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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 Tag: Big Island

10 Travel Pictures from My Past, Vol 3

Paula Gaston

Every once in a while you can see some travel picture blog challenges going around. I have done it twice and showed you some pictures from my trips around the world. It is always fun to see people's travel photos, and it is even more fun to find some from your own albums. So many memories! 

So here it comes! Travel Pictures from My Past, Vol 3. The first photos you can find from here:

10 Travel Pictures from My Past
10 Travel Pictures from My Past, Vol 2




This photo quickly became one of my favorites. My family! And now we also have one more tiny traveller, but when the photo was taken, we were only three people. This picture was taken in Nara, Japan. We visited Todaiji Temple to see the world's biggest Buddha. The temple is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and it truly was worth going to. 



When we travelled to Japan, I was dreaming about seeing a geisha. Then I found out, that it is actually pretty difficult to find them, and there is only 200 of them left. One night we were strolling around the Gion Geisha District when we heard this jingling noise. Suddenly a geisha walked by us. That night, we ended up seeing several geishas on their way to work. I will never forget it!



On our Christmas trip last year, we stopped in Solvang, here in California. Even though I had been there shortly before, I was surprised how much I liked visiting this Danish style town. We walked around downtown, stopped in little shops and ate some danishes. Perfect! 



In California, when in need of paradise, it's time to head to Hawaii. There you can lay on the sand and snorkel in the turquoise water. I would really love to go snorkeling again. All those colorful fish and corals are so beautiful! This picture is from Big Island.



We have driven through Nevada several times, and it looks like this at it's best and worst. The total freedom to do what ever you want and go where ever you want! It is both exciting and a little bit scary to drive through the open desert. On this trip we drove through an Indian reservation, saw some Joshua Trees and wild horses, and got stuck in a snow storm. Anything can happen in Nevada!



It is pretty cozy to stuff yourself inside the smallest pub in England with a bunch of other people for a pint. And I can tell you, the pub is really tiny! But it was fun to visit there. 



It is absolutely a luxury to fly in business class sometimes, especially when flying with All Nippon Airlines. The service was spotless, and the food was way better than that served in many restaurants with lots of stars. If I could always fly like this, I wonder if I would always arrive as happy and without jet lag to my destination.



The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the most beautiful buildings I have seen. Many pictures from Japan could have also been used here, but I decided to go with this one from Saint Petersburg, Russia. The whole city is full of beautiful buildings on the inside and outside. 



I am still a little bitter about the way my trip to Israel and Jordan went. I was picked up by the border control at both borders for a special check up. In Jordan, a whole bus load of people had to wait for me to get through border control. In the end, everything went well, and my trip was a success, but I still remember sitting in the back room of customs. Although, now it seems like one big adventure.



There are so many pictures that I could have used on this topic. Since we just had a baby six months ago, I haven't been able to visit Finland in a very long time. This is actually the longest, I have ever been without visiting my home country. I chose this picture from the Snow Castle of Kemi, since it has been several years that I have been there. We rarely travel to Finland during the winter, and every year I think how cool it would be to visit the Snow Castle again. Well, maybe next year...


In case you are interested in participating in this challenge, you can copy the list of the topics from here. Originally this was started by a Finnish blog Journey diary. If you do write a post about it, I would love to read it. Please link it to my comments, and also link my blog on your post so we can find each other's posts easily.

1. My all time favorite shot
2. A surprising situation
3. A gem found nearby
4. White sand and turqoise water
5. When I think about the word freedom
6. Idyllic life
7. Luxury is... 
8. The most beautiful arhitecture
9. A bittersweet memory
10. It has taken too long to go visit this place again


The Most Bizarre Beaches on My Instagram

Paula Gaston

All these pictures are from my Instagram account. You can follow me @paulagaston

Both my husband and I were born and raised on the coast. We have always lived close to the water and the ocean. I am from a small town in Finland and my husband is from California, so water is a familiar element for us. And like many others, we often head to beach destinations for vacation. So it is not a surprise that there are many pictures of beaches on my Instagram account. 



There is so much you can do at the beach. We don't really go to the beach to tan ourselves. Instead, we like to go to beach for snorkeling or swimming. And that is why I really miss warm waters. And of course having kids has changed things too. Kids just love the beach and could play or collect seashells for hours. Unfortunately, I think my kids will not set their feet in the cold waters of Scandinavia like I did as a kid. They are only used to swimming in warm waters.

Here in Northern California the ocean is rarely warm enough for swimming, but we liked to go to the beach anyway. It is nice to get some fresh air and maybe even have a picnic. It is fun to walk around the beach and check our what kind of sea life the waves have brought in. And many of the beaches have tide pools where you can see little sea creatures that got trapped during high tide. A few times, I have been horseback riding at the beach. There is nothing cooler to a horse lover than a nice ride at the beach! Here in California you can do it in many places, and I wish I could do it more often. In Washington, we did a bicycle ride at the beach. 



While traveling around the world, we have of course seen all kinds of beaches. The most unique of them have been here in the United States. The Green Sand Beach is the most rare beach we have seen; there are only three of them in the world! We visited one in the Big Island, Hawaii a few years ago. The most bizarre beach was maybe the Glass Beach in Fort Brag, California. The glass comes from an old garbage dump that used be on the beach. Sparkling in the sun, the beach looked like it was full of diamonds.  


An interesting beach is also the Bowling Ball Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway in California. In order to see the round, bowling ball rocks you must be at the beach on the right time; during the low tide. We were not able to hit that, but at least we managed to see a few of the rocks. Black sand beaches are also interesting. The picture is from Reynisfjara, Iceland which is close to the village of Vik. We also visited a black sand beach on the Big Island, Hawaii called Punaluu, and there is one even here in the San Francisco Bay Area; Ocean Beach. 


Then there are two interesting beaches we went to where you can't swim. One is located by the Pacific Coast Highway in San Simeon, California, where the beach goes on and on but is occupied by elephant seals. The other beach marks the southernmost point of the United States and is located in Hawaii.


We still need to see the famous pink beach! I have forgotten where it is, but that would complete our list.

And since I love the ocean, I don't mind spending time there during the winter. You can even ski on top of the ice in Finland. But here in California, we already got some lovely, warm days this week!


10 Travel Pictures from My Past, Vol 2

Paula Gaston

Last spring I posted 10 Travel Pictures from My Past. It was fun to look at pictures from my past trips and try to find ones that would fit into the post. Now this blog challenge is back again, and here are my new photos for it:



This photo is from our return trip from Utah to California with a beautiful sunset. On this trip we visited Arches National Park, Salt Lake City and we were able to swim in a hot crater at Homestead Resort



Everyone knows that San Francisco can get pretty foggy sometimes. And when that happens, it happens very quickly and often hides the whole of the Golden Gate Bridge. While taking this picture we were trying to get some souvenir pictures with our guests from Finland. We were not quite fast enough, but instead of ruining the picture, the fog actually made it look pretty cool.



When we visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California, all my daughter wanted was to see Minnie Mouse. So all I can say about this picture is that it makes me very happy!



Some years ago, I stayed in Iceland for a month. The most memorable thing was the varied beautiful nature. I have heard that since then, the tourism there have exploded, but I was able to enjoy everything without too much hassle. The picture is from Skogafoss waterfall. 



This picture is from Basel Switzerland, where we climbed up 242 steps to the bell tower of the Basel Minster. The view from up there was amazing!



Kyoto, Japan has been one of the most amazing places I have visited. There is so much to see in the town, that I could easily do another trip there. The Golden Pavillion, where this picture is from, was extremely crowded.



During the years I have traveled with many kinds of people. When I was a kid, we of course traveled with my mom and dad, and then later with friends. Today, I mostly travel with my own family, who are in the picture; all but our 2 month old who missing from it. This picture is from Nara, Japan, where we visited the Giant Buddha in Todai-ji Temple.



For some reason it was hard for me to find a picture where I'm under a palm tree. So maybe I don't do that very often, even though we live in California. Coming from Scandinavia, I can't ever get used to the palm trees and seeing them always makes me feel good. This picture was taken some years ago in Los Angeles. 

By the way, did you know that palm trees are not native to California, and they were all planted?



One of the best breakfasts I have ever had! We had long waited to visit Hawaii's Big Island again, and we finally went back last year. Since we were jet lagged in the beginning of our trip, we were always up early enough to be the first ones at breakfast. And because of that, we always got to choose the best table of the house and enjoy the sunrise.



As my favorite city, I chose San Francisco, since we live right next to it and I love it! Even though there are many other awesome cities in the world that I really like too. But I will never get bored with San Francisco!


In case you are interested in participating in this challenge, you can copy the list of the topics from here. Originally this was started by a Finnish blog Journey diary. If you do write a post about it, I would love to read it. Please link it to my comments, and also link my blog on your post so we can find each other's posts easily.

1. Wing from the Window
2. Best photo you accidentally nailed
3. Travel Photo that Makes You Smile
4. Nature Picture
5. Up and High
6. A Postcard Image
7. Travel Buddies
8. Chillin Under a Palm Tree
9. "Good morning" Picture
10. Favorite city

My Favourite Places - The Hawaiian Islands

Paula Gaston

All these pictures are from my Instagram account. You can follow me @paulagaston

I believe that a person can have multiple favourite places. All travel destinations are unique in some ways and people like different things about them. We live in quite a destination ourselves; California! Still I dream about going back to places like Greece or the national parks in Utah. But if I could choose right now where to go, I would jump into a plane going to Hawaii. Ever since I visited there for the first time, I keep wanting to go back. We are lucky that we live relatively close by, about an five hour flight away. But the time is still limited, and I want to visit my home country Finland as often as I can. Still I think about Hawaii pretty often!



The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago located in the North Pacific Ocean, and are one of the 50 states of the USA. There are eight main islands in Hawaii and the biggest of them is the island of Hawaii aka the Big Island. The financial center of Hawaii is the island of Oahu where the state capital, Honolulu is. Oahu is known for its colourful history and for the military base of Pearl Harbor. One of the most popular travel destinations is also Maui, which has rich nature and beautiful beaches. 

I have not been able to visit all the islands of Hawaii, but I have been told many times, that each island is unique. Therefore, I would love to visit as many as I can. 

why I like hawaii

In Hawaii I am mostly intrigued by the nature. One can see rugged lava fields right next to a tropical paradise. Water in the ocean is always warm, and one can swim with colourful fish and mantarays. The bravest ones can books a diving trip with whales. While snorkeling, one is likely to see sea turtles, and little crabs are running around everywhere. The corals are unbelievable beautiful!

While in Hawaii, we have visited a living volcano, a green sand beach and a rain forest. There are about 1400 plant species in Hawaii that you can not find anywhere else. Only on the Big Island itself, among the tropical climate there are over ten other climates as well, so you can imagine how versatile nature is. An interesting fact is also that there are no snakes on the Hawaiian Islands!

I find Polynesian culture exciting and interesting. We usually try to find a restaurant serving some local dishes, and at least Luau parties usually have local food. I also like to watch traditional dances and get familiar with local traditions. It is nice to meet locals who can tell about their life on the islands. The Hawaiian language sounds a little like my native language Finnish, and the words are easy to pronounce. We usually also tour around some historical places and national parks. That way we get the idea of how life has changed over the years. 

The Californian dream is to retire to Hawaii. I don't think it is our dream, even though we sometimes do joke about it. Hawaii is the most expensive place in the United States to live in, even more expensive than California, and we would go even further away from my home country Finland. There are also several threats in Hawaii that I wouldn't like. They get hurricanes and tsunamis in the islands, and there is some toxic gas from the volcanoes called vog. But I will not give up on Hawaii as my vacation spot! I must go back soon again! Aloha! 

Best Tips for Visiting the Big Island, Hawai'i

Paula Gaston

Aloha! It feels unbelievable that it has already been over a month when we returned back home from Hawai'i. Our trip was very nice and I can truly recommend the Big Island to everyone; families, nature lovers, snorklers and even luxury travelers. There are multiple national parks on the island with some unique nature, tons of beautiful beaches, volcanoes and accommodations for every level. 


On this trip we stayed in a hotel in Kailua-Kona since we wanted to explore other services than just the ones inside the resorts. Usually after breakfast we headed to the beach with our snorkling gear and in the afternoons we strolled around in downtown Kona, had lunch, visited ice cream parlors or did some shopping. After that we still had some time to snorkel at the hotel beach with beautiful, colourful fish and sea turtles. Most evenings we had dinner at one of the restaurants at downtown on main street. Most of them had a view to the ocean and you could see the sunset while you ate.

The highlight of this trip was our visit to the Green Sand Beach. There are only three beaches in the whole world that carry this sparkly and beautiful sand. It can be a little bit challenging to get there so on our last visit to the Big Island, when I was pretty far along pregnant, we did not see the Green Sand Beach. We also enjoyed the visit to Volcanoes National Park very much. 

Some tips if you are visiting the Big Island, Hawai'i:

  • Always make sure you choose the most convenient season for you. Holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, Independence Day or Thanksgiving are more expensive times to travel. Also the time of the Golden Weeks in Japan can be crowded. Summers can be quite warm and during the winter you might see some warm showers every once in a while. If you are planning to do some whale watching, the best time for that is from January to March. My favourite time is spring when it is still not too hot and all the flowers are blooming.
  • During the rainy season it might be better to stay on the Kona side since the Hilo side of the island is tropical and can get very rainy. 
  • Plan your trip schedule according to the weather forecast. For example, if you are planning to visit the volcano, it is better to do it on a sunny day since it is the rainy side of the island. 
  • Bring good hiking shoes if you plan to visit parks. The Big Island has lots of lava rocks and some trails can be difficult to walk.
  • Keep lots of water, snacks, sun lotion and a sunhat with you. Many sights don't have any services. 
  • Keep in mind that you can not bring any fruits to the Hawaiian Islands. Also, if on the way home you have a layover in California or that is your final destination, fruits are not allowed even on the airplane. 

More about things you can do:

Our trip to the Big Island was great and we enjoyed the time in the warm weather and water. Our favourite activity besides visiting natural wonders was snorkling. You can read more experiences of the beaches we visited from here. This was our second visit to the Big Island so on our next trip to the Hawai'i we most likely will explore some other islands. Mahalo!