Now the whole world knows the way to San Jose

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - UNITED STATES -

Once a by­word for sleepy rus­tic­ity, this Cal­i­for­nia city has been re­vi­talised by the tech in­dus­try – with sur­real re­sults. Chris Lead­beater gets to grips with Sil­i­con Val­ley

Do you know the way to San Jose?” Dionne Warwick’s 1968 ques­tion was bit­ter­sweet. Held aloft by Burt Bacharach’s stir­ring melody and soar­ing strings, this global hit sin­gle was a soul­ful sugar-lump, but its tune­ful­ness par­tially dis­guised its sense of de­spon­dency. It voiced the frus­tra­tions of a wannabe who had thrown herself at Los An­ge­les – only to find herself, her am­bi­tions crushed, han­ker­ing for the fa­mil­iar com­forts of her home city.

Half a cen­tury on, the flow of the song’s nar­ra­tive might be re­versed. Not be­cause LA has ceased to be a whirlpool that draws in dream­ers and des­per­a­dos; more that San Jose has it­self be­come a mag­net for the am­bi­tious and gifted. What was once a woozy fig­ure among fields has be­come, in some ways, the cen­tre of the Earth; the cap­i­tal of “Sil­i­con Val­ley”, where the planet’s prime tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies hold court. Warwick’s star-chaser might still seek San Jose in 2016 – but she would not be re­turn­ing to her roots in fail­ure. She would be armed with an Ivy League de­gree in com­puter pro­gram­ming, ideas for a dig­i­tal start-up, and plans for mul­ti­mil­lion­aire sta­tus be­fore turn­ing 30.

This 21st-cen­tury mix of com­merce and clev­er­ness is one of the rea­sons Bri­tish Air­ways launched the first di­rect flight be­tween the UK and San Jose ear­lier this year – a daily ser­vice from Heathrow which ef­fec­tively de­clares that, although San Fran­cisco lurks a mere 55 miles to the north­west, its Bay Area sib­ling is now a des­ti­na­tion in its own right.

That, at least, is the the­ory. How­ever, when my flight touches down, I am not im­me­di­ately con­vinced that Bri­tish Air­ways does know the way to San Jose – or that I have found it. While the ap­proach to San Fran­cisco of­fers that fab­u­lous blur of sky­scraper and oceanic blue, and LAX throbs with the gritty prox­im­ity of the metropo­lis, Mineta In­ter­na­tional Air­port gives just the tire­less thrum of the free­way and the hard lines of the rail­road yard.

The hotch-potch that lies be­yond does lit­tle to sup­port the statis­tic that

Down­town San Jose, the ur­ban gate­way to the in­for­ma­tion rev­o­lu­tion

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