Travel story: why you need to visit San Jose

San Jose, located in South Bay just 45 minutes away from San Francisco. A city I called home for our first four years of moving to the USA. Many people visiting the area perhaps don’t realize it, but San Jose has a ton to offer, and single ladies? They don’t call it Man Jose for nothin’!

San Jose is a quick drive away from the experimental playground, the Tech Hub known as Silicon Valley. Where Apple, Google, Facebook, Netflix, eBay, HP — all those companies reside about a 20 minute drive from San Jose. Dude, I saw the home where Steve Jobs grew up! I’m constantly in awe here. Feeling like I’m in a movie, anytime I explore this area. It’s still so surreal to me that I even live here, let alone can explore the area at a moments notice.

A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a FAM trip with 20 other journalists from around the globe, to explore what San Jose has to offer with its tech-hub, wineries, and delicious eats, all thanks to Team San Jose. It was a jam-packed week with a slew of items on our must-see to-do list, which in turn took a while for me to recuperate from! So much (amazing) food, I definitely packed on a few pounds during the 5 day staycation. But, despite the staycation in the city I reside, it’s always nice to come home to comforting surroundings, and your own warm inviting bed. Admittedly those post-vacation blues are real! For real though, I’d love a live-in Michelin Star chef cook me meals every night, or have someone clean up after me (hotel life!). Ha!

I had the pleasure of staying at the lovely Toll House Hotel, located in the elegant and always classy, town of Los Gatos. Psst, if you love coffee you must go to Blvd Coffee in Los Gatos! I found the spot just over 2 years ago, and I’ve been a weekly visitor ever since. I love that they know my order and are preparing it, just as I line-up behind a few folks to pay. Spose you know you’re a regular, when!

So, friends, if you’re planning a trip to Sunny Northern California anytime soon and want some recommendations and a comprehensive guide of what to see/eat/do, then read on as I share my week in San Jose with you.

Wineries
California is beckoned with world-class wineries that isn’t easy to pair down on which to visit. Bare in mind there’s no need to make the trek up to Napa and Sonoma, although both gorgeous locations; we ended up touring two beautiful winery locations in San Jose. You bet I’ll be bringing my Mom to these when she visits!

Testarossa
We had an intimate tour of the winery, given by the owner Rob Jensen, followed by a gorgeous lunch (and table setting!) that happily filled our bellies. The old Novitiate Winery (now known as Testarossa) was originally built in 1888 by the Jesuits from Santa Clara University. I loved touring it simply for the fact of knowing its age, its history and now Rob has transformed it into what it is now – a gorgeous setting for locals and visitors alike.
Location: 300 College Ave A, Los Gatos, CA 95030
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Ridge Vineyards
We made a stop here too during our wine tasting tour. It’s a gorgeous spot and is location right on the San Andres falls. It completely withstood the previous large earthquakes that hit the area in 1989 and 1906. Check out this spot too when you have a chance.
Location: 17100 Montebello Rd, Cupertino, CA 95014
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Santana Row
Santana Row is my go-to place to do some shopping, eating, lounge around, chill out at one of the many coffee shops and peruse the Japanese stationery store, Maido. We ate lunch at Sino, a dim sum location (I’ve never had dim sum before!). Unfortunately a lot of the dim sum had shrimp/other things in it that a pregnant lady can’t have. So I opted for some delicious chicken lettuce wraps.
Location: 377 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128
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JapanTown
Japantown San Jose is 1 of the 3 last remaining authentic, historical Japantowns in the USA. I’m quite familiar with the area as a friend used to live right in the heart of it. There’s fantastic restaurants, museums, shops and probably one of my favourite spots in Japantown: Roy’s Station Coffee (which I wrote about 2 years ago!).

San Pedro Square
A perfect meeting spot for lunch, or before a San Jose Sharks NHL Hockey game (which we’ve gone to multiple times, especially when the Canadian team, Ottawa Sentaors played down here!). They have one of the best pizza places I’ve ever had in my life. If you’re a huge pizza fan like I am, visit Pizza Bocca Lupo right in San Pedro Square, I swear you won’t regret one ounce of those bites from that Neapolitan pizza.
Location: 87 N San Pedro St, San Jose, CA 95110
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Lick Observatory
Opened in 1888, the Lick Observatory is an astronomical observatory, owned and operated by the University of California. It’s located right on the summit of Mount Hamilton, in the Diablo Range, and what a drive up the mountain it is. I’ve only personally driven up once (as the driver) and I much prefer to be a passenger as I often fret that I’ll drive the car right off the mountain top due to all the switch-backs and narrow roads, especially at the top. Well worth the view though, and they offer nightly tours and events throughout the year. I know my husband would love to attend one of these, to see that massive telescope in action.
Location: 7281 Mt Hamilton Rd, Mt Hamilton, CA 95140
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San Jose Museum of Art
Originally built as the postal office, turned library now the San Jose Museum of Art, as of 1969. You should tour the exhibitions, and some permanent collections in this gorgeous historic building located in the heart of downtown San Jose.
Location: 110 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95110
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The famous Steve Jobs garage
Visit where Steve Jobs grew up, and view perhaps the most famous garage in the world. We toured his childhood neighbourhood while venturing around all the tech companies in the area. He grew up in a modest sized home, in a regular suburban neighbourhood. His childhood home however, is of course on private property. The Apple garage is clearly visible from the street. But if you’re to take photos – you mustn’t step foot on the property. Apparently his sister now owns the home, but no one lives there.
Location: 2066 Crist Drive, Los Altos, California

Mount Hamilton Grandview Restaurant
A historic mountainside destination for classic American cuisine offering beef, veal & seafood dishes; and what a view it was. It’s where we went on our last night with Team San Jose and the journalists. A farm-to-table restaurant, however the farm they source from is literally across the street so it’s incredibly fresh. The staff was unbelievable and took extra good care of me, serving me fancy-pants mocktails and well-done meats. Undoubtedly one of my favourite moments from this trip was the breathtaking views, but I especially enjoyed the live piano man singing old Sinatra classics as we all ate our dinner at sunset, overlooking the mountain views. It was pure bliss, and I will most certainly be back.
Location: 15005 Mt Hamilton Rd, Mt Hamilton in San Jose, CA 95140
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ADEGA — San Jose’s first Michelin Star Restaurant
On one of the evenings with Team San Jose, I attended the media event at ADEGA, San Jose’s first Michelin Star Restaurant which serves authentic Portuguese cuisine. However this night was a bit different, as it was a Michelin All Star Experience with multiple Portuguese chefs flown in from the USA + Portugal to prepare a 7 course meal with 2 desserts. At first I thought I was a little out of my league, being invited to such an event, however I quickly warmed up as it wasn’t at all stuffy feeling. In fact, I laughed so hard I think I cried. Perhaps it’s because there was another Canadian at my table of 4? Us Canadians b’y, can’t keep us away from one another. 7 courses of Portuguese cuisine; you can say I ventured completely out of my comfort zone to try a couple of new things (pigs ears, lamb, and caviar for instance). The atmosphere in ADEGA is divine — a beautifully decorated Michelin restaurant located in the heart of Alum Rock, in a valley in the Diablo Range foothills on the east side of San Jose. Ya gotta book a meal here, for real.
Location: 1614 Alum Rock Ave, San Jose, CA 95116
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Needless to say, you don’t always need a trip up to the well-known city of San Francisco (although I do love to escape the heat of San Jose from time-to-time and explore SF’s coffee shops and get my fill of the ocean).

If you’ve stuck around reading thus far, I must congratulate you — this is a long one, hey! I want to give a huge thanks to Team San Jose for being an exceptional host, hosting me for the week, along with 20 other journalists from around the world to experience this city. It’s all well worth a visit to say the least, and an experience that formed forever-friendships you betcha I won’t soon forget!

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European vibes at Santana Row’s Hotel Valencia

Hanging-on-BalconyWhether it be opening the french doors to a balcony over looking a courtyard, or the beautiful architecture outside and in. Hotel Valencia is a place I definitely want to spend another few nights at.

Iced-coffee-on-balconyOut of the four hotels Jenna and I stayed at, Hotel Valencia was both our favourite places. If I’m so daring, I would say it was most likely one of the favourite hotels I’ve ever stayed at in my life.

You can have valet park your car for $24 overnight, or you can grab a parking pass from the Valet crew outside, drive your car around the corner and park it in the garage and walk back to the hotel with your belongings, which is clearly what we did.

Hotel-Valencia-BalconyThis was our private balcony overlooking courtyard, beauty views. Quiet rooms, and not because the hotel was empty. The place was happenin’ wiht the grand opening of Cielo, which is a roof top bar. Unfortunately it was drizzling a little bit outside so it got bumped to the inside, to V Bar.

Hotel-Room-at-Valencia

Hotel-Valencia-flowers

patio-Hotel-ValenciaWhile it had both luxurious feeling to it, it wasn’t stuffy feeling. I didn’t feel as if I was in a hotel room at Hotel Valencia, while it looked rich in taste in the room, it still felt like a gorgeous apartment. Perhaps it was the added touches to the room, with the vibrant cushions on the bed, the leather club chair and a full-length mirror, perfect for outfit of the day selfies in my “wallpaper pants” as my husband likes to refer to them as. We were even greeted with some vodka cranberry left in our room — how did they know this was my favourite drink?!

We grabbed quite a nice meal at Citrus, also inside Hotel Valencia.Citrus-menu

Appetizers from the chef, and I also grabbed a lobster salad app – didn’t realize how huge the portion was going to be. It was amazing none-the-less.

Citrus-restaurantJenna ordered the grilled lamb which was served on bucatini pasta, squash and green olive. I opted for another seafood dish and got quick smoked wild salmon, red curry cous cous with pistachio tahini. So good! I want to go back, and lucky for me Santana Row is just a short drive away.

Citrus-dessertWe both decided on the speculoos caramel chocolate tart for dessert. It was espresso cremeux, milk jam, praline cocoa nib tuile, topped with chocolate chai ice cream. So caramely and brownie-like, it was incredible. Jenna said she wanted to re-create it at home for her boyfriend, it was that good.

Hotel-Valencia-patioAfter we came out from supper, I went around the courtyard taking photos of the patio at sunset. I kind of just want to live here. Forever.

The courtyard is a great place to people watch. Wondering if I can come up here without having staying at the hotel and enjoy an afternoon coffee with these types of views. It’s so breathtaking, and relaxing with their waterfall and flowers in bloom.

VBarSince Cielo wasn’t open for us to check out due to the rain, we headed over to V Bar and stayed for a few minutes.

V-Bar-balconyThis place also has a balcony overlooking the Santana Row shopping area!

Valencia-Hotel-Lobby

Hotel-Valencia-lobbyIsn’t the front desk area gorgeous? Hotel Valencia has a few hidden-nooks/half dome shaped rooms for their guests to have on sight meetings in the front lobby. I hadn’t seen anything like that before. I snapped a few photos of it but they didn’t come out as well as they looked in person, so you’re just going to have to trust my opinion on that one ;)

Hotel-Valencia-SR

Balcony-viewsThe next morning we checked out of the hotel, and had our complimentary breakfast (with a really large selection!) back at Citrus restaurant. I think it’s safe to say we both enjoyed ourselves the most here, with the beautiful European vibes Hotel Valencia has, and all the beautiful landscaping, balconies and gorgeous views.

Hotel Valencia
355 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128
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Disclaimer: Many thanks to Hotel Valencia for hosting our stay and meal at Citrus! 

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A Day With Dad

Fathers-Day-HeaderFather’s Day is coming up soon. But as you all most likely know, I won’t be back home with my parents (Newfoundland, Canada) this Father’s Day seeing as I was recently there in May. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be seeing him on Sunday June 21 though. Because my parents and I skype video call one another quite often, so he’ll be seeing this pretty face of mine soon enough, whether he wants to or not! Ha ha!

To be honest though, I usually just call him on the Skype phone we hooked up right after moving down here to the states, especially since we have a lot of technical difficulties trying to get our cameras working. Often enough, I call my Dad when my Mom’s at work, and chat to him about — well, nothing really. We hang out on the phone as if we were sitting in the same room. Or he tells me what all the neighbours are up to, Mr. Neighbourhood Watch over there. Ha! He’s usually watching Judge Judy and I poke fun at him for that, while I make myself a cup of tea and yell at Alfie barking out the window at our neighbours walking by.

I get homesick easily if I think of my loved ones back home. I try not to think about it too much, or my heart will start to hurt, as crazy as that sounds. So while I can’t be there in person with my Daddio this Father’s Day, I can still come up with gift ideas for all the Father’s out there. So get those shoppin’ shoes on, we’re going hunting for some deals for your Dad’s!

Santana Row as I have mentioned many times on my blog, is definitely my favourite place in San Jose. It’s full of shops, restaurants, spas and a even a hotel — which I stayed at with my buddy when she was visiting. More on that later.

donald-pliner-sneakers

donald-pliner-shoes

donald-pliner-saleDonald Pliner makes some really snazzy looking men’s shoes, and of course — women’s items too. But I gotta say, a man wearin’ a pair of sharp shoes? Hoo wee, immediately hunkarific. They’re having a sale here, up to 50% off on the top shelf.

Custom-Oakleys

Oakley-Santana-RowOakley store. Wait what? Since when can one make custom oakleys? Maybe I should re-evaluate my thoughts on getting a pair of raybans, I mean…. especially if they’re unique to me.

thickening-tonic-aveda

Aveda-dry-skin

Aveda-dry-remedyWho doesn’t love Aveda products? I’ve been using Aveda shampoo, and styling products (their hair spray called Air Control is my #1 favourite) for over ten years!

BonobosBonobos is a men’s clothing store and is a fairly new arrival at Santana Row. They have some pretty nice pieces in there, from chinos to casual suits and more. I’m definitely diggin’ the lighter suit in that upper left photo. Handsome!

Sur-la-Table-Santana-RowSur la Table is having a pretty good sale, a lot of stuff on for 25% and even up to 50% off for certain products.

Diesel-jeans-front

Diesel-jeansDiesel jeans are wicked looking, aren’t they? They also have these gigantor watches in display cases at the store. Apparently they’re super popular, but man – the faces on them are just massive, it’s kind of comical. I asked the staff working here at Diesel, how long their 30% off sale was going on for. The guy told me it’s definitely going to go on for more than a month and the 30% off section in the back is going to get marked down to 50% off shortly. Whoa nelly! Exciting.

Ultimate-Ears-Boom

GoPro

UE BoomBestBuy is basically like a playground for my husband, and Dad. I picked out a couple of things I think any one would enjoy having. The UE Boom is a wireless bluetooth 360 degree speaker that comes in a variety of colours to choose from, and it’s also water resistant, so take it to the poolside! And the GoPro, always a hit and fun to play around with. Especially one for the sportsman who likes to video tape themselves ;).

Franco-Uomo-ties

Franco-Uomo-clothingFranco Uomo is a European clothing store that carries both formal and casual menswear, as well as men’s accessories. They even have Canadian flag cuff-links!

Ice-Breaker-Merino

Merino-WoolIcebreaker Merino. This is my husbands kind of store. Everything here is made from Merino wool and will keep you cool/warm when needed, and dry. When one of my friends was visiting here, she ended up buying a number of items from this exact store, including a really beautiful dress she plans on wearing to work.

OrvisOrvis is a really fun store with incredibly friendly staff. They sell a multitude of men’s and women’s clothing, dog beds, fishing gear… all kinds of outdoor things for the nature enthusiast.

SleepI popped into Sleep in Santana Row, that sells two main brands. One being Hästens, where beds are still made by hand using only natural filling material. And yes, the beds are comfortable. :) I had a chat with the man who was working there, and we got onto the topic of how and why I’m doing a blog post featuring Santana Row shopping for Father’s Day, so I gave him a quick rundown of my history being here (Canadian, now in California etc.). He told me I needed to check out Fort Funston. Have any of you guys been there? Apparently it’s right in between San Jose and San Francisco and it’s basically a 10:1 ratio of dogs to humans. He showed me photos of the beach and it looks out-of-this-world. I want to take Alfie there!

CineArts-Santana-Row

LB-Steak

el-JardinEven if you aren’t sure if your Daddio is going to like some of the products at the stores I’ve listed, you can always take him to see a movie at CineArts. My husband and I have been to a handful of movies here at the Santana Row location, it’s beautifully tucked away and blends right into the rest of the scenery of Santana Row. Afterwards take him o the outdoor El Jardin tequila bar and restaurant for a bit of tapas during Santana Row’s Happy Hour. The Counter is also at Santana Row, if he’s a burger fan — they have custom built burgers which is fun for a change. Or even Pizza Antica, one of my favourite restaurants there, they have the most delicious wood fired pizzas. Then go fill up your belly with some pinkberry frozen yogurt in the central courtyard and play a game of oversize (or shall I say, life sized) chess on their outdoor chess board. So fun!

Hope you are one of the lucky ones that can spend time with your Dad this Father’s Day. Enjoy it for me! :)

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