Bay Area Holiday: Day 4 (Academy of Sciences and Google)

13 Aug

In the morning James and I had breakfast (it was OK but really not worth the $50 or so we paid – I still maintain that nothing comes close to a good breakfast at Fandango in Melbourne), rented a ZipCar and headed to the Academy of Sciences.

It’s kind of like an aquarium/nature-focused exhibition and was very kid-friendly. Probably about 30% of the visitors were young kids – if I’d remembered that our visit was during school holidays we probably would have left it for another trip to SF just to avoid the crowds.

The Academy of Sciences isn’t huge – we saw everything in about 2.5-3 hours. One of the highlights was the rainforest dome:

It was humid as soon as we entered. There was a pool at the bottom with fish as big as me! There were lizards, fish and snakes in little exhibits and free range butterflies (GIANT butterflies!) and spiders. Plus two macaws which was pretty cool.

Apparently on weekends there are hour-long queues for the dome. We walked straight in but when we left around midday there was already a pretty significant line. Definitely go early so it’s not too crowded! The glass exhibits are pretty small so if even 3 or 4 people are looking you have to wait your turn.

So we spent a bit of time wandering up the five (I think?) levels before taking the elevator down to the aquarium level. The aquarium was the second highlight of the museum – just do the dome and aquarium if you’re pressed for time (which you shouldn’t be because it’s really expensive to get in and you want to get your money’s worth!).

Here they had a diver throwing around food so the fish would zip together from one side to the other.

Afterwards we had a quick peek of the Living Roof (it changes every year – the first year they had wild strawberries!)

We also picked up tickets for a Planetarium show.

The giant overhead dome screen was cool (though somewhat nausea-inducing at times) but the show was definitely geared towards kids. Or maybe I have just googled too many space facts.

Speaking of googling, after the Planetarium we headed off to, well, Google. Paul, a good friend of Julian’s, was kind enough to show us around even though he was obviously super busy.

The grounds are massive! If you think of those giant office parks in the outer suburbs that’s what this was like. There’s not a lot close by like with the Amazon campus. Paul actually lives in San Francisco and takes the free shuttle (with wifi!) into work, which is probably like a 40 minute trip. Google started out as one building and gradually bought the others until they owned everything. To get from one part of Google to another employees used these cute little bikes:

(I don’t know why Joel and James seem to think they’re motorbikes)

Paul showed us the main building which had a lot of cool stuff that I wasn’t allowed to take photos of. Like awesome 3D google street views of the world and visual data for how many searches were being done a second and in what languages. They take security pretty seriously – we all had to show our visitor passes before we could get out of the lobby.

There was food everywhere! Paul said that Google has a policy where every work area should be 150 feet max from food. So there are kitchens everywhere with fully stocked fridges (though he said they tend to run low towards the end of the day) and espresso machines. There were 16 restaurants around the campus with free food. It wasn’t just lame stuff – we saw a Japanese restaurant (with those cool tatami tables), a Boost-like juice bar that also had alot of vegan options, and also a sandwich shop. Seriously, you could just live there (which I guess is the point).

OMG! Office with a freaking slide!

I actually don’t have a lot of photos of Google because a lot of the things we weren’t allowed to take photos of. =( And we were constantly walking and looking at things. We saw some motorbike that has the power of a jet engine! I think Paul said it was owned by one of the main Google guys.

There was also a Google store, with the usual hoodies/bumper stickers/tshirts/Android accessories and also a bunch of random stuff like leather bags with the Google logo.

Outside they have a couple of infinity pools for people to use and legally they have to have a lifeguard there. Cushiest lifeguard job ever – 99% of the time you would just be surfing the net.

These are cute sculptures of their Android release names (which are all based on desserts). Paul said that they don’t know what the release is going to be called and they all gather round to watch the sculpture get installed. And then they’re like “ohhh! Ice cream sandwich!”

That area is open to the public so we saw a lot of people taking photos. Paul said that he’s come in on the weekend and seen tour buses stationed there. There was one guy who really desperately wanted to get in on our tour and Paul was put in the pretty uncomfortable position of rejecting his pleas. =( Basically you can’t get a tour unless you know someone who works at Google, so we were very fortunate.

So yeah, that was our glimpse into Google! Probably all those cool perks eventually become mundane. Paul even said that you get used to the free food (I would NEVER!) but as an outsider it was all pretty awesome. =)

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2 Responses to “Bay Area Holiday: Day 4 (Academy of Sciences and Google)”

  1. Shiva August 14, 2013 at 1:24 am #

    Hi, it seems we were not lucky and still we are waiting:(

    • pamperedhousewife August 15, 2013 at 10:21 am #

      Sorry to hear it! Maybe contact your relocation adviser – they’ll probably have a better idea of what’s going on.

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