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The Best and Worst of 2018

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.

The Best and Worst of 2018

Paula Gaston

2018 has in many ways been a different kind of year for us. Our daily routines have gone from having a baby to having a toddler, and our kindergartener is now a 1st grader. So our schedules have changed drastically. This year we have experienced many nice events and trips, but we have also had some losses and we have had to say our goodbyes. There have also been some challenges we faced due to nature and changes in it. When it comes to traveling, we have been doing most of our trips by car this year. I wish I could say that it’s only because we wanted to decrease our carbon footprint, but in all honesty, I think it has just been easier for us to drive with the kids than fly. But the environmental factors of traveling have been plain to see this year more than ever, and hopefully more and more people will pay attention to that.


The highlight of this year was hands down the long, hot summer in Finland. It had been a while since we visited there and this time we got to stay the whole summer. We were able to spend time with family and friends, and enjoy the nightless night. We ate Finnish foods and traveled around the country. It felt great to be back in “my hood”, and go places I had never even been. We even did a trip to Viborg, Russia with our friends.

Family time in beautiful Finland

Family time in beautiful Finland

Our latest highlight was our trip to Utah. It was a bitter sweet trip, since we had such a great time driving over there, but our reason to visit was rather sad. We visited Death Valley, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam and even the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. But we were there to spend some time with great gramma who had fallen ill. We are thankful that we got to see her one more time. This year we have had to say goodbyes to many friends and relatives, and even to our dog Holly. I have been very lucky in the past and I haven’t lost many people in my life, so this year felt a little hard to get through.

The trip came to us at a good time since California was devastated by the worst wildfires in its history. The San Francisco Bay Area was soon blanketed by smoke and we had to stay inside. The schools were closed and people were encouraged to wear masks. This picture of me with a mask makes me very sad. It was also part of a story a Finnish news paper made about the fires.



If I would have to choose the most memorable trip of 2018, aside from the trip to Finland; it would be the boat trip to the Channel Islands in California. We spent a day hiking around Anacapa Island which is uninhabited. The views were incredible and we spotted some plants that are endemic to the Channel Islands. On our boat ride to the island a big pod of dolphins followed us and we spotted a couple whales as well. That was an incredible day! I would definitely recommend a visit to the Channel Islands!

A place that we could have lived without is also here in California. During the holidays we visited the Los Angeles Zoo. Even though we love to see animals, the place was quite run down and the cages seemed way too small. I can’t imagine these animals enjoying their lives at this place. In the evening we returned to see the zoo’s holiday lights display which we enjoyed very much. I even wrote about it last week.

Anacapa Island

Anacapa Island


This year’s most read story was surprisingly about Micheal Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in California. We visited the area on our Christmas trip, but Neverland can only be seen from outside where people have written their farewells to Michael. The two other stories that also got a lot of readers were about hotels: one in San Francisco and the other in Carmel-by-the-Sea in California.

This is Michael Jackson's Neverland
A Night in a Luxury Hotel InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco
Hofsas House Hotel - A True Gem of Carmel-by-the-Sea

The post that was least interesting

The San Francisco Bay Area Travel & Adventure Show


In 2018 we stayed in many cool places and it was actually quite difficult to decide which one was the “best”. For many years I have dreamed about staying the night at the Madonna Inn in San Louis Obispo, California. The Madonna Inn is decorated over the top, but at the same time luxurious. It is famous for its pink restaurant and the mens restroom which has a waterfall urinal. Check the photos from here. Another interesting but totally different kind of place we stayed at was the Radisson Blu Aleksanteri in Helsinki, Finland. We stayed in the Rock’n Rose Room, which had a pinball game in it. We also visited a luxury hotel in San Francisco called the InterContinental Mark Hopkins.

The most depressing hotel experience from this year must of been our visit to Scandic City Lappeenranta in Finland. It was over priced, low quality and our customer service experience was horrible. I wrote about it right after we left, since I was so upset. At least we really enjoyed visiting the city of Lappeenranta.

Our room in the Madonna Inn was called China Flower

Our room in the Madonna Inn was called China Flower


This photo that we took this Christmas week in the San Bernardino Mountains quickly became my most liked Instagram photo of the year. We were just driving down from the mountains when we saw this beautiful sunset. We were there to visit the town of Crestline and Lake Arrowhead Village. As a Finn I am not used to seeing the mountains (since Finland doesn’t have any), and they always look amazing and very impressive to me.

The least liked photo was a picture from our Finland trip when we visited the Kuusisto Bishop’s Castle Ruins. I actually quite liked that photo myself, but oh well…

You can follow our adventures in Instagram @paulagaston


The year 2018 wasn’t quite “smooth sailing” for us, but I’m sure we need these kind of times to appreciate the easier years. Now it is time to look forward and I will tell you about future plans little later. I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year 2019, and thank you for reading my blog! New adventures are waiting…