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Photograph by Felipe Buitrago
STRANGERS ON A DATE: There's no better way to kindle some classic romance than a double-bill of classics at the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto.

Love & Romance

Staff Picks

Best Place to Impress
a First Date

Stanford Theatre

221 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650.324.3700

On your first date, you took him or her to see that ersatz indie, the one about the shoegazer guy whose life goal is to visit the birthplace of every U.S. president. It's because his parents got divorced when they were taking a cross-country trip trying to achieve this goal, and they only made it as a family as far as Chester Arthur's birthplace in Fairfield, Vt. And the money you spent on just one ticket for William Howard Taft would have bought you two tickets at the Stanford Theatre, and the first date would have been in a good neighborhood, and it would have cost about half as much, and you could have been up in the balcony, which the theater showing William Howard Taft did not have, and the nibbles and sodas would have cost like half of what you'd spend elsewhere. And you could have gotten a reputation of a connoisseur of classic films, and you could have seen a Hitchcock or a Hawks or a Sturges on a big, big screen from an era when men and women weren't vaguely afraid of each other, and they did things like fight in World War II, or solved mysteries or ride horses around and get into sword fights. But you didn't. (RvB)

Most Poetic Street Name

Lochnivar Avenue, Santa Clara

Supposedly, in India, British Victorian literature is still mulled over (they paid attention to the Tennyson centennial, for instance). For this reason, some of the Indian electrical engineers now living in this area might recall Sir Walter Scott's poem "Marmion." It was incredibly popular once (I lived near a Marmion Way in Los Angeles), but everyone else must be baffled by the street name. Lochnivar is Marmion's perfect knight hero: "He road all unarm'd, and he rode all alone. / So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war /There never was knight like the young Lochnivar / He staid not for brake, and he stopp'd not for stone" (in his honor, people still don't brake, racing by Lochnivar Avenue where it crosses the Lawrence Expressway). (RvB)

Most Scenic Rail Ride

Capitol Corridor train

Sunset, from San Jose to Fremont

For those who ride it regularly, the problems are familiar—the expense and the hazardous schedules. Still: the commuter train to Sacramento veers away from the freeways and travels an old route, straight along on a causeway past Alviso. Then it parallels the bay, following the rails between the dark-blue water's edge and a large shorebird sanctuary. The egrets and terns fly up as the train disturbs them, and passengers can also get a good look at the haunting wooden ruins of the hamlet of Drawbridge sinking into the waving grasses. Did I mention they serve cocktails? There's a bar car, and by the time the drink is delivered, the light has shifted deep into what moviemakers call the Magic Hour. (RvB)

Best Place to Smell the Roses

The San Jose Heritage Rose Garden

Taylor Street near Coleman

Here are four acres of 4,500 plants, old and new roses tended by volunteers (meeting there Wednesday and Saturday, 9am–noon); here are roses hybridized yesterday, discovered in old cemeteries or found feral in the yards of derelict mansions. Musks, damasks, teas, Chinese and English, they put on the show for whoever passes. Good reading as well as smelling—both the elaborate names like Queen of Beauty, Souvenir of Malmaison and Saffron Minuetto and the plaintive dedication plaques: "If I had a rose for every time I thought of you, I'd walk in a garden forever." (RvB)

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