Take a walk on Stevens Creek Trail
Stevens Creek Trail is actually in Mountain View, about 5 miles down the road from Palo Alto. There are a lot of more majestic or unique places to go in the bay area, but this is a nice place to get a little exercise if, for instance, you are on a business trip and don't have time to go somewhere distant. This is a popular 4-mile-long trail alongside a creek. It is paved, and there are many people walking, rollerblading, or bicycling here. You will see some ducks swimming in the creek and maybe some big fuzzy caterpillars. It is a nice green corridor that cuts through a more urban environment.
P.F. Chang's is a good choice for a restaurant when you are tired or lazy to think about the portions, and just want something tasty. The selection itself is huge, as usual in Chinese restaurants, and everything is tasty, as again usual in Chinese restaurants. Nothing is spectacular, though.
The restaurant itself is large, and as most chain restaurants, lacking personal touch. The service is once again excellent, and the food comes pretty swiftly. Price is not bad either. Somehow I see having take away a better choice than hanging in the restaurant, maybe it is the non-personality of the dining hall combined with the mall surroundings.
City Hall and City Hall Plaza
City Hall is kind of a plain 1960s-ish building with a brick and grass plaza called Martin Luther King Plaza. In fact, this area was just designated King Plaza in 2008, and a new plaque reads: "This public plaza is dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, both of whom made this world a better place for all of us."
In 2005 an odd art project begun and is still ongoing. The city paid an artist some $10,000 to work for six months or so and photograph all of the houses in the city in an effort to determine the crucial average color of Palo Alto. The project continued for some three years and is now on display. In the center of the plaza you will find a ramshackle trailer that might have come straight from the mountains of West Virginia if it weren't for the fact that it solar powered. This was supposedly the "artist's" office during the project.
On the side of City Hall you will see plastered 17,680 photographs of every property in the city. You can read the instructions and find your house on the wall using the telescopes provided at the far end of Civic Center Plaza.
Read the news story about this wacky project here: http://voice.paly.net/view_story.php?id=2788
Palo Alto - Home of Stanford University
"One of the World's Great Universities"
Not only is Stanford University one of the best universities in the world academically, it is also located in a beautiful place.
Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane, founded Stanford University in 1887 in memory of their only child, Leland Jr., who died of typhoid fever at the age of 15. They decided "the children of California shall be our children." The university is located on an 8000 acre site that was once Stanford's famous Palo Alto Stock Farm for trotting horses. The campus is still called "The Farm." The little town that started to grow across El Camino Real (the old Spanish "King's Road") from the university also took the name Palo Alto.
Stanford believed in a liberal education because "The imagination needs to be cultivated and developed to assure success in life. A man will never construct anything he cannot conceive." The university has always been co-ed. It's unofficial motto is "Die Luft der Freiheit weht," which translates as "the wind of freedom blows." There are currently about 6000 undergraduate students and 6500 graduate students.
"Ancient Tree Is Still There"
On the banks of San Francisquito Creek, there was a 100-foot giant twin-trunked redwood tree that the native Ohlone Indians knew long before Captain Gaspar de Portola's expedition came in November 1769. It could be seen for miles. It was later named El Palo Alto, or "the high tree" in Spanish. Traditional history says a flood in 1886 tore away one trunk; however, that trunk "fell" at the same time a wooden trestle bridge for the railroad was being built nearby. The old redwood still lives in a park at the intersection of El Camino Real, Alma Street and Palo Alto Avenue. In 2005, it was 1065 years old. In the 1970's and 1980's, it had termites and had to be topped but it is much healthier these days than 50 years ago. Who knows the stories El Palo Alto could tell if it could talk. See also my travelogue on El Palo Alto Views and Thoughts.
"Walk the Dish"
There is a private park that is part of Stanford University. On the hills is a huge radar dish. There are paved trails. When you hike there, it is called "walking the dish." It is right next to the campus but large and wild enough that you must watch out for mountain lions. Other wildlife includes ground squirrels, gophers, raptors and deer.
See my web site for a look at the Bay area, some of which you'd have to live here to see. Cycling, hiking, exploring - there's lots here!
San Francisco? Oh, yeah! - that too. You can find SF info lots of places, so I won't waste your time...