Travel Outside Your Fashion Comfort Zone

Wednesday January 21, 2015 at 6:06 AM | 2 Comments

We’ve all heard the phrase “step outside your comfort zone” be it related to travel, career, or relationships. But what about when it comes to fashion. How often do you travel outside your fashion comfort zone?

For those of you who know me, I specialize in equestrian travel. I take horseback riding vacations on a regular basis to review dude ranches and luxury resorts. I work with fashion brands such as Ariat, Royal Robbins, Durango and Wrangler. You get where I’m going with this; I’m more comfortable in flannel shirts, denim jeans and cowboy boots than I am with Spanx, high heels and high-end fashion.

Neiman Marcus, fashion, clothing

The latest styles from top fashion designers


Travel outside fashion comfort zone

Like a kitten dipping one paw in a pool of cold water I slowly stepped inside the doors of Neiman Marcus, an upscale clothing retailer in my neighborhood. Walking through the tall glass doors and over to the bright lights of the Laura Mercier cosmetics counter was certainly traveling outside my fashion comfort zone.

The day before I scheduled my makeup consultation, I’d reached out to some of my beauty and fashion blogger friends to ask, ‘what one item would you select from the Laura Mercier cosmetics line?” Beauty expert and Teen Vogue contributor Amber Katz was the first to respond via Twitter with “no question, the tinted moisturizer” with Zippy Sandler of Champagne Living,  Beauty Blogger Nadine Jolie Courtney and Beauty Writer Aly Walansky of A Little Alytude giving their thumbs up approval for the Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer broad spectrum SPF 20 sunscreen. Needless to say, I bought the moisturizer in bisque.

Laura Mercier, Neiman Marcus, makeup

Milk and cookies with Laura Mercier. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Breakfast of champions

Fortunately, Jose Contreras, Laura Mercier Product Specialist, welcomed me with open arms and milk and cookies! Neiman Marcus prides itself on extraordinary customer service and my morning of fashion pampering was no exception. After all, chocolate chip cookies and cold milk is the breakfast of champions, right?

Jose created a flawless face for my New Year New You look and kept me looking natural and feeling radiant. I’m sure I’m committing a fashion crime by placing before and after photos for all the world to see online, but as I said previously, this post is about stepping outside your fashion comfort zone.

What I liked about Laura Mercier cosmetics. Mercier came to the beauty business from a makeup artist’s perspective – creating editorial spread for magazines such as Elle, Vanity Fair, Glamour and Seventeen. Her cosmetics accentuate a woman’s natural beauty. I didn’t feel like a made up clown wearing endless layers of makeup when I left the cosmetics counter. I also liked that Jose was not on commission and was not pushing the products. It was clear that he loved his job working in the beauty industry and did a wonderful job of showing me how to recreate the flawless face look.


Nancy Brown, Laura Mercier, cosmetics

Nancy Brown’s Laura Mercier makeover.

Designer fashion

With my game face on, I was ready to try some designer fashion brands. My stylist had hung several items in the dressing room for me to try. I immediately gravitated toward Akris punto. These black pants would carry me from day to night in comfort and style.  The Swiss label is known for their designer sportswear. My Neiman Marcus Selling Specialist Joy Anya called the pants an “investment piece” when I winced at the designer price tag.

Nancy Brown, Nicole Miller, fashion

Nancy Brown wearing Nicole Miller Artelier dress

Nicole Miller fashion

I asked if Joy had any designer fashions that were on sale. Out came Nicole Miller’s Artelier dress. It should be noted that I don’t own a “little black dress” and this long-sleeved dress with an elegant high neckline and side tuck draping gave me a figure flattering look. I could wear this dress with my Starstruck gold Tieks or a hip pair of Ariat black boots. Certainly, this Nicole Miller dress was traveling outside my fashion comfort zone. What do you think?

Akris punto, fashion

Designer sportswear. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Insider Tip
Do you travel outside your fashion comfort zone? If you’d like to schedule a complimentary makeup or wardrobe consultation, give Neiman Marcus a call. For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @Nancydbrown and follow @LauraMercier and @NeimanMarcus on Twitter.

Article written by and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Disclosure: Neiman Marcus supplied me with milk and cookies. All opinions are my own.

Germany’s Regensburg Christmas Market

Friday January 16, 2015 at 5:05 AM | 2 Comments

December is a magical time to visit the medieval city of Regensburg, Germany. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006, this location was a great trading metropolis built up in the middle ages and was not destroyed during any of the wars. The people are friendly, the shops along the cobblestone streets of Old Town are charming and the regional foods are especially tasty.

Gluhwein, Regensburg, Christmas Market

Glühwein is served at the Regensburg Christmas Market. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


I was fortunate to visit several Christmas Markets of Europe, including Nuremberg, Passau, Vienna and Budapest, during a trip on the Romantic Danube with Viking River Cruises. The Christmas market located around Neupfarrplatz has been an annual tradition for over 400 years.


Regensburg, Germany, Christmas Market

Seeing stars in Regensburg. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Regensburg at night

When the sunsets, Regensburg comes alive at night. The streets are lite up with twinkling lights and luminated decorations hang suspended between narrow streets. A huge Christmas tree dazzles with white lights by the main square and the smell of gluhwein fills the air. Like munchkins from the Wizard of Oz, locals and visitors are beckoned to come out and meet one another in this festive winter atmosphere. Parents bundle up their children in brightly colored clothing and place them on carousel horses as they dance round and round to the beat of the holiday music.

Regensburg Christmas Market, carousel horse

Carousel horse. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Regional German food

One of my favorite discoveries at the European Christmas Markets was the regional foods; specifically the sausages. Nurembergers are very proud of their pork sausages – the size of a “pinkie finger” the smallest finger on the human hand. In Regensburg, it’s all about the 1/2 meter Bratwurst. Have you tried these sausages or the pork sausages served at the Sausage Tavern?

1/2 meter bratwurst, Regensburg, Germany, Christmas Market

1/2 meter Bratwurst. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Regensburg, Germany, sausage

Regional sausages at the Christmas Market. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Historische Wurstküche, sausage kitchen, regensburg, germany

Historische Wurstküche. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Regensburg, Germany, Christmas Market

Regensburg at night. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Insider Tip
Make sure to stop for a pork sausage at the Historic Sausage Kitchen not far from the Cathedral of St. Peter. Sit outside the 900-year-old building and take in the views of the Stone Bridge over the Danube River.
For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @Nancydbrown and follow Regensburg Tourism @Regensburg_trip on Twitter.

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 a reality. All opinions are my own.

Viking River Cruises Floating Hotel

Friday January 9, 2015 at 6:06 AM | 2 Comments

Are you curious about a river cruise? Wondering what the differences are between a river cruise and a hotel stay? I recently had the opportunity to join Viking River Cruises on the Romantic Danube; exploring the Christmas Markets of Europe from Nuremberg to Budapest . Viking River Cruises are offered year round, so if you prefer traveling to Europe in the spring, summer or fall, this river cruise is for you!

Viking Delling, Melk, Austria, Danube river

Viking Delling in Melk, Austria. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Viking River Cruises Martijn Kamphuis (MK) shares how he came to be a hotel manager on the Viking Delling Longship.

MK: I started in the restaurant business when I was 14 and had the goal to be a hotel manager. I was lucky to make a career out of it. I have a degree in Hotel Management from the Netherlands. It has always been my hobby and I was able to make a job out of my hobby.

Viking River Cruises, Viking Delling, restaurant

Dining options aboard Viking Delling longship. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

What’s the difference between a bricks and mortar hotel & river boat cruising?

MK: The differences are of course that no moments are the same.  On a Viking Longship, the scenery is always changing. And furthermore, the contact with the guests is totally different than a land- based hotel. With a hotel, the contact with the guests is limited to check in, check out, breakfast and dinner.

As for a floating hotel, you are with the guests almost 24 hours a day, and then for the entire cruise. On the other side, of course you have different logistic issues such as deliveries of goods. These details really need to be planned in advance.

Martijn Kamphuis, hotel manager, Viking River Cruises

Hotel Manager Martijn Kamphuis welcomes guests on Viking Delling. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


What are the similarities of river boat cruising and a hotel?

MK: There are similarities; in general the whole process of service is the same.

Besides only having to unpack once during your travels, what makes river cruising unique compared to a hotel stay?

MK: One very important thing is the possibility of visiting cities and sailing through countries without any worries; everything is taken care of.

To elaborate on Martijn’s above statement on sailing without worries, it should be noted that Viking sends each guest travel documents pre-trip, as well as providing daily itineraries in room. Trip documents include:
itinerary-specific information booklet
travel companion destination book
leather luggage tag
self-stick luggage tags
transfer stickers
keepsake travel wallet

Esterhazy cake, Viking longship, Viking River Cruises

Regional cuisine, like this Esterhazy Cake from Hungary, is featured on board Viking Longships. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


What are some of the misconceptions with regard to river cruising?

MK: The biggest misconception is that people think river cruising is only for older people. River cruising is for everyone! We see multi-generations and when we have complete families on board, we see that they are all enjoying it.

Viking Delling crew, Viking River Cruises, restaurant

Some of the Viking Delling crew. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Tell us about the amenities of Viking River Cruises (VRC)

MK: I think one of the great amenities is the fact that we take care of everything. In addition we have Viking house brands. Our biggest amenity is the type of ships we offer; you always have the same onboard experience – feel the same confident atmosphere.

Is there a hot tub on board a longship?

MK: Viking Longships deliver the comfort, the view and the service. We don’t have space for hot tubs or fitness areas on board. We are specialized in providing the services for it locally through our concierge.

Viking Delling, suite, Viking River Cruises

French Balcony Stateroom 335 aboard Viking Delling. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


What are the difference in room categories?

MK: We have the comfort stateroom, veranda room with balcony, veranda suites with separate living room and Explorer Suites.

When is the best time of year to book for value cruising?

MK: Viking always offers the itineraries that are fitting for the seasons. There’s always beauty and the cities are always wonderfully changing throughout the seasons.


When is your favorite time of year to cruise?

MK: I don’t have a favorite time of year. Each season offers different opportunities; in springtime the tulip and windmills in the Netherlands and Belgium and in summer, the European cruises and in winter during the holiday season the Christmas Market cruises.

life ring, Viking Delling, Viking River Cruises

Cruising the Romantic Danube on Viking Delling. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


Insider Tip
Do you love sharing your vacation photos with family and friends as they unfold or are you worried about staying connected with work while you travel? Viking River Cruises offers complimentary internet access and two computer stations on board all longships. For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @Nancydbrown and follow @VikingRiver on Twitter.

If You Go:

Viking River Cruises
More information may be found on the Viking River Cruises website,

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. This was my first time on a river cruise and I loved it! All opinions are my own.