Inspirational Travel Blogs

Tuesday August 12, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 2 Comments

blogger awardWith travel blogs multiplying as fast as rabbits, it is an honor to have my writing recognized as inspirational and receive a blog award from my travel blogging peers. Laura and Cipri from Travelocafe have inspired me to travel to unique destinations and their photography makes me feel like I am on the travel road with them. Thank you for the vote of confidence Laura and Cipri. Now it is my turn to nominate fellow bloggers who offer unique, inspirational travel content. What a trip!

Versatile blogger award guidelines

Thank the blogger who selected you for the award & link back to their blog
Select 15 bloggers and nominate them for the Versatile Blogger Award
Share 7 unique things about yourself

"Alaska" sunrise

Inspiration found in travel

7 unique things about travel blogger Nancy D. Brown

1. I specialize in luxury and equine travel
2. I met my husband and travel buddy in college. Prior to meeting him, I had traveled to Wengen, Switzerland and vowed to return to this romantic spot with my future husband – whomever that might be. We celebrated our first year wedding anniversary in Switzerland – one of my favorite travel destinations.
3. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in journalism after a high school internship at the Contra Costa Times newspaper.
4. I prefer luxury travel and five star resorts. My husband prefers camping and sleeping under the stars.
5. I had to take a typing test to be admitted to the University of Oregon Journalism School.
6. I am a wife, mother, sister, active adventure loving baby boomer with a hip replacement.
7. I inhaled frequently…

Inspirational travel blogs

Hole in the Donut
My Itchy Travel Feet
GypsyNester
Ottsworld
Equitrekking
Camels & Chocolate
Hecktic Travels
The Vacation Gals
Heather on her travels
Traveling with Sweeney
Around the World L
Wanderlust and Lipstick
The Planet D
Uncornered Market
Ordinary Traveler

What travel blogs inspire you?

Spa Review: Portola Hotel & Spa, Monterey

Friday August 8, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 2 Comments

"Spa on the Plaza" monterey

Spa on the Plaza in Monterey

If you read this blog often, you know that I have never met a spa that I didn’t like. As a travel writer, I’ve been fortunate to slip in a spa visit whenever I write a luxury hotel or resort review. I’ve experienced a massage on a water table in Switzerland, an in-room massage in Yountville, California, a Birch Stick massage in Portugal and  a Essence in Balance massage at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa where guests create their custom blended aromatherapy scent at the on-site Apothecary. There’s not a massage treatment I won’t try, but sometimes time is not on a travel writers side. This was the case with my Spa on the Plaza review at Portola Hotel & Spa, Monterey.

 

Monterey Bay’s Spa on the Plaza

After a day of hiking Point Lobos and a trip to Big Sur on the Monterey coast, I had hoped to squeeze in a massage at Spa on the Plaza at Portola Hotel & Spa. I was only able to  reserve a 25 minute “Heaven Express” massage, but the therapist made the most of those 25 minutes with a sideline massage, focusing on my computer-weary shoulders.

 

"Spa on the Plaza" relaxation room

Spa on the Plaza relaxation room

 
Spa owners Camille and Roy Malcolm offer their person guarantee to provide guests with authentic spa therapies in a beautiful coastal setting. Spa on the Plaza offers a full-service salon, a relaxation lounge and locker rooms with steam rooms. Housed within the Portola Hotel, Spa on the Plaza guests have access to the fitness center, outdoor pool and whirlpool, as well as poolside dining service.

 

"Spa on the Plaza" monterey, california

Spa on the Plaza Oasis Suite, Monterey Bay


 
To stretch my spa treatment, I added an Oasis Suite Bubble massage therapy to my spa time. Priced at $50 (check website for current pricing) the Toto Hydrotherapy tub experience relaxed my tired muscles and the steaming hot water prepared my body to maximize the mini-massage treatment.
 

"Portola Hotel & Spa" seashells

Monterey Bay theme promotes tranquility at Portola Hotel & Spa

 
Insider Tip:
If time is not an issue for you, plan to arrive early for your spa appointment and hang out at the Portola Hotel, one of the few hotels with a swimming pool in Monterey. For additional insider tips follow Northern California Travel Writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter and Spa on the Plaza on Twitter @Spaontheplaza20.

If You Go:

Spa on the Plaza at Portola Hotel & Spa (831) 647-9000

Two Portola Plaza

Monterey, California 93940

Article and photos (excluding top photo) by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Spa on the Plaza in conjunction with Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Monterey, California Restaurants

Friday August 1, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 4 Comments

"Joyce Vineyards" carmel, california

Enjoying Joyce Vineyards wine at Carmel Beach, California

Monterey County restaurants may come and go, but wining and dining in this California coastal community never goes out of style. I know this from first-hand experience, as my parents retired to the fairytale Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County and made a hobby out of dining out. There are endless amounts of things to see and do in Monterey, with new wineries and restaurants opening as fast as sardines swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

I like nothing better than to pour a glass of Pinot Noir and kick back on the deck, looking out to the ocean. My husband prefers beer and with names like “Belly Up Blonde Ale” and “Stout Resistance” who could resist trying a growler (that’s a hefty sized beer) from Peter B’s Brewpub inside Monterey’s Portola Hotel & Spa?

 
 
 
 

"Peter B's Brewpub" sausages

House made sausages at Peter B’s Brewpub, Monterey


 
Monterey Brewpub

Start dinner or happy hour with a jumbo Bavarian pretzel, Monterey Bay Calamari and a beer flight sampler, then move on to house made sausages, served alongside warm German style potato salad, slaw and stout mustard from Peter B’s Brewpub in Monterey.
 

"C restaurant" seafood

Fresh seafood The C Restaurant & Bar


 
Fresh seafood in Monterey

Seafood lovers will find happiness at the C restaurant & bar, housed inside the Intercontinental Clement Monterey on Cannery Row. This luxury hotel offers Monterey Bay views from hotel rooms, the restaurant and bar. Try the lobster bolognaise, grilled arctic char or a grilled vegetable sandwich utilizing local produce. I would be happy sipping a glass of wine by the outdoor firepit, watching the sea otters glide by.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Steps from the Intercontinental Clement is the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Children and adults will find entertaining and educational exhibits on display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

While it may seem strange to aquarium guests, fresh fish (and other items like pizza and salad) are served inside the Monterey Bay Aquarium at Cindy’s Waterfront restaurant. This is where I learned about the importance of seafood sustainability, through the Seafood Watch program, a continually evolving guide to sustainable fish. Every respectable restaurant and fish monger should adhere to the Seafood Watch guidelines; our world and certainly our oceans would be better for it.
 

"Bay of Pines" restaurant

Bread pudding at Monterey’s Bay of Pines


Monterey nightlife

The Bay of Pines serves American organic cuisine – think salad greens from Salinas valley, organic chicken pan seared with diced tomatoes, Kalamata olives and spring artichoke served with a new potato puree or sauteed shrimp splashed with a cucumber organic vodka cream sauce. Bay of Pines is also the go-to place for live music in Monterey.
 

"Passionfish" sea scallops

Passionfish in Pacific Grove, California for seafood

Pacific Grove dining

Passionfish is one of my favorite restaurants in Monterey County. A local favorite based in Pacific Grove, California, this is the place to dine for fresh, sustainable seafood, served with a passion.
 

"Beach House" Shrimp, "Pacific Grove"

Beach House Firecracker Shrimp, Pacific Grove


 
I had high hopes for Beach House restaurant in Pacific Grove, as the Ocean View Blvd. location, looking out to Lovers Point Park and the water is fabulous. I was tempted to order the salmon, but passed on the fish, marketed as “creative brand certified organic salmon,” as it was not listed on the Seafood Watch program as wild. Instead, I opted for Scampi Monterey served with fresh pasta in a light cream sauce. The crispy firecracker shrimp is a tasty appetizer for the light appetite or sharing with the table. I need to re-visit Beach House next time I’m in the area.
 
"Big Sur Roadhouse" California

Big Sur Roadhouse, serving California cuisine with a New Orleans twist


Big Sur dining

I can never get enough of Big Sur, so when I had the chance to dine at Big Sur Roadhouse, I was excited. Not only is the Big Sur location charming, the patio, with its unique outdoor fire pit table, is colorful and inviting. The personable New Orleans Chef Matt Glazer combines California cuisine with a New Orleans twist. Try the red beans and rice, Big Sur seafood gumbo, a muffaletta sandwich (pictured above) and save room for a Cajun-inspired dessert.

Overnight in Big Sur

If you plan to vacation in Monterey County for several days, be sure to make reservations with Glen Oaks, the owners of Big Sur Roadhouse, Adobe Motor Lodge and the adorable Oak Tree Cottages – no televisions, no pets, no smoking, no problem.
 

crabcake "Quail Lodge" Carmel Valley

Edgar’s crab cake Quail Lodge, Carmel Valley


Carmel Valley wine & dine

Finally, what’s a visit to Monterey Bay without a trip into Carmel Valley? As I mentioned, my parents retired to Carmel back in 1980. When they sold their Carmel Valley condo and bought a house with an ocean view, I lamented leaving the sunshine of Carmel Valley – first world problems, I know! I’m a wannabe Carmel resident living on a freelance travel writer’s salary – these two do not go hand in hand.

Insider Tip

Quail Lodge and Golf Club – where my husband and I held our wedding reception many moons ago – is one of the best value hotels on the Monterey Peninsula. Great rooms and a location that can’t be beat, guaranteed romance. They also serve really good crab cakes at Edgar’s Restaurant.

What are your favorite Monterey County, California restaurants? Article and all photos, except Passionfish scallops, by Food & Wine Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau for restaurant review purposes. All opinions are my own.