Our first day in California and we have already “seen” Silicon Valley*, the tourist traps in Fisherman’s wharf in San Francisco, a fog covered Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz from the shore, the Pacific Ocean and hang gliders from Fort Funston, had some free chocolate from the Ghiradelli Chocolate shop and the two highlights of the day: IKEA and GOOGLE!
Our hostess works at Google, and invited us for lunch there. This company has been voted the best place to work in the world, and I can understand why; you can bring your dog to the office (your cat too, but probably not advisable with all the dogs around!), free lunches in more than 10 different restaurants on campus, free shuttle buses with wi-fi, heated toilet seats (I had to try, of course), free juice bars in every office and no dress code!
We had lunch in the No Name Café and it was great – nice salads, cold cuts, hot dishes and even yummy gluten-free bread. Afterwards we picked some Ben & Jerry ice cream from one of the freezers and strolled around the grounds, where we discovered more interesting things such as a vegetable patch, on-site hair dresser, solar panels on the parking lots and free valet parking. Google is a very young company and you can really tell when you walk around – it feels like you are on an university campus!
After lunch, we had a quick stop at Ikea to get a cheese cutter (we’ve discovered that you need more than one when you have a dish-washer!!), some Kalles Kaviar and Swedish cheese for O (NB. for the Spaniard, not for me!), a frame (as it is almost impossible to find bigger than photo-sized frames in Puerto Rico), meatball sauce (in powder), blueberry soup and some Läkerol for me. It is a bit sad to visit Ikea when you are in California, but remember that we live in an Ikea-free country, and O is a big Ikea fan (we even had our first meal together in an Ikea!)…
Our host J (O’s friend and ex-colleague) took us to San Francisco – it was a sunny day driving along the Embarcadero until we reached Fisherman’s wharf and the sky turned grey and the fog started creeping up on us…
A sunny bridge – the Bay Bridge
Despite the grey and windy weather, we had a nice walk along the shore – looking at the tourist traps in Fisherman’s wharf selling tacky souvenirs, and restaurants serving sea food and Clam chowder soup (we had the best New England Clam Chowder in Newport in 2005). The Ghiradelli chocolate shop and café didn’t impress us, having lived in the chocolate country Belgium for so long… But the old chocolate factory building was nice, and so was the former Del Monte cannery (where they canned the fruit!) – I like old, industrial buildings in red brick!
The trams are an integral part of the street life in San Francisco, nevertheless we decided against taking a ride – the queue was too long and we’ve been on shaky old trams in Brussels… However, J drove us up Gough Street – one of those steep San Francisco streets with beautiful old houses.
When J heard that I had never seen the Pacific Ocean, he was astonished but quickly fixed it by bringing us to Fort Funston. The view is spectacular over the coast and the hang gliders give it that special edge!
Our first full day in California was finished off with dinner in an Indian restaurant to O’s delight – he loves Indian food and was impressed with the “genuine” atmosphere of Indian clients and a Bollywood film playing in the back while I noticed all the Ikea furniture and cutlery… The food was delicious though, so I wasn’t complaining. 🙂
*) Silicon Valley is more a concept than an exact geographic place… The Santa Clara valley is where many of the computer companies and other high-tech industries are located and has therefore been dubbed Silicon Valley.