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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: Los Angeles

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!


When Travel Plans Don't Work Out

Paula Gaston

This Christmas we were finally planning to do a little traveling again. Since we just had a baby 4 months ago, we have been home more than ever before. Like last year, we wanted to drive to Southern California and spend Christmas with my husband's family. After Christmas we planned to drive somewhere to have a little vacation, but one plan after another has been ruined. We will see, if we ever get out of the house this Christmas. 


The freeway is literally burning this year. Wildfires are everywhere in California, two of them are on our route. The fire has jumped from the other side of the road to another, and is now burning on both sides. I hope they won't have to close any of the roads or we might not be able to go anywhere.



Then I got an awesome idea for the days between Christmas and New Years! We could jump into a cruise ship in Long Beach and visit Mexico. On our way there, the cruise ship will stop at Catalina Island where I have never been. A cruise sounded so fun, plus it is always easy with kids and strollers. But after I started to read the fine print of buying a cruise, I found out that they won't take babies under 6 months onboard. I never found out why that is, but that ruined another plan of ours.



The next idea was to visit some national parks, since I am an enthusiastic national park explorer. There are two on the California coast that I have not yet visited; the Santa Monica Mountains and Channel Islands. But what else could have ruined this plan but another wildfire? I had been thinking about either glamping or staying the night in a teepee in Santa Paula. But that is exactly where the Thomas Fire is and I'm not sure if this camping area even exists anymore. I hope the fire hasn't destroyed it. 



Then we decided to look into cutting our drive in half and staying the night in the Madonna Inn in San Louis Obispo. The hotel is famous for it's rooms each having a different theme, and the whole building being very kitchy. I have stopped there a couple of times, and even the restrooms in that place are famous. The men's urinal is built as if it was a waterfall, and you can often run into some ladies in the men's room trying to take a picture of the urinal. 

We have often talked about staying the night in the Madonna Inn and now would have been a perfect opportunity for that. Especially since we are driving with a baby and this would have made the drive easier. But who knew that a place like the Madonna Inn would be full booked during the holiday season. Sigh!


We have no idea where we will end up; only time will tell. On the morning of our drive, we still have to check that all the roads are open, and we are able to make it without detours. I will also be checking the air quality in different places. Could you believe that here in Silicon Valley, they even have an app for that too?! So our plans are still on the table! Even the best plans don't always work out.

Have you ever had travel plans that didn't work out?

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