Entries in ‘Travel’ Journal

Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown’s 2014 Year in Review

Wednesday December 31, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 0 Comments

"Nancy Brown", Bahia Bell sternwheeler

Travel Writer Nancy Brown in San Diego, California

Even though December is notoriously a busy month, I always save time to write Nancy D. Brown’s year in review. As a travel writer, I am fortunate to visit many destinations each year; 2014 was no exception. As many of you know, I specialize in equestrian and luxury travel. There’s nothing I like better than discovering the world from the back of a horse!

January

What better way to combine luxury and horses than a trip to Texas Hill Country and the Inn at Dos Brisas? This Relais & Chateaux ranch resort has the only Forbes five-star restaurant in the entire state of Texas.

While my trip to San Diego didn’t involve horseback riding, I was surrounded by cowboys and cowgirls from all over the United States. I had the pleasure of speaking with The Dude Ranchers’ Association about How to Work with Travel Bloggers at their annual convention. The dude ranch members gathered at The Bahia Resort Hotel in Mission Bay. A first for me, I gave my presentation on The Bahia Belle, a Mississippi-style sternwheeler that travels on Mission Bay in Southern California. What a trip!

I had my airline tickets booked to attend Quebec Winter Carnival in Canada. Unfortunately, I came down with a nasty cold at the tail end of my San Diego trip and had to cancel Quebec. The folks from Tourism Quebec were understanding of my plight and invited me to Quebec City and the Charlevoix region of Canada during the height of leaf changing season. I was also able to go horseback riding on a Canadian horse during my travels.

February

My son is a rebel – not the rebellious type – but an Ole Miss Rebel. Our California boy is headed south to attend the University of Mississippi next fall. The campus is lovely and there are plenty of things to do in Oxford, Mississippi, but I’m not ready to have my youngest live so far away! Ready or not, my husband and I enjoyed our trip to Oxford. There were plenty of great restaurants and lots of history to uncover. I look forward to learning more about the state of Mississippi.

March

Hasta la vista baby! I headed to Mexico for Cancun Riviera Maya Wine & Food Fest and a stay at Secrets the Vine. French Chef Daniel Boulud was in the kitchen. Yum!

"Nancy Brown" "Morro Bay" California

Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown kayaking in Morro Bay

April

Monterey press trip to report on the opening of Tentacles exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Equidistant from Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, Morro Bay and Wine Coast Country, along Highway 1 Discovery Route, offers kayaking, horseback riding, sailing, plenty of B&B’s, Inns & motels and is a great place to go fly a kite!

May

I love living so close to wine country! I almost consider myself a local and wrote a post on “How to Do Napa Like a Local.” There’s always some new restaurant or hotel opening in downtown Napa. What are your favorites?

This proud mama, along with her husband, watched our daughter graduate from the University of California at Berkeley.

I had a chance to attend BBQ University with guest Chef Steven Raichlen at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. San Francisco International Airport offers a nightly non-stop flight to Colorado Springs.

June

We had not one, but two graduations this summer. Our son graduated from high school in June and will be attending Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi in the fall.

We helped our daughter move into her Portland townhouse and meet her new roommates before starting her first job, post-college. To keep it fun and involve family, we rented a houseboat on Shasta Lake. Lake Shasta Marina set us up with a luxury houseboat and ski boat July 31-August 3. Low water levels due to California’s third year of a drought, but there was still plenty of water in Shasta to water ski and slide off the houseboat into the lake!

"Shasta Lake" sunset

Shasta Lake Sunset

August

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that Sunriver Resort is a family destination for us. This year Destination Hotels & Resorts hosted us at Sunriver Lodge Village Suite August 3-6 and Skamania Lodge August 6. I could have stayed longer at Skamania Lodge exploring the Columbia Gorge area, but we needed to return to California.

One of the highlights of my summer travel was a cruise through Alaska’s Glacier Bay with Uncruise Adventures August 31 – September 7. If you think cruising is not for you, read my blog posts on small ship cruising. My reviews will change your mind.

September

Another advantage of living in California is how easy it is to travel to Hawaii. This fall I visited Molokai and explored the island by donkey – riding down the highest sea cliffs in the world – and kayaking it’s blue waters.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, Arizona, hotel

Four Seasons Scottsdale. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


October

As mentioned above, I was able to tour Quebec’s walled city and toward the end of the month I headed to Scottsdale, Arizona to play cowgirl at Arizona Cowboy College. I had an extraordinary experience riding a reining horse thanks to an invitation from Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North.

November
After a little rock and roll action in Napa (that’s code for earthquake) I headed back to downtown Napa to review the remodeled Embassy Suites and check out my new favorite restaurant, Torc. I was also introduced to new to me musicians, Penny & Sparrow, during a concert at City Winery. There is SO MUCH more going on in downtown Napa than when my husband and I lived there in the late 1980’s!

Back to the central coast, this time to discovery Los Osos. Have you heard of it? This tiny beach-side community is a hidden secret on the California coast. I also did a little recycled holiday shopping in Morro Bay and picked up a couple of gifts for myself at some local thrift shops. Woot!

Thanksgiving was spent with family in Carmel and for that, I am very grateful. I am a huge fan of the Monterey Peninsula and our dog loves the pet-friendly beaches.

December

I was able to check river cruising off my bucket list and I did it in style with Viking River Cruises. I was blessed to be asked to cruise the Danube River during the Christmas Markets. Yes, I am filled with gratitude for my traveling writing life. I see amazing places and meet wonderful people along the journey.

Where did your travels take you in 2014 and where are you headed in 2015?

Photos and post by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown

Best Travel Gifts

Saturday December 6, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 2 Comments

I live, eat and breath travel. I could travel 24/7 if the opportunity presented itself. Seven days a week I think about and write about travel. Travel is as affordable or as expensive as you make it. The same may be said for travel gifts. With that in mind, I give you my seven best gifts for the traveler.

Tieks, travel shoes, ballet flats

Tieks wool ballet flats are great travel shoes.

Good things come in small packages; small blue packages from Beverly Hills, California to be exact. I first discovered Tieks ballet flats in 2012 when beach volleyball Olympic gold medalist Kerry Walsh wore her Starstruck Tieks while showing off her medals. This year I discovered Tieks for winter. New to their Vegan collection, the greystone non-leather Tieks add warmth to my wardrobe. I’m looking forward to wearing these on my Viking River Cruise down the Danube. They will be perfect to slip into after a day of exploring Christmas Markets in rubber rain boots. These travel shoes are priced at $175 – as with all items listed here, check the website for current prices.

Nancy D. Brown, Royal Robbins, Carmel, California, travel

I can go everywhere in these travel clothes.

What’s a great pair of travel shoes without travel clothes to match? I was introduced to the Royal Robbins brand from fellow travel bloggers Deb and Dave of the Planet D. They, too, were looking to dress up their wardrobe while still looking good on the road. You’ll be seeing a lot more of me dressed in Royal Robbins go everywhere clothing.

luggage tag, Your Bag Tag, travel

Luggage tags from Your Bag Tag. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

Stocking stuffer

For children looking for affordable gift ideas for the traveler, or anyone with limited holiday budgets, custom luggage tags are the ideal gift for people on the go. These personalized luggage tags from YourBagTag will also work well for locating sports, fishing, scuba, skiing, tack and golf bags in a hurry. The carabiner bag tags are perfect for camera gear bags and backpacks. Prices start at $12.99.

luggage, Ugobags, travel

Ugobags custom luggage. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

For the traveler who has everything, custom luggage from Ugobags is perfect. Successfully funded through a Kickstarter campaign, Ugobags offers travelers the opportunity to customize their luggage online! With free delivery and a two year warranty, this lightweight luggage is a sure bet from a California-based company. Carryon luggage starts at $189.

Glacier Bay, Alaska, experiential travel

Experiential travel in Alaska. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Travel experiences

Some of us prefer travel experiences over collecting things. The term experiential travel is popular with parents and grandparents because many of us are looking for memorable or teachable moments that we can share with family members or close friends. A memorable travel experience for me was a trip to Alaska’s Glacier Bay with UnCruise Adventures – what a trip! All inclusive Alaska rates start at $4,195.

Creekside Farms, wreaths, California

Bring California indoors with Creekside Farms wreath. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

California grown

The herb wreaths from California-based Creekside Farms not only look pretty, they will make your house, apartment or dorm room smell simply divine. If you want to bring a bit of country into your home, these wreaths are certainly cheaper than a trip to the lavender fields of Provence, France. These California-grown gifts start at $29.
An Innocent Abroad, travel, bookTravel books

Last year I recommended the book Wild by Portland, Oregon-based author Cheryl Strayed. A book for the adventurous explorer, hiker or armchair traveler about her wanderings From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. I still recommend this book and look forward to watching Reese Witherspoon play Strayed in Wild, the movie. Suggested retail price $16.43.

A book I’m taking with me on the airplane to Europe this winter is An Innocent Abroad Life-changing trips from 35 great writers. Published by Oakland, California-based Lonely Planet, this book includes travel tales from Tim Cahill, Pico Iyer, Ann Patchett, Jane Smiley and Cheryl Strayed, among others. Suggested retail is $15.99 for this book.
I hope you found these gift ideas helpful. What are your favorite holiday gifts for the traveler in your life?
Companies often reach out to me to review their products, travel apparel and gear. Many of the above items have been reviewed on the What a Trip blog. I wouldn’t recommend these 7 best gifts for the traveler if I didn’t personally use and approve of them.

Related Posts:

Best Gifts for Travelers

Gift Ideas for Travelers

Travel Gift Guide

Book Review: Wild

Thursday December 4, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

We’ve all heard the phrase, “don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” The same could be said of author Cheryl Strayed, only the phrase would read, “don’t judge a woman until you’ve walked 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in her boots.”
 
Cheryl Strayed has been called many things – gutsy, brave, stupid, drug addict and writer are among some of the titles. In the true story Wild, the Portland-based author takes to the Pacific Crest Trail like an Oregon duck out of water. She squawks, waddles and rolls her way through California, Oregon and eventually makes it to Washington State and the Bridge of the Gods in her search to heal her broken soul and make herself whole again after the death of her mother and the end of her marriage.
 

Reese Witherspoon, Cheryl Strayed, Wild

Reese Witherspoon hikes in Cheryl Strayed’s boots in ‘Wild.’ (Anne Marie Fox/Fox Searchlight Pictures)


 
While I have never walked the Pacific Crest Trail myself or lugged a monster of a backpack – I prefer the comfort of a soft mattress and high thread count – I did enjoy reading Wild and learning more about the trail and its history. The Mexico to Canada trail wasn’t designated until 1968 and was completed in 1993. I imagine the PCT will increase in popularity when the movie Wild hits theaters.

The book and movie will appeal to travelers and explorers for its stark and scenic beauty. As Strayed points out, “the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada is entirely different. A landscape so desolate it seemed out of this earth. I was a pebble. I was a leaf. I was the jagged branch of a tree.”

Strayed bypassed the High Sierra – missing Sequoia and Kings Canyon and Yosemite national parks, Tuolumne Meadows and the John Muir and Desolation wildernesses, but hiked many miles in the Sierra Nevada – what Muir called the Range of Light – before entering the Cascade Range. Personally, I have ridden some of these locations on horseback.

Like Strayed’s mother, horses are my religion. I do anything I can to ride them. Horse lovers be warned that there is a difficult section in the book about the death of a beloved horse.
 

Mt Hood, Oregon

Mt. Hood as seen from the Columbia Gorge. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


 
Another favorite location that Strayed and I share is Oregon’s Three Sisters-South, Middle and North, as well as Mount Hood. Central Oregon and Washington’s Columbia Gorge are great places for horseback riding vacations.

 

 

Reese Witherspoon, Wild, movie

Reese Witherspoon by Pacific Crest Trail in Wild, the movie. (Anne Marie Fox/Fox Searchlight Pictures)


 
Wild walk on Pacific Crest Trail
Whether you read the book or watch the movie, you’ll appreciate Strayed’s ability to tell a story – both wild and raw. Indeed, Wild is a fast-paced, thrilling and rocky walk along the Pacific Crest Trail.
 
“We all have the power to heal ourselves,” said Bruna Papandra, producer ‘Wild.’
 
Insider tip

Like Cheryl Strayed upon completing her walk on the Pacific Crest Trail, you too can touch the Bridge of the Gods, or drive across the toll bridge that crosses the Columbia River at the Oregon-Washington border. If you make it there, stay at Skamania Lodge – much preferred over a tent pitched on the ground by the trail.

Have you read the book or seen the movie? What did you think? For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @nancydbrown and follow @CherylStrayed on Twitter.
 
Wild, book review, Cheryl Strayed
 
Where to Buy:
Wild

Article written by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I purchased the book Wild From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail for review purposes and because I enjoy reading books that I can hold in my hands.