We had to attend a memorial service in San Jose in January and decided to take the long drive up on Friday, spending the Saturday there, then return home on Sunday. We wanted to take the more scenic 101 going north but Caltrans was still working on the mess left after the huge fire and then flooded in the area between Ventura and Santa Barbara. It was opened for traffic but I could see the red line on the GPS that morning. Just so we won't get stuck somewhere, we headed out to Fwy 5, the Golden State Freeway. Yes, that is one long, boring stretch of highway with occasional smell of cattle between northern and southern California. It's also the fast track with much open space when there is no accident or road construction that can mess things up.
All was good! Other than a couple of rest stops, we only stopped at Buttonwillow where we got some lunch and filled up the gas tank.
Tita's Pupuseria, Buttonwillow
Our first experience with Tita's Pupuseria was a few years back when we were driving up to Seattle. It was just a food truck right off the freeway at the Buttonwillow exit. I had never have a pupusa before in my life so I wanted to try. Since then we have stopped here a couple more times and now they actually have a restaurant nearby which makes it more comfortable with air conditioning and tables and chairs.
Not too busy on this day.
Make sure you look up at the 'specials' banner above the counter before you order. I missed it this time. I would have ordered the pupusa special for that price.
After going through the menu MOR ordered the beef burrito.
with rice and beans
I had the hamburger.
It was fine but not the best, especially for that price.
We saw other customers ordering big bowls of soup and asked. It was a 'beef soup' said the waitress. And the cost? $16 a bowl! I can make a whole pot for that price!
Again, order their specials instead of off the menu.
Homewood Suites by Hilton, North San Jose
We have never stayed at the Homewood but since it's a Hilton chain we should be able to get some perks, I figured. All the reviews that I read were positive and it's a new hotel in the area. The location can't be beat because it's just a couple of blocks from the church we needed to go for the memorial service. It's right off the 237 freeway on 1st Street. A quiet and newly developed area.
We arrived at around 4:00, and checked in with a very friendly clerk at the desk. She was able to upgrade us from a studio to a suite on the top floor because of my HH status. Of course, they do not have a lounge but it worked for us. This unit came with a full kitchen with everything if anyone wants to cook a meal in there.
The living room
and the kitchen.
This hotel was opened less than two years ago.
Kitchen with a full-size refrigerator.
Microwave and electric stove.
Oh, I didn't notice the papers on the fridge until now. I wonder what those were?
even a dish washer
sink by the bedroom
and the separate bathroom
Not much of a view from our room but we can see 1st Street, which is basically a quiet street.
Sitting area by the elevators.
Although the drive in to the property was a little weird because of the incomplete construction work on the buildings around the hotel, there were ample parking spaces all around which makes it easy access to the entrance to our part of the building. I was really pleased with our stay here.
For dinner, we just headed over to the 99 Ranch Market plaza in Milpitas, which was just a short drive away, and found a Cantonese restaurant called Won Kee (旺記). We were surprised that it was not crowded at all.
I ordered a 3-item roast meat rice plate. An excellent value of $10.99. Look at all the meat here! I had the roast pork, crispy skin and all, roast duck and soy chicken. All very good.
MOR wanted won ton noodle and sorry to say that it was not up to par. Napa cabbage must be on sale because they had that on both of our items. This was the first time I ever saw napa cabbage in a won ton soup. And the won ton...not up to my standard and I am generally easy to please.
No big deal, we were fed and we actually left pretty happy. Then, we just walked around this huge mall checking out all the restaurants and stores in the same plaza before getting back to the hotel.
This plaza is definitely a place to stop for some food and sight seeing when in San Jose, Milpitas area.
SaturdayWe didn't get downstairs for breakfast until after 9:00, figuring that it should be less crowded. The breakfast room at Homewood was spacious and we were able to find a small table for the two of us. Breakfast was quite decent, with all the things one needs for a good start of the day. They had a waffle maker like many other hotels/motels but they had enough hot food like eggs, french toasts, some kind of meat like sausages or sausage patties, potatoes, cheese omelette, etc. The best part was their fresh fruits, serving berries can be expensive but they had them both mornings we were there.
Part of my breakfast.
Japanese Friendship Garden
With the morning free, we decided to drive down to the Japanese Friendship Garden near downtown San Jose. We actually wanted to see how the city is like, so instead of taking the freeway, we just drove down 1st Street all the way. It was quite an interesting drive with not much traffic since it was a Saturday morning. We had problem locating the actual entrance to the park but eventually found it. The parking lot was empty which caused us to wonder if this was the right place but then more cars came in so we decided it was the right place. Parking was $6 for the day at the self-paying machine.
Entering the park.
The Tea House, which was closed because of the flood damage.
This sign posted the flooding line. It looked like the water level was covering half of the tea house! It didn't look like it had any damage though.
We walked all the way around and sat admiring the scenery from the hill. Very relaxing.
After about an hour, we decided to head back to the hotel. But we found that they were still cleaning our room when we were back so we went out to see the Alviso Marine County Park which is at the end of 1st Street.
Alviso Marine County Park
This has to be birds paradise! There were many different kinds of bird here as we walked towards the end of the walkway. Nice bayside park with good paths and broadwalks where you can hike, bike and bird watching. Good place to spend an hour or so.
Gate at the broadwalk. They probably lock the gates at night.
The broadwalk that leads through the swamp to the bay.
After our short outings, we went back to our room, changed and went to the memorial service. A beautiful memorial service attended by many. A full house at this church that holds over 1000 people. We did not stay for refreshments but head back to the hotel instead because we had dinner planned.
Tomi Seafood Buffet, San Jose
We like buffets. With the prices on food serve in restaurants nowadays, buffets are good values especially when they have a wide selection of items serve on a daily basis like our favorite Luxe Buffet in Ontario. I found out that Tomi is a very popular buffet restaurant in San Jose. Their prices are higher than Luxe but I wanted to see it for myself if they can compare. For a Saturday evening, I expected long lines and long wait so we decided to get there early. They open at 5:00 and when we got there at 4:50, there was a line already. No worries because they were still cleaning the place and once they open, we should be able to get in with no problem.
The line when we got there. This restaurant is inside a mall.
Now we were seated and the place still looked a little empty, but only for about 15 minutes.
Snow crab, but I found them not as sweet and flavorful as Luxe.
The had a huge sushi bar with plenty of sushi/sashimi selections.
They also had the roast meat station serving Cantonese style BBQ roast duck, pork, and three or four kinds of chicken. They also had the dim sum station providing decent dim sum. All in all, I have to say that the choices are better here but Luxe still beats them in services and comfortable environment by a wide margin. This place is just too crowded. Our waitress was actually very nice but we found that she was just too busy to pay attention to all the guests. At least we tried so we could compare. I must say that it was a good meal after all.
Time to check out of the hotel and head back home! It was good to have another good breakfast before our long drive back. I still didn't get to try the waffle machine since it was 'occupied' by kids both mornings. It was OK though, we had enough food anyway.
After checking out of the hotel, we began our journey home. It was a good drive because of no heavy traffic like the last time we were here in this area. We stopped at the Costco in Gilroy to get gas before getting on Hwy 152 which takes us back to Fwy 5. Then all the way home to have dinner with ChC. What a trip we had! Short but enjoyable.
With a short stop at a scenic point at San Luis Reservoir. Beautiful!