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  • Travel Challenges
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    Being a Consultant and San Mateo County, CA

    Beautiful views along PCH
    Beautiful views along PCH

    One of the perks and also possible downfalls of being a consultant is that you travel. Sometimes, you travel a lot. To cool places, to weird “why does anyone live here” places. Maybe travel there every week for a year. Or get on a 12 hour flight for a 1 hour meeting. Most of the time you’ll get to eat extremely good food for free, stay at nice hotels (or not so nice, if your project doesn’t have budget… shout out to Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown…), and get to know your coworkers real well. You’ll build up points and miles so that your vacations are free. Any good consultant to consultant conversation involves what status loyalty you have with airlines, hotels (#SPGrulez), car rentals, credit cards, etc. ALL ABOUT DEM POINTS YO. It’s the “sexy” part of being a consultant but for most people, it’ll wear off after a while. You’ll get exhausted. Sometimes, you’ll be in a really cool city but you’ll only see the airport, the hotel, and the client site. Sometimes your weekends are cut really short. I had one project where I was traveling to Omaha, Nebraska for 2 months… leaving my house for my flight at 11AM on a Sunday and returning to my door step at 10PM on a Friday night. But all in all, I enjoy the travel still – I definitely have my job to thank for taking me to places I may have never gone to. My favorite trip so far was a one week trip to London, where I had my first business class experience (woooo flat beds!), got to stay in the Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair, had a drink at the Shard, and eat the best Indian food I ever had (yelp review for Dishoom here). It’s also a lot better when you have an awesome team to travel with… I got lucky that I almost always had awesome travel companions or I traveled solo so I was able to do cool things.

    My most recent business trip (I’m writing this on a flight to Tampa right now, so it doesn’t count yet!) was to Palo Alto, California / San Mateo County area for a client workshop. I arrived on a Thursday morning and left on the redeye Friday night. I had to work a good chunk of the time, but got some time after work to catch up with friends in downtown San Mateo and Fremont, and also drive along the Pacific Coast Highway by myself! The drive is so beautiful that I didn’t even mind the traffic. While it was a short trip, I wanted to share the meals and sights I got to check out! I didn’t go into San Francisco proper since I already been there (read about my trip in SF here) and didn’t want to deal with the traffic, but San Mateo County has some good eats!

    Details after the jump, but here’s my short list:

    Hotel: Sheraton Palo Alto (wouldn’t stay here again on own dime)

    Lunch/Dinner: Crawfish Fusion, Pancho Villa Taqueria, Poolside Grille (in Sheraton), Amber India, Ajisen Ramen

    Dessert: Bambu Desserts & Drinks

    Accommodations

    Sheraton Palo Alto
    625 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

    Ehhhh, I wouldn’t recommend for its price (which even for corporate rate, it was like $300… regular is $400). It’s just like all other Sheratons – outdated and beds not as comfortable. It is conveniently located near the Palo Alto Caltrain station (5 min walk, just out back).

    What To Eat

    Crawfish Fusion (Yelp: 4 stars)
    423 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
    Lunch or Dinner |Open daily from 11am-3:30pm, 4pm-10pm.

    Crawfish! So annoying to eat.

    This place reminds me of The Boil in Lower East Side, Manhattan but does not compare. It’s still pretty decent. I enjoyed the Cajun House Garlic Noodle, Fried Calamari, Cajun Louisiana Crawfish (medium spice), and Fried Oysters & Cajun Fries Basket. The spice level here is real and the broth is pretty good. I probably wouldn’t go here again since I have The Boil at home, but, still a great place to eat!

    Fried calamari
    Fried calamari
    Fried oysters and cajun fries basket. Not enough oysters and too much fries!
    Fried oysters and cajun fries basket. Not enough oysters and too much fries!
    Cajun Garlic Noodles
    Cajun Garlic Noodles

    Pancho Villa Taqueria (Yelp: 4 stars)
    365 B Street (between 3rd and 4th ave), San Mateo, CA 94401 | Open daily from 11am – 11pm

    Carne Asada Quesadilla with variety of sauces... and a orange Jaritos!
    Carne Asada Quesadilla with variety of sauces… and a orange Jarritos!
    Shrimp Nachos
    Shrimp Nachos

    I heard that Mexican food was the shiz in CA so this was a no brainer to say yes to when I found this on Yelp. The workers here look like Pokemon trainers, lol. But the food is goooood and seems authentic, the portions are big, and it’s reasonably priced. I had a carne asada quesadilla with shrimp nachos. YUM! They also have a bar of different sauces to try.

    Bambu Drinks & Desserts (Yelp: 4 stars)
    Many locations around CA but went to 153 South B Street, San Mateo, California 94401 | Open 11am – 10pm Sun, Tue – Thurs; 11am – 11pm Fri & Sat, closed Mon

    #10 Bambu Favorite Drink
    #10 Bambu Favorite Drink

    This place is known for their “chè”, which is Vietnamese drinks and desserts. My friend recommended this place for its mochi, but I was so full from dinner, I could only order one thing, and I was thirsty. They had a list of their most popular drinks, and I ordered the #10 – BAMBU FAVORITE (pandan & grass jelly, red tapioca, coconut milk) I didn’t like the red tapioca but the drink itself was good. I need to go back and try their pandan waffles.

    Poolside Grille (inside Sheraton) – I’m not going to bother posting their info here, wouldn’t normally eat at the hotel anyway as it’s usually overpriced and average and this was no exception.

    I only came here for breakfast since I got a free breakfast buffet voucher from the front desk. It was only average, as I expected in hotel restaurants. If it ain’t free, go somewhere else.

    Amber India (Yelp: 3.5 stars)
    4926 El Camino Real, Los Altos, CA 94022 | Open daily 11:30AM–2:30PM, 5–10PM

    My team members who were from the area picked this place as they usually go here and it was pretty good! I got to try a variety of dishes, but unfortunately didn’t get to catch the names of all of them. They do a lunch buffet but we did a la carte. I do remember my Indian team mates saying that the biriyani wasn’t authentic. But they thought the food was decent overall.

    Ajisen Ramen (Yelp: 3.5 stars)
    47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont, CA 94539 | 11:30AM–2PM, 5:30–9PM Sun – Thu; 11:30AM–3:30PM, 5:30–9PM Sat

    My friend chose this place and I was craving ramen so why not. We have one near my house but I never went there due to the low Yelp ratings it got. Rightfully so, this place was average at best with all the food I tried. I ordered original karaage chicken, fried octopus, and pot stickers for appetizers and the miso ramen for entrée. I wouldn’t recommend, but I guess it’s excusable if you’re craving ramen and there isn’t any place nearby. At least I was in good company!

    What To See

    I tried driving along a portion of the PCH and finding good places stop at for views. I found 3 cool places along the way.

    Halfmoon Bay State Beach
    95 Kelly Ave, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

    halfmoon state beach

    You have to pay a $10 fee to get into the state beaches, but you only have to pay once to enter all beaches for the day. It was pretty windy and chilly when I went but people were still in the water or tanning in their bathing suits.. crazies! 😛 If you’re wondering, I caught some water pokemon here.

    Milagra Ridge
    641 Sharp Park Rd, Pacifica, CA 94044

    In my sperry’s and totally unprepared for any hike, we just walked up a little from the entrance (path on the left side if at end of the street) to an overlook.

    Bunker? Overlook at Gray Whale Cove State Beach?

    Bunker
    Yoga-ing with views
    Yoga-ing with views

    I tried to find the official name or address for this, but after some google searching, couldn’t find it.. but! The closest I found is a historical landmark called Bunker which is the structure I mention below that I first noticed on the Highway 1, which made me stop in the first place. Here’s a map if it’s helpful.

    bunkerscreenshot

    This was my favorite random stop. I saw an old abandoned house-like structure and pulled over the side of the road. There were other cars stopped there, so I knew a treat was coming! A very brief hike up led to a beautiful view of the ocean, mountains, and highway. I believe you can actually go to the beach (Gray Whale Cove State Beach) for more amazing views but I didn’t have time to.

    I LOVE CALIFORNIA. I can’t wait to discover more of that state. Bon voyage!

    xoxo Eileen

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