Review: Embassy Suites Napa Valley

Friday December 5, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 1 Comment

Back in the day (we’re talking late 1980’s) downtown Napa was not the happening spot that it is today. My husband and I lived in the apartments next to Embassy Suites Napa Valley and would walk over to order their killer cheese bread. The bread is long gone from the Napa Valley menu – it was probably called killer cheese bread due to the artery-clogging goodness – and along with the updated healthy menu items comes a $4 million+ re-model of the entire hotel.

"Embassy Suites Napa Valley", hotel review

Embassy Suites hotel review. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


What I like about this property; the all-suite hotel is conveniently located in downtown Napa, so if you want to do Napa like a local, you’ll be able to walk, dine and drink without driving. You’ll need your car to explore further up valley, but if Napa is your focus, the hotel is right next to Highway 29 – the first downtown Napa exit. Additionally, as a business traveler, I love the free, fast wifi! Good water pressure in the shower of this well lighted bathroom, too. FYI, no bath tub, but there is an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, as well as a small fitness center.



The 205 room hotel is pet-friendly and charges a one time $75 pet fee. Dogs receive a goodie bag upon arrival! All rooms are suites with king or double bed options and include a desk and sleeper sofa in the front suite. The updated rooms include plenty of electrical outlets for charging your electronics. If you are a light sleeper, I recommend requesting a third floor location. My neighbors above me were walking around until 11:30 p.m. and up early the next morning.

"Embassy Suites Napa Valley" swans, hotel, "Embassy Suites"

Swans in the hotel courtyard. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

"Embassy Suites Napa Valley", hotel, pool

Outdoor pool. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

"Embassy Suites Napa Valley", swimming pool

Indoor pool & hot tub. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

In addition to a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast, guests are welcomed to a complimentary reception for evening cocktails served nightly from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Breakfast is served in the atrium Monday – Friday from 6:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m., Saturday and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
"Embassy Suites", "Napa Valley", breakfast

Cooked to order breakfast at Embassy Suites. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

"Embassy Suites Napa Valley", atrium

Cocktails served nightly in the atrium. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Insider Tip
In addition to being pet-friendly, Embassy Suites has lovely grounds with water features, fountains, ducks and swans. If you are traveling with kids, the birds are fed in the morning for good viewing. See if you can spot the black swans!

For additional insider tips follow Northern California Travel Writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter.

"Embassy Suites" suite, "Napa Valley"

King Suite Pool View. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Check-In Time: 4:00pm

Check-Out Time: 12:00pm

If You Go:
Embassy Suites Napa Valley (800) Embassy or (707) 253-9540
1075 California Boulevard
Napa, California 94559

Hotel review, video and photos courtesy of Lodging Editor Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Embassy Suites while researching an article for another publication.

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:

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.

Le Manoir Richelieu, Charlevoix, Canada

Wednesday December 3, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

Winter, spring, summer, fall, Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu has it all. It may sound cliche, but it’s true. My visit to this castle on the cliff was timed to coincide with the leaves changing color in the Charlevoix region of Québec. I would have been just as happy to explore this grand hotel in the winter.

Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, hotel, Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada

Hotel Review: Fairmont le Manoir Richelieu. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown



spa, Fairmont le Manoir Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

Spa Suite with St. Lawrence River view. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Imagine climbing into your in-suite hot tub after a day of skiing or snowmobiling – there’s also an Amerispa on property, as well as a health club. Le Manoir Richelieu is the only Canadian luxury resort hotel that I know of offering indoor, heated underground parking to snowmobiles! Additionally, the chateau offers a free ski shuttle and 110 miles of trails for snowshoeing, making the Fairmont Richelieu one of Conde Nast Travelers top 20 picks for best ski resorts.
Fairmont le Manoir Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

Jacuzzi suite with water view. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

My room, a king bed, with St. Lawrence River view Jacuzzi suite, rented for $299. Canadian – check the website for current pricing and package deals. There is a $13.95 daily resort fee that covers high speed internet and access to indoor and outdoor swimming pools and such. Amenities include air-conditioning, free wifi (if you are a Fairmont President’s Club member -free to sign up) bathrobes, cable tv & coffee maker.

Fairmont le Manoir Richelieu, pool, Quebec, Canada

Outdoor swimming pool. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

pool, Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

Indoor swimming pool. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is also ecoconscious, earning green keys awarded by the Green Key Eco-Rating Program, a system recognizing the hotel’s commitment to energy, water and waste conservation, while participating in community outreach and environmental stewardship.

Unlike properties that are LEED certified and built from the ground up with strict adherence to eco-friendly regulations, it’s not easy being green when you opened as a Manor in 1899. The historic property, originally built for Americans traveling by sea, was completely destroyed by fire in 1928, yet like the phoenix rising from the ashes, the hotel was rebuilt and re-opened in 1929. Since then, the 405 room luxury resort has added on with an eye toward conservation, while maintaining the charming elegance of a countryside manor house.

And what countryside manor would be complete without a dog to welcome guests to the property? The Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is pet-friendly. Whether you are traveling with your own dog or you simply like pets, stop by and say bonjour to Jordy, Richelieu’s canine ambassador. The other ambassador at Le Manoir Richelieu is the Beluga whale mascot. Perle is available, with advance notice, to tuck your little one into bed at night.

Chef's Table, Fairmont le Manoir Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

Reserve an evening at the Chef’s Table. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Insider tip

Foodies will love exploring Charlevoix’s Flavor Trail, as well as the hotel’s many restaurants with seasonally changing menus. My insider tip, reserve an evening at the Chef’s Table. Seventy five percent of products used on the menu come from local producers within a 50k radius. Priced at $85. Canadian for a four-course meal ($135. when paired with wine) guests are treated to dinner with Fairmont Chef Patrick Turcot. Or select the Farm to Table 2-night package. For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer @NancyDBrown on Twitter and @FairmontManoir @FairmontHotels.

cannon, Fairmont Manoir Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

Enjoy this castle on the cliff. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

If You Go:

Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu 1 418 665 3703 or (866) 540-4464
181, rue Richelieu
La Malbaie Québec, Canada G5A 1X7

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Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Thanks to Québec Tourism and Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu for arranging my accomomdations. All opinions are my own.