Welcome to My Place . . . Palo Alto

Gemma Cremen recommends the sights to see, food to eat and things to buy

'The Baylands Nature Preserve is a great place to go for a run.'

'The Baylands Nature Preserve is a great place to go for a run.'

 

Gemma Cremen, from Carrigaline, Co Cork, went to Palo Alto to do a master’s in structural engineering at Stanford University on a graduate fellowship, after completing a degree in civil engineering at UCC.

“When I finished my master’s, I decided to stay on at Stanford to study for a PhD in structural/earthquake engineering. I am now a PhD candidate at the Blume Earthquake Engineering Center, and the current president of the Stanford Irish Association. ”

The Main Quad in the campus of Stanford University: “I’m really lucky to call this my workplace.” Photograph: iStock
The Main Quad in the campus of Stanford University: “I’m really lucky to call this my workplace.” Photograph: iStock

Where is the first place you bring people to when they visit Palo Alto?

Stanford University, which is often listed as one of the world’s most beautiful university campuses. I’m really lucky to call this my workplace. The Main Quad and Memorial Church are breathtaking, and it is little wonder that thousands of tourists flock to see them every day. What’s more, the Cantor Arts Center on campus boasts one of the largest collections of Rodin sculptures in the world.

The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are . . .

“The Baylands Nature Preserve is a great place to go for a run. There is a perfect view of San Francisco Bay and it is one of the best birdwatching spots on the west coast of the US.” Photograph: iStock
“The Baylands Nature Preserve is a great place to go for a run. There is a perfect view of San Francisco Bay and it is one of the best birdwatching spots on the west coast of the US.” Photograph: iStock

Hiking the Stanford foothills (or The Dish, as most people call it). This is a four-mile loop of rolling hills situated right behind the Stanford campus. There is a fantastic view of Silicon Valley at the top and on a clear day, even downtown San Francisco is visible.

The Farmers’ Market on Cal Ave every Sunday morning is worth a visit. The amazing sights and smells make it difficult to keep this one a free activity! You can find everything from Vietnamese sandwiches to Indian samosas to French crepes.

The Baylands Nature Preserve is a great place to go for a run. There is a perfect view of San Francisco Bay and it is one of the best birdwatching spots on the west coast of the US.

Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Palo Alto?

Dan Gordon’s restaurant is a firm favourite among tech workers (and the Stanford Irish Association). They brew their own beer and specialise in barbecue food. One of their best-known dishes is The Platter, which includes no less than six types of meat. The atmosphere is always great there and it’s my first choice for dinner whenever friends visit.

Gemma Cremen is doing a PhD at Stanford University in California and lives in Palo Alto.
Gemma Cremen is doing a PhD at Stanford University in California and lives in Palo Alto.

Where is the best place to get a sense of Palo Alto’s place in history?

It’s definitely the HP Garage, often termed the “birthplace of Silicon Valley”. Dave Packard and Bob Hewlett started their business there after they finished their studies at Stanford, originally building oscillators for the likes of Disney. Unfortunately, the garage is not open to the public, but you can see the outside of it from the footpath out the front.

What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Palo Alto?

In the place that Tim Cook calls home, it would be wrong not to visit the Apple Store in the centre of downtown and find at least a small memento to bring back. If coffee is your thing, then I would definitely recommend bringing back some from Blue Bottle Coffee, a speciality coffee roaster that started in San Francisco and now has an outlet on the main street of Palo Alto.

If you’d like to share your little black book of places to visit where you live, please email your answers to the five questions above to abroad@irishtimes.com, including a brief description of what you do there and a photograph of yourself. We’d love to hear from you.

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