USA – California, San Jose – Silicon Valley

I love #FlashBackFridays I get to reminisce on my travel adventures.

When I learned that we were going to run an event at my clients head office in Palo Alto Silicon Valley -the home to the world’s largest technology companies.  I was beyond ecstatic. Such a privilege to be awarded this opportunity.

The planning was tricky, we had very tight deadlines but we somehow managed to make it work. We would spend 3 days in San Jose for the workshop and 2 days in San Francisco.

As much as this trip was a long life dream, I write this post with a heavy heart. Emotionally it was the hardest trip of my life, a complete emotional roller coaster. I landed in the US on Sunday and early hours on Monday, the dreaded call came in. I learned of the passing of a dear friend and brother. We were so torn but made a decision based on the on information we had received back home. We stayed, and somehow managed to survive the emotional roller coaster. The day time was way better than the night time.

Where we stayed

Our base was San Jose, the third-largest city by population in California, the tenth-largest by population in the United States and a major technology hub in the California bay area.

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Our accommodation was booked at the Hilton Hotel, I usually like to write a basic review of the hotels I stay at but our experience at the Hilton was not great.

On arrival we had issues with our booking, the staff working the afternoon shift were clueless and credit cards were billed incorrectly.  The hotel rooms and bathrooms are old, the carpet in the room is questionable. The hotel is in need of a refurbishment.

This is the 3rd Hilton Hotel that just seem to have lost the edge slightly, the is no longer what it used to be.  The only thing that I  did like was the fact that their Affinity Restaurant & Bar had a Starbucks, I could have my morning coffee fix before going to work.

What we did

The purpose of the trip was a 3 day client workshop at HP Headquarters, 1501 Page Mill Road, Palo Alto, California.

We were well received by the HP local team, all our requirements were met with a smile and were made to feel at home. The HP Customer Centre is high tech, love the fact that they use their products for everything. Its great advertising mechanism.

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                              The screens (bottom image) are the HP ENVY Curved All-In-One                                       The world’s widest curved All-in-One 
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Using the Sprout (all-in-one desktop with built in projector, a touch-mat display, and advanced 3D-scanning hardware) in the meeting room – super cool!

We got a tour of the facilities and products in the centre and got to see the original offices of the Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. The entire experience was incredible.

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Touring Silicon Valley

Our last day was spent touring Silicon Valley, our 1st stop was the HP Garage – the birthplace of Silicon Valley. Knowing the history of Silicon Valley, HP and seeing images of the garage, being at 367 Addison Avenue was an unbelievable moment.

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HP Garage

We also got to see the headquarters of LinkedIn, Facebook, Apple, Adobe, Intel and Google. We were fortunate to go inside Intel and we visited the museum.

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Intel Museum
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Facebook Headquartes

Google was another amazing experience, we got access inside one of the buildings thanks to one of the HP managers who had a meeting and invited us all to join him. Having watched the Intern, it was lovely seeing areas where he movie was shot.

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Googleplex
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The Tyrannosaurs Rex skeleton named Stan which was discovered near Google’s headquarters. 
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Different versions of Android, named after something sweet- kitkat, froyo, gingerbread, marshmallow, lollipop, honeycomb, eclair, ice cream sandwich, cupcake, donut, jelly bean.

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We then spent the afternoon at Stanford University and did the walking tour of the university.

The leafy campus in the heart of Silicon Valley has produced some of the most influential tech entrepreneurs since the beginning of Silicon Valley, starting with Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in the mid-30s to the likes of Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google, Marissa Meyer (Yahoo), Intel, Netflix, LinkedIn, YouTube…etc

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‘Founded in 1885 by California Senator Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane, in memory of their only child, Leland Jr., who died of typhoid fever at 15, the Stanfords determined that they would use their wealth to do something for “other people’s” children.

They decided to create a university, one that, from the outset, was untraditional: coeducational in a time when most private universities were all-male; nondenominational when most were associated with a religious organization; and avowedly practical, producing “cultured and useful citizens” when most were concerned only with the former.’

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Image on the left is the Hoover Tower, a 285 feet (87m) structure on campus. The tower houses the Hoover Institution Library & Archives founded by Herbert Hoover before he became President of the United States. 
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Views from the top of the Hoover Tower

‘Today Stanford University is one of the world’s leading research universities. It is known for its entrepreneurial character, drawn from the legacy of its founders, Jane and Leland Stanford.’ ** Source http://facts.stanford.edu/about/

Stanford has a warm feel to it and get why at times its referred to as the farm. Its a beautiful campus, full of trees, fountains, manicured gardens, great student facilities and lovely frat houses. They seem to have everything there: post office, Starbucks, eateries, libraries and some form of entertainment. It truly was an amazing experience.

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Fraternity Houses

Where we ate?

I was tasked with finding dinner restaurants while we were in San Jose. 1st night we had dinner at our hotel restaurant, the Affinity Restaurant & Bar – the only good thing about the Hilton. Their menu selection was substantial and catered to most people, the food was appetizing and the service was great.

Our 2nd night we had dinner at The Grill on the Alley, a well renowned Steak house. The food here was exceptional, they serve large portions of steaks, chops, fresh seafood and pasta. The vegetable were cooked well…overall amazing dining experience. Highly recommend it, its a tad pricey but we left feeling extremely satisfied.

On the last night we ventured out to Santana Row – an outdoor shopping mall in San Jose at times referred to at the Rodeo Drive of San Jose. We had dinner at El Jardin Tequila Bar & Restaurant, we could not come to San Jose and not have Mexican food. For me the atmosphere, service and vibe were great but I was not blown away by the food. We shared Nachos as a starter and I had a burrito which tasted ok. Apparently the Tacos were not bad, should have ordered those.

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Santana Row
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Santana Row

Even though we were in San Jose for business, the trip was great. My highlight was being in Silicon Valley, definitely a place that I would visit again.

Look out for my post next Friday, I will be blogging about our adventures in San Francisco.

Till next Friday, stay Splendid!

TS!

Vacay – London

INCREDIBLE’ – pretty much sums up our mini vacay to London early in the year.

We kicked off our vacay with a tour of London using the London Black Taxi Cab Tour Service. What I like about this tour is that it offers you the opportunity to visit and explore the sights of London from the comfort and convenience of an iconic London Black Taxi.  Our driver, Dave was excellent with extensive knowledge of the city.

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Accommodation

Our home was the Radisson Blu Edwardian New Providence Wharf Hotel, overlooking the Thames, directly opposite the O2 Arena.

  • With 169 spacious bedrooms and suites, including the 7th floor Penthouse the hotel rooms are well equipped meeting both the business and leisure traveller.

We had a spacious room with magnificent views of the River Thames and the O2. The breakfast buffet had a great selection and LOVED the fact that they had Soya milk and I could order my Soya Cappuccino. The staff at the hotel were great and extremely helpful.

Hotel Facilities and Amenities include:

A Restaurant, Bar, Fitness centre, Spa, FREE Wi-Fi, Room service, Meeting/banquet facilities, Business centre, Concierge

Great hotel for business and leisure.

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Dining

I’m no foodie but I do enjoy a good meal, with great company at a restaurant with a great vibe and service.Our overall dining experience was way better than our very 1st visit  to London – no Mc Donalds, Burger King or Pizza Hut.

  1. Le Pain Quotidien

My bestie came across a bakery/deli/restaurant called ‘Le Pain Quotidien’ which means ‘our daily bread’. As one enters the deli, there’s a distinct aroma of freshly baked bread. The deli had such a pleasant vibe to it – very homely and welcoming.

The menu is quite substantial and they do cater to vegetarian. I opted for the Tartine – AVOCADO & OMEGA-3, very delicious sandwich.

I absolutely love these small Deli/Bakeries, it was a nice break from the norm of always going to Starbucks.

  1. Zuma

We had the privilege being invited for lunch at Zuma, this restaurant is the crème de la crème of Asian fusion cuisine.

I tried every single vegetarian dish that was available, the veges were cooked to perfection even the meat eaters were digging into my veges.

Pure sophistication – Amazing Food – Great Company – Fantastic Atmosphere – Friendly and Professional Staff.

  1. Union Street

This place was a complete let down, we chose to have dinner at Union because of its affiliation with Gordon Ramsay.  The food was blend, limited vegetarian but they did try to accommodate me. The vibe and atmosphere were great however one does not eat the vibe at a  restaurant.

Will I go back? No, I will need a lot of convincing to go back. Very disappointing indeed.

  1. High Tea at the Dorchester

After failing to get a booking for High Tea as most places were fully booked, we were lucky that ‘we knew a someone, that knows someone ‘ that got us a booking at the Dorchester. This hotel is where the ‘OTHER HALF’ stay – the hotel is a symbol of luxury, opulence, the epitome of timeless glamour.

The high tea is served in the Promenade, a lobby on the ground floor of the hotel with huge throne-like chairs to sink into and a pianist gently tinkling away.

We went with the High Tea menu – Savoury finger sandwiches, Warm scones served with glistening strawberry jam and cream, a platter of cakes and tartlets and a very large selection of teas. The service and overall experience was Splendid.

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CONCERT

Mrs Carter – O2 Arena

One word to sum up this concert – PRICELESS

From the moment she enters the stage, Beyonce commands nothing but attention from her audience and right from the outset she brings such an incredible wave of energy to her performance.

She kicked off the show with ‘Run the World (Girls)’ a perfect way to set the scene for her show.

The Mrs Carter Show is a beating of ultra-slick showstoppers – Baby Boy, Diva, Crazy in Love, HALO, Love on Top, Flawless, XO…

The other highlight of the Mrs Carter show was when she performed ‘Drunk in Love’ and called on stage her husband…amazing chemistry, the Carter are a winning combination.

I also loved her rendition of ‘I will always Love you’ a nice touch to this high energy show.

The dancing is fierce, their wardrobe selection is captivating – the dozen glitzy couture costume changes,  Beyonce is truly an exceptional performer, everything about this show was PHENOMENAL.

I have a newfound respect for MRS CARTER.

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Great holiday, good company, an overall  Splendid Experience.

xoxo

TS

The Fusion Boutique Hotel – Polokwane

Fusion Hotel

I hosted a function at the Fusion Hotel in Polokwane, the overall experience was great.

The location was great, the service was fantastic and the food was magnificent.

Hotel Features:-

  • 30 lavishly decorated junior suites
  • 3 themed master suites
    • Kiss suite
    • Bollywood suite
    • Hollywood suite

Each of the suites boasts exquisite marble bathrooms which come equipped with under floor heating and heated towel rails to ensure that your stay is as enjoyable as possible

  • Four conference rooms
  • Fine dining at the Saskia restaurant

My only criticism was the lack of wireless access, for a 5 star hotel they wireless access should be available in all rooms and not just the hotel lobby.

Overall, The Fusion Boutique Hotel is truly a gem for business or leisure travel.

www.fusionboutiquehotel.co.za

Tel: 015 291 4042