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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: Solvang

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


This is Michael Jackson's Neverland

Paula Gaston

Our Christmas trip was nearly done and it was time to head back home. We had seen some cool things like the McDonald's Museum, Solvang and one of the California Missions. Before driving home though, we still had one stop to make. We had gotten a tip that Michael Jackson's Neverland was close by, and some of the fans still go there to morn their idol.

I still remember when the news broke about Michael Jackson's death in 2009. I was still living in Finland but I was vacationing in California. I saw the news when I woke up and I think I even woke up my friend because of it. On that same trip we drove down to Los Angeles and to Hollywood. It was touching to see all the flowers and notes the fans had left on the Walk of Fame. I am not one of those super fans, but Michael Jackson does have a special place in my heart. My first concert that I went to was the Dangerous tour in 1992 in Stockholm. 


Michael Jackson bought the Neverland Ranch, which was then called Sycamore Valley Ranch, in 1988. It is located in Santa Barbara county, in a little town called Los Olivos. He wanted to be away from people, and Neverland really is in the middle of nowhere. He made the ranch his home and his private amusement park. Neverland was named after the imaginary island in Peter Pan. Among the rides, there were many gardens on the ranch, a flower clock, zoo and a train station. In 1991 Elizabeth Taylor got married at the Neverland Ranch.

Michael Jackson moved away from the ranch and closed it in 2006, after the police searched it due to the molestation charges. He felt that his privacy had been violated and he didn't want to live there anymore. He was later acquitted of all charges. Now the ranch is owned by an investment company and it has been on sale for a long time for $67 millions. While they have been searching for a new owner for the place, they have also gotten rid of things like the amusement rides and all the animals. 

We found Neverland by using Google maps. We drove from Solvang about 20 minutes north. We passed downtown Los Olivos, many horse ranches and a lot of fields. Neverland really is on a small countryside road far away from everything. The gate comes up suddenly, and is not very obvious, so we first passed it without stopping and had to turn back around. Basically, what you get to see of Neverland is just the gate and guard house located behind it. But every spot on the wall is full of text written by the fans, and pictures and flowers. Many of them have been faded by the sun, but this has for sure been a mecca for so many fans. Now, the traffic has slowed down and we were the only ones there. Another car drove by but we weren't sure if they just accidentally missed the gate like we did. We were reading the texts for a while, took some pictures and left. 


It was interesting to see how Michael Jackson has affected so many peoples' lives. Even after ten years of his passing, the fans still drive over to Neverland to remember him. And I'm sure there are also as many fans who wish they could visit there but just can't.  

A Visit to Mission Santa Inés Almost Caused My Husband's Life

Paula Gaston

I have been writing about missions in California before, so I at least have to say something about this one too. On our Christmas trip we visited Mission Santa Inés in Solvang. Solvang is that Danish style town that we stopped for a night on our way home when all the other options came crashing down. 



Earlier I have written about the mission like this: "Missions were established between 1769 and 1833 on El Camino Real, which now partly follows highway 101. They have a long history and they have been important for the development of California. The missionaries were catholic priests or Fransiscans, and they brought something to California other than just their religion: they brought a piece of their culture. Californians learned to eat European fruits and foods, herd some cattle and horses and grow wine. Over the years, some of the missions have been destroyed or they have been used for something else. Now many of them get their income from tourism, and the catholic church still uses some of them for services and as museums. Most of them have been restored from different kinds of damage, but some still have pieces of the original buildings."

Mission Santa Inés is the 19th of the 21 missions in California. It was established by the Franciscan Estévan Tapis, and it was opened in 1804. In the beginning, the missions were teaching Christianity to the American Indians, and in this case it was the Chumash Indians. The Franciscans José Calzada and Romualdo Gutiérrez were running the Mission Santa Inés, and they were buried under the church altar which is part of the mission.


We visited the mission at the first thing in the morning. Since it was Saturday, there were mostly only tourist at the site, but when visiting a mission on Sundays you should check the schedule of the mass, unless you really want to participate in it. Now the church was empty and beautifully decorated for Christmas time. 

Every mission I have visited has had a little museum and a souvenir shop where you begin your tour. There is usually also a garden and an old cemetery. The ones at Mission Santa Inés were not very big, but there was a pretty view from the cemetery to the bell wall. The bells have always been an important part of life at the mission, and sort of a symbol for them. The original bell wall of Mission Santa Inés was destroyed in an earthquake in 1812. The second one was melted by the heavy rains in 1911. Today, the bell wall has four bells and the oldest of them dates back to 1804. 

In case you are interested in the missions, you should also read about my visits to Mission San Miguel and Mission San Diego de Alcalá.



After touring the mission we were planning to visit Michael Jackson's Neverland, and then to drive home. In order to minimize the stops on our drive, I decided to nurse the baby before leaving. So I headed to our car while my husband and our older daughter wanted to check a couple more buildings at the end of the parking lot. 

When I was almost finished feeding the baby my seemingly upset hubby and confused looking little girl walked over. They had been crossing the parking lot when some older man had almost ran them over and even been honking at them. My husband had had to jump backwards pulling our daughter to a side as well. Being very upset at what happened, he had walked over to were the old man parked his car and knocked on his window. But this man wouldn't have it, instead of apologizing, he started calling my husband some nasty names.

Where we live at, we are used to cars usually slowing down and giving some room for the pedestrians, and especially when there are kids present. So I totally get it that my husband was furious. However, you never know what people might carry in their cars, so you should be very careful approaching them. It would always be better to stay cool and walk away. Or call the police. But when we thought of that, he had already left and we didn't have his licence plate number.

I have to also mention, that the same morning, we almost got hit by another car in downtown Solvang. An older lady decided to run the red light in a turn, and even drive in the wrong lane. She did not only scare us, but a few other pedestrians too, who were about to cross the street on a green light. Even though we did get nice and friendly service in Solvang, something tells me that the locals there might be a little tired of tourists. 

An Echo of Denmark in California - We Fell in Love with Solvang

Paula Gaston

You might have read about our travel plans for the holidays that didn't quite work out. Since my husband had some time off from work, we really wanted to do something after Christmas before heading back home from his family's place. We had all kinds of alternatives, but they all fell apart for one reason or another.

Our drive to Southern California before Christmas was long and slow. I can't remember the last time there was so much traffic on that route as this trip. And since we were driving with a little baby, we had to do some extra stops to feed her. I was completely tired of the drive when we got to our destination, and I started looking for a place to stop on our way home, so we wouldn't have to do the whole drive at once. I remembered that there is a little town called Solvang about half way home if we would take a different route back. After my friend confirmed that the smoke from the wild fire in Santa Barbara had blown away to the ocean and the air was clear, I made a reservation with a hotel in Solvang. Yay, I was starting to get excited about this trip again! 


Solvang was established by a group of Danish immigrants in 1911, and it is located about 230 kilometres from Los Angeles in the Santa Barbara Mountains. Until then, the area was inhabited by American Indians and Spanish missionaries and the mission remains close to downtown. While getting to Solvang, we drove through the Chumash Indian reservation which has about 250 residents. They also run one of the most popular casinos in the United States. 

Solvang itself is lovely with it's Scandinavian style houses and windmills. The downtown is full of hotels, restaurants and bakeries, and they all are in the cutest little buildings. Many businesses and streets have Danish names, and there are even replicas of famous Danish landmarks like the Little Mermeid statue and Rundetaarn (round tower). One of the must do things in Solvang is of course to stop in a bakery to get some fresh Danishes. Even though Solvang feels almost unreal to be an actual city, there are about 6000 inhabitants. Around town we saw many horse ranches, and for those who are interested, I should say that I have visited the horse whisperer Monty Roberts' Flag is Up Farm in Solvang some years ago.


Our hotel, Hotel Copenhagen Inn was also quite lovely. The rooms were almost like small townhouses. It was located right by the main road, so it was easy to go out for dinner or just a little stroll. Every room had a door that was a different color, and the office reminded me of a church. We really liked this hotel. Our room had two beds, one downstairs and the other in a loft. Also the breakfast was great. They had a nice variety of goods, and of course, plenty of fresh danishes.  


The weather in Solvang is warm, but not too hot all year round, which also brings a lot of people over there. It must have been all the wild fires close by that scared the tourists, since we felt like it wasn't crowded at all. Even the locals told us that it typically is full of visitors at this time of year. Well, we got to enjoy our stay in Solvang with no crowds. We plan to return to Solvang someday again!