Used mix of Zagat, Citysearch, city website, and wikitravel to put together a list of interesting things, some of which I hit today.
First: doing this took me awhile, so it was early lunchtime before I left the hotel. The hotel does have the most delicious apples in the world, but not in quantity needed to avoid hunger. The relevant parts of the Bay area are aligned along one street - El Camino Real, on which I drove back and forth looking for a restaurant for which I had an incorrect address - I eventually gave up and chose an Indian restaurant using my rule of thumb for Indian low-end authenticity: Find the restaurant with the most garish colors among those available and with as many Sikhs visible in the area as possible. This led me to Shalimar (yay Salman Rushdie), an Indo-Pakistani place - very inexpensive, very authentic (including the bizarro indian tea), and with a largely Indian-Pakistani clientele. I picked up a Pakistani newspaper (arabic type) to play with drawing the letters on the plane ride back (I've been collecting issues of the People's Daily at CMU for similar purposes). Afterwards, I went to Palo Alto's Baylands Preserve - it was quite awesome.
First, there was a duck pond with a large variety of birds swarming near where a guy tossed a large bag's worth of feed onto the pavement - plenty of species I haven't seen since several trips to CA ago. Walking around the pond to see their nesting areas, I saw a number of giant plants that similarly don't exist in PA. After passing around the water areas, all pretty in their own way, I found the highlight of the park - behind a closed nature centre was a long wooden walkway stretching out over a land that slowly transitioned from solid to the bay, that area packed with crazy saltdwelling plants I've never seen before. About halfway from that centre to the bay was a much longer narrow wooden walkway (blocked from entry by a "fence" on its connection to the main walkway) stretching between the power/phone line towers high above. Looking across the view, I got a feeling for how California must've been for the first settlers, just starting to lay infrastructure over a strange, huge landscape. I also liked how I could read the spanish there pretty well. Starting back (and passing a large group of Japanese tourists), I found an area that used to be a dock but was closed by the city in the 40s, a move fought by a group of boat owners in the court for many years. Looking at the beauty of the area, I have to say they made a good decision. The entire area felt profoundly distant from society...
Returning to my car (reluctantly - I could've spent the whole day or several days there), I drove to the other nearby preserve (Astradero), which was full of gorgeous-but-in-a-California-way nature. California weirds me out in general (well, most areas) - the strip-mall feeling makes me really dislike the populated parts of the non-SF areas - they (partly wrongly) set off my slumometer (feels like NewarkNJ but less industrial), and the nature is very different - it feels at least moderately dryer than Ohio/PA/Other places. I can still appreciate the beauty, but it's one that feels alien and inhospitable on some level, like nature only grudgingly supports life. All the nature here speaks of hardship, but is still quite pretty. Astradero feels a bit like Ligonier, PA (but dryer) - lots of nice hills, good places to walk, etc. There are bike/walking paths going over a large area nearby - if I have time I might rent a bike (got some advice on this from some of the people of all ages on the paths) and go back. Palo Alto in general is quite bike-friendly, which is nice - not as nice as Amsterdam but reasonable consideration is made in most of the roads. After spending a reasonable time walking around this preserve, I was a bit thirsty and worried about the place I was parked closing, so I returned to the car...
I was going to go right to the Stanford area, but decided to make a stop at a nearby place recommended by citysearch -- 「Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream」 (came perilously close to getting lost on the way there due to some accident-caused road-closures). Rick's was quite good. It was fairly dark by this time, so I went towards Stanford in search of a coffeeshop. After parking, I ducked into Border's, finding (while holding a phone conversation with a friend in Columbus) an issue of International Socialist Review (a magazine I like but haven't often seen in stores in Pgh) talking about Obama's politics (probably dismissively, but I haven't gotten to that article yet - most socialist/communist political circles are taking care to remind people that Obama isn't the change we socialists/communists/anarchists/etc hope for). The area was full of promising-looking coffeeshops/teahouses - I went with Caffè del Doge, which had some types of tea I've never heard of and very pleasant Spanish and Italian music playing. Some of that bizarre tea, a so-so croissant (I am very picky), and a pleasant atmosphere - thumbs up. After awhile, I decided to head home, swinging by a liquor store along the way to get a little wine for later tonight if I feel like it.
Me gusta que Español es una idioma primera (con Inglés) aquí - pienso que no es facil para estudiar las idiomas otras en Pennsylvania porque no tenemos sufficiente personas que hablan más de Inglés - es una pena porque más idiomas conduce acceso a más literatura (y gazetas).
I need to figure out if I can get in the mood of drawing more comics while here. Also, my ankle is almost certainly some kind of high-functioning broken. Kind of a metaphor for me in general, really. Travelling on CMU's dime isn't so bad - if I can convince the Utah folk that their software needs a lot of cleanup, after some urgent projects wrap up my boss offered to arrange for me to spend a few weeks in Utah doing so - I'm wondering if that'd be workable/a good idea/etc. It'd certainly be productive, I think. Awesome hotel apples plus wine are in tonight's agenda before sleep.