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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: San Jose

Greetings from the Hello Kitty Mini Cafe in San Jose

Paula Gaston

Last weekend my husband got stuck at London Heathrow due to a stormy weather, and he wasn’t able to spend the Saturday with us. So what to do? A phone call to a friend and come up with a plan. Our plan was to drive over to San Jose to check out the new Hello Kitty Cafe which was opened there during the summer. So we went!


The first permanent Hello Kitty Cafe in California was opened to Irvine in Southern California in September 2018. But before that the Japanese company Sanrio opened two smaller pop up cafes. The other one is very close to us in San Jose, and the other in Rancho Cucamonga. We usually spend our Christmasses in Rancho Cucamonga by visiting some family, so maybe we will get to visit the Hello Kitty Cafe over there as well. The actual permanent Hello Kitty Grand Cafe offers some Hello Kitty themed cafeteria products but also a 5 o’clock tea in their special Bow Room. In the evenings this room changes into a cocktail bar, and visiting in it requires a reservation.

But the Hello Kitty Mini Cafe we visited was far from “garnd”. We had read that in weekends they have had even over three hour lines to get in! That is pretty crazy! So we decided that in case of a long lines, we would go hang out somewhere else. But once there, there were no lines at all, so we decided to head in to this pink whole in the wall.


The Hello Kitty Mini Cafe was truly a mini. There were only room for few people to be in at the same time, and there were no seating at all, or tables. We quickly realised that many people came in to just to buy some t-shirts or mugs, and they had just sold out the latest coffee mug. Hello Kitty truly is a popular character I see, much more than I have ever realised.

We order something to eat, and went out to find a table from Santana Row Park. My cafe latte with a Hello Kitty picture and all the baked good were cute, but they tasted very industrial. Our daughter did not finish her strawberry smoothie and that says something about the taste right there. And I have to say, that the prizes in this place are totally something else, and there not very much to choose from. They definitely cash out with the name of Hello Kitty.


Unfortunately I have to say, that we were a little bit disappointed by the Hello Kitty Mini Cafe. In Japan we visited a Café de Miki with Hello Kitty and it was designed very well. It was so much fun and had lots of products to choose from. You truly felt like you were inside a “Hello Kitty world”. So we might not return to the mini cafe anytime soon. But I’m glad we went there to see what it was like, and our daughter was excited to see all the Hello Kitty products.


On the Ice of the San Jose Sharks - Finnish Heritage Night

Paula Gaston

This week I was able to get out a little bit and go see an NHL game with a friend. Last year the San Jose Sharks organised a Finnish Heritage Night for the first time, which was aimed at all the Finnish people in the area. At that time I wasn't able to participate since I was in Finland, but luckily this year I was able to join other Finns at the game. They offered Finnish people a special price for the tickets and some extra programs. And it ended up being a fun night!

This was the second time I was at an NHL game. The first time, it was the San Jose Sharks against the Anaheim Ducks, and this time against the Winnipeg Jets. There was a big group of Finnish people in the audience dressed up in blue and white (colors of the Finnish flag) and carrying Finnish flags. We also got a gift when arriving to the arena: a San Jose Sharks Finnish Heritage Night scarf, which made it easy to recognise all the other Finns.


A funny thing happened to us at the game. We accidentally sat down in the wrong section. We were wondering why we had been given tickets so far away from the other Finns, when they all seemed to be in a same section. It wasn't until the last round of the game when we realised that we were not sitting in our actual seats. I can't believe that no one came and claimed the seats for themselves. We practically sat there the whole game. Oh well, things happen!

The only downside of the evening was that the San Jose Sharks' Finnish player, Joonas Donskoi had fallen ill. Of course it would have been more interesting to follow the game with a Finnish player in it, but you can't really do anything about getting sick. I can only whish a speedy recovery for Joonas. This year's influenza has been bad. And at least we had a Finn on the opposite team, Patrik Laine. We were also supposed to get a group photo with Joonas Donskoi after the game, but of course that was cancelled as well. 

Unfortunately, the game ended with a loss for the Sharks. After that we were invited to the ice for a group photo. We also saw a few other fans who got to go on the ice and take a photo in front of the shark. That shark is used in the beginning of the game and the players all skate through it when they arrive. We got our picture taken in the center of the ice instead of the shark, even so we were a fairly happy group of Finns. 

Photo: SAP Center

Photo: SAP Center

Winchester Mystery House - The Haunted House in the Middle of San Jose, CA

Paula Gaston

A few years ago I learned that there is a haunted house very close to where we live. I have heard a lot of stories about these ghosts but never managed to see them, even though I visited this place many times now and studied the history of it. This place is called Winchester Mystery House, and it is in the heart of San Jose, California. 


In 1884 Sarah Winchester bought a farm house in Santa Clara county. Mrs. Winchester was married to William Winchester, the manufacturer of Winchester rifles. Their only child died in 1866 due to an illness, and it was said that Mrs. Winchester never quite recovered from that. She widowed in 1881 when William Winchester died from tuberculosis. After inheriting her husband's fortune, Sarah Winchester was extremely wealthy. A story goes that a medium told her to move to the west and build a house big enough for her and all the spirits of people who died from the Winchester rifle. This story was never confirmed. 

After Mrs. Winchester moved, she hired a group of builders who were expanded the house. Without any kind of plan or an architect, she came up with new ideas for continually building her house. She often ordered builders to leave rooms unfinished when she wanted to move forward with the construction. Eventually, the house was enormous with seven storeys, and very impractical. Some people thought that Mrs. Winchester kept changing her plans in order to distract the ghosts. She also slept in a different room every night. The great earthquake in 1906 damaged the house, and the top floors where no longer used. When Mrs. Winchester died the house had 160 rooms, 47 fire places, 13 bathrooms and 6 kitchens. 

Edit: At fall 2016 a preservation team opened a new room for public. This room was boarded up after the big earthquake since Mrs. Winchester thought, that the evil spirits where behind the earthquake. The room still had some furniture in it, like a Victorian coach, sewing machine and other things belonging to Mrs. Winchester. Winchester Mystery House now has 161 rooms. (October 9th, 2016)

This Victorian house is full of strange things, like steps and doors that don't lead anywhere, secret corridors, and oddly shaped and sized doors and steps. Some of the rooms were sealed after the plans changed. For unknown reasons, the number 13 is repeated in the building in many places. There are 13 window and wall panels in some of the rooms, and 13 steps in some of the staircases. There are also 13 cupolas in the green house outside and 13 holes in each of the sink drains. In Mrs. Winchesters days, the house was actually very modern since it had a heating system, 3 elevators, indoor bathrooms and plumbing. It was built completely from redwood, and some of the window panels were custom made at the Tiffany Company. A few of them are featured in the house and you can see these decorative art pieces on the tour. 

Mrs. Winchester died in her sleep in 1922. She left almost everything to her relatives but the house was not mentioned in the will. It was believed to be worthless and so it was sold. Today it is a tourist attraction surrounded by the city of San Jose. There are multiple guided tours a day, and you can choose a Grand Estate Tour, Mansion Tour or Behind the Scenes Tour. From time to time they also organise special tours like candle light tours or flash light tours. One can not do a self guided tour since it would be hard to navigate in this huge house, and the likelihood of getting lost is great. But you can stay after the tour and walk around the garden freely, enjoy a cup of coffee in the cafeteria or buy souvenirs from the shop. These, you can also access without a ticket. 

The Winchester Mystery House has been one of our guests' favourite places on their trip to California, and I must admit, it is a spooky place to visit!

You will find the Winchester Mystery House at 525 South Winchester Boulevard, San Jose.