10 Places In My Cities: Bay Area

1. Montara Beach, Half Moon Bay
It was seven or eight years ago, my ex-coworker and friend T was in the office with me. We were both un-staffed. In consulting world, unstaffed time is downtime, when we weren’t billable, not earning money for the company, and basically had nothing to do. We decided to sneak out in the middle of the afternoon and blow off some steam. At the time, both of us had bottled up lots of frustration from our previous projects.

He took me to Montara Beach, north of the crowded and touristy Half Moon Bay. I fell in love with it right away. It was a secluded little beach, bounded by low cliffs on all sides. The beach descended into the ocean in such an angle that the ocean seemed to be taller than the beach. Waves looked fuller than anywhere else and always on the point of bursting open. Lots of surfers but not many beach goers.

I took mom and Nappy there many times. Because of the low hills on all sides, we could let Nappy go off-leash without worrying about him run away.

I took a boy there after we started dating. He recited a little essay to me on the beach, explaining why he loves me. A month later he broke up with me and I went back to the beach alone, sat on the sand dunes, watched the ocean for an hour, cried and tried to make sense of the series of events. Of course I couldn’t make much sense of it. But the beach looked so angry and emotional that my own emotion seemed rather small, under comparison. It did help me to calm down.

It is still my favorite beach on the N. Cal coast.

2. Pescadero Artichoke Creme Soup & Artichoke Heart Bread

Gui and Matthew introduced me to Pescadero. It is south of Half Moon Bay, along highway 1. Pescadero is apparently Portuguese, means Fish. Used to be a little fishing village, now it has turned into a artist retreat. There is only one restaurant on its little main street. And it is appropriately named, “The Restaurant”. The restaurant serves one specialty soup called Artichoke Creme Soup. It was absolutely delicious. The waitress never made us feel unwelcome even though all we ever ordered there was soup and bread.

Next to the restaurant are a couple of boutique stores, filled with beautiful looking ends and odds made by local artists. Further up the road, on the opposite side of the streets are two grocery stores. One of them always sell freshly made artesian breads. Our favorite was the one with embedded chunky artichoke hearts. On our way home, our cars are always filled with that heavenly smell.

Jean’s Weblog(08/09/2004): Artichoke Bread from Pascadero

3. V. Sattui, Napa
It is a pretty winery with large selection of wine, a decent deli, lovely and specious picnic tables dotted under oak trees, and free wine tasting. I especially love their specialty rose wine, called Gamay Rouge. I usually walk out of its door with a case of these rose wine. It has a strawberry flavor, very easy to drink.

Napa in the Fall, (In Chinese)

4. Skyline Blvd, HWY 35

This is Matthew’s favorite road. I don’t blame him. In the north, close to San Mateo, there was a section of the road that was on top of the hill above the tree lines, in a clear day, one could see San Francisco Bay on the east, and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Going south, it winds its way through beautiful forests with filtered sunlight or mysterious fog, wineries and stately redwoods, passes Castle Rock State Park, and eventually reaches highway 9 which leads further into Santa Cruz Mountain.

Mountain bikers and motorcycle riders love this road, too. So drive carefully!

Jean’s Weblog (09/01/2003): Climbing at Castle Rock

5. Stanford University

I’m sounding like a traitor here being a Berkeley Alumni. But what can I say? Berkeley is too far from my normal commute route. 🙁

Stanford’s main chapel is perfect for roller-skating on weekends. The connected passage ways and smooth marble(is it marble?) floor are smooth going. One could go in circles on this flat “track”. It is especially wonderful for beginners because even though there are usually two or three wedding parties taking photos in the vicinity, the passage way is usually left empty.

Stanford’s art museum opens to the public for free. They usually have pretty good collections on show. Further more, the courtyard of the museum is an amazing sculpture garden features an amazing collection of Rodin’s work. If you can come at night, the piece called “Gate of Hell” will be especially stunning bathed in the special lighting arrangement.

Last but not the least; the Stanford Shopping Center is one of the prettiest outdoor mall I’ve ever seen. I’m especially fond of its Palo Alto Coffee Roasting Company. If I was in an expensive mode, I would go down to Oakville Grocery for a grilled Chicken sandwich to go with my coffee. While waiting for my sandwich, I would certainly be sampling Oakville’s many delicious sauces and olive oils.

6. Castro Street, Mtn View

Cheap and decent Chinese eateries, spicy Thai food, Japanese Udon, Vietnamese noodle house, and good Malaysia restaurant, these are good enough reason to visit. It is close by Shoreline Movie Theatre complex, which makes it a perfect place to grab a late night snack. There is a super friendly Red Rock Cafe, frequent by the locals and sports an open mac night on Mondays. It was here that I heard my “Story in a Coffee house” (in Chinese).

7. California Street, Palo Alto

There used to be an excellent local bookseller on this street, called Printer’s Inc. It was a bookstore plus coffee/deli. Its deli’s logo is a coffee cup with steam came out of it. Nowadays that has become a famous sight due to the popularity of java. In the first java doc published on Sun’s website, at the very bottom, it indicated the origin of this coffee cup: Printer’s Inc, California Street, Palo Alto.

So my guess is the founder(s) of java must have been a frequent customer of Printer’s Inc.

The Mollie Stone’s deli department used to be another favorite of mine. They make the biggest and the most delicious chicken salad sandwiches with a kind of bread they call Dutch Crunch. Each sandwich was large enough to serve as my lunch AND dinner.

There are a couple of other notable food places on California Street. Joanie’s Cafe , run by a French woman. I used to love their Monte Cristo sandwich. La Bodeguita Del Medio, Cuban restaurant, serves wonderful fish and they make wonderful Mojitos.

A few blocks south of California, right before getting back onto the busy Oregon Expressway, there is another lovely Italian restaurant hidden in the residential block. Behind the ivy clad fences, there was the garden of Cafe Riace Trattoria.

8. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
This little gem located on Hwy 1, north of Half Moon Bay but south of Montara Beach. The reserve’s tidal pool is full of surprises for children and adults alike. Before you go, do check out the tide schedule so to maximize your experience in this little maze of shallow marine wonders.

In addition to the fun on the beach, do climb up the cliff and check out their little hiking trails winding through a gorgeous forest. It was made for a wedding party.

9. Planet Granite Climbing Gym

Climbing is a great way to exercise, not just one’s body, but also one’s mind. Trying to figure out how to climb a route is almost like trying to solve a geometric equation. Instead of using symbols and logic, climbers use their body and will to accomplish this task. Comparing to Mission Cliff in San Francisco, Planet Granite is more like a climbing gym for climbers, rather than a show-off place for over-achievers.
I have to admit that I have stopped climbing. But I still come to Planet Granite for Yoga classes most of the Thursdays.

10. Lake Tahoe
It is three and half hours away from Bay Area. But during Bay Area’s winter, on weekends, especially after a storm, many of the trendy restaurants/bars in SF Bay Area are rather empty. The reason is an open secret, the usual yuppie crowds are up in Tahoe. In many ways, the phenomenon ski resorts that dotted Lake Tahoe’s shores, both north and south, acted as an extension of Bay Area’s weekend life. Maybe that explained why the real estate is sky rocketing in a northern California town like Truckee, and why a pizza from Truckee Brewery could fetch for eighteen dollars.

Instead of waiting for winter to come to us, we go to winter.

2 thoughts on “10 Places In My Cities: Bay Area

  1. I believe the restauran is part of Duarte’s tavern http://www.duartestavern.com/

    Jean, make a top 10 things in San Francisco list? As opposed to the bay area. Now that you’ve lived there for a little while I’m curios to read your top 10 😉

    Jean’s Reply:
    Thank you for the clarification! I never paind attention to the name, must have mixed it up with the one up north in Fort Bragg…
    I did write one for San Francisco. But it was in Chinese. I think i write better in Chinese. 🙁 Maybe i will try to do a translation if i have time…
    Here is the list:
    10 Places in my City- San Francisco
    1. The Legion of Honor
    2. Golden Gate Park
    3. MOMA
    4. Betelnut & Union Street, Fillmore Street
    5. Spices II & Clement Street
    6. Saturday’s Farmer’s Market
    7. Civic Center (Symphony, Opera House, Museum, Library, etc.)
    8. Stern Grove
    9. Gordon Biersch & Embarcadero Ave.
    10. North Beach at Night.
  2. What is Spices II? Is that the Burmese restaurant?

    Jean’s Reply:
    Spices II is not the Burmese restaurant. It is a SiChuan Restaurant. on 6th at Clement.

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