I’d rather spend a weekend locked in a department store (hey…..)
My colleagues and I used to talk about productizing the idea of “having a vacation in your own backyard” (pre 9/11, even). The SF Chron is running a series in the travel section detailing just how to do that. In today’s edition, a couple spends their summer vacation at Santana Row (a horrifyingly fake-fancy mall in San Jose)
Inside, sunny Mediterranean gave way to light walls, dark wood and clean, vaguely Asian lines. We made good use of the rooftop pool (as did a margarita-fueled girlfriend weekend party) and small but well-chosen selection of equipment in the gym before having a marvelous dinner at Citrus.
Feeling sophisticated and far from home, we crossed the courtyard to Vbar, whose dramatic red light, setting liquor bottles aglow against the ebony back bar, has won a degree of local fame. From the balcony, we looked across to apartments and condos above the stores. Most were still open, and the streets were buzzing. We hit the sidewalks again, entering a New Orleans-style flow of partiers drifting in and out of bars, restaurants and stores, drinks in hand.
After a late movie at CineArts at the edge of Santana Row, we made our way back through the throngs at 1 a.m. Wiggling through the line waiting to get up to Vbar, we flashed our room key at the bouncer. He made a path for us to the elevator, where we ignored someone’s abandoned drinks. For the second time that day, we retreated into the hotel’s soothing quiet.
The shops and restaurants, perfectly designed to mimic Old World elegance, do feel a bit like Europe’s grand shopping avenues, even if the illusion ends at parking lots or busy thoroughfares within a few blocks. The polished mimicry also feels a lot like Downtown Disney, and the artifice can be enervating. In the morning, we were happy to head back to our ordinary surroundings, but Santana Row’s beautiful buildings, cars, landscaping and people made for a delightfully indulgent and restful interlude.