Do you know the way to San Jose? No? Easy: I-80 west, to 680 west, to 280 west, boom, you're there. Now you have no excuse not to visit this lovely city.
When you tell people you're going to San Jose, they often wrinkle their noses in distaste. This mystifies me. I've been to San Jose on several occasions, and am consistently delighted with it. The weather is never less than perfect and I've yet to have a bad meal there. I can't say the same about even San Jose's more famous, more beloved sibling to the north, San Francisco. And I love that city too.
San Jose has one major downfall: the freeway traffic is horrendous. There are obviously too many people on too few highways in too short a time span. This is my only criticism of the town. If you avoid the highways during rush hour, you'll have a wonderful time. And so much from which to choose.
Did you know that San Jose is home to the largest museum of Egyptian artifacts west of the Mississippi? Well, it is. Or that it has a gorgeous art museum right in the heart of downtown? With free admission? It does. And, sorry San Francisco, I enjoyed San Jose's art museum more than I did the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I found San Jose's collection to be more fascinating, without all the pretense and BS.
Every visit to San Jose is a discovery. Past discoveries have included Bella Mia, an Italian restaurant downtown that gets all high-fives. I'd give it high-sixes if I had an extra finger. Ditto for Original Joe's, which serves up the heartiest, most abundant Italian fare around. But beware: lunch at Original Joe's may spoil dinner. The food is too good to leave on the plate. You'll waddle out.
Another discovery this time around was the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown San Jose. This hotel has a lot going for it: superb location (lots to do within walking distance), excellent service, great food and a wonderful workout room. It's also reasonably priced. Its only drawback? It seems to sit directly under the flight path for the San Jose airport. When you aren't hearing jets thundering past overhead at regular intervals, the street traffic causes a rattling commotion from below.
If your goal in San Jose is to get out and about, and convenience is the priority, the Crowne Plaza's the spot. However, if you're more interested in thoroughly (and I mean THOROUGHLY) enjoying your stay, have I found the place for you: the Moorpark Hotel. If it's possible to fall in love with a hotel, this would be the one. I could write all day and still not say enough nice things about this hotel.
When I first arrived at the Moorpark, I was a little concerned about the location. Although it's in the heart of Silicon Valley proper, it's several miles from downtown. There's not much to do within walking distance. However, it wasn't long before I realized that a stay at the Moorpark might mean you don't really want to walk anywhere. You might not want to leave the hotel.
First off, it's beautiful. It was designed and decorated by a company that builds seven-figure homes. And it shows. There's nothing "hotel issue" on the property. From the cherry furniture in the rooms to the stone tile bathroom floors to the feather pillows on the plushest bed you'll ever sink into, you get the feeling that you're a guest in the home of a very wealthy relative.
I say "relative" because the friendliness and hospitality of the staff at the Moorpark is unsurpassed. You get the distinct feeling that if -- no, WHEN -- you return, the staff will actually remember you and welcome you back. The manager, Jorge Carrasco is warm and attentive, and makes it clear that treating his guests to a wonderful experience is his top priority.
The wonderful experience at our recent stay began as soon as we checked into our room. We opened the thick, wooden blinds and looked out the window, and discovered a swimming pool below, complete with cabanas and a hot tub. Smooth, Latin jazz wafted up from the deck because by sheer dumb luck, we stayed at the Moorpark on a Thursday.
Thursday night is "deluxe night." That's when the Moorpark hosts a get-together for any Silicon Valley executives who are new to the area and interested in meeting people. The hotel has poolside music, wine and finger foods, and people are welcome to mingle and chat. Not being a Silicon Valley executive, I opted for a poolside chair in the corner with a glass of EXP syrah (oh, joy!) and just soaked up the atmosphere.
It wasn't long before I soaked up this much: I simply love, love, love this hotel. I love the people. I love the ambiance, from the relaxing poolside patio to all the exquisitely decorated little nooks and crannies on each floor, to the charming little restaurant/bar downstairs.
Best of all, after a noisy night at the Crowne Plaza and consequently not much sleep, I was delighted to discover that the Moorpark is nowhere near the San Jose airport flight path. There wasn't an engine or siren or cable car to rattle me out of peaceful sleep, and combined with those plush beds (OK, I know I mentioned those beds, but they're worth mentioning twice) it was a heavenly night indeed.
In the morning, there was a delicious buffet breakfast waiting downstairs, plenty of hot coffee and, once again, Carrasco was on hand to see if there was any little thing we might need. (Does this guy ever go home???)
The best word to describe the Moorpark is "intimate." There isn't the hustle and bustle of a large hotel, or the sterile, industrialized atmosphere. With 80 rooms on three floors and comfy sitting rooms located on each, you could easily find private, quiet space to read or larger areas to socialize. The hotel is just the right size to accommodate a weekend away for two or an entire wedding or family reunion party. This hotel would even be ideal for a mental health weekend all by yourself, and I may just well take my own advice and return there -- soon -- for just that purpose.
When I was chatting with Carrasco upon checking in, he told me "service is second to none. In this hotel, it goes without saying." He also told me that the exclusive, intimate atmosphere "is what separates us from the competition." The man speaks the truth. When you're a guest at the Moorpark, you feel special and cared for. You feel like your patronage is truly cherished.
If you've ever checked into a hotel and had a bored 20-something yawn and toss the room keys in your direction upon arrival, you know what it feels like when you're just one customer in a thousand, a dime a dozen as far as they're concerned. Want to experience the other end of the spectrum? Call the Moorpark Hotel and book a room. And here's the part that will really knock your socks off: when you do, you'll discover the price is obscenely reasonable for what you're getting. Rooms range from $89-$159.
Bottom line, I know I'll be going back visit San Jose again, and I know that this is where I'm staying from now on. The Moorpark Hotel earns itself a perfect score.
For more information about the Moorpark Hotel, which is another gorgeous Joie de Vivre property, go online to www.moorparkhotel.com or call (408) 864-0301.