NoCal Road Trip: Days 3-5 (College Tours!)

Settled into the San Jose Fairmont Hotel for the week, we took it upon ourselves to find great coffee and pastries for to kick off our morning routine. Anthony stumbled upon Bijan Bakery below the hotel, we took a gamble and were not disappointed (a love affair ensued for the week with their classic French pastries). I only wish that I had found their Raspberry roll earlier – it was my favorite!
We kicked off our first Bay area college tour with Stanford University. Wow! We were all impressed (Janelle remarked, can I go back to college – here!). We had the good fortune of a fantastic tour guide, an acrobat (literally a circus stunt student). He gave Anthony and Caleb some great insights to college life at Stanford, sharing great personal stories, and inspiring all of us. We were all impressed with the Chapel inside and out (mosaics), the academic buildings, the overall expanse of the campus – including the athletic facilities (four soccer fields), and the avid use of bicycles.

Following a full-day on Stanford campus and attending various sessions, we then strolled down University Ave in Palo Alto to unwind for the evening. Having spent a lot of time in Palo Alto for work, I took my family to one of my favorite local restaurants – Nola (a New Orleans restaurant boasting classic creole and Cajun foods). In addition to our Mojito pitcher (Janelle), the most memorable aspects of our meal included gator pot-stickers (Caleb), short ribs and gumbo (Anthony) and jambalaya (James). Sitting outdoor in the open-air two-story courtyard was a treat. We drove home slowly and crashed!

On our second day of college tours, we targeted Santa Clara and California Berkeley. Following a short stop at Bijan Bakery, we spent the entire morning touring Santa Clara campus. Granted, following Stanford was going to be hard, but the Santa Clara kick-off was lengthy and uninspiring (which did not do the college justice). Fortunately, we had a good guide for the campus tour. The athletic facilities were impressive, and the boys had a brief meeting with the soccer coach too.

We drove up to Berkeley for the afternoon. Auntie Kristin met us for lunch on campus (bringing take-out), and then giving us a personal tour of campus (we had missed the earlier, official tour). We went up the (in)famous clock tower, toured the graduate library, paleontology museum, and the redwood and eucalyptus groves.  Afterwards, we stopped at Bancroft to shop for some souvenir clothing.

Wednesday evening, Kristin and Matt took us a local venue, Pizzaiolo for dinner. The outdoor eating area in back boasted picnic-table style eating, bocce ball and a chicken coop! The wood-fired pizzas were splendid, the bartender was talented (a perfect Manhattan), the weather was good and conversation was great. Afterwards, we went to Emoryville to visit Kristin and Matt’s boat, walk the jetty (looking back at the San Fran skyline), and to enjoy after-dinner drinks at Trader Vics. It was a memorable day!

The third and final day of our college tours included a brief return to Stanford, before heading onto to University of San Francisco. The boys had a chance to meet the Cardinal soccer team and coaches – cool! After picking up some memorabilia, we drove north, into and through a fog bank to arrive at the University of San Francisco (situated at the top of the hill!). Prior to the official tour, we strolled through campus to find lunch (whereupon the boys ran into the soccer team and coach – small world!). After satiating ourselves with Falafels, we commenced the USF tour with a group of a prospective students (including some local Seattleites). USF was a beautiful, intimate campus, with great academic and athletic facilities, a gorgeous church (St.Ignatius), and a delightful student body. Situated closely to downtown San Fran (3 miles), it was obvious why the school attracted so many international students (30%!).

Afterwards, we drove to the Nobb Hill Fairmont Hotel to drop the car, considered a trolley ride (but gave up given the crowds), then proceed to walk to Union Square to shop (Levi’s Store, Nike Town). Following a quick change in the hotel, we spent Thursday evening in the Mission District at one of my favorite restaurants – Foreign Cinema! The ambiance and people were beautiful, but the food was star of the night. We splurged: pork belly (appetizer), bavette steak (Anthony), duck (James), cheesecake chevre and apricot cobb (shared), and grappa! Notwithstanding the long drive back to our hotel in San Jose, it was tremendous day in San Francisco.

After 3 days and four college visits, Anthony and Caleb got a better sense of the prospective opportunities before them, and all of us got to enjoy time together over some fantastic food. Conversation was good and laughter was abundant.

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