Visiting Northern California #1


The Golden Gate

I never imagined I would return to this part of the world, the last time I was here was in 2004. But life is unpredictable so here I am, hosted by Stanford University, on campus. I am staying until 6th December, back home in London on 7th.

I arrived at an odd time, with lots of delays, cancellations and changes of personnel.  Also many people are going away because of Thanksgiving next week, so I have very little to do, apart from sightseeing and doing TF shoots, which I began arranging out of boredom, reactivating my MM profile. My talk on my recent research on fashion, sustainability, migration and the solidarity economy will happen after Thanksgiving, when my host returns from his ten-day visit to Europe. It's a good thing; I have plenty of time to prepare it.

California is an interesting place, it goes without saying. I am in Silicon Valley, which has one of the highest concentration of wealth in the entire country. So far I have explored San Francisco and Palo Alto. I have arranged to do some photoshoots with local photographers and am looking forward to the one tomorrow when we will be doing street photography in San Francisco - can't have enough of this gorgeous city.

The Temple of Fine Arts, SF

On my first day in SF - I took the Caltrain from Palo Alto  it rained and it was windy - Northern California is not all that warm and San Francisco is notoriously colder than Palo Alto.  In Palo Alto and on Stanford Campus it is very warm during the day, but then at night, it is quite chilly.

I do not drive but this is not such a major drawback, as I feared. Public transportation works well and the Caltrain connects all the Bay cities. Indeed driving in San Francisco is folly. My local friends, all with cars, never drive to San Francisco preferring to hop on the Caltrain. It took me a while to familiarise myself with the system of Clipper cards but I think I got the hang of it.  You cannot live without the phone here. I would not know where to go if it were not for Google Maps. I even get alerts as to when the next bus is coming. And all payments are done through the phone. 

Four weeks is a long time to be in one place. I occasionally miss London, especially when I am on campus. It is very quiet here and I am used to the buzz of the city. 

I have taken to visiting thrift shops, just to compare notes with the ones in London, where they are known as charity shops. I am not going to do any shopping yet. Everything is pricey here in California and even thrift shops are not all that cheap. 

Many people now buy online, it is a post-Covid development. Downtown Palo Alto has lots of restaurants and very few shops, mostly furniture, jewellery and rugs. There is of course a mall, rather small in fact,  and open air. I do not like malls,  they look exactly the same everywhere, I mean they have the same shops - the Stanford  Shopping Center is a much smaller version of Westfield, basically. But some malls in the Bay are huge and spectacular. You can do a lot of people-watching in them. 

I am going to revive this blog while I am here, recording my impressions. The thrift and vintage shops are a research interest of mine, so I will pursue that. 

A la prochaine.