Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown’s 2013 Year in Review – What a Trip

mask, La Noria, Mexico
Leather mask from La Noria, Sinaloa, Mexico

My birthday falls in January, so I am always assured a great travel trip.  That is, I take travel planning into my own hands and make certain I am bound for somewhere fun.  This year was no exception!


I was invited to Mexico by the Mazatlán Hotel Association to write about a new Cal Jet Air flight from Oakland International Airport direct to Mazatlán. Unfortunately, since my January visit, the flight has been suspended. While there, I also reviewed Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort & Spa. It was relatively cold in Mazatlán that time of year, but warmer than San Francisco.

From there, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, California.  I created a video on food tours to take during your travels, from Arkansas to Argentina. Toward the end of January I traveled to Carmel Valley, California and reviewed Holman Ranch. No horseback riding yet since my total hip replacement, but I’m getting ready.

Little River Inn, pacific ocean
Little River Inn on California’s Mendocino coast


The beginning of February brought me to California’s Mendocino coast for a quick overnight at Little River Inn. One night in Little River is way too short, but it was a beautiful day on the coast.

Not only did I fly to Maui and learn about a new 20 minute flight from Kahului airport to Hāna   (I love you Hāna, but your windy roads take too long for those  short trips) I also took my first horseback ride post hip replacement surgery! Mahalo Travassana Hāna and Lumeria Maui – a new educational retreat located in upcountry Makawao.


While many travel writers focus on their own backyard, my travels take me near and far. Team San Jose invited me to visit the Silicon Valley and their many museums. From there, I traveled a short distance further to watch Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo State Park and chat with fishermen and legendary big wave surfer Jeff Clark at Mavericks in Half Moon Bay, California.

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From shaking it up in the night club’s of Las Vegas, Nevada to horseback riding at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana, I was riding high this spring. I also managed to fit in a quick trip to Palm Springs, California to preview Restaurant Week.

Lisbon, Portugal trolley
Lisbon, Portugal and the trolleys remind me of San Francisco.


I was invited back to Ojai, California, this time to review the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. This lovely five star resort is celebrating its 90th anniversary and boy, does she look good.

Our daughter studied abroad in Seville, Spain from January to June, via her studies at UC Berkeley. She had a ball traveling in Europe on a budget. I had planned to meet her in Lisbon, Portugal, thanks to a trip to the Azores and Centro Portugal with Portugal Tourism, but my husband and daughter ditched me and headed to Germany instead.

I was traveling solo in Lisbon, but felt very safe during all of my travels in Portugal. Lisbon reminds me of San Francisco, with its access to the water, love of seafood and wonderful museums. The Azores is a great place to go horseback riding.

Apollo Space Shuttle, Huntsville, Alabama
Visiting the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama


Being a California girl, the south is new to me. I loved my visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2012 and jumped at the chance to head south again. This trip I was bound for Alabama. I traveled to Huntsville to review the dual-branded Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn & Suites – a bonus was visiting the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

A new bed and breakfast, Chanric Inn, opened in Calistoga wine country and I recently learned that a Lafayette local owns the Inn on Randolph in Napa, California. I consider myself fortunate to live so close to Napa Valley wine country.


This was my first time to attend Napa Valley Festival del Sole. From vintner luncheons to a Great Gatsby gala at Meadowood Napa Valley and A Taste of Napa, this 10-day party is one of America’s premier music festivals. Mark your calendar for next year’s festival.

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Nancy D. Brown, Las Vegas
Nancy Brown with Benny Binion at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas


My parent’s have always raved about Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Needless to say, I didn’t have to think twice before accepting a trip to Jackson Fork Ranch. Horseback riding, fly fishing and no cooking required. What more could a girl ask for?

Horses on the Las Vegas strip? You bet! The South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa has 1,200 climate controlled box stalls and the largest indoor arena in Nevada, or the world, for that matter, that is attached to a hotel.


How many Four Seasons hotels can one tiny Hawaiian island support? The answer is two; Four Seasons Lodge at Koele and Four Seasons Lanai, Manele Bay. It turns out that Lanai, Hawaii has got quite a lot going for it.

After Hawaii I stayed local and tried the Sips and Saddles hotel package in Los Gatos, California at the Toll House. With Silicon Valley nearby, horseback riding in Capitola and wine tasting in the Santa Cruz mountains, visitors to the Bay Area have plenty of things to see and do.

Blue Ridge Vineyard
A warm welcome from Virginia’s Blue Ridge Vineyard


Now that the grapes have been harvested, it was time to travel to Virginia and watch the leaves change colors in the Blue Ridge mountains of Roanoke Valley. This trip, compliments of Visit Blue Ridge, was too short for me. I look forward to returning and exploring more of this region.


A fairly new (three years old) food and wine festival, Flavor Napa Valley, had me tasting food and wine at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, followed the next night with a winemaker dinner held at Meritage Resort and Spa.

Our family gathered with my 88 year old mother to celebrate Thanksgiving in Carmel, California. The folks from Subaru asked me to review their 2014 Forester SUV, so we cruised down the California coast in style.


With writing deadlines approaching, holiday and birthday celebrations, I’m sticking close to home in December. How about you? Where have your travels taken you this year and what are your travel plans for 2014?

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Article and photos by Nancy D. Brown

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