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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.

Museum of Ice Cream - the Sold Out Newcomer to San Francisco

Paula Gaston

The Museum of Ice Cream is THE THING at the moment. When it came to San Francisco, the tickets sold out in eighteen minutes. Last week I was able to tour around the museum with my friend, and this is what it was like:

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We arrived to the Museum of Ice Cream at 5 pm when our tour was suppose to start. There was a line to get in at the front of the building where everyone's tickets were scanned. The line moved pretty fast though, since the tours were done in groups. We started in a group, but you didn't have to stick with the same people if you didn't want to. Before entering the museum, we were asked to come up with an ice cream name for our group, and choose a group captain. We were asked to forget everything else and be like a 12 year old while in the museum. And in we went.

The very first museum of ice cream started as a pop up in New York and was planned to be open for 45 days. Behind the idea was 25 year old Maryellis Bunn who thought that New York needs something new. The museum was a huge success, so she also opened one in Los Angeles. This fall, San Francisco got one, and at the moment they are selling tickets to a brand new one in Miami. There is no certainty in how long these museums will be open, but the one in San Francisco has sold tickets through February 2018. 

The Museum of Ice Cream is more like an exhibition than an actual museum. In the beginning of the tour, they tell you a little bit about the history of ice cream, but the rest of the museum is just bizarre rooms and corridors. The idea soon becomes very clear; The rooms are built so that people can take cool, "instagrammable" pictures in them. Even though the ice cream museum sounds fun for the kids, this one is obviously meant for young adults. In a couple of the rooms, they give you small scoops of ice cream and we also got some cotton candy.  

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Local ice cream producers donate the ice cream to the museum. They also offered some cotton candy for the guests. 

Local ice cream producers donate the ice cream to the museum. They also offered some cotton candy for the guests. 

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After the visit, we were trying to figure out what we really thought about the museum. For some reason, it was difficult to wrap our heads around it. We had so much fun, but at the same time we felt like maybe it was not worth $40. We definitely didn't learn anything new there. I read some reviews before our visit and many people said they felt very rushed. To a certain extent, I have to agree with that. Obviously everyone wants to take photos in the exact same spots and a couple of times the group behind us even caught us. Also, you are only allowed to be in the sprinkle pool, which is the icing of the cake in this place, for three minutes. And that three minutes let me tell you, is the shortest three minutes you have ever had. 

As I already mentioned, this museum is not really designed for kids even though we saw many of them there. One of the reviews mentioned that they will not allow strollers inside the museum. This was good to know, since there is nothing about that on their website, and I had planned to take our baby with me. Finally, I decided to leave her home which was a good move. 

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If you happen to be one of the lucky ones to get tickets to the Museum of Ice Cream, you should also know, that they will check your ID at the door. The ticket holder must be present but the rest of the party can be anyone you want to invite. It was also interesting that they wouldn't give you the actual tickets until 24 hours prior to your tour. At that point, it will be texted to your phone. This information was also no where to be found, and I had to call them to find out why we haven't gotten our tickets yet.

Opening this kind of place must of taken some courage. Who could have known that it would be such a success. But I must admit that the idea is pretty fun! Stay tuned for some more pictures of the Museum of Ice Cream on my Instagram account @paulagaston.

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Portland and its Beautiful Waterfalls

Paula Gaston

The last stretch of my Portland trip was starting. Upon our arrival in Portland, we drove to Washington State to visit a volcano Mount St. Helens, and we stayed the night on the coast. After that we headed back to Oregon and visited some national parks, spent the night in Seaside and toured Tillamook Cheese factory. Now it was finally time to get to know Portland itself.

FORT VANCOUVER

At first we stopped at Fort Vancouver Historic Site which is on the opposite side of the river from Portland, in Vancouver Washington. The Columbia River separates these two cities and states from each other. Fort Vancouver was built in the 19th century to be a market place for fur. Many ships arrived there yearly and the fur was sold all the way to China.

Today there is a replica of the old fort where people can visit and get to know the history of the area.

Fort Vancouver

Fort Vancouver

BONNEVILLE DAM

Before touring around Portland, we decided to drive to Bonneville Dam. We drove down the Washington side of the Columbia River, and planned to cross the river and come back to Portland on the Oregon side.

Bonneville Dam is one of the 60 dams on the Columbia River and it started operating in 1937. The main purpose of the dam is to produce electricity. We got to visit inside the dam and see for example the machine room and the fish ladder. Fish ladder, which helps fish to migrate across these barriers, is usually full of fish during the summer and fall months. Many different salmon and trout live in the Columbia River. 

Bonneville Dam

Bonneville Dam

Inside the Bonneville Dam

Inside the Bonneville Dam

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WATERFALLS

After visiting the dam we crossed the river on the Bridge of Gods to the Oregon side. Before driving back to Portland, we took a scenic route called the Historic Columbia River Highway where you can see multiple waterfalls. Waterfall Tour Loop is a tour where you can see eight waterfalls and where you can move at your own pace. Some of the waterfalls require a small hike, but most are visible from the road. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to hike to many falls and it was also raining here and there, so we only stopped at the biggest ones. But even that was plenty. Someday I would love to return and explore more of these waterfalls that were hidden in the forests. 

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The most famous of these waterfalls must be the Multnomah Falls which is also the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon. It looks amazing and was also seen in the Twilight movie.  

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

PORTLAND

At last we arrived in Portland. For most of our visit it was raining, so we ended up touring around in the car. There are about 2.5 million people living in Portland making it the 25th largest city in the US. Despite the rain, Portland seemed to be a very nice city.

Portland

Portland

The most memorable place in Portland was Chinatown. Even though it is way smaller than what we have here in San Francisco, it was very idyllic. Officially it is called Old Town Chinatown and it also includes the oldest part of Portland. The oldest buildings there are from 1871. We walked around for a while and then went to get some coffee. It wasn't until we were home already when I realised that we had missed the famous doughnut shop called Voodoo Doughnut. If you are in this neighborhood, make sure you stop there.

Old Town Chinatown in Portland

Old Town Chinatown in Portland

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Our long weekend in Washington and Oregon was soon ending and we had to head back to the airport for our return flight. What a great little trip with good company!

 

Tillamook Cheese - Cheese and Ice Cream in Oregon

Paula Gaston

On our trip to Portland we have already seen and done a lot. At first we drove to Mount St. Helens volcano, and from there to the coast of Washington where we stayed the night at Long Beach. The morning there was sunny, so we hiked to the Cape Disappointment lighthouse. We also visited some old forts that are now  part of a national park. We crossed the Columbia river to Oregon and stopped in a "Finnish" town called Astoria. The second night we spent in a beautiful town called Seaside before we drove further south to visit Tillamook Cheese.

On our way there we drove this amazing road through a big forest. It was like being inside a fairytale. All the trees were covered by different kinds of moss, the only thing missing were some elves walking around the woods. It was beautiful. 

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Tillamook Valley on the Oregon coast is an ideal location for milk production. Cool air and rains make sure that the fields are green and lush. The first farmers who moved to the area in the 1850´s noticed this quickly and stayed on. In 1894 a cheesemaker by the name of Peter MacIntosh arrived in Tillamook Valley and taught people how to make Cheddar. Today's cheddar cheese from Tillamook is based on this age old method. In 1909 many cheese producers decided to start a company together and that is how Tillamook Cheese was started. Later, they also started making yoghurts and ice cream.

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We visited the factory and did a little tour to see how cheese is made there. We were also offered some samples of different cheeses. In the Visitor center they had a small museum as well as a souvenir shop and an ice cream shop. And since we were at Tillamook, of course we had to have some ice cream. I bought a cute little Tillamook cow in a bag for my daughter, and she was super excited about it. 

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The tour at the factory was not very time consuming and I think we spent more time at the souvenir shop and eating ice cream. I'm not sure if I would drive all the way from Portland just to visit the Tillamook Cheese factory, but if you happen to be close by for other reasons, it is a fun place to visit...and it is free. In 2018 they are building a new and bigger Visitor center, so I'm not sure how things will change at that point. We enjoyed our visit and the ice cream of course!

 

Taking Over the Oregon and Washington Coast

Paula Gaston

I have been meaning to write about our trip to Oregon and Washington State for a long time, but something always comes up. I think it is now time for me to tell you what my friend and I did in Portland and the surrounding areas. We really didn't have any other reason to go there than just vacationing and seeing the sites. Even though we were there only from Thursday to Sunday, we had time to see the coast, the Tillamook Cheese factory, the Bonneville Dam, many waterfalls, Mt. St. Helens and the city of Portland.

We landed in Portland on Thursday morning and went to get our rental car. We hopped in and headed to Mount St. Helens volcano, and from there down to the coast. A weekend full of adventures was waiting for us! 

Portland

Portland

Mount ST. HELENS - A SLEEPING VOLCANO

Mount St. Helens lies in the Cascades, about three hours drive north of Portland. The white, snowy tops of the mountain could be seen far away, and looked beautiful against the blue, sunny sky. We drove up on the mountain road but not all the way to the snow. The visitor center had a great museum of the volcano and its eruptions. Some brave people still live right by the mountain.

Even though the volcano is sleeping now, not long ago it was still active. In 1980 it erupted, destroying 250 houses, many miles of a railway, bridges and freeways. 75 people died. In 2004 the volcano woke up again, and in 2005 it let out volcanic ash and gas that could be seen all the way in Seattle. Luckily, nothing worse happened that time, and in 2008 they determined that the eruption had finally stopped and Mount St. Helens had gone back to sleep again.

Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens

BIKING IN LONG BEACH

From the volcano we drove to the Washington coast line. Since it was getting late, we checked into a nice little motel. Long Beach was obviously a holiday destination since it was full of amusement parks, restaurants and beaches. But since it was the off season, many of the places were closed. Our motel provided us some bicycles to use, so we headed to the beach before the sun set. It was so much fun, and even a little spooky, since it was really foggy at the beach. 

Long Beach, Washington

Long Beach, Washington

Riding a bicycle at the beach was fun, but it was so cold that we needed many layers of clothes.

Riding a bicycle at the beach was fun, but it was so cold that we needed many layers of clothes.

The next day we drove to Cape Disappointment State Park which was close by. We hiked to a light house and enjoyed some coastal air. This is one of the most foggy places in the whole Unites States, and the light house is hidden by fog about 106 days a year. We were lucky to enjoy some sun though. Cape Disappointment has been named after a fur trader John Maeres who was looking for a trading place, but turned his boat to the north and missed the whole cape. 

Very close to Cape Disappointment is an old army fort; Fort Columbia. The 12 wooden houses on the area were also used by the army. Fort Columbia was built for protection at the Columbia river. Now, it is part of Lewis & Clark National and State Parks.

Cape Disappointment

Cape Disappointment

Fort Columbus - 12 wooden structures are still standing by the fort

Fort Columbus - 12 wooden structures are still standing by the fort

THE FINNISH COMMUNITY OF ASTORIA

After the hike we drove to the other side of the Columbia river, to Oregon, and visited a small town called Astoria. We were surprised to see some Finnish flags here and there. It turned out, that the town was originally started by Finnish immigrants. We stopped at the Finnish Hall, and we also found a little store selling Finnish goods as well as a Finnish sauna. Later we also drove past a Finnish church.

Astoria-Megler Bridge. There were so many bridges on the Columbia river. 

Astoria-Megler Bridge. There were so many bridges on the Columbia river. 

Suomi Hall in Astoria

Suomi Hall in Astoria

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Astoria

Since our plan was to stay the night at Seaside on the Oregon coast, we headed south from Astoria. On our route was Fort Clatsop which is part of Lewis & Clark National Historical Park so we decided to stop there quickly. This place served as an encampment for the Lewis and Clark Expedition when they arrived in Oregon in 1805. The name Clatsop comes from the native americans who resided on the area. The original structure has been destroyed but there is a replica of it which one can visit.

From Fort Clatsop we drove over to Fort Stevens State Park where we visited an old ruin, and walked around a beach. Fort Stevens was built for the army in 1863 and it was used for example in World War II. At this point we had got our share of history for the day, and we decided to drive over to Seaside and look for a place to stay. The whole day had been cloudy and it was raining on and off. 

Fort Clatsop

Fort Clatsop

Fort Stevens

Fort Stevens

SEASIDE

Seaside by the coast of Oregon was pretty much like Long Beach we visited earlier; made for tourists, but it was much bigger. There were hotels everywhere and even the beach was much bigger. The views were beautiful so I can fully understand why some people choose to vacation there. Since it was out of season, many businesses were closed, but we weren't bothered by that, since our intent was just to spend the night and then move on. After a short sightseeing tour and dinner, we went for a couple of drinks and then headed to bed. It was raining so we didn't mind the early night.

For the next day we planned a visit to the Tillamook Cheese factory, but more about that later!

 

Lake Tahoe - The Hidden Gem in California

Paula Gaston

About 300 kilometres from San Francisco in Northern California, in Sierra Nevada mountains lies Lake Tahoe. It is known for its clear water, beautiful scenery and casinos, since half of the lake is on the Nevada side. Californians head to Lake Tahoe to get closer to nature, party or ski, but many who are visiting California from abroad, have never heard of it. Even celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe have visited here.

Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay

 

Lake Tahoe formed about 2 million years ago around the time of the ice age. Even though the winters of the Sierra Nevada are snowy and people go there to ski, the lake never freezes over. Some salmon and shrimp live in the lake, but now also huge gold fish have been found. Most likely someone has dumped their pets in the lake and they grew and grew.

The area can be roughly divided in two parts; South and North Lake Tahoe. The biggest town is South Lake Tahoe and it is at the south side of the lake. Over there, one can literally walk from California to Nevada, stop at the casino or party until the morning. On the California side, the bars must close at 2 am. In the north, Stateline and Tahoe City are the most popular towns especially during the winter. I have visited Lake Tahoe at every time of the year, and it is always magnificent. I have been there at winter, summer, Halloween, New Years and 4th of July. We went riding horses, swimming, hiking, partying and everything else. On top of that, I also got married there on 11/11/11.

SUMMER AT LAKE TAHOE

The best thing about Tahoe summers are the nature and the clean mountain air. The forests are full of hiking trails. Even though the weather can sometimes be + 30C, the water in the lake stays brisk due to it being so deep. Driving around the lake is also fun! Sometimes you can find a beach all to yourself, where no one else is around. Absolutely the best views are at Emerald Bay where you can see the lake from high up. Close by the beach is a Scandinavian style mansion called Vikingsholm which is open to visitors.

If you want to be as close to nature as possible, you should forget a hotel and rent a cabin instead. Just be aware of where you park since the giant pine cones can fall on your car. When staying in a cabin or a tent, you should also remember that there are bears in the area, and follow the safety rules.

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This teddy bear with his friend was roaming around people's yards. 

This teddy bear with his friend was roaming around people's yards. 

LAKE TAHOE IS A PARADISE FOR WINTER SPORTS

When the first rains hit the San Francisco Bay Area in the fall, at Lake Tahoe it is usually snowing. There are several ski resorts, and many professional athletes practise there for the upcoming season. Weather there is ideal. During the day time, you can often ski in the sun shine, but at night time it gets freezing to prevent the snow from melting away. If you are heading to Lake Tahoe in the winter time, don't forget to carry chains in your car. If you get surprised by a snow storm, you are required to use them, and the local shops along the way will charge an arm and a leg.

Many Californians head to Tahoe even if they don't know how to ski. It might be the only place for many kids to ever to see the snow and play in it. Lake Tahoe's Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 winter olympics.

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Close to Lake Tahoe there are several other places worth a visit. Reno, which is often called "little Vegas", is only less than an hour drive from Tahoe, and the capital of Nevada, Carson City is only half an hour drive as well. Even though Carson City is small, it is pretty idyllic. On the way there you might even see some wild horses. One of the most popular places among tourists is the old mining town Virginia City. This old ghost town is now full of life as there is so much to do and see for visitors. If you like an old western vibe, this your place.

Wild horses

Wild horses

If you are close by, you should absolutely visit Lake Tahoe which is outdoors California at its best.