As this country ekes its way out of recession, we here at the Grand Hotel want to be a bit frank with you. The last couple of years have been rough! Maybe you noticed that the breakfast buffet was sparsely populated. Maybe, on checking in, you were asked if you might not want a second room to keep your luggage in. Maybe you never noticed at all; hotels are transient places, and, anyway, you probably had your head in your own recession woes. The point is, in recent times you could pretty much just saunter in here at any old time and get yourself a room. More and more, though, these days, as we are proud, relieved and just the slightest bit sorry to say, it’s seeming like it’s officially time to announce, once again, that you’d better make a reservation if you want to stay at the Grand Hotel.
And, actually, in the glow of our newfound bounty, there may even be a time when you call to make your reservation and find that we are already booked. In that case, our reservations manager might suggest that you stay someplace called the Cupertino Inn instead. What’s Cupertino? This could be disconcerting, we know, so we’d like to take a moment to explain ourselves a little bit.
First point of clarification is that the Silicon Valley is actually a massive suburban web that meanders along, changing names every so often, perhaps just for sport. Thus you could, for example, start out in Santa Clara, walk a few blocks, cross a street and be in Sunnyvale and a few blocks later you’d cross another street and end up in Cupertino. Though the idea of staying in a whole other city sounds like it will be disorienting and make you late for work, actually the Cupertino Inn is a five minute drive from the Grand Hotel. No worries.
Next, and more important, while the two hotels try very hard to maintain their separate characters, the Cupertino Inn thinking of itself as homey and down-to-earth, and the Grand Hotel maintaining a more dignified elegance, they are, essentially, the same. Same ownership, same management. The staff trades back and forth, sometimes within a single day. Sammy serves breakfast at the Grand Hotel and cocktails at the Cupertino Inn, for example. Adam, infamous taker of any shift anytime no matter what, will happily start his day at the Cupertino Inn, pop over for a quick 8 hours at the Grand, then hop back for a graveyard in Cupertino, if we don’t watch him closely enough. And, oh-so-importantly, they have identical happy hours and breakfast buffets. If you like the Grand Hotel, you’ll like the Cupertino Inn and vice versa. That’s a promise!
I guess I’m kind of a cynic, but for all the years that I’ve been hearing that there are buffalo in Golden Gate Park, I’ve always thought it was an urban legend. I never bothered to look it up and I never tried to investigate. No one I heard it from ever talked about having seen them, they just said that they were there, and I was a salty dog and scoffed at their naivete. Imagine my surprise, then, yesterday, when I came across a whole field of buffalo at the far end of the park!
To be fair, what I had imagined that all those people were reporting for all those years was that wild buffalo were roaming through the park, like the wild boar that really, truly do wander, and sometimes charge, through Berlin. What it turns out is that there are a handful of buffalo that live in a not stifling, though not overly expansive, pen at the ocean end of Golden Gate Park.
What is this a recommendation for, though? The buffalo are grand and sad, remarkable and irrelevant, and not worth a full day’s excursion. And I promise that this is not some trite warning against cynicism. Me, I was reminded how of rewarding it can be to go below the surface, and maybe that’s a good reminder for all you travelers too. Perhaps it’s better to acknowledge that you can’t see everything and so to choose, instead, to see all of any one thing. And Golden Gate Park isn’t a bad place to start.
Every month, as you know, I write to you about one of my coworkers. That means that once a month I sit down and talk to someone else about their life, their interests and their job. I’ve been doing it for a while now, so it’s getting to be kind of a lot of people that I’ve chatted with like this. And in all this time, Michelle, who works behind the front desk, is the first one who said that she was excited to talk about herself and her life plans.
It wasn’t long before I understood why she was so willing. Michelle is on a clear path that she believes in very strongly. She’s doing a degree in criminal justice at San Jose State with the intention of becoming a juvenile probation officer. It’s a decision that she came to after asking herself how she might best be of service to the world and though she knows it won’t be simple, she seems to know, also, that she’s making the right choice. And she seems happy.
Does this sound familiar? I wrote something very similar just a couple of months ago about our bellman Louis, who’s in pursuit of a job in the prison system. Well, I’m not one to gossip, but let’s just say they do know about the synchronicities between them.
Oh, and one more little Michelle anomaly: When asked what she likes about, her job her number one item, reported with what seemed to be genuine enthusiasm, was getting to organize papers.
This month I want to tell you about a restaurant that you have to hurry up and go to. And, no, I don’t mean because it’s so good that you shouldn’t deny yourself the pleasure any longer than you already have. It’s because this restaurant, the Taverna Bistro, is in a very precious and fragile state that it certainly cannot stay in forever and my recommendation is that you check it out before its inevitable shift. It’s brand new, you see, still finding a rhythm to live in. Meaning, I guess you could say, that for now it’s kind of offbeat.
My best example concerns the bar. It’s a huge full bar, taking up a good quarter of the dining room, fully stocked with top shelf liquor and, it seems, a dutiful bartender standing behind it. But when we ordered our drinks, a woman in jeans came out of the kitchen to ask my stepdad how to make a martini. Not how he liked it, how to make it. The drinks themselves appeared out of the kitchen, the woman behind the bar having not so much as shifted her stance.
The reason I know it’ll change is that the food is so good. It’s Turkish, real authentic, like-mom-used-to-make Turkish, which, trust me, I have from a very reliable, if slightly too cowardly to let herself be named, source. You can go now to the Taverna Bistro and sit alone, your water glass refilled after every sip, and eat stuffed grape leaves that will make you cry. Sure, you might have to teach them how to make the cocktail you want to sip with your meal, but we’ll all be longing for these days in a few short months when we’re being told that the wait will be at least an hour.
Neyers Vineyards is a pretty young winery. They got going in 1992, purchased and renovated their winery in 1999. Though they produce excellent, and quite well regarded, wines, there is the sense that they are still finding themselves. The best example is in the way they talk about their French influence. They are very proud to have a winemaker who worked in France, as well as an owner who has worked closely with French importers over the last years. They claim a great admiration for the more natural French techniques, which include organic farming and winemaking without fining or filtration, and they say that they’ve learned so much from what they’ve observed in their wine’s ancestral home. So, then, one reads on in anticipation of learning about the Neyers Vineyard’s own organic farms, or some such evidence of a more natural process. And one learns that they are trying. There are years where they bottle their wines without fining or filtration. There are years where they do not. Their Chardonnay is fermented naturally, their Merlot is not. Their vineyards are not organic, but they do import their barrels from France. They are finding their way and, truly, one glass of their wine will convince you that they’re on a pretty good path. But, though I would imagine that it’s hard to find one’s identity in an industry steeped in centuries of tradition, I wonder if wholeheartedly proclaiming themselves to kinda sorta be French naturalists is the way to go. Clearly they need our help! Next time you’re here staying with us, have a glass of Neyers wine, and then tell all your friends about it when you go home.