Had a lovely day in San Jose last week. Originally, I was thinking I would hop down on the train to review a few restaurants, but it expanded into a half day of museums, art galleries, a basilica, one good restaurant, and one, “not so good,” restaurant. Sunny and 70. You can’t help but smile, with perfect weather like that. Hauling around my down jacket, stuffed into my trusted drawstring backpack (protruding out of my backside), made a lovely gargantuan “giant marshmallow puff,” and my own, private backpack “fashion faux pas.” Little did I know, (until today) that San Jose (in the Santa Clara Valley), was called: “Valley Of The Heart’s Delight.” Pretty cool.
First Stop San Jose:
Lunch at the restaurant, Firehouse No. 1 Gastropub(click here), and it was a total disaster. The reviews online made it all shiny and perfect, yet I thought the food just sucked big time, even the bested pork belly sliders were just two slices of thick fried fat on a bun. The meat was all sinewy and shiny. I need meat. Good cut – quality meats. Doesn’t need to be grass fed and all organic – if it’s at least good quality. Hamburger a disappointment as well. If I was 21, perhaps I would go back for the advertised “Stop Light” red, green, and yellow shots that are so popular. The grease and bad tasting meats will sop up those shooters any day. Go for the beer, (not the wine), the beer is just fine.
Second Stop San Jose:
Definitely not in the grand walk about plan. I thought it was just a “no big deal church” and it ended up a stunner Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph! For directions or contact info for Cathedral Basilica information click here, and take note: the pictures on their website do not offer it justice – it really is a sight to be seen. The oldest non-mission parish in the state of California. What a perfect hidden gem! The artist in me, had to at least give it a good peek, and a quick picture stop.
Third Stop San Jose:
The San Jose Museum of Art(click here) is smallish, not much art, and not my very favorite. Only one visible Hung Liu works. Hung Liu, is one of my absolute favorite artists, and is represented here in a permanent collection. I discovered her six years ago, and started painting large circles on my canvases after viewing and writing about her works. It’s really the only reason I keep coming back to visit. The museum was enjoying a construction month, and the $8.00 entry fee for large shadow boxes of the “Hidden Heroes” exhibit seemed a little steep. It was, however, amusing to view (and read) about, the “behind the scenes” inventors of condoms, paper clips, umbrellas, rubber bands, Band Aids, light bulbs, tape, tea bags and coat hangers. My favorite exhibition was the “Around the Table” Jitish Kallat’s expansive installation Epilogue (2010 – 2011). Kallat honors his late father through a deeply personal series of photographs of progressively eaten roti (the round, traditional South Asian flatbread). Each image represents one of the 22,000 moons that bore witness to his father’s 62-year lifespan. Epilogue is a metaphorical meditation on sustenance and time. How would you pay tribute to your father?
Fourth Stop San Jose
The San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation(click here). Awesome and fabulous – in its own way. My favorite, was the downstairs “outer space” area. Great place for kids/students, yet the Exploratorium in San Francisco, is a much better way to spend the afternoon with the kiddos. I am still lamenting, not hanging out the extra hour and a half, for the IMAX “Butterfly” movie at the Tech Museum. If you have to be in San Jose, the bigger kids will really dig this Tech Museum. Snack bar with treats and gift store complete.
Fifth Stop San Jose:
A fabulous “Urban Contemporary Culture” art gallery called, “Anno Domini(click here).” I loved everything about this place. It used to be an old movie theater. It’s urban, it challenges you to be real, raw, and honest with yourself. It’s got serious character, and might feel a bit daunting at first, especially if you are a “main stream gallery,” art appreciator. If you are open to hearing life story, passion, and urban vision – this place is for you. The exhibit by Barron Storey called, “Suicide,” rocked me to the core. As a fine artist, story collector and writer myself, I am driven to understand what an artist presents on canvas from their life experiences. I understand sometimes – the work is just IN YOU and has to come out. I was in tears listening to Cheri share the years of pain and suffering Barron experienced ever so present his paintings, along with the many people whom Barron touched while documenting and honoring many other suicide victims IN his work today. Ask about the painting of the guy who left his shoes and ID on the Golden Gate Bridge when he jumped, and the windsurfers floating by, taking down their sails, and paddling those Golden Gate jumping suicide bodies back to shore. I had no idea there was an etiquette to suicide. This is our life. Real, Raw, Beautiful, Dark, Color, Shapes, Lines, Reality, JOY. Ask the questions. The second exhibit that thrilled me, was of street artist “Isaac Cordal,” from Spain. “Cement Eclipses” are tiny little sculpted men or women or family, in real life situations, that just might inspire multiple meanings. Isaac leaves these scenes and sculptures around the city for the public to feel and interpret his messages. His outdoor story people can be found in gutters, on top of buildings, on top of bus shelters in Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Croatia, and now San Jose, California.
Seeing Things Gallery(click here) – A “petite urban cool” new downtown hot spot. This place has lots of heart, art, and photography soul. The Three Dave’s had a magnificent photography exhibition when I visited. The collection of books and zines and are fantastic. Skate yourself down here for a rare citified treat.
Seventh Stop San Jose:
Black Cat Collective Vintage Emporium(click here) – This place is a fabulous retro blast from the past. Definitely a destination point. Plan on browsing the rooms – the various “vintage vendors” all under one roof! Makes me feel crazy old lady-ish (and I’m not) with these old styles of records, baubles, furniture, and rare vintage re-purposed finds. Thank you Donny!
Eighth Stop San Jose:
Farmers Union Restaurant a MUST DO. Dinner here was good. The new menu is all a go. Under new management and the changes seem to be a great lift in caliber. The chicken good. The ribs good. The beer menu amazing. I learned what a double IPA was with nice shot glasses of beer tasting. Staff are wonderful, outgoing, and service fantastic. The many TVs will be leaving soon. Bar is big and they have several spaces for office gatherings and large celebration parties. This place is huge! I enjoyed reading about the history of the “REAL Farmers Union” living in the walls of this building on the back of my menu. The kale chips were a tad greasy and have too many stems. The menu will kick up it’s game, with the new management, and new chef! Great place to end the day in SAN JOSE!
Definition of Urban Backpacker:
1. Of, relating to, or located in a city.
2. Backpacker redefined: Artful reviews that lead you from hidden budget gems to five-star destinations helping you find palate pleasing adventure, enjoyment, and story collection.
3. Pack bag. Travel there. See city. Eat food. Respect culture. Take picture. Share story. Be thankful. Repeat.