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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.

Our Thanksgiving Trip to Nevada and Utah

Paula Gaston

Our latest trip is now done and we have arrived back to California. Our final souvenir was a stomach flu that at fist hit the baby and then me, so it has been a little quiet here at the blog and on instagram. On our way back home from Utah we stopped in Nevada for one night where the baby started vomiting. It brought me a flashback from our trip to Highway 1 one year, when I had to stay up all night with out older daughter due to a noro virus. Luckily, this time the bug wasn’t so bad, and we were able to continue our drive next day. No one else felt sick. But when we arrived home the baby got some fever and I started feeling very worn out.

Here is the route for our road trip:

FROM A CONCENTRATION CAMP TO DEATH VALLEY

Sounds quite disturbing, right? But actually it was not like that at all. Our trip was great. We were happy to leave the smokey Bay Area behind us and breath some fresh and clean air. Our first stop was at the city of Mojave where we spend a night. It was the first place to see the blue skies again since the smoke had spread all over the Central Valley. The next morning we headed towards Death Valley and on our way there, we stopped at the Manzanar concentration camp where the Japanese people were held during the World War II. After visiting both; the Manzanar and Death Valley, we drove to Las Vegas were spent two days.

Las Vegas is always fun, even with kids, but at the same time it is tiering and surreal. But we enjoyed staying in one spot for more than just one night and unpack our bags a little bit. While in Vegas we always end up walking a lot since we like to see different things the hotels display. And so we did this time too; we ended up walking the Strip almost from one end to another.

A MOMENT IN ARIZONA AND THEN TO UTAH

Then it was time to leave the Vegas behind and head to the Colorado River to see Hoover Dam. Before getting there, we stopped at the Lake Mead which is part of the National Park System in the USA. Hoover Dam is right at the border of Arizona and Nevada, so just by walking to other side of the dam, you can change a state. And you can turn your clock forward or backwards with an hour. Hoover Dam was pretty amazing and I am not surprised that it is the most famous dam in the USA. This was our first time visiting.

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From the Hoover Dam we drove over to Utah. Before gettingt to Utah, you will actually be in Arizona for a while. Our first place to stop in Utah was in St. George, where we stayed the night in 7 Wives Inn. We all know about the Utah’s history with polygamists, and that is where the of our bed & breakfast place came from. 7 Wives Inn was really lovely and I will tell you more about later. In the morning we packed our bags in the car again, and drove up to Cedar Breaks National Monument. We spent a day enjoying some brisk mountain air and snow, and then stayed a night in Cedar City.

THANKSGIVING WITH FAMILY AND DRIVING HOME THROUGH SALT FLATS

From Cedar City we drove to Vineyard to meet some family. We got enjoy the Thanksgiving with them, and spent time with cousins and great gramma. Three days went fast and right when it started snowing, we left to our long drive to back home. This time took the northern route via I-80 to Nevada and then to California. We drove next Great Salt Lake and then to the famous Bonneville Salt Flats where we stopped for some photos and for lunch.

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After spending a night in Winnemugga in Nevada there was only the last leg of out journey left. That was the most boring drive on this trip so far, since there not much to see in Nevada. At some point we did see some wild horses. When we finally reached the Sierra Nevada mountains, the views really started to change. Beautiful mountains and lots of snow!

Even though it is always great to be on the road, we really enjoy returning home too. Last week the Bay Area got some rain and the air quality had changed back into good again. Also the wild fires have been tamed which is a great new. Next challenge will be the possible mud slides or flooding caused by the rains. But we are happy to be home and get ready for Christmas!

Living in the Middle of California's Wild Fires

Paula Gaston

It is bizarre to wake up and see a red ball in the sky which you can stare at without hurting your eyes. It is the famous California sun covered by a thick layer of smoke. With a quick glance, it looks like any other winter morning in the San Francisco Bay Area; grey and foggy. Except that this time it is not fog. And you will notice that when you open the door, you can smell the smoke and it will make you cough. Later in the evening your eyes get itchy and the head ache sets in. Not the greatest experience!

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This is the second time since I have moved to California that we live surrounded by smoke. The first time was last year, when the smoke from the destructive fires in Napa County and Santa Rosa drifted our way. At the moment there are fires at both ends of the state, and the smoke over here is coming from the north, from Butte County. The fire is called the Camp Fire and after destroying a whole town; Paradise, it is still spreading. There were over 26 000 people living in Paradise. About 6500 homes have been destroyed and at least 23 people have died. Hundreds are still missing. And as long as the Santa Ana winds are spreading the fire, there seems to be no end to this.

On Saturday, I put a mask on and left for the grocery store. The whole neighborhood was quiet since no one was out, and everything looked grey. The kids haven’t been outside for three days now, since even the school kept them inside on Friday. And you can only imagine all the energy kids have, when they don’t get to go outside. I keep making plans for the day and then remember that I wasn’t supposed to go outside. People have been warned not to exercise outside and also to wear N95 masks. When I moved from Finland I could have never have thought that someday I can’t go outside because of the bad air quality. It really makes you look at things from another perspective.

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Even though the wild fires have affected our lives, we are still thankful that we have our home and each other. Our experiences of course don’t compare to the devastation that has hit people who lost their homes or loved ones. I have also seen many articles about people letting their horses loose, since they just couldn’t find trailers to take their horses with them. Also many pets were left behind. The fastest the fire was moving was by 80 football fields a minute. Yes, that is insane!

Even though the sunsets are the most beautiful now and as red as they will ever be, every night I hope that the smoke and the fires are gone when I wake up!

 

The Paramount Ranch we Just Visited Burned Down

Paula Gaston

Last April we visited some national parks in Southern California. One of those places was an old Western town at the Santa Monica Mountains where they have filmed many movies and television shows. The town is actually just a movie set so none of the buildings are really real. Even so, hearing about the latest news about the Paramount Ranch, made me really sad. The whole place burned down in one of the wild fires raging in California right now, the Woolsey Fire.

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Paramount Ranch was established in 1972 when Paramount Films bought it for a filming location. Different kinds of setting were built depending on what they filmed, everything from the city of San Francisco to a western village. The last sets had been used to film Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman which was starred by Jane Seymour. Other shows filmed there are for example X-files, Charlie’s Angels, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Mentalist and many others. So many movie and TV stars have been working there, like John Wayne, Gary Grant, Warren Beatty and Lucille Ball. Today the ranch is part of the national parks system and therefore projected.

Paramount Ranch used to be a popular place to visit and there were multiple hiking trails around it. It was also very popular amongst the horseback riders who would bring their horse there, meet each others at the parking lot and go for a ride. Many people just wanted to see the movie sets and enjoy the nature around it. Visiting the ranch was free of charge.

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Woosley Fire started on Thursday from a canyon called Woolsey, and then rapidly spread due to the Santa Ana winds. Today, over 200 000 residents of Ventura County and Malibu have been evacuated, and the fire is still spreading. It has burned at least 170 houses and is heading to the area where many famous and wealthy people live. Some have found help from friends, some are staying at shelters or even in cars and tents. What makes things even more difficult is that there are no changes in the weather on days to come.

This what the Paramounts Ranch looks like now. The only thing standing is the church:

We hope that all these fires will be contained soon, and people can return to their homes or start rebuilding. Someone at the news said, that California is not anymore just known for it’s beautiful weather and beaches, it’s now known for it’s fires.

If you want to see more about our life in California, go and check out my Instagram account @paulagaston. Among the photos you will also see some videos on instastories.

 

Japan in Photos

Paula Gaston

Have you ever been thinking what is the furthest destination you have been to? Seven years ago I was thinking that when I vacation in California or when I move there, I will be quite far away from my home. I was living in Finland at the time. Even the flight to California was so long, that I really felt like I was going to the other side of the world. And I was. If you look at thing from Finland, the furthest place I have visited is Hawaiian Islands. If I look at the same thing from California, it would be Dubai in United Arab Emirates. But I have actually traveled to those places from shorter distances.

But being far from home can also be measured as a feeling as well, not just by the miles or kilometres. Being in a totally different culture what you are use to definitely makes you feel like you are far far away. We got this feeling in Japan. Japan is physically far away from both California and Finland, but even more it really feels like far away. Everything there was different! After figuring out how things work there we absolutely fell in love with this country! It was both exciting and awesome, and somehow tiring as well. But we feel like it is definitely a country far away that we want to return someday.

These are the things we wont forget:

BUILDINGS

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Japan is a mixture of both history and modern building. From the skyscraper’s Tokyo you can take a bullet train and within an hours be walking around the traditional, old Japan. The picture on the left is from Todaiji Temple which is said to be the biggest wooden building in the world. On the right is the Himeji Castle, one of the national treasures of Japan.

DIFFERENT KIND OF PEOPLE

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The amount of people in Tokyo feels surreal. But even though the metro is full of busy people, they will never pump into you or be rude. In different prefectures of Tokyo you can meet different people with different styles, and you might run into a wedding couple if you visit a temple. We even saw few geishas in Kyoto even though seeing them is quite rare.

RELIGIONS

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Different religions are strongly visible and present in Japanese life. Anywhere you go, you will see temples and shrines. Visiting them is interesting and there are many rituals and traditions that takes place at the temples. Even though these places are open for tourists as well, they are mainly calm places designated for praying.

FOOD

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Exploring the Japanese food was one the highlight on our trip to Japan. We got to try many new foods that we had never tried, and some local treats. There is some international chain restaurants there but they are very expensive compared to the local food places. And who wouldn’t like Japanese food?!

GOOFYNESS

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We were surprised how often so serious and quiet Japanese people seemed to love everything goofy and silly. It was awesome! We visited several theme cafes, and at the Trick Art Museum where the photo on left was taken at. People in Japan truly knows how to have fun!

OPPOSITES

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From the city life to the calmness and quietness. From modern into a middle of the history. Japan was truly a country of opposites where you can meet the modern future and the old traditions in one day. The picture at left is from Nara where you can pet some tame deer, and the one at right is from Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a big modern city with a piece of sad and touching history in a middle of it.

All these pictures are from my Instagram account. You can follow me @paulagaston

 

Happy Halloween! The Blog is Getting a New Look!

Paula Gaston

The blog has been quiet the passed few weeks. Suddenly I just didn’t feel like writing. But even though there weren’t any new travel stories, something did happen in the blog. It now has a completely new style! I have been planning this blog overhaul now for a while, but I never seem to have time for it. While living my every day life or traveling with the family, I can barely squeeze out the stories from our trips. And writing along with photo editing takes a surprisingly lot of time.

Overall the blog template will remain the same, but I have styled it a little bit, as well as updated colors and pictures. I am especially excited about the new world map on the destinations page that allows you to hover over and choose which country you would like to read about. The same kind of map is also used for displaying the states of the United States. You can also browse some stories about traveling in general, airlines or expat life.

HALLOWEEN GREETINGS

Yesterday here in the U.S. we celebrated Halloween. Like many others, we too went trick or treating in our neighborhood, and our daughter got a HUGE amount of candy. Some people go all in with decorating their houses and we visited one which was more like a haunted house. They had all kinds of moving spiders, dancing skeletons, a body jumped out of the grave and talking witches. So many halloween lights, scary music and smoke. I was surprised that our daughter bravely walked to the door, but after we left she got spooked by a zombie video playing in the window and started crying. That kind of house is so much fun for adults, but a little too much for small kids.

 Our one year old was dressed as a chicken and her sister was a witch. The chicken costume was borrowed from a friend (thank you!) and people kept asking about it or taking pictures of our little one. Best Halloween costume ever!

Our one year old was dressed as a chicken and her sister was a witch. The chicken costume was borrowed from a friend (thank you!) and people kept asking about it or taking pictures of our little one. Best Halloween costume ever!

But now we have stored away both the chicken and the witch costumes for next year and for somebody else, and today I have started to clean the halloween decorations off. Next holiday is just around the corner, and we will drive all the way to Utah for the Thanksgiving. Along the way there we will probably see many interesting and cool places. And after that it’s almost Christmas time. Like always, we will drive down to Southern California to spend the Christmas with the family.

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So stay tuned for the new celebrations and for the next trip! And I hope you like the new look of the blog!