Posted by Ric Garrido

Stanford University Day Tripping – So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

Stanford University Courtyard

Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA October 16, 2008

Rushing out of Monterey I had no idea what the temperature was in Silicon Valley, California.  The 70° Monterey air soon went to 90° on Highway 101 right where Monterey County changes to San Benito County.  Somehow the County line seems to be situated right at the point of the freeway where the Pacific Ocean air conditioning ends.

The beautiful hotel exterior of the Four Seasons caught my attention numerous times as I passed by on Highway 101 through Palo Alto. 

Four Seasons Silicon Valley, East Palo Alto, California

Four Seasons Silicon Valley, East Palo Alto, California

A room with a view of IKEA and the freeway always seemed like an odd location for a luxury hotel.  The dichotomy of social existence in California is reflected perfectly in a luxury hotel next to a freeway separating the predominantly lower socioeconomic households of East Palo Alto from the Stanford University dominated Palo Alto to the west.

Four Seasons Silicon Valley East Palo Alto California

Four Seasons Silicon Valley, East Palo Alto, California

I decided to check out the freeway-side hotel as I exited University Avenue in East Palo Alto on the way to Stanford University.  Ambient music played in the lobby.  The bright sun on this 90°F October day kept the west facing window seating “awash in clear sunlight by day”.  That descriptive phrase lifted from the Four Seasons website perfectly captures the light I experienced as I walked through the hotel.  Most of the people present were in the Quattro café/bar area.  http://www.fourseasons.com/siliconvalley/photo_gallery/

 Four Seasons Silicon Valley, lobby

Four Seasons Silicon Valley lobby, East Palo Alto, California

I wasn’t dressed for public relations or The Bar.   The rooftop pool view will have to wait for another day.

Four Seasons Quattro

Four Seasons Silicon Valley Quattro Restaurant

A quick lobby walk-through and photo snaps with a stop in the toilet comprised my visit.  Five star luxury bathrooms use hand towels, not paper towels in the public area restrooms.

Four Seasons Silicon Valley, lobby restroom

Four Seasons, Silicon Valley has a $245 Bed and Breakfast rate which must make this hotel one of the lowest priced Four Seasons in the United States. 

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The train tracks separate the few blocks of upscale shops, restaurants, and bars on University Avenue east of the tracks, from the Palo Alto Sheraton and Westin and Stanford University on the west side of the tracks.  I parked in the business district and joined the multilingual crowd on the sunny sidewalks. 

Electric Car, Palo Alto, California

Electric Car, Palo Alto, California

Several people walking in front of me all turned right into a store.  Several people walking towards me all turned left into the same store.  I glanced in as I passed by the door and saw it was an Apple computer store.  Dozens of shops on the street and it seemed just about everyone on the sidewalk had walked into the Apple store.  There must have been fifteen people go inside in a 30-second period.

I turned around and went in the Apple store.  I have never been in an Apple store before.  Long white countertops had Apple products evenly spaced for consumer-user friendliness.  One counter had about six or eight computers.  There were several rows of these counters.  Another area had i-phones, and another area i-pods.  Headphones were dangling from overhead fixtures.  Dozens of people were standing in front of computers surfing the internet.   My little city of Monterey has nothing like this. 

 

The Palo Alto Sheraton and Palo Alto Westin are adjacent to each other and across the street from Stanford University.  I have stayed at both of these hotels.  The Westin is elegant and has nicer rooms.  The Sheraton has the better pool and is the place to be if you want to party.  The Westin exudes professorial sophistication and the Sheraton says California sunshine and tan maintenance.  Both hotels are outrageously high on most weekdays with $200+ rates.  Over the past year the Sheraton Palo Alto drops to $99 to $119 for some weekends, while the Westin tends to bottom out in the $129-$149 range.

The Sheraton concierge kindly provided me with a map of Stanford University and even a 10% discount card for dinner at Gordon Biersch Brewery near where I had parked my car. 

Stanford University Palm Avenue

Palm Avenue, Stanford University

Along Palm Avenue, across the street from the Sheraton Hotel, it is a 15 to 20 minute walk to the University buildings.  In the hot sun, my ears burning, the distance to the Rodin Sculpture Garden was a bit farther than I had remembered and I wished I had brought a bottle of water from my car.  The temperature controlled environment of the museum was a respite from the early fall heat of California.

Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, Stanford University

Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, Stanford university, Palo Alto, California

My Rodin knowledge is primarily from the 1989 Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu movie, “Camille Claudel”.   

The Thinker, Rodin, Stanford University

The Thinker, Rodin sculpture, Cantor Museum, Stanford University

A museum that permits photography is a pleasant surprise.

I love this painting of Napoleon. 

Napoleon, Cantor Museum, Stanford University

 Napoleon (1798), Artist: Andrea Appiani (1754-1817)

I was disappointed to take two fuzzy photographs of a painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905).  I purchased a print of Bouguereau’s “The Young Seamstress” in Ireland back in 1997 and it hangs in our bedroom.

There was a party scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 with a free band and $5 microbrew beers and wines ($8) in the Rodin Sculpture Garden.  I wandered on to look for food.

 Social Butterfly, Roger Brown 1990

“Social Butterfly” 1990, Roger Brown, 1941-1997

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Naomi Klein Stanford University 10-16-08

Naomi Klein (right) and Terry Karl, Stanford University, 10-16-08

Naomi Klein, author of “No Logo” and “The Shock Doctrine”, speaking at Stanford University was the purpose of this trip. 

What does a liberal journalist have to do with hotel travel? 

Well, the main thesis of Naomi Klein’s latest book, “The Shock Doctrine is the pattern of corporatism winning out over public good through privatization and appropriation of resources, money, and law in a catalytic way of change after a major disaster.  Her thesis is supported by four main examples: Chile and the corporate overthrow of democratic socialism in the 70s, Bush’s war privatization in Iraq, hotel development on appropriated beaches after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and school privatization in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Naomi Klein spoke primarily about the current economic crisis and expressed her activism in urging everyone to hound their legislators for securing a better bailout economic package to the one Hank Paulson negotiated with the banks.

Her main social point was to stay on your legislators to enable Barack Obama to address a grassroots call for change and generate reforms for infrastructure and social policy development in a climate that is unfortunately ripe for a continuation of disaster capitalism a la Bush Administration through corporate bailouts rather than changes more directly related to the working people of the USA.

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W Hotel Silicon Valley, Newark, California

The W Hotel Silicon Valley is an easy 20 minute drive from Palo Alto.  Crossing the Dumbarton Bridge over southern San Francisco Bay reminded me of the leftover fresh crab I cracked and ate for lunch before leaving my home in Monterey.  The scent from the sea at low tide pervaded my car.

W Silicon Valley is located near the East Bay shoreline in the estuary of Newark, California.   Estuaries are a great place for bird watching.  The darkness at 10pm kept my eyes from seeing the mudflats my nose detected.

The Check-in receptionist told me I was being given an upgrade.  The room was on the 4th floor facing east.  The preferred view in this hotel is the west facing room or pool rooms.  I have stayed here probably a dozen or more times in the past six years and I have only had an interior facing room once and I couldn’t see the pool from that room, just the roof of the café area. The room looked like every room I’ve had at this hotel.  One time, years ago, I actually did receive a corner room upgrade. 

W Silicon Valley, Newark, California

Room 410, W Hotel Silicon Valley, Newark, CA

At $89 on a Starpicks rate for a Thursday night I am not complaining.  This hotel is normally twice the price on Thursdays.

Lobby was dead at 10:00pm.  One man working on a computer at a café table.

Only one bar of soap in the bathroom.  That was inconvenient to have to move the soap from the sink to the bath and back to the sink.  Ecologically, I can’t bear the thought of throwing away bars of soap after one day so one bar is a “green” move.  Personally,  I always take the soap home with me and my home supply is a little low lately.   

 W Hotel Silicon Valley bath1

Room 410, W Silicon Valley bathroom

Friday morning working on my computer and  I realize there is no coffee maker in the room.  I had to put on my glasses to read the W Hotel card on the sink counter.

“WHO DO YOU HAVE TO KNOW TO GET A CUP OF COFFEE AROUND HERE?”

The sentence on the card was written in all caps like that.  The card then said “Join us for coffee or tea, at the W Café in the Living Room this morning. Along with coffee or tea, you will find fresh-baked pastries and other tempting treats to whet your appetite.”

The card does not say if coffee is complimentary.

I had to place the card under the lamp to decipher the line at the bottom of the card, set in a smaller size font: “Can’t live without your fix?  Call Whatever/Whenever to have a coffee maker delivered to your room.”

This is a change for the W Silicon Valley.  There was always a coffee maker in the room for my hotel stays over the past six years.

I tossed on some gym shorts and headed to the lobby for coffee.  Felt a little underdressed in the elevator with a perfumed, business attire woman.  Then again, I looked like I might be headed to the workout room or perhaps I was on my way to “Wet” (the W synonym for swimming pool).

Coffee fixed I proceeded to work on my computer.

W Hotels have interesting accessories for your stay.  On the desk was a silver tube sitting in a tray labeled “WISH” and the tube was in fact a kaleidoscope.  The hotel has complimentary DVD movies for check-out and a DVD player beneath the TV.  The room has a sink, microwave, and refrigerator and two sets of plates and utensils.  Magazines are everywhere from the selection of three in the room to three more titles in the elevator vestibule.  I grabbed a copy of “Wired” to take home.

The café was busy in the morning.  I have never seen it so crowded in my previous stays as I am usually here on a Saturday or Sunday morning.  They appeared to be business guests who probably have meetings in one of the tech buildings in the business park surrounding the W Hotel.  After all, it is called Silicon Valley for a reason.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Responses

  1. Naomi Klein is a fraud whose shoddy research and ridiculous conclusions have been exposed many times over since the publication of the book you reference. We should take care not to perpetuate statist myths. The least fortunate among us are the ones who are hurt the most by collectivist coercion.

  2. Thank you for your opinion. I disagree.

  3. Your polite response indicates that you are much more reasonable and fair-minded than she. Therefore, I must respond by saying that I respect your opinion and thank you for your post, which I otherwise enjoyed.

  4. Nice post. I have to agree with Figaro re. Klein. Her heart is generally in the right place, but she clearly got too much attention before she and her ideas were ready, and now some of her journalistic efforts read like self-serving fluff, even somewhat dangerous for their one-trick pony dimension and so-called liberal bent. (Long-abiding liberals aren’t necessarily pleased by her sometimes mock-journalism.)

    (It’s interesting because her mother had a key role in making the documentary “Not a Love Story” re. the pornography industry, another good idea that hurt itself because it contained so much raw porn footage that many male viewers reported having seen it FOR the porn, thereby missing the message.)

  5. When I have heard Naomi Klein speaking on Democracy Now news reports over the past year, I still find her discourse socially relevant and in line with much of my thinking.

    She is a pop star journalist. Nothing wrong with making money from writing in my opinion. The message she is putting out is one I think plenty of people want to hear.

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