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Travelblog Gone with the Wine

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

Champange brunch in San Francisco's iconic Cliff House Restaurant

Paula Gaston

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

THE LONG AND COLORFUL 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 on Christmas 1894. The fire also destroyed the restaurants’s records of its famous customers including U.S. presidents and other notables.

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 the nickname The Gingerbread Palace. The same year he also started to build the Sutro Baths next to the Cliff House, which would become the biggest inside swimming pool complex in the world at the time. The amazing Cliff House building survived the big San Francisco earthquake in 1906 just to burn down the following year. So started the time of the fourth Cliff House. Also the Sutro Baths were destroyed 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 Adolph Sutro, Emme Merritt took over, and built a new Cliff House restaurant. After that the building has had several major renovations until it was finally taken over by the National Park System, who updated it with a neoclassical style. Today there is also a souvenir shop in the same building as the restaurant.

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BOTTOMLESS MIMOSAS AND THE DELICIOUS BUFFET TABLE

The Cliff House has two separate restaurants; the Bistro Restaurant and a little bit more formal Sutro’s. Sunday brunch is served in the Terrace Room where they have an awesome view of the ocean. There are three servings and this time we were on the last one, which was at 2 pm. The restaurant seemed very full and I think we might have 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 in many other ways the service was seamless as well. 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 cup that they usually give for kids in the restaurants here.

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In the buffet they had some traditional breakfast foods like scrambled eggs, Eggs Benedict (my favourite), sausages, bacon and potatoes. They also had plenty of sea food prepared in different ways like fish, shrimp and clams. For us this was a great fit, since we love that kind of thing. One of my favorites 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 a couple of things, since I was already so full. My ultimate favorite from the desserts was the Butterscotch Eggs made in real egg shells. Nom nom!

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The brunch at the Cliff House costs $65, and the kids were half price. We were happy to see that they didn’t charge anything for our 1 1/2 year old who nibbled some omelette and a tiny piece of salmon. We were not sure if they would charge something for 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 in Land’s End after the brunch where the Sutro Bath ruins are. In the beginning of the trail at the beach there is a little cave, and if you continue on the trail you will see a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Sutro Baths

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How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

 

Greetings from the Hello Kitty Mini 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.