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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: Disneyland

Closing the Door to the Travel Year 2017

Paula Gaston

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

It is time to sum up again what has happened in the past year; ups and downs, and then move on to new adventures. Even though we were not able to travel as much last year, it was still a memorable year for other reasons. 


In January, I traveled to Finland to visit my family and friends. At that time we had just found out that we were expecting a baby, and I knew that most likely I will not be able to visit Finland later in a year. I thought we might be traveling to closer destinations, but honestly, during this pregnancy I felt like home was the best, so our travels were minimum this year. 


While I was visiting Finland I also went to Matka Nordic Travel Fair in Helsinki. It had been a few years since my previous visit to the fair and it was interesting to see all the changes.





After visiting a travel fair in Finland I also participated in a fair here in Santa Clara, California. The high light of the Travel Adventure Show was meeting Phil Keoghan from the Amazing Race, but there were also many other interesting keynotes at the show.


In March, my friend and I toured around Eugene Oneill's Tao House in Danville (the main picture). He was a famous novel writer who also won a Nobel prize. The house is part of the national parks system and so I was able to mark it off from my list.

In April, we got some guests when my husband's family was visiting us. Their only wish was to see Alcatraz. So we headed to San Francisco and took a ferry to Alcatraz Island in the beautiful spring weather. Even though I had been to Alcatraz before, there was still plenty to see there and we had a great trip.

In May, we headed out on a road trip to Southern California. Our little miss got to experience Disneyland for the very first time, and of course, that was the highlight of the year for her. 


The actual reason for this road trip was a family wedding. It took place in Temecula Wine Country which was so beautiful.

After the wedding, the trip continued all the way to San Diego. We visited famous Old Town San Diego, some beaches, Cabrillo National Monument, the Gaslamp District and some Top Gun filming locations


From San Diego we headed back up north, but we stopped at Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave desert, Cesar Chaves National Monument and Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. At Sequoia we saw one of the biggest trees in the world: General Sherman. We also drove part of the original Route 66

After the road trip it was time to settle down and get ready for our new family member. We did one shorter trip and went to see Port Chicago National Monument as well as the house of John Muir. They are also part of the national park system. 


At the end of April, during the great solar eclipse in the US, we had a beautiful little baby girl. Absolutely the highlight of our year! A couple of months went by just like that, while we were trying to adjust to our new life. I at least managed to visit some old colleagues at Instagram Headquarters for lunch.  


The year 2017 was one of the worst wild fire years in California. We also got our share of it when the winds blew all the dangerous smoke our way. On those days we had to stay inside the house. Even the sun was just a little dot in the sky which could be seen through the smoke. Both Napa Valley and Sonoma Wine Country suffered tremendously, and hundreds of people lost their homes. It was horrible!

One of the most unique places I visited this year was for sure the Museum of Ice Cream. I have never been to a place quite like that and certainly never swam in a pool of sprinkles. We had fun in the museum even though we would have gladly stayed there even longer. 


Our new baby did her very first trip when we travelled to Southern California for the holidays. The drive over there was long and slow, but coming back home was nice since we cut it in half by visiting Solvang. Solvang is a cute, Danish-style town close to Santa Barbara. Very close to Solvang is Michael Jackson's Neverland, where we visited before driving back home. You are not able to go in of course, but you can see all the mementos and pictures the fans have brought to the gate, and read some of the things they have written on the stones.


At Christmas time, we visited The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, California. Every year it is beautifully decorated for the holidays. We also went to the Historic McDonald's Museum. I will be writing about both of these places in a post soon.


Happy New Year to everybody!

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

The Happiest Place on Earth - Disneyland California

Paula Gaston

Our Californian road trip is now behind us and we got to see many cool new things. We drove down to Southern California from the San Francisco Bay Area; visited family, Disneyland, a wedding and many national parks. Here is the route we took except few missing stops since one can only use a certain amount of pins: 

Our first travel day we spent pretty much on the road. We drove over to our family's place in Rancho Cucamonga and enjoyed dinner with them. The next day we had to wake up early, because we wanted to drive to Anaheim to visit Disneyland. I had visited Disneyland ones before but for my husband it had been a yearly tradition when he was younger. When we got the invitation to the wedding, we decided that it is about time to take our 4 year old to meet Minnie Mouse and other characters, and have some fun. Americans often say that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. Now it was time to find out if it really is that.


As you can imagine, the Disneyland theme park is very popular, so you should seriously consider the right time to visit. If possible, choose a weekday instead of weekend and make sure the school holidays are over. We went there just in between the spring break and summer holidays, so the timing in that sense was perfect. You can check the estimates of how busy the park will be from the Disneyland website. One year we drove to the park on Christmas break just to find out it was sold out. So it is not impossible even though very rare that you will not get in. Oh well, I probably would have gotten some sort of panic attack in a full park anyway, so maybe it was better this way. It is also nice to visit between Halloween and Christmas when the park is already decorated for the holidays.

On this trip the longest lines were already before getting into the park; in the parking garage. If you want to avoid those, I suggest staying the night in Disney's hotels which will give you access to the monorail taking people to the park. Another perk that you will get by staying in Disney Resorts is called "Magic morning". Some mornings the park opens an hour early for people staying in the resorts, so you can enjoy the rides when others are still on their way to the park. After parking we were directed to a shuttle but the line was so long that we ended up walking. Actually, the park was not far at all and even I, being pregnant, was able to walk it easily.

The next step was to get through the security check. For some reason it felt like there wasn't very many check points and no actual lines to them, just groups of people trying to get in. It was hard to even know which line we were in. If inside the park lines are almost an art, here it was just one big mess. But I do think that the security in this kind of place is important! All we had to do now was get the tickets and yay, finally we were inside the park!

WHAt should one see in disneyland

A day in the park will go fast and most likely you will not be able to go in every single ride they have. It is wise to plan ahead what you want to see and take it from there. Smaller kids usually want to meet the characters which will take time since there is usually a line. We met Goofy, Pluto, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and also saw the characters from Winnie the Pooh. Mickey Mouse's house is usually popular but this time the line went really fast. Our little one was not interested in the princesses, so we skipped that part of the park. Instead we did the "Storybook Land" ride on a canal boat which was nice.

Our ultimate favorites are "It's a Small World" and "Peter Pan's Flight". They go for all ages and are fun. You can check out the short video of "It's a Small World" from below, which features singing dolls from all over the world. I did the "Jungle Cruise" and "Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage" for the first time. Based on the lines, the "Pirates of Caribbean" must be the most popular ride in the park at the moment. When you know which is your favorite, you should get a fastpass to it right in the morning. It lets you pass the line at a certain time. Fastpass machines are located near the rides and you can only carry one of them at the time. You can also download some helpful applications on your phone to see how long the lines are to each ride or to use a map of the park. We mostly had 20 to 30 minutes wait times but there were rides with a lot longer lines. So get your fastpasses if you can, or you can do the most popular rides during the parades.

There are many other fun rides in Disneyland, and also some traditional carousels. There is something for everyone for sure! There are also a few different parades during the day. We watched the Main Street Electrical Parade which is in the evening after sun set. We really liked it! Last time we were in Disneyland, they also had great fireworks, but this time we were not there on the right day. That didn't matter though since we had so much fun otherwise.  

Our little Minnie Mouse fan and authograph hunter. 

Our little Minnie Mouse fan and authograph hunter. 

Goofy's house.

Goofy's house.

"It's a Small World" in holiday decor. The picture is from our previous visit. 

"It's a Small World" in holiday decor. The picture is from our previous visit. 

Disneyland; It's a Small World video

A video of The Main Street Electrical Parade. 


There are all kinds of foods, snacks and drinks sold inside Disneyland. We brought water bottles and some snacks with us. We had made a reservation to the Blue Bayou restaurant for lunch, so in the evening we mostly ended up snacking and eating ice cream. If you want to make a reservation to a restaurant, be early since the most popular restaurants get sold out months in advantage. We made ours two months ahead and still didn't manage to get a dinner reservation. Food in the Blue Bayou was delicious even though I noticed that the menus inside the park seemed to be little limited. Inside this restaurant there is a "river" where the "Pirates of Caribbean" ride will go. Even though we sat inside it looked like we were sitting outside on a patio.

The Californian sun can be deceptive, so don't forget your sun screen even if there are some clouds in the sky. Bring some water, you can fill the bottles at water fountains around the park. Also, good shoes are important since you will be walking and standing most of the day. For small kids I would recommend a stroller, so they can get some rest every once in a while. We rarely bring our stroller with us anymore for our 4 year old, but this time it was totally worth it. If you forgot the stroller, you can rent one from the main gate for a day ($15). Many kids are dressed up in their favorite character costumes.

And don't forget your camera! In Disneyland one is allowed to take photos everywhere, and even the official photographers sometimes offered to take a photo of us with our own camera. You will most likely meet some of them where ever the characters are, and they will snap your picture and download it on to a photopass they will give you. Later you can give the card to another photographer who will add more photos to it. Before leaving the park you can go and buy the photos, or you can order them from online later. We also stopped in some souvenir shops before leaving. 

Even though I hate crowded places and I'm not a huge fan of amusement parks, I have to admit that there is something special about Disneyland. After struggling to get into the park, I really enjoyed the great rides they have and the atmosphere in the park. This really is not just a regular amusement park and the rides are not like the ones you see everywhere else. The next day I was excited to tell everybody what we saw and what we did. And the best part is of course to see your child being so excited! So is it the world's happiest place? Mmm.. I'm sure it is, at least it is very magical! 

A FUN FACT: Did you know that there is a "secret restaurant" inside Disneyland? Club 33 is open only for members and their guests, and is the only place in Disneyland that serves alcohol. According to some resources the membership fee is over $10.000 and the waitlist goes on for many years.  

Tips for visiting disneyland

  • Try to plan your trip when the park is less busy like during the week and outside vacation times.
  • Get the program from the main gate. Many characters can be seen around the park and you might be able to avoid the line to meet them.
  • Get your free Disneyland button from the City Hall. Make sure to stop by in the morning since they might run out of them during the day.
  • Disney characters will pose for pictures and also write autographs so don't forget to bring a pen and a note book. Or you can buy them from the park.
  • Bring strollers for smaller kids. A day at the park is long and kids get tired fast. Stroller parking can be found all over the park. If you forgot your stroller, you can rent one from the main entrance.
  • Get the "fastpass" to your favorite ride quickly in the morning.
  • Download the Disneyland app on your phone. That way you have an interactive map of the park with you and you can check what the wait times are.