Stanford is the nicest place I will ever live. My home will never again have a gym, a pool, a choice of late-night cafés, and a world-class library all within a five-minute walk. I will never again live someplace where landscape artists ponder the best location for every palm tree in my 8,000 acre yard. I will never again share my home with such a large number of fountains, electron microscopes, or programming experts willing to fix my computer for free. I have no doubt that some of you will become senators, or Wall Street tycoons, or the inventors of the first social networking app that’s implanted directly in the brain. You’ll be fabulously rich and successful, and you’ll have yachts and rooftop pools and an entire suite of rooms for your pet chinchilla. But for me, I’m pretty sure this as good as it gets.
So don’t get me wrong, I love Stanford. Especially during the summer, I miss the constant activity and excitement that comes of living in a famous research university with 6500 other antsy, horny, idealistic, over-intellectual teens and twenty-somethings. But by the seventh or eighth week of the quarter, the frenetic pace and the fact that I can’t sit in the CoHo for 20 minutes without bumping into at least five people I know starts to drive me a little crazy. In case anyone else feels this way, I present to you my secret to staying sane at Stanford: these are nearby places (a few are even on campus, despite the title) that are perfect for a quick mental vacation. Go with a date, go with a friend, go for some solitude and time to think. Go to escape stress, confusion, your lab work, or the EPGY kids. Just remember, use them responsibly— awkward scenarios (see Getaway Number 6 ) can occur if enough people use the same places for existential crises or romantic trysts. What happens off-campus, stays off-campus.
1. Caffe del Doge:
In my opinion, this place makes the best coffee in town, plus sinfully thick and delicious hot chocolate. The upstairs balcony is my favorite place to study— it’s easy to grab a table in the afternoon, and once you’re seated, you can stay forever. The atmosphere is very European-wannabe, and there’s always an artsy film playing on silent on the front wall. The people-watching is excellent, and you hear lots of foreign-language conversations, so it’s a nice way to practice your language skills via eavesdropping. Also, the barristas are extremely friendly and nice, and will sometimes give you the unsold pastries free if you stay until closing time (11:30).
2. Douce France:
Another place you can nurse a cup of coffee for hours. It’s even closer to campus than University Avenue, and has unbelievably delicious chocolate croissants, fruit tarts, and probably other pastries that I never get because I’m too busy eating the chocolate croissants and fruit tarts. Feels less glamorous and more authentically European than Caffe del Doge— French expats in Palo Alto seem to come here often, if the rapid French spoken between the owner and her regular customers is any indication. Also, the employees got really into the World Cup this year and decked out the store with flags and soccer jerseys. I’ve never gotten anything free here, but the owner gave me cake decorating tips one morning.
3. Cubberley Education Library:
Right in the middle of campus, but unlike the Bender Room or the law library, it never seems to be crowded. It’s upstairs in Cubberley, so it has a beautiful view of the quad and the hills behind campus. It’s airy and spacious, and the chairs are comfortable (although not, I admit, as comfortable as the law library’s.) Also, the education library has a nice collection of children’s books, so you can read Where the Wild Things Are as a study break.
4. Stanford Student Observatory:
In the same hills as the Dish with the same views and opportunities for sunset appreciation (or sunrise appreciation, if you swing that way), but much less trafficked. Also, the trail to the observatory doesn’t close at dusk, so you can go hiking or stargazing in the evening. Just remember to watch out for mountain lions.
5. Arastradero Road:
Alpine Road to Arastradero is a beautiful bike ride with some spectacular scenery—you wind through the misty, forested hills of Portola Valley, and then go through Arastradero nature preserve, which has grassy hills and lots of horses and cows. Also, the bike ride down Arastradero is steep and fast and incredibly fun. There are also hiking and horseback riding trails in this area.
6. Lathrop Park:
Up at the top of Mayfield Avenue, this park has benches, a big grassy field for stargazing, and a swingset for the young at heart. I discovered it during my sophomore year and thought I was the only student to go there. I discovered last Valentine’s Day, much to my chagrin, that this is not the case. I was happily walking through the park and flirting with the boy I’d brought there, when I suddenly tripped over a couple who were sprawled out on the grass. It turned out to be a girl I work with and her date, who had a similar plan for the evening. The ensuing conversation (“Um, hi! Beautiful park.” “Yeah, I really like it here.” “Right, so you just . . . carry on, then, and we’ll do the same.” “Yes, great, we’ll, um, carry on in that direction.”) still makes me simultaneously blush and chuckle.
If you have getaway spots you’d like to share, feel free to add them to the list. Consider it a public service for the mental health of the Stanford community.