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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.

We Celebrated Chinese New Year in San Francisco Chinatown

Paula Gaston

Well here we go, it is the start of the Year of the Pig! Or to be even more specific, the Year of the brown pig. For some years now I have tried to make it down to the Chinatown in San Francisco, to see the New Year Parade but there has always been some excuses; rain, sick kids and or something. But finally this year I was able to experience this amazing night. Even though it was a chilly evening, we had a lot of fun listening the fire crackers and watching the parade.

If you want to see how it was, just check out my Instastories on my Instagram account.

THE HISTORIC CHINATOWN OF SAN FRANCISCO

Chinatown in San Francisco was established in 1848, and it is one of the top sights to see among the tourists visiting the city. Almost 35 000 people live over there and it is the most densely populated area after Manhattan. During the history, the Chinatown has seen many thing from earthquakes to confrontations of some Asian gangs. Many Chinese living close by come over to Chinatown for shopping and to different events, the tourist come to see the sights and to eat. While walking on the small alleys of Chinatown you can easily forget that you are in the USA and you are likely to hear more Chinese than English. It is definitely a worth of visit when in San Francisco.

 

THE AMAZING NEW YEARS PARADE

Every year couple weeks after the new year starts they organise a big parade in the Chinatown. At the dawn people gather up along the roads to wait and you can start hearing the fire crackers. If you want to get a front row spot, you have arrive at least an hour before the parade starts. And it goes on for several hours. It end by the tent of the judges who then choose the best performer or float.

The parade is a mixture of Chinese traditions and American parade culture. The whole thing started with a police entourage which then continued with other participants. Since it is a year of the pig, all the decorations of course where made to showcase that. Chinese traditions were the many lion and dragon dancers, martial art performers and other dancers. I think the America was represented by the marching bands and the floats. I especially remember the big dragons and the decorated cable cars which this time were on tires.

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The first parade was held already on 1858, but there are many other New Year events in Chinatown too. They have a New Year Run, Miss Chinatown U.S.A. pageant and even a flower festival. Miss Chinatown was part of the parade with her runner ups. The parade was actually so long that we decided to go get some hot tea and a bite to eat, and then head to home before it ended. We managed to see the end of the parade while walking toward to train station. Even it being so cold, we still had to take some photos of the rest of the performers.

The Grand Finale of the parade was the Golden Dragon. The dragon is made in China, and it is over 268 feet long. It need 100 men to carry it through the parade. And it truly was really magical when it danced very close of us almost touching our jackets.

When we left home we decided that this was a good “practise year” for us. Next time we will come over with a bigger crew, will bring some lawn chairs, coffee and warmer clothes. Now we also know which spots are the best to watch the parade. The best ones are right after the bleacher seats where the performers will stop to do their routine. Or you can always get the seat with $35 and be guaranteed with a good view. Otherwise the parade is free of charge.

This was truly a memorable experience! Happy New Year everyone!

 

Champange brunch in San Francisco's iconic Cliff House Restaurant

Paula Gaston

For several years now, we have celebrated Valentine’s Day beforehand or after the actual day. We got tired of the sold out and crowded restaurants with over priced menus. This year the Valentine’s Day was in the middle of the week and we decided to go out for brunch on the next Sunday. For few years already, I have wanted to eat at the Cliff House restaurant in San Francisco which is famous from its long history in the city. Finally we made it to their Sunday brunch and it was totally worth it!

THE LONG AND COLOURFUL HISTORY OF THE CLIFF HOUSE RESTAURANT

Cliff House is located in an amazing spot right by the ocean. It was first opened in 1858, and it has been either rebuilt or renovated for five times. The second Cliff House building was built on the same spot in 1863, and it quickly become a very successful restaurant. The building was later damaged when a schooner ran aground next to it, and the dynamite it was carrying exploded. The building was repaired but it eventually burned down in a fire in Christmas 1894. The fire also destroyed the restaurants’s records of its famous customers such as presidents and others.

Adolph Sutro, who had earlier bought the Cliff House, built the third restaurant after the fire. The new building was a beautiful, Victorian mansion which also got a nick name The Gingerbread Palace. The same year he also started to build the Sutro Baths next to the Cliff House, which become the biggest inside swimming pool complex in the world at that time. The amazing Cliff House building survived the big San Francisco earth quake in 1966 just to burn down the next year. So started the time of the fourth Cliff House. Also the Sutro Baths was distroyed by a fire later in 1966 but you can still see the ruins of the pools if you visit the area.

After the fire the daughter of the Adolph Sutro, Emme Merritt took over, and built a new Cliff House restaurant. After that the building has had several major renevations until it was finally took over by the National Park System, who transferred it into a neoclassical style. Today there is also a souvenir shop in the same building with the restaurant.

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BOTTOMLESS MIMOSAS AND THE DELICIOUS BUFFET TABLE

Cliff House has two separate restaurants; Bistro Restaurant and a little bit more fomarl Sutro’s. Sunday brunch is served in the Terrace Room where they have an awesome views to the ocean. There are three servings and this time, we were on the last on which was at 2 pm. The restaurant seemed very full and I think we might of gotten one of the last tables when we made our reservation.

The brunch comes with the traditional bottomless champagne mimosas, non alcoholic beverages and coffee. And I have to say, our glasses were always full and it many other ways too, the service was seamless. Even our 6 year old was excited since she got to drink some non alcoholic cider out of a champagne glass, and not from a plastic cups that they usually give for kids in the restaurants here.

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In the buffet they had some traditional breakfast foods like eggs, sausages, Egg Benedict (my favourite), bacon and potatoes. They also had plenty of sea food in different ways like fish, shrimp and clams. For us this was a great fit since we love that kind of things. One of my favourites at the buffet was the Miso Marinated Salmon Medallions. We also tried some paella, different kinds of cheeses and sandwich meats, and many salads. There were actually so many sorts that I don’t think I even tried all of them. For example from the giant fruit platter I was only able to try couple things since I was already so full. My ultimate favourite from the desserts was the Butterscotch Eggs made in real egg shells. Nom nom!

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The brunch in Cliff House cost $65, and the kids were in half price. We were happy to see that they didn’t charge anything for our 1,5 year old who nippled some omelette and a tiny piece of salmon. We were not sure if they would charge something of her or not. During the brunch they had some harp music which somehow fit into this space perfectly.

If you have time you can do a little stroll at the Land End after the brunch where Sutro Bath ruins are. In the beginning of the trail at the beach there is a little cave, and if you continue the trail you will see a beautiful of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Sutro Baths

Sutro Baths

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

 

Utah & Arizona - We are Coming Back!

Paula Gaston

In April we are heading out to Utah and Arizona again. My dream was actually to visit Mexico at Spring Break, but we had to push that plan forward. In November we had to say good bye to the great gramma while we visited some family in Utah, and now we are going back for her ash scattering. On that trip in November we visited Dead Valley, Las Vegas and several other places in Utah. This time we have one week to our road trip, so we thought we could drive around in Southern Utah and in Arizona. Our travel plan is mostly ready but we also have some free days there, so our plan is flexible.

ST. GEORGE JA SNOW CANYON STATE PARK

We will head out from San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday after school, and try to get as far as we can. The school day before holidays is usually shorter, so hopefully we get on the road at early afternoon. The next day we will drive through Nevada, passing by also Las Vegas, to Arizona and then to Utah. We are scheduled to be in St. George, Utah, in Friday evening. We will be staying in the same town where we stopped at Severn Wives Inn on out last trip.

On Saturday we will be visiting the Snow Canyon together with the family. That will be the Gramma’s final resting place. I had never heard of this place before but it looks absolutely beautiful! It actually reminds me of Zion National Park. It is said, that if Snow Canyon would be in any other state, it would be a national park. But Utah already has so many national parks that Snow Canyon just didn’t fit on that list. For that Sunday our schedule is still open, and we hope to spend some time with the family. Maybe we can visit Zion and do some hiking together, or we can do that on Monday, since we have always wanted to return there.

Zion National Park is full of beautiful rock formations and hiking trails

Zion National Park is full of beautiful rock formations and hiking trails

ANTELOPE CANYON, HORSE SHOE BEND AND RAINBOW BRIDGE

From St. Georgista we head towards Kanab and make a quick stop at Pipe Springs National Monument. Pipe Springs is an area that has a rich history with American Indiands and Mormon pioneers. In Kanab we will probably visit Little Hollywood Museum which is like a little western town, and where they have filmed many old television shows and movies. I am looking into booking a hotel over in Kanab area. There is so many cool hiking places close to this town, but some are too difficult to us with kids. My ultimate dream is to visit Wave someday. Unfortunately we had to rule that out since we were already late for the permit lottery, and it is too challenging to hike with kids. Hopefully someday we can return to see it, since it is truly an amazing!

Then we will continue to the city of Page. On the way there, there is some cool hoodoos, almost statue like rock formations which we would like to see. A hike to Toadstool Hoodoos is not very long, so it should be something fun for the whole family. We will stay the night in Page and for Thursday we have booked a tour at Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon formed by the rain water, and is absolutely beautiful. Since the canyon is very popular, and it is located on Navajo Indians’ land, so people can’t just walk around there by themselves. One must book a tour to visit the Antelope Canyon. It is also a safety concern. In case of a rain close by, the water might run through the canyon with a huge force, and give you an unpleasant surprise. In fact, people have died visiting the Antelope Canyon. Therefore, they wont let people in without a guide. Now we are just hoping that there wont be rain while our visit!

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Then it is time to go check out the Horseshoe Bend which I have seen so many photos in the last years. It is an amazing view point to the Colorado River in a spot where the river makes a u-turn just like a horse shoe. We will also visit Lake Powel, and secretly I am dreaming about a trip to the Rainbow Bridge, which is the biggest rock arch in the world. It too, is on the Indian land, so you can’t just go see it. You must have a permit or take a boat tour. We are still considering wether to do it or not.

FROM GRAND CANYON TO THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE AND HOME

We have never visited Grand Canyon South Rim, so we want to go there since we are this close. We did visit the North Rim in 2014. After that we will start our long drive back home. We will first drive to Southern California to take our youngest daughter to a small operation, and then drive to our home at Northern California. We are incorporating this operation to this trip since there were no doctors closer to us who could have done it. After the surgery we still have about six hours drive back home. Hopefully it will go without too much pain.

Metsäpaloista johtuen Grand Canyon oli näin savuinen kun viimeksi olimme siellä. Kiva siis päästä sinne uudelleen, toivottavasti auringonpaisteessa tällä kertaa.

Metsäpaloista johtuen Grand Canyon oli näin savuinen kun viimeksi olimme siellä. Kiva siis päästä sinne uudelleen, toivottavasti auringonpaisteessa tällä kertaa.

Since we will be driving along Route 66 for a while, I’m sure there will be something to see as well. One interesting place to stop is a Bottle Farm where one can see over 300 trees made out of old bottles. What a bizarre but interesting place that must be!

Oh wow, that should keep us busy. We are in for a busy but fun week. This is what we have planned but we still have to set up most of the reservations. And if you have been following my blog you probably know, that our trips will never go quite as planned. So we will see where we actually end up this time!

Have you been to any of these places? Do you have any recommendations what to see or do?



Super Bowl Sunday - and a Day when the Whole America got Sick

Paula Gaston

Last weekend the whole United States stopped for the Super Bowl Sunday. That is when families and friends gather up to watch the finals of the American football league and to celebrate. Every year we have done that too even though we don’t even follow American football otherwise. Some years we have organised a Super Bowl party at our house but in last years we have been invited to a friends’ house. So if you happen to be in the U.S. during the Super Bowl don’t miss out an opportunity to a good party!

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You can certainly head out to bar or a restaurant to watch the game, but the best parties are of course at peoples homes. Usually you serve some chips, salsa, guacamole, , tacos, chicken wings, all kinds of snacks or bbq. Our family favourite has always been the seven layer dip some tortilla chips. Nom nom! And then of course, there are plenty to drink too… maybe that is why they say, that the following Monday is the national sick day for most Americans. This year they predicted that at least 17,2 million people will call in sick that day. That is why is called the Super Sick Monday.

Our 7 layer dip; refried beans, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, cheese, olives, spring onion

Our 7 layer dip; refried beans, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, cheese, olives, spring onion

Finnish pastries for a dessert.

Finnish pastries for a dessert.

I must admit that I don’t understand much from American football but we ladies are of course waiting for the half time show. And we do enjoy watching the famous commercials of the game which everyone is talking about afterwards. This year a 30 second commercial in Super Bowl cost 5.25 million dollars. And some of them are actually quite funny, and why not, they must use the best of the best on that field to make the world’s most expensive commercials. This year’s half time show on the other hand… meh! Even though they had one my favourites; Maroon 5.

Couple years ago the Super Bowl was held about 15 minutes drive from our home, at the 49’s stadium in Santa Clara. We were able to see some of the party atmosphere when we saw people arriving and the flyover by the Air Force. Unfortunately even then we had to watch the game from the TV since the tickets to the Super Bowl are over $2000 at the cheapest, and they are difficult to get.

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Hope you guys had as fun weekend as we did this week!

 

Hiking with the Kids

Paula Gaston

We are huge nature lovers and we enjoy being outside during the weekends and on our vacations. Before we had kids, we used to go for longer and more challenging hikes here close to home and in national parks. We liked hiking because it gave us an opportunity on exercise while being in nature. And that was very easy here in California where we have a lot of mountains and hills. After having kids our hobby changed drastically, but we haven´t given up on it. In fact, we are always waiting for opportunity to go out hiking as a family.

Even though it is always about getting out and moving, our main focus on hiking now is more spending time together and enjoying nature. The trails have gotten shorter and easier for us, and we are especially happy every time that our kids learn or see something new. Oh, how much fun it is to run into a lizard or a chipmunk while hiking! At the same time one will learn a lot about plants, animals and being in nature. I think it is good that from a young age the kids will learn some survival skills so they will know for example, which plants they shouldn´t touch or which animals not to approach. And they will learn to respect nature and protect it.

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CHOOSE THE BEST TRAIL FOR YOUR FAMILY

It is better to stay on trails that you can for sure manage when hiking with kids. If you get too adventurous and choose too difficult ones, you might have to turn back in the middle which is never fun. Though that has happened to us a few times, we try to make the best of the situation. One time we had to turn back inside a cave because it was getting too difficult to walk down with a little one. We changed the trail and tried to spot some condors instead, and we still had so much fun. The main thing is that you know you can make the trail before it gets dark and wont get lost, and that everyone has a good time!

I think that it is easier to hike with a smaller baby or bigger kid than a toddler. A baby will go wherever mommy or daddy will, since he or she will be in a carrier, and bigger kids can already walk longer distances. However, a toddler who just learned how to walk, wants to do it by herself, but is slow and gets tired quickly. Luckily our little girl still fits into a baby backpack and likes to be there. We usually start walking with her in it, and then after our snack break she gets to walk a little. When she gets tired, she will be in the backpack again. For a bigger child you can always bring some entertainment with you. For example, a note book to write notes about things she has seen, or binoculars. National Park here in the USA often hand out Junior Ranger booklets, which kids can fill out while on their visit.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

The timing can definitely affect how your hiking trip will go. Here in California, it is often hot later in the day, so we prefer early morning for hiking. Otherwise, afternoons can be good after the kids wake up from a nap and have all that new energy. A baby backpack is great, since it is easy to nap in it while hiking. Many babies fall asleep easily from the gentle rocking that comes from walking.

Evenings are not always working so well, since everyone is already kind of tired and it’s hard to get kids to get excited about things. Although, we have sometimes done some hikes to see the sunset. At those times we might have pyjamas in the car which will be put on before the drive home. In that way, when we get home, we can just lift them straight to bed.

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INVEST IN THE GEAR

Hiking is one hobby that we have been happy to invest in. There are especially two things that can make hiking with kids a lot easier; good shoes and good carriers or bags. Sometimes, I see families where the parents have trendy and expensive gear, but their kids are walking in the forest with sandals. It is important to make sure that the kids are comfortable walking also. Our kids walk in sneakers, but once they are big enough to walk longer trails, we get them actual hiking shoes. They are not only great for walking a long time, but they also protect your ankles.

Investing in a good baby carrier or backpack will eventually pay itself back in how practical they are. And you don’t have to spend all you’ve got; there is plenty of good second hand gear for sale. With a smaller baby we used a baby carrier but when the baby learns to sit, the backpack is even better. It is easier to carry, more sturdy and good to sit on since the seats are usually adjustable. Most of them come with a sun shade, and you can carry diapers and other baby stuff in the backpack’s pockets. Our backpack also has a removable pillow where the baby can lean on if they fall asleep. At first, I was bothered that I wasn’t able to see my child on my back, but my friend gave me the tip of bringing along a little mirror. Some backpacks actually come with a mirror that is attached to one of the pockets. The same goes also with other backpacks and bags. The more comfortable they are to carry, the better hiking experience you will have.

Here is our packing list for a shorter hike: shoes, sunhat, sunscreen, sunglasses, baby carrier or backpack (with sunshade, pillow and mirror), diapers and wipes, changing pad, a bag for trash and dirty diapers, snack and hand sanitizer, lots of water, phone and quite often also a camera.

Also depending on the trail we might also need a map, flashlight or headlamp, mosquito repellant, etc.

When it comes to clothes, I always favour layers when going out with kids. Then it is easy to take extra layers off if it gets hot or add some if it gets chilly. Sometimes the mornings can be cold and I will use long pants but even then I might pack my shorts to my backpack.

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Hiking with kids can be so much fun and enjoyable! You can start with a shorter trail and when you see how it goes, move on to a little more challenging area. The most important thing is to enjoy the outdoors and the family time!