The other side of Sil­i­con

Once seem­ingly the edge of the world, the Bay Area thrums with in­no­va­tion and vigour

HT City - - Entertainment / Lifestyle - GLOBE TROT GEETIKA JAIN

The clutch of sub­ur­ban towns just south of San Fran­cisco Bay, col­lec­tively called Sil­i­con Val­ley are spring­ing into promi­nence yet again. In­nu­mer­able tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions have ei­ther ger­mi­nated in the well­spring of ideas here, or taken wing here as pa­trons, fi­nanciers set up shop to in­vest in them.

The once sprawl­ing or­chards of the Santa Clara Val­ley have given way to a string of pleas­ant sub­ur­ban neigh­bour­hoods, re­search cen­tres and gi­ant tech cam­puses. The once sleepy val­ley at the outer edge of our ge­og­ra­phy now thrums as the beat­ing heart of our world. Life is good here; the joys of a ma­jor city, San Fran­cisco, are an hour’s drive away and its dy­namic work op­por­tu­ni­ties, moun­tain­ous sur­rounds, clear skies and pleas­ing tem­per­a­tures are en­list­ing more and more con­verts. “Go west young man” res­onates once again.

Life in the val­ley

With the lack of a fo­cal, down­town area, vis­i­tors may strug­gle to get a sense for the place. The best place to start is the town of Palo Alto. Walk along Univer­sity Av­enue and Hamil­ton Av­enue, with their lively restau­rants, bars and bou­tiques and dis­cover the cur­rent cult places such as Blue Bot­tle Coffee, Fraiche for frozen yo­ghurt and Sushir­ito for sushi. Nearby, Town & Coun­try vil­lage is a pop­u­lar hub packed with eater­ies with Calafia, a restau­rant serv­ing Cal­i­for­nian cui­sine that stands out as a lo­cal favourite. A lo­cal friend ex­plained, “The vibe in the val­ley is low key and un­pre­ten­tious. The hec­tic life­styles of NY and LA are es­chewed for fam­ily time, ca­sual clothes re­place busi­ness suits at the work­place. Over the week­ends, peo­ple chill out at cosy house par­ties. The su­per-wealthy might own vast es­tates and pri­vate jets, but drop­ping the kids off to school is most im­por­tant. Elec­tric cars, healthy eat­ing and chang­ing the world are the top­ics that in­vari­ably flow into the con­ver­sa­tions.”

Stan­ford Univer­sity

Apart from be­ing a hal­lowed tem­ple to learn­ing and re­search, Stan­ford Univer­sity ex­tends it­self seam­lessly to the val­ley folks by way of open lec­tures and ex­hibits. Walk­ing its lush grounds and pil­lared cor­ri­dors is tread­ing the ground shared by great minds such as John Stein­beck, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The Can­tor Mu­seum, open to the pub­lic, has one of the largest col­lec­tions of Au­guste Rodin’s sculp­tures in­clud­ing The Gates of Hell. Steps away, the An­der­son Mu­seum, also open to the pub­lic, show­cases con­tem­po­rary art. The jew­ellike Wind­hover Med­i­ta­tion Cen­tre is harder to find, but you might find a stu­dent to take you in­side to ex­pe­ri­ence this space, work of ar­chi­tects Aidlin and Dar­ling.

The great out­doors

The most ac­ces­si­ble hike close to Palo Alto is the Stan­ford Dish. This gen­tly un­du­lat­ing four-mile loop of­fers sweep­ing views, with a par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful vista of Stan­ford Univer­sity and San Fran­cisco Bay. A univer­sity pro­fes­sor said that she once saw a cougar with her cubs in a dis­tant thicket.

For a more stren­u­ous trek, the Won­der lake County Park next to the town of Wood­side has sev­eral hilly trails and open mead­ows amid red­wood, oak and lau­rel thick­ets. The six-mile sky­line trail has the most re­ward­ing views. Th­ese ver­dant hills are home to rab­bits, rac­coons, coy­otes and bob­cats. We also saw wood­peck­ers, jays and wren­tits. The en­tire val­ley is teem­ing with wildlife; dur­ing an evening walk in Ather­ton, we came up-close to a black-tailed deer, which watched us, did a nim­ble-footed turn, then leapt ath­let­i­cally over a tall bush and van­ished be­hind a tech gi­ant’s lovely home. geetik­a­glo­be­trot@google­mail.com

Rodin sculp­tures at Stan­ford Univer­sity A Church in Palo Alto, Bay Area

Cal­i­for­nia cui­sine. Salad of quinoa, greens and hu­mus

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