Thought leaders have long colonized San Francisco, from the inventor of Levi’s 501 jeans to the titans of tech startups to the creators of Burning Man. The sociological trickle down effect of the greatest “gold rush” of the digital age is captured with savvy social realism in HBO’s breakout hit Silicon Valley. Filmed on location in the Bay area, it’s highly watchable due to the stellar ensemble performance, while the ravishing attention to local detail draws you in deeper. The series inspired me to take a trip to the Bay Area, to check out the stomping grounds of the young and the gifted.
First of all, book into the club floor at The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco like a proper grown up. This one is well worth it, considering the breakfast spread and cocktail hour is as robust and stylish as any trending nearby venue, saving you money and time in the end. And of course, they’re the best positioned rooms in the hotel, so your boss trip is off to a bankable start. This is the city’s largest full-service Club Level; exclusive amenities include continuous culinary offerings throughout the day, accompanied by a full-service Club Concierge to see to every need. Enjoy evening hors d’oeuvres inspired by the cuisine of San Francisco’s extraordinary neighbourhoods, a caviar tasting on Saturdays, and a Vintner Wine Series on weekends.
Perched in the city’s luxury enclave of Nob Hill, The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco is easily one of the finest hotels in the Bay Area. A timeless escape, this beloved 1909 Neoclassical landmark completes its nearly five year, multi-phase transformation this month. There is a lot to celebrate, as Hirsch Bedner Associates pretty much nailed it, enveloping the classic architectural interiors of this iconic hotel in sleek, contemporary detailing. The result? A sublime retreat of modern classic design.
I judge a club lounge using a metric I “invented” at age 12 (yes, I had those kinds of parents, natural-born hoteliers who got me playing Stump the Concierge and Menu Deconstruction instead of Gameboy). We called it “The Five C Rating”: character, coffee, croissants, champagne, and cheese tray. Sure, this may rank as the most indulgent of “first world problems”, but at this esteemed level, a chink in just one of these five deliverables can make or break the whole club floor experience.
On this score, the Ritz Carlton does not disappoint. The club is a character in itself, full of charm and charisma. Serviced by a stylish and savvy staff, the space draws a slew of interesting guests; it’s a place to both network and connect or sip tea in a quiet corner. Coffee comes via a custom coffee station stocked with the best Italian roast. Croissants are flaky and proper French bistro style, not insulting crescent rolls parading as the real thing. Champagne is Piper-Heidsieck or Perrier-Jouët, check. And the cheese tray? Let’s just say the chevre from Sonoma County put me over the moon.
Now that we’ve talked buttery croissants, back to our scheduled programming. In Silicon Valley, we see the Bay Area in all its technotopia glory. Production designer Richard Toyon scores top marks for meticulously researching the corporate headquarters and private offices of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk to create the show’s artful mise-en-scène. In the first episode, we meet low level drones working at Hooli, a Google-esque company full of funky meeting spaces, concrete floors, and snack bars at every corner. The plot follows Richard —who invents a powerful file-compression technology called Pied Piper— as he starts his own company and fights for a slice of the tech-boom pie.
Thomas Middleditch is convincing as Richard, a shy college dropout living with three fellow bro-grammers in an incubator lorded over by Erlich (T.J. Miller), whose taste of startup success inflates his ego to epic proportions. The series’ funnier moments leverage the absurdity of Vitamin D-starved coders, crammed together in shared housing incubators spotted around Palo Alto. Let’s just say Peter Pan syndrome reigns while toothpaste goes uncapped.
Driving the campuses of Palo Alto is an eye-opening experience, and many tech giants have lively programs or activations for visitors and fans alike. The Tech Museum of Innovation and Intel Museum are a must, if only to learn the lingua franca of TED Talks. Devote a day to San Jose, to check out the Tesla showroom and Santana Row, great for digerati spotting. The TechShop is nerd heaven – get your geek on and play with light sabers, lasers, or 3-D printers. Downtown San Jose is the embodiment of Silicon Valley: high stakes business done in a low-key atmosphere.
It’s a treat to end an active day of sightseeing at The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco. Drawing inspiration from the city’s iconic fog, my room is a palette of steely blues and greys, while furnishings take their cue from couture and fine tailoring. From curtain cords resembling a man’s belt to chaise lounges in tweed, unexpected flourishes channel the polished gentleman traveler, while abstract art nods to the storied history of the San Francisco ballet. The menswear aesthetic hits its stride in custom woven pillows (so divine I immediately wanted to order a trio for my own guest house), and is carried through in the layering of wall coverings, creating a sense of playful drama.
The next day, I wake up refreshed and it’s off to Yahoo HQ. Clearly, from the clever cartoon credits, Silicon Valley is spoofing Palo Alto as a kind of “Disneyland for Creative Adults.” From Coachella style concerts on the green to free craft beer to group trips to the South Pole, the corporate culture at Yahoo replicates campus life. Google’s headline-making nap pods and concierge service is only outdone by its’ whimsical steel slide to get you down to the free food truck that much quicker. Dropbox rules the roost with Whiskey Fridays. Dinner at Calafia Café is a must, with a robust menu prepared by Google’s first executive chef, Charlie Ayers. The bustling hotspot is a second home for many Google employees.
This persona-driven satire succeeds as it’s not merely amusing; it’s an anthropological lightning rod. Creator Mike Judge serves up a blunt, cunning sendup of the billionaire-birthing hierarchy of Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, and Amazon. Silicon Valley itself is an ongoing, evolving character in the show, pensively mature and nascently petulant all at once.
In the grip of social media, virtual tribes buzz with cloud communication yet rarely truly converse or exchange ideas. Listening has become secondary to capturing. From Tinder to sexting — whatever happened to proverbial un-Instagramed walks on the beach? And peering into the eyes of the adored without the telltale blue tint of Skype? Seems the boys of Silicon Valley long for old school two hour phone calls, the giddy feeling of youth with all the time in the world. Now that’s an original twist on the Silicon man child.
Now that you know how to do San Francisco like a Silicon Valley boss, will you? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.