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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: PCH Bay Area

Greetings from the Hello Mini Kitty Cafe in San Jose

Paula Gaston

Last weekend my husband got stuck at London Heathrow due to a stormy weather, and he wasn’t able to spend the Saturday with us. So what to do? A phone call to a friend and come up with a plan. Our plan was to drive over to San Jose to check out the new Hello Kitty Cafe which was opened there during the summer. So we went!

 

The first permanent Hello Kitty Cafe in California was opened to Irvine in Southern California in September 2018. But before that the Japanese company Sanrio opened two smaller pop up cafes. The other one is very close to us in San Jose, and the other in Rancho Cucamonga. We usually spend our Christmasses in Rancho Cucamonga by visiting some family, so maybe we will get to visit the Hello Kitty Cafe over there as well. The actual permanent Hello Kitty Grand Cafe offers some Hello Kitty themed cafeteria products but also a 5 o’clock tea in their special Bow Room. In the evenings this room changes into a cocktail bar, and visiting in it requires a reservation.

But the Hello Kitty Mini Cafe we visited was far from “garnd”. We had read that in weekends they have had even over three hour lines to get in! That is pretty crazy! So we decided that in case of a long lines, we would go hang out somewhere else. But once there, there were no lines at all, so we decided to head in to this pink whole in the wall.

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The Hello Kitty Mini Cafe was truly a mini. There were only room for few people to be in at the same time, and there were no seating at all, or tables. We quickly realised that many people came in to just to buy some t-shirts or mugs, and they had just sold out the latest coffee mug. Hello Kitty truly is a popular character I see, much more than I have ever realised.

We order something to eat, and went out to find a table from Santana Row Park. My cafe latte with a Hello Kitty picture and all the baked good were cute, but they tasted very industrial. Our daughter did not finish her strawberry smoothie and that says something about the taste right there. And I have to say, that the prizes in this place are totally something else, and there not very much to choose from. They definitely cash out with the name of Hello Kitty.

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Unfortunately I have to say, that we were a little bit disappointed by the Hello Kitty Mini Cafe. In Japan we visited a Café de Miki with Hello Kitty and it was designed very well. It was so much fun and had lots of products to choose from. You truly felt like you were inside a “Hello Kitty world”. So we might not return to the mini cafe anytime soon. But I’m glad we went there to see what it was like, and our daughter was excited to see all the Hello Kitty products.

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10 Pictures that Will Inspire You to Visit San Francisco

Paula Gaston

San Francisco is much more than just city life. Close by, in San Francisco Bay Area, there are many beautiful beaches, parks and trails. The giant red woods are amazing and the sun set over the ocean wont leave anyone cold. If you don't believe me, juts see for yourself!

1. GOLDEN GATE

The Golden Gate Bridge is the mark of San Francisco and its most famous sight. If you want to see it from somewhere else than from the city, you hike up the hills on the opposite side of the bridge and enjoy some fresh ocean breeze. 

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2. CHINA TOWN

The world's biggest China Town outside of China is colorful and full of life. It's a great place to just walk around, eat or stop in the many little stores they have. 

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3. JAPANESE TEA GARDEN - GOLDEN GATE PARK

In the middle of the city there is a huge park called Golden Gate Park. It hides inside so many beautiful places but one of the most beautiful one is the Japanese Tea Garden. It is definitely at its best during spring with the cherry blossoms. 

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4. SUTRO BATHS

In the 18th century the Sutro Baths used to be sort of a spa and its remains are right next to the famous Cliff House restaurant. It used to be the world's biggest indoor swimming facility but none of the buildings exist anymore. The pools now get filled by the ocean's crashing waves and there are great hiking trails in the area. Sutro Baths is part of the Golden Gate Recreational Area so it is protected and part of the national parks.  

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5. FILOLI GARDENS

One of the most beautiful places in the San Francisco Bay Area is for sure the Filoli Gardens. It is great all year round but especially gorgeous during the spring time. If you get bored of the flowers, you can also visit the mansion which was used in the Dynasty TV show. 

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6. POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE

A little bit north from San Francisco lies the Point Reyes National Seashore. They have excellent beaches, forests and great hiking trails. One of the most visited places at Point Reyes is its old lighthouse. 

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7. POINT REYES SHIP WRECK

This well known ship wreck at the Point Reyes National Seashore is hidden behind a restaurant building, so most times you will be the only one visiting it. Unfortunately, some time ago someone set it on fire, so I am not sure how much is left of it anymore. 

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8. HORSE BACK RIDING IN THIS SCENERY

In San Francisco and close by it, you can find many beaches where you can go horse back riding. This picture is from Drake's Beach. 

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9. THE GIANT RED WOODS OF MUIR WOODS

Muir Woods National Monument is north of the city of San Francisco. The rare coastal red woods grow on this protected area. After a twisty mountain road you will forget city life by walking into a whole different world. The oldest tree in Muir Woods is over 1200 years old.

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10. THE SUN SETS OF CALIFORNIA

Nothing is better than sun sets in California. And you will have plenty of places in San Francisco to see them. The city is surrounded by water, which makes it a special place to watch the sun go down on summer evenings. 

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Everyone should experience San Francisco once in a lifetime!

A Day at San Francisco's Mission District - Poop in a Baggy

Paula Gaston

A few weeks ago we spent some time in San Francisco. There is so much to see and do in the city, but this time we wanted to stay at the famous Mission District. Our aim was to see some murals, and we did find some cool ones, but we also found something not so fun. Poop in a baggy was not the man's best friend variety. But I will tell you about that little later.

The Mission District is San Francisco's mecca of arts. Many art institutes are in operation there, and they have been doing art at the mission since the 70's. It can be seen on the streets and on the colourful buildings. It is also a place for many events, the biggest is probably the Day of the Dead festival or the Fist of May. You can see the latin influence everywhere.

The Mission District is also known for it's many restaurants, and especially for it's taco places. One thing that they sell is the mission burrito which is bigger than a regular burrito. We stopped at one of the taquerias and the food was delicious. Once again, I went for the fish tacos. Everyone visiting California should try them at least once. Yummy! And the kids will always love the cheese quesadillas. 

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Last month I wrote about Mission Santa Inés in Solvang. Missions were catholic communities established by the Spanish missionaries in the 17th century, and many of the churches remain. The last one of them is located here, in the Mission District of San Francisco, and they go all the way down the coast to San Diego. The mission in San Francisco is called Mission San Francisco de Asís, but many people now call it Mission Dolores. This time we didn't go in, but if you are interested in a tour, the address for the mission is 320 Dolores Street.

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For a long time murals have been sort of a trade mark of the Mission District. They were started by the Chicano Art Mural Movement in the 1970's. Colourful walls and fences can be found all over, and the most notable ones are at Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley. The Clarion Alley Mural Project started in 1992. We went to see it, and it was very interesting, and there were many people there taking pictures of the murals. Unfortunately, some of them had been painted over by some graffiti. 

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When it was time to head back to the car, we stopped to take a picture of a house with some pink dresses in front of it. While searching for a good photo spot, you don't really watch were you step. My husband happened to step on top of a soft plastic bag which turned out to be someone's POOP! Yack! Unfortunately I must say, that nowadays the Mission District is one of those areas where I wont go after dark by myself. We were there during daylight and even then we got confronted by some drug addicts and drunks asking for money. Homeless people in San Francisco are everywhere and the situation only seems to be getting worse. 

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I don't think this picture turned out good enough, so I'm not sure it was worth it to step in poop for the shot. But other than that, I think our day at the Mission District was quite fun.

California Academy of Sciences

Paula Gaston

For some reason, I have kept this post waiting for a long time. I'm not sure, there is no real reason for it. So lets go visit one of the world's biggest natural history museum: The California Academy of Sciences.

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The museum is located in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, so it is easy to find if you are visiting the city. This museum has a very long history. The academy was established in 1853 and the first museum opened in 1874. After that, it has changed its name, moved the location and gotten a new building several times. The museum was almost completely destroyed by the big fire after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. After that, it was opened in a new location in Golden Gate Park, but even that building got damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. Then a decision was made to completely renovate the museum. The current museum building was planned as ecological as possible, and it is known for its green grass rooftop.

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Among all the nature things you can see in the museum, there is also a planetarium, aquarium and a rainforest in it. In the natural museum one can visit exhibits from all over the world. One interesting section is the part where they showcase evolution. Another popular spot is the earthquake simulator where people can feel what it would be like in a major earthquake. 

Our favorite is absolutely the rainforest. In a hot and steamy tropic room you can see all kinds of animals from poisonous frogs to beautiful butterflies. You might have to stand in a line for a while to get in, but it is well worth it!

Another one that we like is the Steinhart Aquarium which showcases one of the world's most diverse coral reef. I could stay in the aquarium for hours to watch all the sea creatures. Kids and adults too can get close to ocean critters in a touch pool where the staff will tell you about what you are looking at. I also love the colourful, tropical fish. Kids usually love to watch penguins getting fed, and they also have an albino alligator which would not survive in nature. 

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We have visited the California Academy of Sciences multiple times and it is always fun. A day goes really fast there and every time we learn something new. It is a perfect place if you get tired of sightseeing or if it is raining. I can truly recommend a visit!

TIPS FOR VISITING THE CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENcES

  • If you want to avoid standing in line, you can buy your ticket ahead of time online. You should also google some discount tickets that can often be found.
  • Going through the museum takes hours. So bring comfortable shoes and reserve a lot of time for your visit. Take a program with you from the door so you can check when the different shows start. 
  • The museum has a nice cafe where you can buy both food and snacks. 
  • There is a big parking garage next to the museum but especially on the weekends the parking fills up fast. The earlier you arrive, the easier it will be to find parking. 

You Know You are in Silicon Valley when...

Paula Gaston

Silicon Valley is a very strange place to live and work at. Many things that in other places would be attractions, are here part of normal life and don't create any reactions in the locals. People from all over the world have immigrated here, and everyone is used to it. You might go to a party where you talk to someone, only to find out later that he was a multimillionaire. Then you will wonder how young that person was, or why he was wearing a sweater and crocs at a party. You might have friends working at Starbucks or as a CEO of an international company. Discussions might vary from latte flavours to how many patents does your friend have. Life in Silicon Valley is truly different!

Businessmen or investors are not the only ones traveling to Silicon Valley. Thousands of tourists visit the area every year, and line up at the Facebook sign to take a picture with it or hope to see the famous slides in the Google headquarters. But when you feel like all these things are part of normal life, you might have been living in Silicon Valley for too long. 

YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN SILICON VALLEY WHEN...

...ON YOUR WAY TO WORK YOU PASS BY COMPANIES LIKE GOOGLE OR APPLE, OR YOU ARE ON YOUR WAY TO ONE OF THEM.

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Unfortunately not everyone can walk in to these companies for a visit. You need to know someone who works there to get a campus tour. But you can always drive around and check out the campuses from outside. 

...YOU BUY VEGETABLES FROM THE FACEBOOK PARKING LOT.

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The Facebook parking lot is always busy, since every tourist wants to get their picture taken with the Facebook sign. Locals instead visit the parking lot on some weekends when Facebook organises it's Farmers Market, and buy fresh vegetables and baked goods.

...THe SELF DRIVING CAR IN THE EVENING COMMUTE IS A NORMAL SIGHT.

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Someone visiting might think they are dreaming when they see this but the locals are used to them. You can see all kinds of things in Silicon Valley traffic.

...WHEN YOU GET TO WORK IN THE MORNING, ALL THE CHARGING CABLES AT THE PARKING LOT ARE TAKEN BUT THE REST OF THE PARKING LOT IS EMPTY.

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Electric cars are popular in Silicon Valley and many companies or stores offer charging stations to their staff or customers.

...ALONG WItH SOCCER OR ART, YOUR KIDS CAN LEARN SOME CODING AT SUMMER CAMP. THERE WAS EVEN A CAMP ABOUT DOING YOUR OWN START UP.

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How many 5 year olds can code? 

...CONFERENCES CAN BE DONE EVEN ON BICYCLES.

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The conference bike is for seven people and while riding it, you can discuss some business. They do look kind of funny in the traffic.

...WHEN YOU ARE TOO BUSY TO GO TO A NAIL SALON, THE NAIL SALON WILL COME TO YOU.

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Many companies here expect you to work a lot and the work environment is done so, that you don't necessarily need to go home at all. They offer free food, drinks, gym with showers, swimming pools, game rooms or other entertainment, hair stylists, car servicing and of course a laundry mat.

...THE WORK DAYS ARE OFTEN VERY LONG BUT LUCKiLY YOU CAN TAKE A NAP DURING YOUR DAY. 

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Even though many companies offer different opportunities to do your hobbies or organise fun events, they still expect a lot from their employees. Many work long days and only have time to be at home briefly. At least you can have a moment of rest at work when needed. 

...EVEN THE ROAD SIGNS REMIND YOU NOT TO UPDATE YOUR FACEBOOK ALL THE TIME. 

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These signs might be needed in other places in the world too.

...SOME PARKING LOTS LOOK LIKE THIS: 

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For a few years now Tesla has been the hottest vehicle in Silicon Valley. The Tesla factory is close by where we live.

...NOBODY WEARS REGULAR GLASSES.

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"OK glass, take a picture!"

...EVEN THE BICYCLES HAVE CAMERAS.

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Don't be surprised if something like this comes across a Silicon Valley hiking trail. This is to capture streetview for Google Maps.

...YOUR WORK PLACE HAS A "BRING YOUR TOY TO WORK" -DAY AND YOUR COLLEAGUE BRINGS HIS HELICOPTER.

This is a true story, even though I don't have pictures to prove it!