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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.

Filtering by Category: California

Jelly Belly Factory Tour in California

Paula Gaston

A few weeks ago we did a day trip to a Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield. Jelly Belly Factory is the home and the headquarters to one of the most famous candy in the U.S.; Jelly Beans. Jelly Beans are small, bean shaped sugar candies which come in many different tastes. Jelly Belly Factory is located only about an hour drive from San Francisco, in Fairfield, and is a great place for a quick visit for example on a rainy day. And the best part is, that visiting it is completely free!

 
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JELLY BEANS ARE BORN

The history of Jelly Beans go all the way to year 1869 when young Gustav Goelitz opened his first candy store in Illionois. Jelly Beans were born in 1960s when Gustavs grand kids were testing new candies and tastes. At the same time the famous Candy Corn candies were born which are especially eaten here in the U.S. at Halloween. In 1966 Ronald Reagan, who was the governer of California at the time, tasted Jelly Beans and liked them very much. So much in fact, that he wrote a letter and mailed to the factory, saying that they barely held a meeting without Jelly Beans offered. Jelly Beans published some new flavours like Root beer, Licorice and many others in 1976, and they instantly become a hit. By 1980 they already had 40 official flavours which are all still sold today too.

The last push for the Jelly Bean fame came when the President Ronald Reagan ordered 3,5 tons of candies to his inauguration in 1981. Five years later the company started a major construction project, and built the candy factory to Fairfield, the one that we just visited. At that time the manufacturer was still known as Herman Goelitz Candy Co., but the name was later changed into Jelly Belly Candy Company. They also opened another candy factory to Wisconsin, on the other side of the country.

Today one can find Jelly Beans from almost every store in the U.S.

Candy art

Candy art

THE FACTORY TOUR WITH KIDS

The factory tours are done in both factories; in Fairlfield and in Wisconsin. Fairfield factory is also the company headquarters. The visit to the factory was a great experience, and I was actually there already for the 3rd time. Right when you walk in you will see the factory store and a waiting area for the tour. Tours go often, so we didn’t have to wait for long in a line. The earlier you get there, the less there is people and less of a line.

In the beginning of the tour the guide is there to tell you how it works, and shows you a short video. You will also receive some samples of the candies. Then you are free to walk through the factory on your own paste. The tour starts with a group photo with the Jelly Belly mascot, and the photos can be purchased at the end of the tour. After that you will see what happens at the factory. They will do everything from candy making to colouring and packing them. On the walk you can stop and see videos about how the candy is made or about the history of Jelly Bellies. Or you can read it from the wall cards. They have also taken the smallest members of the family into a consideration, and there are two sets of windows in different hights. And you can go in with a stroller if needed.

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Here they are adding some colour to the candy…

Here they are adding some colour to the candy…

… and then they are packed.

… and then they are packed.

In my opinion the funnest part of the whole tour was the “Jelly Belly Smell Station”. Different Jelly Beans of course taste and smell different, and one can challenge herself here to match the right smell to a right flavour.

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By pressing the button you can smell the candy flavour from the machine. They also give you a hint, and under that you can find the answer.

By pressing the button you can smell the candy flavour from the machine. They also give you a hint, and under that you can find the answer.

So many Jelly Beans in every colour and taste

So many Jelly Beans in every colour and taste

At the end of the tour everyone got a small bag of Jelly Beans and Bean Boozled box. Bean Boozled was a surprise for us since it was not an original candy box. There were a set of identical looking candies in the box, and the other one with a normal flavour and another with some yucky flavour. We tried dead fish, tooth paste, dog food and Minion farts. Quite gross! Another similar candy box that they have is with Harry Potter theme. Enjoy!

Would you like to try some Stinky Socks or Rotten Egg?

Would you like to try some Stinky Socks or Rotten Egg?

LUNCH AT JELLY BELLY STYLE AND THE GIFT SHOP

Since we left home early, we hadn’t had lunch yet. This time we decided to eat the Jelly Belly Factory since it was raining and we didn’t want to drive around finding a restaurant. And we were hungry already. I was surprised to see that they had a lot to choose from; everything from salads to sandwiches, soups and burgers. I was debating wether to get a salad or bean shaped pizza, but ended up ordering a burger after all. They had some nice, fresh condiments so one could fill out the burger yourself, and everything looked fresh and tasty. Nice!

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After eating we headed to the gift shop. One have to get some candy after all while in a candy factory! They also have a Sample Bar at the gift shop where you can taste different candy flavours. Everyone gets to choose three flavour they would like to try. I tried some more exotic flavours like Strawberry Daiquiri, Mojito and Peach Bellini. We also got some fresh fudge from the Chocolate Shoppe. So yummy!

How about some Chocolate pudding or Pancakes & Maple Syrup…

How about some Chocolate pudding or Pancakes & Maple Syrup…

…or something spicier like Tabasco?

…or something spicier like Tabasco?

We had a fun day the Jelly Belly Factory, and especially the kids liked it. This place was actually on our older daughter’s wish list, but we all enjoyed the visit. So if you are visiting San Francisco or the Bay Area, this isn’t a bad way to spend few hours!

 

We Visited the Sold Out Los Angeles Zoo Lights

Paula Gaston

Like many other Christmases, this year we drove from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Los Angeles basin to visit my husband’s family. After celebrating Christmas we usually head out somewhere together, and this year we were going to see the Los Angeles Zoo Holiday Lights. We headed out in the morning to spend the day at the zoo and see the animals, then went for an early dinner in a close-by restaurant and returned to the zoo for the light show. We really enjoyed it and had a great time walking around looking at lights.

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A WILD WONDERLAND OF LIGHT

The Zoo Lights opened at 6 pm. The tickets were sold at two different entrances; 6 pm or 8 pm. Ours were for the earlier one, since we were out with kids and wanted to get back home at a decent time. But I think most people there had the same idea. The line to get in was soooo long! We were horrified when we saw it, but the line moved fast, and we got in pretty quickly. If you are planning to see the Zoo Lights some year, definitely get your tickets online beforehand, because there is a very minimal amount of tickets to be sold at the door.

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It took us a couple of hours to walk through the Zoo Lights. During the holiday light display there are no animals present except the few swans we saw, a reindeer and the reptiles which were inside the reptile house. That was good of course, since the light show for sure is not part of the zoo residents’ daily routine. I am not sure where all the bigger animals that we saw during the daytime went though. Here and there they did have some signs to keep the noise down, because it would disturb the animals which was a little bizarre with all the music and lights going on there.

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MORE CHRISTMAS AND LESS TECHNO, PLEASE

We did like the lights and different kinds of light shows at the zoo. However, I would have preferred them to be more in a holiday spirit than they actually were. They were well made and very entertaining, but many had electronic music and had very little to do with Christmas. This is Holiday Lights after all! Somehow the theme and the place for the electronic music just felt a little bit wrong, but we still enjoyed watching the lights.

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In the beginning of the evening, we saw a guy making an ice sculpture, and figured that when we leave, we must stop by to see what he made. And we did. While we were touring around he had finished an ice gorilla which was really well made. Other great spots at the Zoo Lights were the disco ball forest which I liked a lot, and some photo spots which could be found here and there. They also had some Northern Lights… not real ones though of course!

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The Zoo Lights seem to be a thing among the zoos. I know that at least in the San Francisco Bay Area the Oakland Zoo also has had holiday light displays. We had fun and the kids of course love this kind of thing. They were selling churros, hot chocolate and other snacks, but we returned home to have some Glögg (the Scandinavian Christmas drink) and cookies. The day was long, but so much fun!

 

We Visited the Hottest Spot on Earth - Death Valley

Paula Gaston

Our road trip from California to Utah had started well. We spent the first night in Mojave, California, and then visited Manzanar National Historic Site. After that it was time to head to Death Valley which is right on the border of California and Nevada. We visited Death Valley for the first time, even though we had been planning to go there many times already. The drive from our house to Death Valley National Park is only seven hours, and somehow we still had not been there. But now it was time to see this famous place with our own eyes!

 

Death Valley is a desert valley close to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It got its name during the Gold Rush when many gold miners and others were passing through never made it out of the valley. Summer temperatures in the valley are brutal and during the winter nights there might be frost. Death Valley became the hottest spot on earth when they measured record temperatures there in 1913, +56,7 C (134 F). Wow! The normal temperatures during the summer months are usually around 50C (122 F). So I would really consider whether I would want to visit Death Valley during summer. Sometimes winter rains cause flooding in the valley, and last year for example, two people died due to flooding. In many ways, the conditions in Death Valley are challenging. It is also the lowest point of the United States. At its lowest, Death Valley is 86 metres (282 feet) below sea level. It was added to the National Parks System in 1994.

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Unfortunately, we were not able to enjoy Death Valley for very long since our visit to Manzanar took so much time, and we had to drive to Las Vegas that night. It would have been great to explore more and go hiking, but we mainly stayed on the main road. I would have liked to see at least Devil’s Golf Course, Bad Water Basin salt flats and the Racetrack, where rocks mysteriously move around over night. Even though I feel like I have seen enough deserts for a while now, someday I would like to return to Death Vally and maybe camp in the area. In recent years they have also experienced a rare super bloom in Death Valley due to plentiful spring rains. Desert flowers have been blooming like never before. In that sense the spring time sounds like the best time to visit the valley.

We visited Furnace Creek which is the deepest spot of Death Valley. We also saw Mesquite Flat’s sand dunes which seemed to draw a lot of people. Even on the main road of the valley there were things to see and we stopped a few times to take photos. Furnace Creek visitor center had an interesting exhibit about desert animals and plants which is worth a visit.

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We can now check Death Valley off from our bucket list even though we felt like we were too rushed on our visit. For those planning on a trip there, I would definitely plan to stay the night somewhere and leave some time for exploring the area. When darkness hit Death Valley, we headed to Las Vegas and on to new adventures. So stay tuned for that!

 

Manzanar - The Internment Camp California Would Like to Forget

Paula Gaston

What? Is there really some prison camps in America too? The first place we visited during our trip to Nevada and Utah was Manzanar in California which is an old internment camp. Manzanar was not like the concentration camps in Europe, but I have also seen that word used when talking about it. It has also been called a “war relocation center”. What ever the name is, the history of this place really humbled us right from the beginning of our road trip.

Manzanar is located in California, between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Death Valley. We didn’t really know what to expect from this visit since Manzanar is not so well known, and I hadn’t read much about it either before we went. I did know that it was used during the war between 1942 and 45, and it was where Japanese Americans were incarcerated. A total of 10 camps were opened around the country. All the Japanese and Japanese Americans were forced to leave behind their homes and lives, and register to one of these sites, as they were now considered as a threat to the United States. A total of 110.000 people lived in these camps.

 

Life in Manzanar was not easy. The camp was self-sufficient, which meant that internees had to farm the land and work hard to get some food. People lived in barracks which were not made for the extreme weather conditions of the dessert. Summers were brutally hot and during the winter it sometimes snowed them in. Manzanar was like a small town in the middle of no where, and people there were isolated from the rest of the world. When the camp was finally closed, people were given $25 and a one way ticket to wherever they wished to go to. But many of them didn’t have a place to return to anymore, since they had given up everything, and some even refused to leave. Just like they were forced to move to the camp, now they were all now forced to leave as well.

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Today Manzanar is a museum and part of the National Parks System. Almost all of the original buildings of the Manzanar Internment Camp were destroyed after the people left the camp, but they have reconstructed some of them so that the visitor can get an idea of what the life at the camp was like. While visiting one can tour around the area with a car and stop at different spots like a barracks or cemetery, and the Visitor Center has a comprehensive exhibit of the camp. They show a touching movie about the people living in Manzanar, and show case some artifacts found from the area.

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Our visit to Manzanar National Historic Site was very interesting and we were quite surprised about the place. We thought it would be a place that we could quickly visit, but it turned out to be a big museum with quite a few other visitors in it. We would have been happy to spend more time there to learn about it more, but we still had a long drive ahead. We are still remembering many sad stories about the people who were living their normal lives one day, and the next they were imprisoned in the middle of the desert.

 

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 6,500 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 would 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 moved was 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!