Lonely Planet Debuts New Kids Book Series

Wednesday February 4, 2015 at 9:09 PM | 0 Comments

Parker discovering Martian volcanoes.

Parker discovering Martian volcanoes.

Lonely Planet is renowned for their travel guides, cool website, and mobile apps, but did you know that they now offer a series of children’s books?

LP approached us here at What a Trip and offered to send us a couple of books from their new series, Lonely Planet Kids to review. There are five titles in the series—Amazing World Atlas, How to be a Space Explorer, Adventures in Busy Places, Adventures in Cold Places and Adventures in Wild Places. We chose The Amazing World Atlas and How to Be a Space Explorer by Mark Brake.

I was immediately taken by the look and quality of the books. Both are beautifully-designed hardcovers with thick glossy pages, packed with illustrations, infographics, photos, facts, and local lore.

Parker, my ten-year-old daughter curled up with How to Be a Space Explorer and told me it was “super interesting” and she liked the fact that “facts were weaved into a story.” Among the tidbits she learned was that there are two types of fuel in rockets—solid and liquid—and many different types of robots that have gone to the moon and Mars.

My son Roman is seven and we read through The Amazing World Atlas over several bedtime sessions. He especially liked the little sidebars throughout—faves included an illustrated comparison between the biggest dinosaur ever known to exist that was discovered in Patagonia and a Boeing 737. The were roughly the same size in case you wondered. We also had fun with the quizzes sprinkled throughout.

I must say I learned lots too—random odd facts like the Danes eat more than 100 million hot dogs per year and that the Aral Sea, the fourth-biggest lake in the world vanished and is now a polluted desert.

Both books have a jaunty, approachable writing style with humor and engaging information. But I found the Atlas to be confusing, even with an intro that purports to explain how to use the book. I also disagreed with some of the choices for Top 10s and famous folks from different countries. I mean Americans Neil Armstrong, Sitting Bull and Mark Twain, yes. But Avril Lavigne and Jennifer Lawrence, not so much.

Roman learning about archipelagos in Southeast Asia.

Roman learning about archipelagos in Southeast Asia.

Insider Tip

With the Amazing World Atlas app kids can interact with maps, discover fun facts and test their geography knowledge. It is available in the App Store or on Google Play for $2.99 for ages 9 to 11.

Now that’s a good use for the iPad.

This post was contributed by Lisa Dion. I received complementary books from Lonely Planet for review.


Vienna, Austria Christmas Markets

Friday January 30, 2015 at 6:06 AM | 0 Comments

While some Christmas Markets claim to be the most authentic or have the oldest ancestry, there is no denying that Vienna claims the distinction of hosting the most Christmas Markets in one city. There are approximately 20 Christmas Markets sprinkled about Vienna, Austria, bringing the term pop up market full circle. During my Viking River Cruise, I was able to take in three charming Christmas Markets in one day.

Schönbrunn Palace, Sunset, Vienna, Austria

Schönbrunn Palace Sunset. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


I was already excited to visit Austria’s capital with its stunning architecture, blended with old world imperial traditions. Add on Viennese pastries and Lipizzaner stallions and I was in horse heaven. A team of matching white horses waited patiently next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, ready to take visitors on a tour of old Vienna. On the other side of the cathedral, a Christmas Market welcomed holiday revelers with steaming mugs of glühwein, roasted chestnuts on an open fire (yes, really) and endless stacks of fresh pretzels. Tis the season to be jolly, indeed! There’s no escaping the holiday spirit when you are surrounded by dancing puppets, gingerbread houses and rosy red-cheeked dolls made of cinnamon sticks!

horses, St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

Horses next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown



Demel, snow globe, Vienna, Austria

Snow globes in Demel bakery. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Stephansplatz, Vienna, Austria

Stephansplatz holiday mug. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

After exploring a smaller Christmas Market in downtown Vienna, some of our Viking River crew opted for an excursion to Schönbrunn Palace in the afternoon.
Schönbrunn Palace

In 1569 a member of the Habsburg dynasty purchased a large plot of land, built a mansion and created hunting grounds. Schönbrunn, meaning “beautiful spring” was dubbed the summer residence of the family. In 1918 the Austrian Republic took over the property and turned the 1,441-room Baroque palace into a museum. In 1996 it because a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to strolling the formal gardens, visitors are able to take a guided tour of the imperial apartments and explore the furnished rooms in the palace. There was also a carriage museum tour (for an additional charge) with 94 carriages on display. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit the museum.

Schönbrunn Palace was an optional four hour excursion on my Viking River Cruise that I wanted to take to see yet another Christmas Market and I’m glad I did.The Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace offered some of the best hand-made crafts in my opinion. This is the place where I purchased some unique Christmas ornaments to take with me back to California. It also gave us a memorable sunset over the palace. What a send-off Vienna!

puppets, Schoenbrunn Palace, Vienna

Puppets at the palace. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Schönbrunn Palace, Austria, Vienna

Glühwein at Schönbrunn. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Chestnuts, Christmas Market, Vienna, Austria

Roasted chestnuts. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Disclosure: thanks to the folks at Viking River Cruises for making this trip possible. As always, all opinions are my own.

Skin Cancer Prevention Basal Cell Carcinoma

Wednesday January 28, 2015 at 6:06 AM | 8 Comments

As I left my deep water aerobics class and stepped into my car, I quickly scrolled through my phone messages. Two missed calls from my dermatologist office with no messages left. I was waiting to hear my biopsy results from a skin sample removed the week prior. “No news is good news,” said my dermatologist when I left his office on Christmas Eve. We’ll call you if there is a problem.”

synchronized swimming, swimming, skin cancer

Unprotected sun exposure leads to skin cancer. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Skin cancer

My heart skipped a beat as I called the doctor’s office knowing this was not good news. Sure enough, the receptionist told me that my biopsy came back positive for basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer. Fortunately, they do not spread and are almost always a local growth on the skin. Treated with local surgery, in my case a 50 minute in-office procedure, they have a very high cure rate.

There are several types of basal cell carcinoma; the superficial type that appears as a red, scaly patch, the nodular type that appears as a pearly growth, the pigmented basal cell carcinoma and the aggressive morpheic basal cell carcinoma. Squamous Cell Carcinomas are less common but have the potential to spread beyond the local area. Please refer to a medical doctor for proper diagnosis.


Originally, I thought the blemish by my jawbone on the right side of my cheek might be acne. My husband thought that, as well. I showed it to my primary care physician who instructed me to see my dermatologist if it didn’t disappear in 30 days. Busy with travel assignments, I disregarded her instructions and waited until Christmas Eve, eight months later, before going in for my yearly mole check.

basal cell carcinoma, skin cancer, skin cancer prevention

Basal Cell Carcinoma pre and post surgery.


Sun safety tips to prevent skin cancer

Back in June of 2008, I wrote a blog post about “Top 10 Sun Safety Tips to Prevent Skin Cancer.” The three main factors in the development of skin cancer are how much unprotected sun exposure you have had, your skin type and your age.

As a Northern California native with Norwegian heritage, I have three strikes against me. In my youth I routinely subjected my fair skin to unprotected sun exposure through swimming, horseback riding and my general preference to live outdoors and now, as as active adventure baby boomer, my age is working against me.

What have I learned from my skin cancer diagnosis? Always wear broad-spectrum sunscreen, lip balm with strong SPF, a broad brimmed sun hat, clothing with UPF protection and UV-blocking lenses in your sunglasses.

Do you have experience with basal cell carcinoma or Squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer? What are your tips on how to prevent skin cancer?
Article written by and photos courtesy of fair-skinned travel writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California.