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Travelblog Gone with the Wine Blog

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Temecula - the Napa Valley of Southern California

Paula Gaston

After spending a day in Disneyland, our road trip continued south. We had about an hour drive to Temecula Valley, where we stopped to participate in a family wedding. What a great place for such an important day! And the wedding of course, was at one of the wineries in Temecula Wine Country. 

 

Temecula is best known for it's wineries and the Old Town. It is conveniently located between Los Angeles and San Diego, only an hour drive from San Diego and a couple hours from L.A.. So some people call it the Napa Valley of Southern California. Since Temecula is a valley, it gets high temperatures during the day, but the weather cools off for the night time. This makes it a perfect location for growing wine grapes. In May and June mornings they sometimes get a marine layer spreading out to the valley cooling off the grapes. There are about 40 wineries in Temecula Wine Country

In downtown Temecula the buildings date all the way to the 1890's. Today, they are full of restaurants, tasting rooms, antique stores and boutiques. Every year Temecula hosts a Balloon and Wine Festival and vintage car shows. 

Our main event was at a winery called Europa Village. We enjoyed the wedding festivities and had so much fun! The actual ceremony was held at a beautiful spot right by the grape vines. I am not very familiar with the wines that Temecula produces, but I would think that they don't produce enough to be sold all over the country. That being said, one could find some really nice unique wines from here. Since I'm currently pregnant, I didn't have a chance to taste them but hopefully I can return later to drink some. 

Temecula is a great little stop if you are passing by, but I woulnd't compare it to Napa Valley yet. Maybe someday...

 

Visiting Top Gun Movie Sites in San Diego

Paula Gaston

I'm sure everyone remembers the movie Top Gun which is still one of the great classic American movies. Our road trip in Southern California continued from Disneyland and Temecula to San Diego, where we visited a couple of the Top Gun filming locations. 

VIPERS HOUSE
 

On our first morning in San Diego we drove up to the Cabrillo National Monument. The views there were amazing! One can see the city of San Diego, the navy base, the ocean and even all the way downt to Mexico if the weather is clear. There are two lighthouses by the monument. The older one you can go in for a visit but the other one is a little harder to find. The New Point Loma Lighthouse is down by the tide pools and it replaced the old light station in 1891 which was having trouble operating in heavy fog. Right next to the New Point Loma Lighthouse there are some houses which are now used by the coast guard. One of them was featured as Viper's house (Tom Skerritt) in Top Gun. In the movie there is a scene where Maverick (Tom Cruise) visits Viper at his house. 

Unfortunately one can not visit the New Point Loma Lighthouse or the houses, but you can see them from the monument. 

They can be found at: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106.

House in the movie (YouTube)

KANSAS CITY BARBEQUE
 

Another place that we visited was the Kansas City Barbeque in downtown San Diego. We wanted to do a little walk downtown, but since we were already getting hungry, we stopped for some food here first. When filming Top Gun a director from Paramount Studios stopped here for a beer and later brought in the director Tony Scott. They both liked the place and so it is seen in two different spots in the movie. Maverick and Goose (Anthony Edwards) meet in the bar with Charlie (Kelly McGillis) and Goose's wife Carole (Meg Ryan), and sing "Great Balls of Fire". Also one of the closing scenes was filmed here.

The owners of the restaurant kept some mementos and started collecting other Top Gun related things. In 2008 a fire destroyed the building but they were able to save most of the mementos. Kansas City Barbeque was re-built to look the same as it was when they filmed the movie. There is at least the old piano and a jukebox which can be seen in Top Gun. The walls are covered with autographed photographs and other Top Gun gear. Even though the visit to this place was not in our original plan, it was well worth it and we got our tummies full. 

Maverick in the bar and the bar today on the right. 

Maverick in the bar and the bar today on the right. 

The famous piano. 

The famous piano. 

And this is what it looked like in the movie:

Great balls of fire (YouTube)

Kansas City Barbeque can be found at: 600 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101.

We missed one known filming location: Charlie's house. The house has been empty for a long time but, it is protected since it is an old Victorian house. In recent years they have painted the house. I read from somewhere that they are building a luxury hotel next to the house, and thinking of converting it into a souvenir shop. We would have loved to stop by, but it was not really on our route, and we didn't have so much time to drive around. Oh well, next time!

The address of the Charlien House is: 102 Pacific Street, Oceancide, San Diego, CA, 92054.

 

The Happiest Place on Earth - Disneyland California

Paula Gaston

Our Californian road trip is now behind us and we got to see many cool new things. We drove down to Southern California from the San Francisco Bay Area; visited family, Disneyland, a wedding and many national parks. Here is the route we took except few missing stops since one can only use a certain amount of pins: 

Our first travel day we spent pretty much on the road. We drove over to our family's place in Rancho Cucamonga and enjoyed dinner with them. The next day we had to wake up early, because we wanted to drive to Anaheim to visit Disneyland. I had visited Disneyland ones before but for my husband it had been a yearly tradition when he was younger. When we got the invitation to the wedding, we decided that it is about time to take our 4 year old to meet Minnie Mouse and other characters, and have some fun. Americans often say that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. Now it was time to find out if it really is that.

THE BEST TIME TO VISIT DISNEYLAND

As you can imagine, the Disneyland theme park is very popular, so you should seriously consider the right time to visit. If possible, choose a weekday instead of weekend and make sure the school holidays are over. We went there just in between the spring break and summer holidays, so the timing in that sense was perfect. You can check the estimates of how busy the park will be from the Disneyland website. One year we drove to the park on Christmas break just to find out it was sold out. So it is not impossible even though very rare that you will not get in. Oh well, I probably would have gotten some sort of panic attack in a full park anyway, so maybe it was better this way. It is also nice to visit between Halloween and Christmas when the park is already decorated for the holidays.

On this trip the longest lines were already before getting into the park; in the parking garage. If you want to avoid those, I suggest staying the night in Disney's hotels which will give you access to the monorail taking people to the park. Another perk that you will get by staying in Disney Resorts is called "Magic morning". Some mornings the park opens an hour early for people staying in the resorts, so you can enjoy the rides when others are still on their way to the park. After parking we were directed to a shuttle but the line was so long that we ended up walking. Actually, the park was not far at all and even I, being pregnant, was able to walk it easily.

The next step was to get through the security check. For some reason it felt like there wasn't very many check points and no actual lines to them, just groups of people trying to get in. It was hard to even know which line we were in. If inside the park lines are almost an art, here it was just one big mess. But I do think that the security in this kind of place is important! All we had to do now was get the tickets and yay, finally we were inside the park!

WHAt should one see in disneyland

A day in the park will go fast and most likely you will not be able to go in every single ride they have. It is wise to plan ahead what you want to see and take it from there. Smaller kids usually want to meet the characters which will take time since there is usually a line. We met Goofy, Pluto, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and also saw the characters from Winnie the Pooh. Mickey Mouse's house is usually popular but this time the line went really fast. Our little one was not interested in the princesses, so we skipped that part of the park. Instead we did the "Storybook Land" ride on a canal boat which was nice.

Our ultimate favorites are "It's a Small World" and "Peter Pan's Flight". They go for all ages and are fun. You can check out the short video of "It's a Small World" from below, which features singing dolls from all over the world. I did the "Jungle Cruise" and "Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage" for the first time. Based on the lines, the "Pirates of Caribbean" must be the most popular ride in the park at the moment. When you know which is your favorite, you should get a fastpass to it right in the morning. It lets you pass the line at a certain time. Fastpass machines are located near the rides and you can only carry one of them at the time. You can also download some helpful applications on your phone to see how long the lines are to each ride or to use a map of the park. We mostly had 20 to 30 minutes wait times but there were rides with a lot longer lines. So get your fastpasses if you can, or you can do the most popular rides during the parades.

There are many other fun rides in Disneyland, and also some traditional carousels. There is something for everyone for sure! There are also a few different parades during the day. We watched the Main Street Electrical Parade which is in the evening after sun set. We really liked it! Last time we were in Disneyland, they also had great fireworks, but this time we were not there on the right day. That didn't matter though since we had so much fun otherwise.  

Our little Minnie Mouse fan and authograph hunter. 

Our little Minnie Mouse fan and authograph hunter. 

Goofy's house.

Goofy's house.

"It's a Small World" in holiday decor. The picture is from our previous visit. 

"It's a Small World" in holiday decor. The picture is from our previous visit. 

Disneyland; It's a Small World video

A video of The Main Street Electrical Parade. 

WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU

There are all kinds of foods, snacks and drinks sold inside Disneyland. We brought water bottles and some snacks with us. We had made a reservation to the Blue Bayou restaurant for lunch, so in the evening we mostly ended up snacking and eating ice cream. If you want to make a reservation to a restaurant, be early since the most popular restaurants get sold out months in advantage. We made ours two months ahead and still didn't manage to get a dinner reservation. Food in the Blue Bayou was delicious even though I noticed that the menus inside the park seemed to be little limited. Inside this restaurant there is a "river" where the "Pirates of Caribbean" ride will go. Even though we sat inside it looked like we were sitting outside on a patio.

The Californian sun can be deceptive, so don't forget your sun screen even if there are some clouds in the sky. Bring some water, you can fill the bottles at water fountains around the park. Also, good shoes are important since you will be walking and standing most of the day. For small kids I would recommend a stroller, so they can get some rest every once in a while. We rarely bring our stroller with us anymore for our 4 year old, but this time it was totally worth it. If you forgot the stroller, you can rent one from the main gate for a day ($15). Many kids are dressed up in their favorite character costumes.

And don't forget your camera! In Disneyland one is allowed to take photos everywhere, and even the official photographers sometimes offered to take a photo of us with our own camera. You will most likely meet some of them where ever the characters are, and they will snap your picture and download it on to a photopass they will give you. Later you can give the card to another photographer who will add more photos to it. Before leaving the park you can go and buy the photos, or you can order them from online later. We also stopped in some souvenir shops before leaving. 

Even though I hate crowded places and I'm not a huge fan of amusement parks, I have to admit that there is something special about Disneyland. After struggling to get into the park, I really enjoyed the great rides they have and the atmosphere in the park. This really is not just a regular amusement park and the rides are not like the ones you see everywhere else. The next day I was excited to tell everybody what we saw and what we did. And the best part is of course to see your child being so excited! So is it the world's happiest place? Mmm.. I'm sure it is, at least it is very magical! 

A FUN FACT: Did you know that there is a "secret restaurant" inside Disneyland? Club 33 is open only for members and their guests, and is the only place in Disneyland that serves alcohol. According to some resources the membership fee is over $10.000 and the waitlist goes on for many years.  

Tips for visiting disneyland

  • Try to plan your trip when the park is less busy like during the week and outside vacation times.
  • Get the program from the main gate. Many characters can be seen around the park and you might be able to avoid the line to meet them.
  • Get your free Disneyland button from the City Hall. Make sure to stop by in the morning since they might run out of them during the day.
  • Disney characters will pose for pictures and also write autographs so don't forget to bring a pen and a note book. Or you can buy them from the park.
  • Bring strollers for smaller kids. A day at the park is long and kids get tired fast. Stroller parking can be found all over the park. If you forgot your stroller, you can rent one from the main entrance.
  • Get the "fastpass" to your favorite ride quickly in the morning.
  • Download the Disneyland app on your phone. That way you have an interactive map of the park with you and you can check what the wait times are.
     

10 Travel Pictures from My Past

Paula Gaston

We just finished a road trip in California, but before sharing those stories, I decided to participate in a blog challenge which I have seen in several Finnish travel blogs. I got the picture themes from Ne Tammelat -blog (which is in Finnish) and anyone who has a blog is welcome to join.

So here are my 10 (and even few extra) travel photos:

A PERFECT MOMENT

I love Filoli Gardens in the San Franciscon Bay Area. You can find many hidden spots in the garden and they have also filmed the television show Dynasty over there. Both spring and summer time are the best times to visit Filoli, and I did write about our visit there about a year ago.

THE TRADITIONAL TOURIST POSE

Is there anything more traditional than this? I think everyone who has ever visited Paris has posed in front of the Eiffel Tower. This picture is from 2008.

FROM AS FAR AWAY AS YOU HAVE BEEN

When looking for this picture I was first trying to figure out if I should use a picture that was taken far away from my home country Finland, or my current home in California. I think Japan is pretty far from both of those places, so I chose a picture from our trip to Kyoto to see Fushimi-Inari-Taisha. 

IN THE HEART OF THE BIG CITY

Even though I have seen several big cities, I think Tokyo is the winner here. It was just so hectic and crowded, but also cool at the same time. 

ZZZ - TIRED OF TRAVELING

You can't get anymore tired than this! I was traveling from Finland via Sweden to Chicago when my flight was delayed over six hours due to thunder storms. Then they added an extra flight on my route so I flew to Philadelphia first. I finally made it to Chicago, but my luggage didn't. Oh well, that happens! 

SUNSET

I can't really use a sunset picture from anywhere else than California. California sunsets are the best! 

TREATS ON TRIPS

I have always liked Mexican food but who ordered all this? Ooops! There is no way two girls can eat all this! 

We like to treat ourselves with some good food and wine on our trips. This picture is from San Diego.

A FAMOUS PLACE WHICH WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT

I had to really think about this since I usually always find something interesting in each place. I chose this picture from Jerusalem since I mostly just remember chaos and queues from this place. We did a day trip from Eilat to Jerusalem and we only had limited time to explore the place. Maybe if I had more time there I would have been able to see all the beautiful places in the city. 

I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR A GOOD PHOTO

It seems like I have a lot of these pictures.. ha ha. The two first ones are from Lake Tahoe, California and the last one is from Yosemite National Park.

A PICTURE FROM A ROAD TRIP

On our road trip in Northern California we drove thru this redwood tree. It was such a fun trip! If you want to hear about our newest road trip and where we went... stay tuned! More about it on my blog soon! 

 

If you want to participate in the blog challenge, here is the list of themes for photos. Please link my blog (Gone with the Wine) in your post and I would love to read your stories, so if you have time to leave a link to your on a comment, that would be great. Have fun!

1. A Perfect Moment
2. The Traditional Tourist pose
3. From as Far Away as You Have Been
4. In the Heart of the Big City
5. Zzz – Tired of Traveling
6. Sunset
7. Treats on Trips
8. A Famous Place Which Was a Disappointment
9. I Would Do Anything for a Good Photo
10. A Picture from a Road Trip

Feeling Goofy at the Trick Art Museum Tokyo

Paula Gaston

Before our trip to Japan I had never heard of a Trick Art Museum. It was such an interesting and fun place to visit that I decided to devote one post to it. After we toured around Japan for two weeks, we wanted to dedicate one day to our 4 year old daughter, who had behaved so well during this trip and made us proud parents. First we thought we would visit Disneyland Tokyo for sure, but after being on the road we decided that something less hectic would be nice. So we headed to the island of Odaiba to visit both the Trick Art Museum and Legoland. 

Odaiba itself would be an interesting place to visit already. This island was originally built for defense purposes, but it is now full of entertainment like malls and amusement parks. One can get to Odaiba by taking a local train, and the Trick Art Museum is located inside the Tokyo Beach Island Mall. There are also many stores and restaurants in the same building. 

 
One can see this special building which is mentioned in many architectural web sites from the train on  the way to Odaiba. It is actually the headquarters for Fuji Television and guests are allowed to go in.  

One can see this special building which is mentioned in many architectural web sites from the train on  the way to Odaiba. It is actually the headquarters for Fuji Television and guests are allowed to go in.  

The idea in this museum is that the visitors will participate in the art and create illusions. A staff member showed us what we should do and how to create them, and then we headed out on our tour. Next to every painting they also have some instructions on how to take a photo in order to make the illusion work. We did not manage to catch it every time but it sure was fun to try.

Our pictures can speak for themselves:

Help! They are going to eat me!

Help! They are going to eat me!

Trapped in a glass. 

Trapped in a glass. 

Mean mirrow image. 

Mean mirrow image. 

Oh well, this is didn't quite work out but next time...

Oh well, this is didn't quite work out but next time...

We had plenty of other pictures as well but I think these are the best ones. We had so much fun, I can highly recommend visiting the Trick Art Museum!