Burt Bacharach could easily find SAN JOSE today by heading south from San Francisco and following the heat and smog that collects below the Bay. Although one of the fastest-growing cities in California, it is not strong on identity – though in area and population it’s close to twice the size of San Francisco. Sitting at the southern end of the peninsula, San Jose has over the last three decades emerged as the civic heart of Silicon Valley. Ironically, it’s also acknowledged as the first city in California, though the only sign of this is the unremarkable eighteenth-century Mission Santa Clara de Asis, on the pleasant campus of the Jesuit-run Santa Clara University.
The area’s most famous landmark is the relentlessly hyped Winchester Mystery House, 525 S Winchester Blvd, just off I-280 near Hwy-17, a folly of a mansion built by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune following her husband’s death in 1884, to appease the spirits of those killed with the weapons. The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, 1660 Park Ave, houses a brilliant collection of Assyrian and Babylonian artefacts, while the revamped Tech Museum of Innovation, downtown at
201 S Market St, contains hands-on displays of high-tech engineering as well as an IMAX theatre.