Entries in ‘Travel’ Journal

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.

Cebu City, Philippines: 3 Historical Don’t Miss Houses

Wednesday November 19, 2014 at 8:08 PM | 0 Comments

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House, one of Cebu's oldest

Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House, one of Cebu’s oldest

Cebu City,  on the island of Cebu in the Philippines was not on my bucket list until my dad started traveling there and mentioned how much he thought I’d like it. So I went. And I did. 

Cebu City is the oldest city in the Philippines and the first Spanish settlement which means there are several places to poke around that evoke musings of what life was like way back when.

Here are three don’t miss historical attraction museums,  all within a short walk from each other.  Located near Colon St., the shortest street in the Philippines, and the Plaza Parian with its impressive sculptural monument that pays tribute to the Philippines’ history,  these three  sites make for a doable half-day.

Casa Gorordo, a feng shui inspired gem

Casa Gorordo, a feng shui inspired gem

Casa Gorordo Museum- This once private home, now museum, is a blend of 19th century Spanish and Philippine sensibilities. As I walked through the rooms filled with furniture and items similar to those that would have been used by the Gorordo family who once lived here, I enjoyed the aesthetics of the rich-toned wood interior and the openness of the architectural features. The placement of windows, doors and movement from one room to the next incorporates feng shui principles.  Four generations of the Gorordo family lived in the house beginning in 1863.

Family treasures inside the Yap Sandiego Ancestral House

Family treasures inside the Yap Sandiego Ancestral House

Yap Sandiego Ancestral House – A short walk from Casa Gorordo Museum, the Yap Sandiego Ancestral House takes keeping family treasures to a whole other level. The house, still owned by the Yap Sandiego family, is filled with belongings that include family photographs, religious relics and household items. The motto here seems to be, you can’t be too ornate when it comes to a knick knacks. I loved it.

Our visit was enhanced by one of the tour guides who filled us in on the house’s history– and the family who still stays here in one of the rooms on the weekends. The house is one of the oldest in Cebu so the fact that the family still stays here is phenomenal.

Entrance to the Jesuit House-- in the middle of scrap metal and more

Entrance to the Jesuit House– in the middle of scrap metal and more

The 1730 Jesuit House – Located in the middle of a scrap metal/hardware business, literally–it’s surrounded by junk, the Jesuit House has a fascinating come-back tale.

Once the home of Jesuit priests in 1730, the house’s significance was dormant and some of the rooms used for storage. When the Sy family that owns the property discovered the old buildings significance and that they were  stewards of a historic gem, they began preserving the house’s beauty. 

Although the hardware business surrounds the museum on the outside, inside the museum you can find out about the building’s various incarnations, as well as, learn about Cebu’s cultural history.

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

Los Osos: Things To Do

Wednesday November 19, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

Are you visiting Los Osos or the Baywood Park area of town for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in this California coastal community.

squash blossoms, Farmers' Market, Los Osos, California

Los Osos Farmers’ Market. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

When I have a visitor from out of town, the first place they want to see is Montaña de Oro State Park, but I also take them to check out Spooner’s Cove, and a short hike down the bluff trail to Corallina Cove for a more local, authentic experience. Baywood, a small community tucked in Los Osos on the most southern inlet of Morro Bay is also worth a look.

Spooner’s Cove got its name, not from kissing, but from a long time ranching family named Spooner. It is where the Park headquarters is located, in the old ranch house. A relatively little known, and fairly new trail is the Point Buchon Trail, stunning views along the coast.

There are a number of great trails in the park, especially for mountain bikers and equestrians.

When I want to escape from everyone and be surrounded in nature, my favorite thing to do is to kayak
out to sandspit – private tours are available via Central Coast Outdoors.

If this is a romantic trip, I recommend walking to the bench at the end of the trail in the Elfin Forest for kissing with a view or Sweet Springs Nature Reserve.

ducks, Sweet Springs Nature Reserve, Los Osos, California

Birdwatching at Sweet Springs Nature Reserve. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

Are you traveling with a dog or two? The best place to walk the dog is Cuesta Inlet. This is private property, but the owner has been very generous and allows people to walk their dogs there. Plus he allows people to keep their kayaks and sailboats there too as long as they are licensed and have contact info on them. But please pick up after your dog. That means bring your own bags and carry them out with you. There are no trash cans.

Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the skate park. It’s located in the middle of town and is excellent, the beach at Pasadena Street is good, too. The Los Osos Library has a number of kids’ programs, events and reading programs, perfect for entertaining kids while traveling.

Noi's Thai, Los Osos, California

Noi’s Thai Takeout. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Food in and around Los Osos

Los Osos has an eclectic dining scene; favorites include La Palapa in Baywood and La Casita on 9th Street (best salsa this side of the border) for Mexican food, Noi’s for Thai and Celia’s for lunch, or the Clubhouse Grill at Sea Pines Golf Resort for sandwiches and salads with live music on the weekends during the summer.

The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat, hands down, is Back Bay Café in Baywood. The cafe sits right on the bay and breakfast is included with your stay at Back Bay Inn or Baywood Inn. Sweet!

Looking for cheap food in Los Osos? Sylvester’s Burgers has famously good HUGE and drippy (with great sauce) hamburgers.

Hungry for late night dining? Don’t get your hopes up, Los Osos Baywood is a rural destination offering outdoor adventure and relaxation. It really doesn’t offer much of a late night dining scene. Most restaurants close by 9 p.m. There are a few that stay open later in Morro Bay on the weekends.

Thinking about an expensive, high-end meal, head to Morro Bay for plenty of dining options. It’s about a 10 minute drive from LOBP (Los Osos Baywood Park). For some of the freshest seafood on the central coast and a fantastic dining experience head to the Galley, Windows on the Water, Harada’s Japanese restaurant and Bayside Café in Morro Bay.

Lace Lichen, Elfin Forest, Los Osos, California

Lace Lichen hangs from the trees in Elfin Forest. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Los Osos outward bound

Are you getting a clearer picture of this central coast area? Outdoor adventures like hiking, exploring nature, biking, kayaking, sailing and paddle boarding, layered with California sunsets, is what this place is about. At high tide, adventure seekers can paddle through the mudflats and channels of the Morro Bay Estuary Natural Preserve and its 800-acre wetland. It’s a refreshing dose of natural beauty.

To capture this beauty, get your picture taken in Baywood Park, Elfin Forest, Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, Montaña de Oro or on the Sandspit. The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Black Hill or Valencia Peak in Montaña de Oro. You can also drive to the top of Cabrillo Estates, hike to the top of Valencia Peak (in Montaña de Oro – a hearty hike) or Elfin Forest, or kayak or hike out to the top of the sandspit or back to the little known “Sharks Inlet” and the farthest westerly spot on Morro Bay, and the hill on top of the Natural History Museum in Morro Bay.

Looking for a little exercise? Walk along the bluff trail in Montaña de Oro right along the ocean or any of the countless miles of awesome trails. After a day of adventure, Sea Pines is the best place to go for a spa treatment.

If you are a museum lover you’ll need to head over to Morro Bay. The Natural History Museum (the only museum in Morro Bay) is actually pretty good for kids, offering interactive kiosks.

Pacific Ocean, Montaña de Oro State Park, Los Osos, California

Montaña de Oro State Park. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Looking for exciting night life? You’ll need to head to San Luis Obispo for things to do. LOBP is lower key after dark. There are a few bars that offer music and pool and are open late night: Sweet Springs Tavern and the Merry Maker. Again, Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo provide more expansive night life opportunities.

Sometime, come back and check out the Pozo Saloon. Pozo is south east of Santa Margarita. It’s over 100 years old and hasn’t changed much in all that time. GREAT family style BBQ where you sit family style. You never know who you’ll be sitting next to. Could be a group of retired physicians or the Hell’s Angels.

If you need more things to see and do in Los Osos, New Times and Bay News will keep you posted on what’s happening in the area. KCBX Public Radio has an extensive calendar of events.

Morro Rock, Morro Bay, Los Osos, California

Morro Rock photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

You can tell a lot about Los Osos from visiting and watching Baywood Junefest, Octoberfest, Boatzart & Bayfest. Sea Pines offers a summer concert series. In the fall look for migrating Monarch butterflies at Monarch Grove or come for the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival, held over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. More than 250 species of land, sea, and shore birds, both migratory and resident and dozens of endangered species thrive here in the winter. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars!

Insider Tip: I’ll bet you didn’t know that you could kayak out to the sandspit & enjoy miles of secluded, beautiful beaches. Just outside of Los Osos, you can visit Morro Bay or the charming beach town of Cayucos.

What are your favorite things to do on California’s Central Coast? For additional insider tips follow Northern California Travel Writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter.
Article, photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Los Osos Baywood Park.