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The Presidio and Stanford

Posted on December 11, 2011 by Holly Hayes
Part of: California and Vegas Road Trip

Greetings from Cambria, a little town by Highway 1. We managed to see everything we had hoped to today: the Monterey Bay Aquarium (very fun but seriously overpriced at $30); the Carmel mission (very nice); and the Hearst Castle. Hearst Castle was the major highlight for me - the pinnacle of "if money is no object" dreams! We are now in the Blue Dolphin Inn right across from the beach, and listening to very loud ocean sounds!

But back to where I left off: Friday Dec. 9, the day we left San Francisco for Monterey. On our way out of town we stopped on the SF side of the Golden Gate Bridge to explore the Presidio, a large park and historic military area. Due to road work we had to park pretty far above the good stuff (which is down at water level, under the bridge), so it meant quite a hike. David came with me partway down the trail for some photo ops, then watched our stuff in the Jeep while I continued on. I thought I wouldn't be long, but ended up taking over an hour - there was more interesting stuff down there than I realized!

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View from above

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Along the way, I passed these interesting batteries, which reminded me of the passage tombs in Ireland.

At the bottom of the hill, I first turned right, away from the bridge, which took me along a wonderful walking path along the water with old military buildings on the inland side. I didn't know about any of that beforehand (hadn't had much time for research), so it was a nice surprise. I also walked out on a pier to watch birds, fishermen, and tourists, and get more nice views of the bridge.

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View back toward the bridge

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Military buildings, with San Francisco skyline in the background

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Fishermen on the pier

After a significant walk in that direction, I turned around and headed toward the bridge to check out Fort Point. This looks like a big boring building from above, so I didn't expect it to take very long. But it turns out that it is hollow inside, with three levels of really interesting rooms overlooking a central courtyard, and you can go on the roof, which gets you really close to the bridge! (It was pretty exciting when big trucks went rumbling by overhead.) I had such a wonderful time checking it all out.

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Refreshing snack on the hood of the Jeep, after I finally got back to the parking lot, sweaty and exhausted.

Our next stop was Palo Alto, where we first stopped by the house where Google was founded (in the garage). Not surprisingly, there wasn't much to see - just a house in a residential neighborhood - but it was still kind of fun to see the humble beginnings of the company that has basically taken over the world.

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Next, we had lunch in downtown Palo Alto (which is quite pleasant and walkable): assorted sliders at a place called the Workshop. My pulled pork slider was perfection, and the toppings on all of them were great, but the burger patties were fairly dry and mediocre.

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The very cool Stanford theater downtown, which plays classic movies. I would love to see one there!

After a failed attempt to walk to the campus of Stanford University from downtown - well, we reached it, but it's HUGE and we were on the wrong side of it - we got back in the car and drove down to the heart of the campus. We both knew Stanford was a venerable institution, but we were totally impressed with just how big and nice it was. The architecture is fantastic - mostly done in a Romanesque style, rather than the more usual "Collegiate Gothic." The warm stone was glowing in the setting sun and it was very beautiful. Most of the newer buildings were interesting as well, and there was tons of parkland and palm trees. Clearly you would need a bike to get around this place!

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In the center of the very spacious Main Quad is the Memorial Church, which was begun in 1899. It was non-denominational from the start. It is very impressive too, with a huge Byzantine-style mosaic on the facade and richly decorated interior.

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Next on the blog: Monterey

Next in real time: La-La Land!