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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: Golden Gate Bridge

Visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco

Paula Gaston

We already visited The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco few months ago. For some reason I have been waiting to write about it for a while even though it has been in my mind many times. Here are some of our experiences at this great little museum which is located right by the Golden Gate Bridge. 

The museum tells the story of Walt Disney all the way from a young man to the famous illustrator, animator and entrepreneur. At the same time the visitor will learn how the different Disney characters were born, and how the cartoons developed into the form we see them today. Walt Disney has been a great influencer of the enterntainment industry, and he has gotten 26 Academy Awards which is more than anyone else. He started his career by working on a school magazine a cartoonist, but in 1919 he decided to drop out of school and become an artist. He worked for many different companies before starting his own business together with his friend. The first Disney character he created was Alice's Wonderland, but before finding success the company filed for bankruptcy. In 1926 Walt decided to move to Hollywood to promote his career as a movie director, and started a new business with his brother; Walt Disney Studios. The first Alice movie was published. 

Alice's Wonderland was a great success, and Walt Disney was asked to design a show with the main character as a rabbit. That is how Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was born. Oswald didn't get very popular but Disney already had a new plan. Together with his friend Ub Iwerks he developed Mickey Mouse. Even though the movie companies were not very interested in Mickey Mouse at first, it become a huge success after being the first cartoon with a sound track. Disney's business expanded and he kept developing new characters. He also made new movies like The Three Little Pigs, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Bambi and Dumbo. Walt Disney's career was sky rocketing. 

During World War II Disney made many other types of movies but then went back to making cartoons and released Cinderella. In the 1950's he started multiple TV shows and a Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. In 1966 he was planning on opening another theme park in Florida, but he unexpectedly died of lung cancer and the plan was forgotten for years. Before his death he released his most successful movie yet; Mary Poppins

Mickey Mouse after Walt Disney's death

Mickey Mouse after Walt Disney's death

The legacy of Walt Disney is still living strongly. The Walt Disney Company has been concentrating on the movie business, TV shows, theme parks and its resorts. They work in 40 different countries, have many many stores and even 11 theme parks. The headquarters is located in Burbank California, very close to Hollywood. Mickey Mouse is the main character and the mascot of the company. 

This museum, which is located at the Presidio in San Francisco, is not huge. We walked through it in a couple of hours, even though I can see people staying longer to watch many of the old films they show. Especially kids like to sit down to watch the cartoons every once in a while. The cafeteria downstairs sells some light lunch so we had some coffee and sandwiches before leaving. And don't forget to check the amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the other side of the building! 

 

The Best of California's Pacific Coast Highway

Paula Gaston

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

So many travellers have a dream to drive down the California Pacific Coast Highway or State Route 1. Many drive only a part of it, but you can also do a longer version. While living in California, we drove parts of PCH from time to time, and I have written articles about each place we visited. Now it is time to wrap them all up into one post which tells you everything you need to know about California Pacific Coast Highway.

Most of my travels in Southern California happened when I didn't have a blog yet. But in recent years, we have driven the northern parts a few times, so here is some information about them. I added the San Francisco Bay Area as a separate section since so many people stay here for a few days. Once I get down to Southern California again, I will add more articles on the list. And please, post some questions and wishes about what I should cover!
 

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA


Many people start their drive on Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco or they end their trip there. Don't under estimate the north parts of PCH though. There is still plenty to see if you drive up north from San Francisco. Enjoy the redwood forests, national parks or Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. State Route 1 merges into 101 in Leggett, but if you continue your drive it will follow the coastline soon again, and you can drive all the way up to the Oregon border. The views are great! Along the way is the Avenue of GiantsRedwood National Park, and right after the city of Eureka, a place that was disturbed by many tsunamis, Crescent city.

Glass beach in Fort Bragg

Glass beach in Fort Bragg

Drive Thru Tree in Leggett.

Drive Thru Tree in Leggett.

SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
 

For a visit to the San Francisco Bay Area you want to reserve multiple days. Like any big city, there is plenty to see. There are of course the most known sights that everyone should see, but there are also many other places worth a visit. Because San Francisco is located right by the bay, you can hike along the coastline with amazing views, or rent bicycles and ride along the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands. All this is part of the national park system, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Sunset in Sutro Baths

Sunset in Sutro Baths

SOUTH OF SAN FRANCISCO


Many start their drive on Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco. Even though you will be able to drive all the way to Los Angeles in one day, I recommend reserving at least one or two nights on the way. There are vista points and other stops all along the road, and so many things to see or do from nature activities to historic sites. Route 1 merges with I-5 in Dana Point in Orange County. 

Morro Rock

Morro Rock

Inside pool area in Hearst Castle

Inside pool area in Hearst Castle

Have you driven Pacific Coast Highway? How was your experience?

Mother's Day Under a Bridge - with San Francisco Belle to Golden Gate

Paula Gaston

What kind of Mother's Day traditions does your family have? Do you go out for brunch or do some activities together? When I was a kid, we mostly stayed home and spent time with the family. In the morning we woke mom by singing and taking breakfast to in bed for her. We also always had a mother's day cake and a gift. Later when my brother and I got older, we started taking our mom out for brunch.

This year I am going to spend my fourth mother's day as mom myself. I am not sure what is going to happen this mother's day but I would like to honour all the moms by telling about my mother's day last year. I was lucky to get a gift that I wont forget easily, it was a cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco Bay. Even though it was windy and chilly outside, it was a wonderful day.

Our cruise ship San Francisco Belle was an old fashioned river boat built in Louisiana in 1994. It looks beautiful and is the biggest dining yacht on the West Coast. As we were enjoying the brunch we also saw the city of San Francisco from the water which I had never seen before. San Francisco Belle offered traditional breakfast foods with bottomless mimosas and delicious desserts. Especially I remember the banana-bread pudding, yummy! Food was ok, nothing fancy, but we enjoyed the atmosphere and didn't go home hungry.

The highlight of the cruise was when we reached the Golden Gate Bridge. The ship turned around under the bridge and we got to see how different things looks like from the Bay. We also saw Alcatraz Island close by.

The rest of the cruise went fast since we had a DJ in the house and people were dancing and having some a good time. A lovely day in San Francisco!

Happy Mother's Day to all Moms and to my own mom in Finland!

Must Sees in San Francisco

Paula Gaston

We have all heard about famous sights in San Francisco and seen pictures of bridges and cable cars. If you are in town for the first time, here is the list of these touristy things you most likely want to see and experience. Lot of people say that they like to avoid the most famous places but still somehow they have pictures of them on their photo albums. I like both. I often like to see those places, there must be something there or why would people be talking about them so much! But I also like to see some "real local life" as well, and to me that often means nature. There is a lot about those kind of places on my blog already but here are the must see places in the city of San Francisco:

1. THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

The Golden Gate Bridge is without a doubt, the most famous sight here and the biggest landmark of San Francisco. It is one of the most photographed bridges in the world. My last blog posting was about the Golden Gate Bridge so I wont go into too much detail about it again.  

GG pieni.jpg

2. LOMBARD STREET

This is where I usually start my sightseeing tour with our guests. It's fun to surprise them with San Francisco hills, and then when they are still talking about the horrible uphills, you drive down to this steep, curvy road full of flowers and pretty houses. Lombard Street was done so curvy because it was too steep for many of the cars and dangerous for pedestrians. After you drive the most famous part of the road, you can park your car on the next block, and walk out to take some photos. If you plan to drive, be prepared for crowds and traffic control during weekends. 

3. COIT TOWER

Coit Tower is 64 meters high atop Telegraph Hill. The story goes that a lady named Lillie Coit built the tower in honor of firefighters but the story remains unconfirmed. You can see the tower from Lombard Street, from the Cable Cars, from Pier 39 and from everywhere that other hills or buildings are not in the way. If you want to visit Coit Tower, I recommend doing that during the week since there is only a very small parking lot which is often full. With a few bucks you will be able to take the elevator up and enjoy the best views of San Francisco you can find. 

4. CABLE CARS

Many people know the Cable cars from movies but you have to experience a cable car ride at least once in a life time! They started building cable car lines in 1873 and just like the name says, cars are pulled by a cable running below the street. If possible, go to the ride early in the morning and avoid weekends. There is always a line to get to the cable cars. Then, all you have to do is hope that you are lucky enough to get a good spot in the car. Outside spots are the most popular ones but there are only few of them. There is also a few standing spots on both ends of the car. If you end up in one of those spots, be careful. If you hang too far out from the car, you might get hit by another cable car. 

The easiest place to jump into a cable car is from Ghirardelli Square where they also sell some tickets. This line rides up and down some steep hills, passes Lombard Street and China Town all the way to Market Street. Don't forget that if you want to ride back on the same line, you need two tickets. One ticket costs $7 (2016) but they also take different kinds of multipasses for transportation. 

5. CHINA TOWN

In the middle of San Francisco you will find the biggest china town outside of Asia. It is hectic, colourful and an interesting place to visit. Laundry is hanging form the windows. There is so much noise and smells. Thousands of people bumping into each other on the sidewalks. In grocery shops you can see all kinds of creatures from bizarre looking mushrooms to live turtles. And the food... this is the most authentic Chinese food you will find in America. You should definitely stop by some of the restaurants for lunch, stop in some of the little shops for bargains and definitely move your wallet out of your back pocket. 

6. PIER 39

Pier 39 is the center of tourism in San Francisco. It is on one of the Embarcadero's piers and you can find things like carousels, souvenir shops and restaurants from here. People come here for leisurely strolls and to eat. The view of the city is great, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz and Coit Tower. Next to this place is Fisherman's Wharf, where fishermen sell freshly caught fish and  seafood. There are also tons of souvenir shops and restaurants close by. If you get tired of the crowds on Pier 39, you can visit the aquarium to see all kinds of sea creatures. 

People also come to Pier 39 to see the sea lions. In 1989 for some unknown reason, they took over some of the pier's wooden decks and at some point the boats had to be moved to other places. Sea lions became famous and they brought more tourists to the pier. They hang out right by the pier and make a lot of noise, and it looks like that they are there to stay. 

7. ALCATRAZ

One of the most popular sights is Alcatraz Island AKA The Rock, which served as a prison from 1933 until 1963. Alcatraz Island is in San Francisco Bay, and on a nice day you can see it from the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge or from Pier 39. 

If you would like to visit Alcatraz, you better book your tickets ahead of time. The ferry will take you to the island but with very limited space. Weekends and summer days sell out very fast. At the island, you will get headphones and can do the tour at your own pace by listening to the guide. You get to visit different buildings of the prison and even one of the cells. The atmosphere is gloomy and you feel like you have stepped back in time. The boat to Alcatraz leaves from pier 33 and you can choose the return trip at the island according to how you feel on the tour. 

8. PAINTED LADIES

San Francisco is known for it's victorian houses and "the painted ladies" are a row of colourfully painted victorians. The most famous ones are the ones by the Alamo Square which have been featured in multiple movies and postcards. However, there are other colorfully painted victorian houses in the city as well. These famous houses were build in the 1890's and their facade is full of beautiful decorative details. 

You can find the houses on 710-720 Steiner Street and if you are lucky, you might be able to park right in front of them. If not, try finding a parking spot around the block. 

After seeing all these places in the city, you can truly say that you have seen the most famous spots of San Francisco. Of course there is still plenty to see and many other places that are widely known and interesting, but for more about those you can read later. 

TIPS FOR VISITING SAN FRANCISCO

  • San Francisco is many travellers' dream, so there is always a lot of people in the city. If you want to avoid the worst crowds, be an early bird and don't come on weekends
  • Make all your reservations early
  • Be prepared for lines in restaurants. It might take you over an hour to get a table if you go out at the same time as other people
  • Bring some warm clothes. The weather changes fast in San Francisco and it is often windy. Plan a flexible travel schedule where you can be in the city for the sunny days. Weather forecasts can also change fast so it's better to be prepared with long sleeves.
  • If you want to eat or shop more affordably you should avoid the touristy areas by the piers. Walk a few block into the city and everything is cheaper. 
  • San Francisco is big and distances are surprisingly long. Learn how to use public transportation since parking is extremely expensive.
  • Don't forget to try out the famous San Francisco clam chowder served in a bread bowl, and enjoy the city life!

What Would Happen to the Golden Gate Bridge in an Earthquake?

Paula Gaston

When ever we get guests from Europe we usually tour around all the "must see" places in San Francisco with them. One of them is of course the Golden Gate Bridge, perhaps even the most popular of them all. 

In order to make it easier to cross the San Francisco Bay, they started building a bridge in 1928. It was designed by Joseph B Strauss and after it was ready in 1937, it fast became famous and a landmark for San Francisco. There were a lot of challenges in building the bridge and 11 men got killed during the construction work. For a while, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Today, it is said to be the most photographed bridge in the world. Tourists all over the world come to visit the Golden Gate Bridge. One can either drive or walk over it, or even rent a bicycle or roller skates from the city to make your Golden Gate experience more memorable. Unfortunately it is also known to be a popular place for suicides and therefore has several nets under it. 

Even after the bridge was built there have been many challenges. The area sometimes gets high winds and three times during it's history, the bridge had to be closed due to high winds. But the winds are not the biggest worry. In 1989 due to the Loma Prieta earthquake it was found that the bridge might not survive in a bigger earthquake. Loma Prieta was magnitude 6.9 and it was reported that 63 people got killed. Part of the Bay Bridge in Oakland collapsed and that scared the authorities. U.C. Berkley started research on how well the Golden Gate Bridge would cope in an earthquake. According to their study, an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 would most likely destroy the bridge and a decision was made to retrofit it. That was finished by 2008. Now we can drive on the bridge more safely even though I have to say, I wouldn't want to be on the bridge during an earthquake. 

Example of how the old pilars of the Golden Gate would have bent during an earthquake

Example of how the old pilars of the Golden Gate would have bent during an earthquake

If you are visiting San Francisco, you should be prepared for quickly changing weather. If possible, plan your visit according to the weather forecast because some days can be pretty chilly and foggy. We arrived in the City, as the locals call it, just on time to see a glimpse of the sun before the fog took over part of the bridge. If you arrive from the north you will be surprised by the view. It's like a teaser, unexpectedly you will see a part of the bridge in between the hills and then it is gone. On the north end of the bridge there is a vista point, or you can do what we did; we drove up to the hills of the Marin Headlands and stopped at one of the viewpoints. They are usually crowded and parking is very limited but that is the best view you will find to see the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. Here is some evidence of how fast the weather can change:

While the other end was covered in fog, the view on this end was this:

The southern viewpoint of the bridge has a fairly new bookstore with lots of good quality souvenirs, and a small cafeteria. If you want something cheaper, just head to the Embarcadero and it is full of souvenir shops. The bridge bookstore also sells some National Park gear and the stamps for the park stamp book are there as well. The Golden Gate Bridge is part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area and therefore part of the national parks system. Don't forget to visit historic Fort Point which is located under the bridge and also belongs to the national parks. You can see it in this picture. It is worth of a visit and gives you a totally different view to the bridge.