Out There :: San Jose Sojourn
"Do you know the way to San Jose?" Dionne Warwick famously asked, channeling Burt Bacharach and Hal David . Yes, Out There does, but truth be told, we don’t find ourselves driving SJ-bound all that often. We have that all-too-common San Franciscan trait of being SF-centric while other Bay Area cities (Berkeley, Oakland, Modesto!) offer real treasures. Oh, and SJ also has the Watergarden! Anyway, last week found OT uncharacteristically barreling down the Southbound freeway, mostly in the passing lane, to pay a little visit to the largest, most rent-expensive city by the Bay.
The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal recently awarded the title "Project of the Decade" to Santana Row, the 42-acre urban development built in the heart of downtown SJ, and it’s easy to see why. Formerly a perhaps forlorn Town & Country shopping mall, it’s now a faux new neighborhood, complete with high-end retail (Burberry, Gucci, our alma mater Brooks Brothers), varied-cuisine restaurants and bars, and upscale housing on the upper floors. On a pleasant Thursday evening, the sidewalk cafes along the Row were positively throbbing with South Bay people schmoozing, walking their pooches, smoking (a few brave souls). True, they may have driven there and parked in mammoth garages, but they were enjoying an urban experience: strolling, people-watching, dining al fresco.
There’s a gym, a six-screen moviehouse, and right in the thick of it all, the Hotel Valencia Santana Row, where we stayed overnight to soak up the vibe. Hunky valet parkers received our tiny, powder-blue rental car without smirk or condescension (hear that, LA?). We swam happily in the hotel’s sparkling outdoor pool under a hot Silicon Valley sky. At a civilized hour we dined in the intimate Citrus restaurant on sumptuous swordfish and steak, washed down with house prosecco. Across the hotel’s chic indoor courtyard, we finished off with a nightcap on the balcony of the stylish Vbar, high above the bustling scene. Out There is overcoming our fear of heights just for you, pumpkins.
For ever-art-thirsty aesthete OT, SJ offered plenty of stimulation. A show dedicated to contemporary artist Leo Villareal is the special exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art (through Jan. 9, 2011), the first major museum survey of his work. Villareal is considered a pioneer in the use of LEDs and computer-driven imagery in contemporary art, and it’s easy to become entranced by his use of hallucinatory, pulsing LED lights. We first encountered his art installed over the moving walkway in the connecting tunnel between the National Gallery of Art and its East Wing, and we can imagine this survey, so high-tech appropriate to Silicon Valley, appealing to even those who "dislike" contemporary art. Info at www.SanJoseMuseumofArt.org.
We also got to check a box off our South Bay bucket list by finally visiting the storied Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, which houses the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on the West Coast, in a charming residential SJ neighborhood. We’re talking ancient amulets, real-live (real-dead?) mummies, and a tomb tour, cool and spooky underground. But for OT, the real revelation was found in the attractive grounds, with Egyptian-style temples, an obelisk, a peace garden, and a planetarium. Worth a visit. Info at www.egyptianmuseum.org.