James Thurber Country in Columbus, Ohio

Wednesday December 11, 2013 at 6:06 AM | 4 Comments

James Thurber's college years home

James Thurber’s college years home

Which high schooler reading James Thurber’s short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” didn’t dream of having a secret life? I know I did. Happily, what I envisioned when I doodled in the margins of math papers has come to pass. I am a traveler. In my travels, I’ve had the pleasure of learning more about James Thurber’s genius as a social commentator and humorist through his connection to Columbus, Ohio.

James Thurber was born in Columbus on December 8, 1894 and now enjoys status as one of the city’s favorite sons. Thanks to a dedicated, enamored with James Thurber following of staff and volunteers at the Thurber House Museum and Thurber Center, Thurber has a firm footing in Columbus’s must see landscape.

The Thurber House at 77 Jefferson Ave. is at the edge of  Columbus’s downtown. The tree-lined street divided by a picturesque boulevard evokes thoughts of Thurber’s era when people took Sunday strolls, even though, most of the Victorian-style red brick, once private homes, now house businesses and non-profit organizations. Thurber’s home on the left, towards the end of the boulevard, looks just like it did when Thurber lived there.  The house is both a house museum that showcases James Thurber’s legacy, and a literary power house that, in conjunction with the Thurber Center located next door, promotes literary excellence.

Poet and author Charlene Fix at the last of 2013's Literary Picnics

Poet and author Charlene Fix at a Literary Picnic

The literary power house role of the Thurber House Museum and Center starts with the tidy side yard by James Thurber’s former home. Its wrought iron fence provides the boundary for the Literary Picnics that take place each summer.  The Literary Picnics feature renowned Ohio authors who read their works from the house’s back porch to a rapt audience of picnikers who bring their own food or order a gourmet box meal ahead of time.

At other times author readings are held either at the Thurber Center or at other Columbus venues. Both local and nationally known authors are featured. The mix is a literary banquet that happens throughout the year. Last month, I delighted in Tom Barlow’s reading of one of his short stories from his newly published collection Welcome to the Goat Rodeo.

Self guided tours of the Thurber House are daily from 1–4 p.m. These tours are free. Guided tours are on Sundays for $4 for adults and $2 for students and seniors.

Formerly The Great Southern Hotel where Thurber visited

Formerly The Great Southern Hotel where Thurber visited

For more James Thurber travel (and food and libations), head to the Westin Columbus Hotel (formerly The Great Southern) 310 South High St. 614-228-3800. Here, James Thurber would visit his mother and brother, Robert, who lived at the hotel from the mid 1940′s to 1950′s.  In Thurber’s, the hotel’s bar/restaurant you can take in framed prints of James Thurber’s cartoons while enjoying the ambiance and offerings of this AAA 4-Diamond hotel that first opened in 1897.

At The Ohio State University, Thurber’s alma mater, Thurber Theatre is located in The Drake Performance and Event Center. The theatre is named for Thurber who began his time at OSU in 1913 and served as a staff member of The Lantern, the university’s paper.

James Thurber's grave at Green Lawn Cemetery

James Thurber’s grave at Green Lawn Cemetery

Although James Thurber did not live in Columbus as an adult, his grave is in Columbus’s historic Green Lawn Cemetery. Thurber died November 2, 1961. The cemetery, founded in 1848, was designed to serve as a park as well as a cemetery and is known for its birdwatching opportunities, as well as its notable residents.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow @ThurberHouse on Twitter.

Post courtesy of Jamie Rhein of Midwest Travel Writers Association. Photo of Charlene Fix, courtesy of Jamie Rhein. Other photos courtesy of The Thurber House and Westin Columbus.

Best Gifts for Travelers

Friday December 6, 2013 at 8:08 AM | 15 Comments

Villa del Palmar hammock

dreaming up gift ideas for the traveler

Picture yourself in a hammock, swaying lazily in the shade of two palm trees; the ocean waves fold into the compacted sand of the beach in a syncopated rhythm with the ropes of the hammock. What could be better? How about a cold drink within reach and a good book to keep you company? Did I mention that it’s snowing back home and you won’t have to return until the snow melts? Okay, this is a dream, but since we’re dreaming, let’s continue dreaming up gift ideas for the traveler.

Books for the traveler

For the wanderers amongst us; lace up your hiking boots and read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a book by author Cheryl Strayed.

For those who wish beyond the moon and the stars, how about An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Canada’s Commander Chris Hadfield?

Girlie Go Garter

Girlie Go Garter

Pocket-sized gifts

Does your jet set traveler need a snazzy new passport cover?

For the times you want to leave your purse behind, but still have your passport, cell phone and money at your disposal, consider The Girly Go Garter. This sexy piece of lingerie is pick-pocket proof and this lace garter with pockets is priced at an affordable $29.95.

Are you tired of asking strangers to take a picture of you when traveling solo? The Looq remote shutter supports most iPhones and Androids, is lightweight – 3.8 oz – and doesn’t require batteries. Plug the phone into the Looq slot, plug the wire into the earphone jack and you are ready to go. $69.99.

Travel apparel and gear

Some people travel with their favorite pillow, I travel with my dog and take along her dog bed. The Molly Mutt duvet is portable and works like a stuff sack. I bring along clean dog towels, fill the duvet with the towels and simple-as-that, Molly Mutt dog duvet turns into dog’s best friend bed.

Speaking of beds; my job as a travel writer has me on the road a lot.  I love a hotel room with an excellent mattress and good quality sheets. Imagine my delight when I learned that Home2 bedding sells their micro fiber, quick drying sheets online. Starting at $68.

Many of you know that I specialize in equestrian travel writing. For me, cowboy boots are not a fashion statement, they are required gear for any horseback riding vacation. My pick for a solid pair of boots, Justin Boots handcrafted in the USA.

With 19 pockets, the Scottevest Puffer jacket is a travel lovers dream coat. Designed for men, and the 17 pocket Lola jacket for women, this 100% quilted nylon jacket is iPad compatible and will keep you warm in cold weather, while still being lightweight.

Justin cowboy boots

Justin AQHA Remuda black quill ostrich boots

Ultimate travel destination

Now that you have your cowboy boots and your Scottevest jacket, hop on an airplane to Missoula, Montana and book the ultimate luxury vacation at The Ranch at Rock Creek. This Relais Chateaux property offers deluxe rooms in Granite Lodge, individual houses – ideal for families and canvas cabins for the ultimate glamping experience.

Santa, if you are reading this, please bring me a pair of Justin AQHA Remuda black quill ostrich boots. I leave for a trip to Texas in January. What’s on your holiday list?

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Gift Ideas for Travelers

Travel Gift Guide

Subaru Forester Review

Wednesday December 4, 2013 at 6:06 AM | 2 Comments

Stella, subaru road trip

Stella ready for Carmel, California road trip

This post is sponsored by Subaru

Those of us who travel with pets know that they do not want to be left behind. You would think our dog would relax when she sees us packing her dog bed and dog food into the SUV. But no, she wants to jump in the Subaru Forester so that we can’t possibly forget her.

Carmel, California road trip

Our family of two teenagers, two adults and Stella planned a road trip to Carmel, California. Over the freeway and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go!

Now I realize that as a California girl, I don’t know anything about cold weather, but I am digging the all-weather package with heated front seats. Bum warmers, baby!

 

 

Subaru Forester

2014 Subaru Forester SUV Review

As I am the travel writer in the family, I pack light. My children and husband – they do not take after me. We planned to haul two sets of golf clubs, a laptop computer, camera & video equipment and luggage, lots of luggage.

Unfortunately, my husband had to work late the night of departure, so we drove two cars to Carmel. Truthfully, it would have been a tight fit for the Subaru Forester with four adults, the dog and the golf clubs – the clubs are what put us over the edge. Without the clubs, the dog had plenty of room in the back.

I thought the kids would be all over the SiriusXM radio. Instead, they each tuned out with their iTunes and headphones and left me to sort out the endless choices on the satellite radio. With no one to veto my music selections, I happily listened to Christmas carols the entire drive to Carmel.

Unlike many SUV’s, getting in and out of the Subaru Forester was easy with my total hip replacement. The three-hour drive from Walnut Creek to Carmel (with Thanksgiving traffic) was a breeze as the SUV provided a car-like ride. On long car rides, or if driving while sleepy (not recommended) the lane departure warning system* was certainly an added bonus that might even save lives.

 

Subaru Forester Leather-wrapped steering wheel

Subaru Forester Leather-wrapped steering wheel

Fuel smart, tech-friendly

The 2014 Subaru Forester comes with all-wheel drive – did I mention that I have two hunters in the family? We need a vehicle that goes anywhere and this SUV would easily handle snow, mud and dusty road conditions. I like a car that gets good gas mileage. At 32 mpg, driving to Carmel and back used less than one tank of gas. (Subaru estimates the annual fuel cost of the 2014 Forester crossover SUV to be $1,950.)

 
Subaru tech safety

The Subaru comes with 4-wheel disc brakes, anti-lock braking system and (optional) eyesight drive-assist system – this last feature comes in handy when deer jump out from the road at night or you are backing out of a grocery store parking lot the day before Thanksgiving.

The Subaru Forester has airbags galore. If you are a parent of teenagers, feel good that there is a driver’s side knee airbag, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and whiplash protection front seats. There’s even a harness for your dog, but our Forester didn’t come with this optional item.

 

LCD Touch-Screen GPS Navigation

LCD Touch-Screen GPS Navigation

Bells and whistles

With kids in the back of the car, dual-zone automatic climate control is important. The LCD Touch-screen GPS navigation system comes with large font size for the baby boomer in the front seat. Of course an am/fm stereo with cd player is standard. It’s the SiriusXM satellite radio and Harman/Kardon speaker system that caught my son’s attention when they delivered the car. I like the Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity. “Yes, grandma, we’re almost here.”

As for the keyless access and start, I was a little concerned that I would lock the keys in the car. Due to my paranoia and only one set of car keys, I kept the key fob with me at all times.

If you were looking for engine performance and “under the hood” reviews, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

For more insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow @Subaru_usa on Twitter.

For additional information visit Subaru

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. As a member of Subaru Forester blogger program, Subaru of America asked me to review their car in exchange for the short-term use of their vehicle. All opinions are my own.

*lane departure warning & lane sway warning system, optional equipment