The other side of Silicon
Once seemingly the edge of the world, the Bay Area thrums with innovation and vigour
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.”
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. firstname.lastname@example.org