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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: Southern California

8 Photos from Our Road Trip to Utah and Arizona

Paula Gaston

Our first travel day from California via Nevada and Arizona to Utah went well. We drove about 486 kilometres (302 miles), and spent a night in a city we already knew in Mojave, California. We even stayed in a same hotel as we did on our last trip. It is in a convenient spot midway on our drive. Due to heavy rains in California this winter, the famous golden hills were all green and lush, and the reservoirs were full of water.


Also the Joshua Trees seemed to have loved the rain since they were all blooming. And they don’t bloom every year! These unique trees only grow in this one area.


We continued from Mojave toward Nevada and Las Vegas on I-15 which goes through the desert. The views are not the greatest there but surprisingly every once in a while there is something cool to see.


Along the road is a place called Zzyzx. The name has a funny history. It was founded in 1944, and it was meant to be the last place name in the English language.


We were actually so curious that we decided to explore Zzyzx a little. We took the Zzyzx Road a little ways until we saw a parking lot and one has to continue on foot. This area belongs to the Mojave National Preserve and there is a Desert Studies Center. Years ago this place used to have a spa. We turned around at the parking lot and returned to take some photos of the old lake bed which was now covered by salt. That was about the most exciting thing they had in Zzyzx.


Right before Las Vegas there is an art installation called Seven Magic Mountains. This piece by the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone was opened in 2016, and it was supposed to be up for only two years. Though, it started to attract more and more people, and so the plan was extended to the year 2021.


Finally we crossed the Arizona State border and ten minutes later also the Utah border. From there we only had a ten minute drive to the city of St. George. That was a quick visit to Arizona.


And FINALLY THERE! More about our adventures in Utah and Arizona soon so stay tuned!


The Snowy Lake Arrowhead Village in Southern California

Paula Gaston

While visiting in California you might have drank some water called Arrowhead. We have a box of these bottles in our garage in the event of an earthquake. But while drinking water you might not always think where it comes from. Well, the Arrowhead spring is located in the San Bernardino mountains, close to Arrowhead reservoir. Lake Arrowhead is a popular holiday destination, especially for those living close to the Los Angeles area. We stopped by on our Christmas trip just for one day. Lake Arrowhead Village is a cute little mountain village basically in the middle of nowhere. I am not surprised that so many people like it so much.


They started developing Lake Arrowhead to be a recreational destination in 1920’s when the name was changed from Little Bear Valley to Lake Arrowhead Village. I am thinking that the old name must come from Big Bear Lake which is also close by, but the new name comes from the hot springs which according to old Indian legend are in the nearby forest. Their name was Arrowhead. Many Hollywood stars bought vacation homes in Lake Arrowhead and they even filmed some movies there. Today, there are 12,500 people living at Lake Arrowhead.

People come to Lake Arrowhead for vacationing and to enjoy the outdoors. You can golf, water ski and hike there. An old paddlewheel boat will take you to the lake to see how beautiful it is. In the winter time there is some snow in the mountains and the ski resorts close by will open up. The whole village has been built to resemble an Alpine village, and it is sometimes called the “Alps of Southern California. Over 4 million people visit the area every year.


There are many shops, cafes and restaurants in the village center. We walked around for a while and bought some hot chocolate and coffee, since it was a chilly day. Our daughter did the merry-go-round at the end of the walk way, while I took some photos of the lake. It must be very pretty on a sunny day, since even now it was nice. You can see many huge vacation houses or mansions on the lake. Right when we planned to head back home, it started snowing. Slowly the little white snow flakes hit the ground and our kids were excited of course. For once, we almost had a white Christmas!


On the way back home from the mountain we saw a gorgeous sunset. We just had to pull over and take some photos of it, and just sit there for a while enjoying it.


Until next time enjoy these beautiful mountain views!


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.



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.


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.



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.


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!


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!


The Paramount Ranch we Just Visited Burned Down

Paula Gaston

Last April we visited some national parks in Southern California. One of those places was an old Western town at the Santa Monica Mountains where they have filmed many movies and television shows. The town is actually just a movie set so none of the buildings are really real. Even so, hearing about the latest news about the Paramount Ranch, made me really sad. The whole place burned down in one of the wild fires raging in California right now, the Woolsey Fire.


Paramount Ranch was established in 1972 when Paramount Films bought it for a filming location. Different kinds of setting were built depending on what they filmed, everything from the city of San Francisco to a western village. The last sets had been used to film Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman which was starred by Jane Seymour. Other shows filmed there are for example X-files, Charlie’s Angels, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Mentalist and many others. So many movie and TV stars have been working there, like John Wayne, Gary Grant, Warren Beatty and Lucille Ball. Today the ranch is part of the national parks system and therefore projected.

Paramount Ranch used to be a popular place to visit and there were multiple hiking trails around it. It was also very popular amongst the horseback riders who would bring their horse there, meet each others at the parking lot and go for a ride. Many people just wanted to see the movie sets and enjoy the nature around it. Visiting the ranch was free of charge.


Woosley Fire started on Thursday from a canyon called Woolsey, and then rapidly spread due to the Santa Ana winds. Today, over 200 000 residents of Ventura County and Malibu have been evacuated, and the fire is still spreading. It has burned at least 170 houses and is heading to the area where many famous and wealthy people live. Some have found help from friends, some are staying at shelters or even in cars and tents. What makes things even more difficult is that there are no changes in the weather on days to come.

This what the Paramounts Ranch looks like now. The only thing standing is the church:

We hope that all these fires will be contained soon, and people can return to their homes or start rebuilding. Someone at the news said, that California is not anymore just known for it’s beautiful weather and beaches, it’s now known for it’s fires.

If you want to see more about our life in California, go and check out my Instagram account @paulagaston. Among the photos you will also see some videos on instastories.


Paramount Ranch in Santa Monica Mountains, California

Paula Gaston

On our Spring Break we drove down to Southern California, and last time I told you about how our travel plans changed. On our way we stayed in Pismo Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway, and after that we spent Easter at Rancho Cucamonga. From there we headed down to the Santa Monica Mountains where we planned to do some hiking and check out a few places. On our way there we stopped to buy some snacks and some coffee. 


The Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area is a huge area on the coast of California which belongs to the National Parks. I wrote about visiting the national parks last week. You can only see a small part of it in one day, and like many others, we too visited the most popular part of it: The Paramount Ranch. The recreational area consists of many different parks and protected areas with some beautiful nature. But I have wanted to visit the Paramount Ranch for a long time. 

We started our visit from the visitor center which is located in Calabasas. Calabasas might be familiar to you from television and its famous residents. The Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center was built on King C. Gillette Ranch, and the building is actually an old barn. The barn was built in 1928. And yes, it really is THE Gillette whose razors we still use all over the world. From this ranch you can go hiking, enjoy the sun, or just spot different kinds of animals. We stayed at the visitor center for a while to see their exhibits, walked around outside and then headed to the Paramount Ranch. We got some brochures, maps and a stamp for my national park stamp book and a Junior Ranger activity book for our daughter. 


From the Visitor Center, we drove over to the Paramount Ranch which unfortunately was the only place in the Santa Monica Mountains that we had time to see. In 1927 Paramount Pictures bought the farm for filming their movies. They built different kinds of movie sets depending on what they where filming, and usually, it was a Western. People like Cary Grant, John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich have worked there. The ranch was later sold, but they started filming movies there again after William Hertz acquired the property. 


The Paramount Ranch changed it's owners multiple times before it was added to the recreational area. Even today you might run into a filming crew there. Next time you visit, everything might look different since they might be filming something totally different. So many movies have been filmed there, for example Sandra Bullock's The Lake House, Paleface, Wells Fargo, The Flinstones: Viva Rock Vegas, The Girl Next Door, American Sniper and Scream. Also episodes for some television shows like Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, MacGyver, Charlie’s Angels and The X-Files. One of the last notable television series filmed at the Paramount Ranch was Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.


It is quite a fun place to visit and walk around. We also wandered off from the actual filming area and there seemed to be many nice looking trails around the ranch. We even saw multiple horse back riding groups. Even though the actual Visitor Center is at King C. Gillette Ranch, there is a small ranger station at the Paramount Ranch where you can get some maps or use the restrooms. And the best part is, everything is free of charge!