Tag Archives: Palo Alto

Crepevine, Palo Alto

Photo of the Crepevine restaurant in Palo Alto

Crepevine in Palo Alto

After our brisk walk in the Coyote Hills, which we’ll tell you about in the next post, it was time to find somewhere to eat. Palo Alto, being just on the other side of the Dumbarton Bridge, seemed the ideal place, so that’s the direction we headed in. On University, we passed a couple of coffee houses but we were looking for food. Opposite the CVS drugstore ,we saw Crepevine. We have been to Crepevine on Irvine St. in San Francisco several times and loved it. As soon as we walked in, we found it to be a twin sister of the one in the city.

The procedure here is to order at the counter, then be led to a table by a server clutching a metal stand with a number on it, and wait to be served. There was a line which gave us time to peruse the menu. Not only were we handed a menu but everything was written up on half a dozen blackboards above the counter. The writing and decoration on the boards were pure art all on their own.

Tom ordered the Provence Scramble ($10.50), which came with potatoes and toast. Although oatmeal appeared on the menu, I went for the Milano Crepe ($9.95), with salad instead of the potatoes or French Fries. To drink, Tom had black coffee ($1.95) and for me a one shot Cafe Latte ($2.25).

Our table was on the side. A long padded bench ran down the wall. As soon as I sat down, I took out my iPad and started writing but, when the food came, I had to stop because the table was so small. In fact, all of the tables were small. It would have been better to have sat in a booth but of course they were being kept for parties of four.

The food looked amazing. My crepe was large, plump, folded into four and with the filling oozing out. There was plenty of the salad but I could have done without the dressing it was smothered in. Next time I will remember to ask for the dressing on the side. Our food was served on large, round plates and the smallness of the table became a problem once again. In the middle of the table sat a caddy holding the condiments, which meant our plates were hanging over the edge of the table. By moving the caddy to the side, I made just enough room for our plates. Whilst I’m moaning I will also mention that the padded bench was very low and the table seemed too high for me. Tom, who was sitting on an ordinary chair, didn’t have the same problem.

Tom’s scramble contained fresh salmon (smoked salmon was an option), spinach, onions and cheese and plenty of it. He did enjoy it. Coffee was pretty good; at least it was better than the usual swill. My crepe was filled to the brim with grilled eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese and was delicious. Didn’t think I would be able to eat it all but I very nearly did.  All that was left on my plate was some of the salad and that was only because of the dressing.

The restrooms were at the back. Inside the ladies, it was large and multi functional in that it was suitable for wheelchair users and there were baby changing facilities. There was no art as such but there were a dozen toilet rolls artistically arranged on a glass shelf and a can of air freshener lying at an angle on the floor. No complaints about anything though as the water was hot and everything looked clean.

Would Tom and I go there again? The answer is yes. It was a very enjoyable experience (apart from the minor moans mentioned).

367 University ave
Palo Alto, CA. 94301

Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve

Couple of kayakers and an egret at Palo Alto Baylands

Couple of kayakers and an egret at Palo Alto Baylands

After our breakfast at Bill’s, we made our way to Palo Alto. As it was the rush hour, we took a circuitous route. Our destination was The Baylands Nature Preserve to the east of 101 next to Palo Alto Airport and just north of Shoreline and Moffett Field. We parked in the Byxbee Park car park. There were several other cars there but mostly they were dropping off children for a day camp.  As we unloaded our bikes and got our bearings, the children were being gathered together before they set off on their hike. One of the organizers was explaining to the children all the wildlife which co-exist within the preserve, including the Burrowing Owl.

Part of the site had previously been a landfill but has now been covered in clay and topsoil and turned into park, which has incorporated art into the design. There was a trail uphill which passed a lot of the outdoor sculpture but we headed towards the bay on the Adobe Creek Loop Trail. To our right was Mayfield Slough. The tide was in and at first we did not see a lot of birds. We spotted a lone white pelican on the water.

At first we did not see any other cyclists. There were a few joggers, one with his dog running alongside. It was a chilly morning and a slight breeze ruffled my hair. The sound of birds could be heard. Overhead small planes were coming in to land at the nearby airport. Along the first part of the trail there were quite a few benches. Further on, when I needed to sit down and write, there were no benches.

We crossed a bridge where the slough entered from the bay. Out on the bay a couple of kayakers were heading for shore. A hungry tern performed a marvelous diving demonstration and he kept us captivated for some time.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

White Pelicans at Palo Alto Baylands

White Pelicans at Palo Alto Baylands

A little further on we began to see a lot more birds. A mother duck was busily trying to keep control of five ducklings. Both Snowy and Greater Egrets were concentrating of finding breakfast. I spotted a Black Crowned Night Heron standing patiently on the far side of the slough. A couple of Black Phoebes were darting around snatching insects on the wing. Slowly a group of eight white pelicans swam into view. Normally the only pelicans I see are the brown pelicans which stay close to the ocean. White pelicans I have only seen frequenting wetlands and they are more striking than their brown counterparts.

What started out to be a chilly day turned into a really sunny one. We stopped so Tom could take some photos. In front of us now were hundreds of white pelicans in scattered groups on a couple of large islands in the slough.  There were other birds as well on the islands. It was an amazing site, all those white birds against a green background. I took the opportunity to park my bike as well and sat down on the pickleweed. I was moaning about there not being any benches around but, quite frankly, that pickleweed made a very comfortable seat. I took my helmet and gloves off and leaned back to admire the view. I could see cars in the distance on 101 but not hear them. What an extremely pleasant way to while away the time.

More and more people were out enjoying the walk on the loop trail. Groups of friends taking a leisurely walk and talking animatedly; mothers with their young children; older couples walking hand in hand and serious joggers. There were quite a few cyclists as well and one couple stopped to talk to us. They said this was one of their favorite places to ride their bikes and come here often. During the conversation they asked if we had seen the flamingo. What, were they kidding us? But no, there was one. At first I couldn’t see it but eventually located it way out to the west. It’s long thin legs were difficult to spot but when it lowered it’s distinctive long neck into the water, it was easier to identify. The only place you are likely to see flamingos in the US are in Florida. This one had obviously escaped from captivity. Normally they are bright pink but, as far as I could see, the one frequenting Baylands is not pink at all. It has been at Baylands for a couple of months now. You just never know what you are going to see!

Whole bunch of White Peicans at Palo Alto Baylands

Whole bunch of White Pelicans at Palo Alto Baylands

From my vantage point on the pickleweed I could see the distinctive roof over the Shoreline Amphitheatre. I watched the airship rise into the air from Moffat Field and glide gracefully westward. A company called Airship Ventures provides tours of Silicon Valley and even up to San Francisco. Wouldn’t that be an adventure?

We resumed our bike ride seeing more and more birds. Up ahead we could see a whole colony of white pelicans. Overhead another half a dozen flew in to join them. When I looked back I saw several more groups flying in. Obviously it was time for all the white pelicans in the vicinity to gather and catch up on the news of the day.

Our original plan was to cycle round the complete loop but the couple we were talking to said the final part is on roads and is not very interesting, so we decided to turn round and go back the way we had come. The sun was blazing down and the light was no longer any good to take photographs. Besides, the number of people now on the trail made negotiating round them a bit of a chore.

The Baylands is a really great place to get out and take a walk and to enjoy the birds. Lets make the most of our wetlands before they completely disappear.  We shall certainly be back, so look out for us.

California Street, Palo Alto

A stroll up and down California Street is a wonderful experience. It has a very relaxed feel about it and the number of opportunities to stop and take it all in are many, either on one of the benches or sitting outside one of the many cafes.

California Street is about two miles from the main shopping street in Palo Alto and the Stanford Shopping Center. It used to be a separate town altogether called Mayfield, which was here before Palo Alto even existed. The founder of Stanford University, Leland Stanford, wanted to build his university in Mayfield but it was on condition that alcohol be banned from the town. The residents were not happy with that condition as they had over a dozen saloons doing a roaring business. So Leland Stanford went two miles north to build his university. Palo Alto came into existence at the same time and eventually became larger than Mayfield. In 1925 Mayfield was annexed by Palo Alto and the town of Mayfield was no more.

There are lots of places to eat, ranging from the ubiquitous Starbucks and bagal shops to cafes like Cafe Brioche and Joanie’s to slightly pricier venues like Bistro Basia and Illusions (with belly dancer) right up to Spalti Restorante and Bistro Elan. But my favorite (apart from Joanie’s for breakfast) is Printers Cafe. Ideal for a quick snack and a drink, sitting outside and watching the world walk by. Also it has the Gallery House opening from the main room. This is owned and operated by a co-operative of artists and there are regular exhibitions there. It is open on Tuesday from 11-5 and from 11-9 on Wednesdays to Saturdays.

There are two natural food markets – Mollie Stone’s at the station end and Country Sun, which is nearer to El Camino. Other businesses include a cobblers, hair and nail saloons, a florist, several opticians, a yoga center, a massage therapy center, a second hand bookshop with a very original name – Know Knew Books, an art supplies shop, a stationers which sells a variety to goods and Keeble and Shuchat Photography has two shops almost opposite each other. Tom disappeared into one of them for about an hour which gave me the opportunity to really explore the neighborhood.

Watch out for the art as well. There is an interesting statue on the corner of Ash which is called ‘Go Mama’ by Marta Thomas. On the other side of the street is a sculpture entitled ‘Love Spoken Here’ by William Wareham which is four large chairs and a small table made of of metal. I wonder if it is OK to sit on them? Hmm, maybe I’d better not. In the median on either side of Birch there are two more sculptures, one of metal and one of wood. There are also quite a few wall murals. On a wall to the side of Starbucks are three and on the side of Country Sun there is a huge picture of a volcano with a field of California poppies in the foreground. On the corner of California and Ash there is the Hotel California with several murals, one of them very amusing.

All in all, a wonderful neighborhood. Check it out.

Stanford University, Palo Alto

Today is going to be a beautiful sunny day. We are later than usual starting off because we are not going too far – Palo Alto to be exact.

Our mission today is to find an outfit for me to wear to my daughter’s wedding in five weeks time. For several weeks I have been searching for something suitable but without luck. Yesterday I spent several fruitless hours at the Gilroy Outlets but everything was far too young and strappy for me. I even stopped off at a bridal shop on the way home and checked out their outfits for the ‘Mother of the Bride’ but these were not only far too ornate but out of my price range.

So today It will be Stanford Shopping Center where I’ll check out Talbots, Bloomingdales and possibly Nordstrom. Let’s hope I will be successful.

Our first stop though is Stanford University. It’s a lovely campus with many grand Italian Spanish-colonial style buildings (thanks to Dave for pointing out my mistake) but they were not on our itinerary. There were two places we wanted to visit – the Stone River sculpture and the Cactus Garden.

Stone River, Stanford UniversityWe knew roughly where they were but were not a 100% certain. I knew the Stone River sculpture was near the Cantor Arts Center so when we stumbled on that building we knew we were close. But it is hard to find because a) there are no directions to be seen and b) it can’t be seen from the road as it is below ground level. If you have a desire to see it for yourself here are the directions. The Cantor Arts Center is on Lumita Drive. When you stand on the steps in front of the Cantor, you can see Museum Way in front of you. Walk across the road to Museum Way. There is a car park on your left. Behind the car park look out for two granite blocks and walk towards them. You will then see the Snake River to your left.

It was designed by the British sculpture Andy Goldsworthy. If you have never heard of him or seen any of his work, let me introduce you. He was born in the north of England and his sculpture is unique as he uses basic tools and his works consist of twigs, thorns, stones, ice, leaves, rocks, chalk and literally anything natural in the vicinitiy. Most of them are reclaimed by nature pretty quickly but he takes photographs as a record. For a fascinating documentary of his life and work see if you can lay your hands on the DVD entitled ‘Rivers and Tides’.

The Stone River is a dry stone wall which took eight men, working six days a week, 11 hours aStone River, Stanford University day, three and a half weeks to construct back in the summer of 2001. Another place to see a permanent piece of work by Andy Goldsworthy – ‘Faultline’ – is outside the entrance of the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.

While Tom was taking photos, I walked over to the Cantor Arts Center. Off to the left of the building is the Roden Sculpture Garden where some of Auguste Roden’s sculptures are displayed in a pleasing setting. Roden is famous for his sculpture entitled ‘The Thinker’. Here though you will see his ‘Gates of Hell’, ‘Adam’, ‘Eve’, ‘The Martyr’, ‘The Three Shades’ plus fifteen more.

To the right of the Cantor is a completely different sculpture. This is large and red and built out of stainless steel girders and is called ‘The Sieve of Eratosthenes’ by Mark di Suvero.

In front of the Cantor are some bike racks and what really amused me is that some of the bikes, firmly secured to the racks, must have been there for some considerable time.

Now for the Cactus Garden. Once again it is hard to find as it is not marked in any way. We have been here before and we knew it was near the California Cafe. The exact location is on Quarry Road, just off the car park opposite the Wells Fargo bank. Look out for the wooden posts which mark the start of the a footpath.

The actual name of the garden is Arizona Garden. It was laid out in 1880s for Jane and Leland Stanford (Leland Stanford was the founder of Stanford University). They planned to build their home nearby but it was never constructed. Their son, Leland Stanford, Jr. died of typhoid just before his sixteenth birthday and they used the land to build the Stanford family mausoleum instead.

The time is 8.30 in the morning and it is very peaceful. I wandered around looking at the many different cacti and succulents and then found a bench in the sun to write my journal. It’s a perfect day with hardly a breeze to stir the leaves. Every so often I gaze at the garden, which is showing its age a bit. Up to the 1920’s it was well maintained but then left completely untended until it was restored in 1997. There are some original plants still in existence but not all of them are in good shape. It adds to the charm of the place though.

Time for breakfast and then we will hit the shops.

PS – I did find the perfect outfit at Stanford Shopping Center – mission accomplished.

Joanie’s Cafe, Palo Alto

Before we headed to Palo Alto We checked where to have breakfast. We could not find anywhere on University Avenue, which is the main street of Palo Alto, but on California Avenue we found Joanie’s at 447 California Avenue. California Avenue is in a separate neighborhood and is about two miles from University and has a completely different feel about it. It used to be the main street in the town of Mayfield. Mayfield was incorporated into Palo Alto in 1925.

We have eaten here before in June of 2003 and were impressed. It is very small with just 5 tables for four and 9 for two with 3 places at the counter inside and a few tables outside. There are no booths. We arrived at 9.30, which is late for us, and the place was full so we had to wait for ten minutes. The first places to become available were at the counter so we took them. This is a first for me.

The service is quick and efficient and in no time at all we had our coffee and water and our order was taken. Tom ordered Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon ($9.50) and it was the usual oatmeal for me ($4.95). Back in 2003 the oatmeal was $4.00 so that is nearly a 25% increase in five years.

The only decoration in the place, apart from a large vase of fresh flowers on the counter, were a series of black and white photos around the walls. They were all done by the husband and wife team of Mark and Myshel Morgan and the photos were of London and San Tropez and Paris in France. Very impressive.

Our food was quick to arrive and it sure looked good. The Eggs Benedict looked really pretty and, for once, the hash browns did look extra crispy. It came with a small bowl of fruit containing sliced strawberries, cubes of melon and apple. My oatmeal came in a large, shallow bowl. On a separate plate were three toppings in stainless steel bowls – brown sugar, raisins and granola. I was asked whether I wanted full milk or reduced fat and chose the latter. It came hot and steamed in a white ceramic jug. The oatmeal looked very white so I’m guessing it was cooked in milk and not water.

A quick trip to the restroom but it wasn’t very noteworthy. It was very small with just one small picture on the wall entitled ‘Arles Flowerbox, France’.

We both loved the food and highly recommend it. It is a happy, bustling place with a very nice atmosphere and the service is great.

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