouse in Oxford, Mississippi

Come to Oxford in the winter and tour the University of Mississippi campus (my family visited President’s weekend.)


Insider Tip: Check out the often over-looked Burns Belfry in Oxford. I’ll bet you didn’t know Author John Grisham used this historic church (now a museum) for his law office while living in Oxford, Mississippi.


Just outside of Oxford you can visit Taylor, MS,  have dinner at the Taylor Grocery for the best catfish you’ve ever eaten!

What are your favorite things to do in Oxford, Mississippi?

Photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. Thanks to Visit Oxford for assistance with this post.

Enchanted Highway, North Dakota: You’ll be glad you made the drive

Wednesday February 19, 2014 at 9:09 AM | 5 Comments

The largest tin family in the world is a folksy beacon to Regent, North Dakota

The largest tin family in the world is a folksy beacon to Regent, North Dakota

The first indication that there’s something amazing off of I-94 west of Bismarck, North Dakota is the scrap metal sculpture “Geese in Flight.” You can’t miss it. Depicting Canadian geese flying over the seemingly endless expanse of prairie, this intricate sculpture stands at 110 feet tall and 154 feet wide. Its size landed it a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture.

This sculpture is only the beginning of the scrap metal wonders along the 32 mile stretch of quiet two lane road in the middle of farmland between I-94 and Regent, North Dakota. Gary Greff, “Geese in Flight’s” creator, started his scrap metal creations back in 1997 when he made the world’s largest tin family. Dad, mom and son, standing at 45 ft., 44 ft., and 23 ft. tall, serve as Regent’s welcoming committee of sorts. Their folksy how-de-do has worked like a charm.

Part of Fisherman's dream

Part of Fisherman’s dream

See, Greff, noticing that Regent was on its way to ghost town status if something didn’t happen to change the tide of small town flight, came up with the idea to build enormous sculptures as a tourist attraction and call the endeavor “Enchanted Highway.”

Greff’s idea worked. I know that first hand. There I am one day in my office in Ohio listening to NPR when Greff is being interviewed. The story about the former teacher and principal who built the largest scrap metal sculptures in the world to save his town of 200 people in North Dakota caught my attention. How could it not?I pulled out our atlas, pointed to Regent, North Dakota and said to my husband, “We have to go here. We have to see the largest tin family in the world.” Besides, what’s a few more miles when one is driving from Ohio to Philipsburg, Montana? It seemed to me that the fact the hat of the tin dad is the size of a Volkswagon Beetle was reason enough to make the drive.

The sculptures along the Enchanted Highway that now include: “Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again,” “Pheasants on the Prairie,” “Grasshoppers in the Field,” “Deer Crossing,” and “Fisherman’s Dream” did not disappoint. Serving as a lesson in prairie and North Dakota history, they also amaze with their variety and whimsy. We were so enthralled with them that we’ve made the drive to Regent two more times.

Another kind of pheasant in North Dakota

Another kind of pheasant in North Dakota

This coming summer may be round four. Last summer, we were close but headed to Teddy Roosevelt National Park, a place we had yet to see on all our trips west. I sure did miss seeing the tin family, though. Happily, the “Geese in Flight” soared as magnificently as ever as we drove past them on I-94.

Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association

Healthy Holidays to Get Fit While You Travel

Monday February 3, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 3 Comments

This post is underwritten by First Choice

spa, Sabila Spa

Spa therapy for a healthy holiday

Who doesn’t love a vacation? Yet holidays don’t have to be filled with sinful eating and lounging around like a beached whale.

There are plenty of healthy dining options for travelers on an active adventure vacation. In the spirit of new year’s resolutions I’d like to share five places to travel for a healthy holiday. Who knows, you might have fun and lose a little weight during your vacation!

California spa vacation

I’m a northern California girl, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fly south for the sunshine, or in Ojai’s case, a pink moment sunset. Ojai, California holds a special place in my heart. This mountain community, 83 miles northwest of Los Angeles and east of Santa Barbara, is located in Ventura County. It is also home to Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. There are several spas to choose from in this community; the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is a luxury retreat offering healthy cuisine, tennis, golf and every spa treatment you can imagine. Read my review of Ojai Valley Inn and Spa here.


buddha, lumeria maui

Experience a yoga retreat at Lumeria Maui in Hawaii

Yoga & meditation retreat in Maui, Hawaii

Lumeria Maui is only a 30 minute drive from Kahului Airport, but it is a world away from all of your worries and stresses. This wellness retreat in upcountry Makawao surrounds guests in a welcoming embrace with its natural beauty, tropical plants, local garden and many buddha statues.

During my visit, I savored the nightly organic and healthy meals prepared by the Lumeria in-house chef and joined in with Hawaiian locals for master yoga classes.

New since my review, Lumeria has added a salt water swimming pool and Jacuzzi. See a detailed review and more photos here.

Horseback riding and Thai massage in BC Canada

When I flew into Kamloops Airport in British Columbia, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This was my first visit to Echo Valley Ranch, a luxury resort owned by English ex-pat Norm Dove and his Thai wife, Nan.
Originally purchased as a retreat for family and friends, the couple kept building on the 160 acre property, resulting in the opening of Echo Valley Ranch in 1995.

ban thai spa, echo valley ranch

Enjoy Thai massage at Echo Valley Ranch

Their executive chef creates fresh and healthy cuisine using plants from their organic garden and cattle, chickens, turkeys and pigs raised on their ranch.

I traveled to Echo Valley Ranch for the horseback riding offered throughout the property and bordering the Marble Range Park. Trail rides offer incredible views of British Columbia’s Fraser Canyon. Little did I know that the ranch is known for its Thai style massage at their Ban Thai Spa.

Drawing from Nan’s Thailand connections, many of the massage therapists specialize in this unique 90 minute Thai massage – a new and wonderful experience for me. See my Echo Valley Ranch review here.

Pico Island, vineards

Pico Island is Portugal’s highest point and offers great hiking

Hiking and riding on Pico Island, Portugal

Europeans love Portugal’s Pico Island for its terrific hiking opportunities. Pico Island holds the unique distinction of being the second largest island in the Azores and is the highest point in all of Portugal.

This was my first trip to the Azores and it was wonderful. If you have a chance to visit this chain of islands, you won’t want to miss Pico Island. In addition to hiking and horseback riding, there is whale watching and there are several museums on the island.

One of the most unique features about the island is the vineyards growing inside basalt rock walls next to the Atlantic Ocean. Crazy! Read my review of things to do on Pico Island here.


flamenco dancer, Esther Vélez

Learn to Flamenco dance in Seville, Spain

Flamingo dancing in Seville, Spain
My daughter had the opportunity to study Spanish in Seville, Spain through her university. I remember my trip to Madrid and Seville, Spain back in 2008. In addition to the beautiful public art and lovely architecture, I was fascinated with the Flamenco dancers and their colorful Flamenco dresses.

There are plenty of places to learn the art of Flamenco dancing in Spain and it is certainly a great way to get exercise. For those not interested in moving your body, the Museum of Flamenco Dance in Seville is a gem of a museum and offers Flamenco dance performances. This photo of Esther Velez was taken by me during a performance at the Museum of Flamenco Dance in Seville.

Do you opt for healthy holidays when you travel? Where do you recommend for an active adventure vacation? For European vacation planning, visit First Choice for all inclusive travel.

Article written by Nancy D. Brown. Photos courtesy Nancy D. Brown.