Entries in ‘What a Trip’ 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

Palazzo del Governatore, Bracciano, Italy

Wednesday August 20, 2014 at 10:10 AM | 1 Comment

The Palazzo del Governatore B&B, Bracciono, Italy

The Palazzo del Governatore B&B, Bracciano, Italy

My friend Milos invited me to visit the magical little town in Italy where he grew up. He promised to introduce me to the locals, show me around, and help me find places to stay while I produced a travel website about the area. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Everything Milos told me about Lake Bracciano, Italy, was completely true. If you’re looking for authentic Italia, the Lake Bracciano area is the place. I barely heard English or any other language beside Italian spoken during the 10 days I was there. The people are warm, the food outstanding, and the beauty staggering.

Thirty miles north of Rome, (an easy train ride from the Eternal City), lies the gorgeous, clear, azure Lake Bracciano, surrounded by three small cities—Bracciano, Anguillara, and Trevignano each 11 miles apart around the lake. The area is surrounded by “slow food” farms, vineyards, and family artisans. I was fortunate to meet some of these fine folks including Giancarlo Gentili, a pecorino cheesemaker and the winemaker from the beautiful Tenuta Tre Cancelli vineyard.

The city of Bracciano is built around the majestic 15th century Orsini-Odescalchi castle, an amazing and formidable presence and one of the most well preserved feudal castles in Europe. It’s open for public tours and I highly recommend wandering through this architectural masterpiece with a storied history. The ghost of Isabella de Medici who disposed her “low-born” lovers via a trap door in her bedroom is said to haunt the halls draped in white veils. It’s also the location of the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes wedding.

Again fortune smiled on us and we were invited to stay right beyond the castle wall at the Palazzo del Governatore B&B. The location could not be better. Our suite looked across at the castle garden and the medieval cobblestone streets. Church bells around the corner chimed the hours. It was a fairytale. Our hosts Vittoria and Ennio were incredibly gracious (Ennio even took my suitcase up the hill with him on his motorbike) and we were served breakfast in the great room with prints of ancient Roman maps and early Papal contest documents on the walls. It was like  something out of a dream.

This post was contributed by Lisa Dion of FriscoMama.com. I was a guest of the Palazzo del Governatore.

 

Book Review: Don’t Cook the Planet by Emily Abrams

Tuesday March 25, 2014 at 11:11 PM | 0 Comments

The exterior of Alice Waters' Chez Panisse, considered the birthplace of California cuisine.

The exterior of Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, considered the birthplace of California cuisine.

Last week I had the pleasure of representing What a Trip at a special event at Chez Panisse, hosted by Alice Waters and a young eco-activist/author named Emily Abrams.

The occasion was the book release of Don’t Cook the Planet by 19-year-old Abrams. Waters contributed to this beautiful volume of recipes, photographs, and snippets of wisdom from world-renowned chefs, activists and luminaries including Michael Pollan, Tom Colicchio, Robert Redford, and Paul Simon.

The menu was no frills — a simple though perfectly dressed salad of greens and thin-crust pizza topped with more greens and Parmesan.

Alice, who contributed her (you guessed it, simple) garlic vinaigrette recipe to the book, spoke a few words and graciously posed for numerous selfies with guests. The murmurs around my table were that Abrams’ parents paid for both the event and Waters’ participation in the project. Who knows? And really, who cares? Abrams is a delightful young high school senior and 100% of the proceeds from her book’s sale will be donated to non-profits committed to sustainable efforts.

The gist of the book is that small, conscious choices — like drinking tap water, shopping for local produce at farmers’ markets, and composting among other things — can impact climate control which Abrams considers her generation’s “defining issue.”

The colorful volume (with extraordinary food photography) is peppered with tips for finding easy ways to turn our culinary choices into environmental actions.

Alice Waters and guests at the pizza party for 'Don't Cook the Planet'

Alice Waters and guests at the pizza party for ‘Don’t Cook the Planet’

With a forward written by the still incredibly handsome Robert Kennedy Jr., Don’t Cook the Planet features a collection of more than 70 recipes from Richard Branson’s Spring shepard’s pie and Rahm Emmanuel’s homemade challah to Chevy Chase’s veggie chili and Ethel Kennedy’s Deviled Eggs.

Many of the recipes look straightforward and simple enough. In fact, this book could spur me on to get into the kitchen and fire up some quinoa cakes, beef risotto, or an apple pandowdy.

We’ll see…

Contributed by Lisa Dion of Friscomama.com. Photos by Lisa Dion

pizza