A tourist in the

Silicon Valley

I've always wanted to see the inside of Google, and this year I finally got the opportunity

Understandably, Googlers don't like to be gawked at in their workplace. I visit the Googleplex early in the morning to avoid running into people.

Google buses fill the busy streets, unloading Googlers to start their workday. Due to the high cost of living in Mountain View and surrounding regions, many Googlers live an hour or more away from the HQ.

Like most of Silicon Valley, the Google HQ is a sprawling collection of office buildings.

Inside, standard-issue cubicles fill a normal-looking office. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't expecting something.. a bit more Googley.

I ride on the G bikes, making a lap around the campus. I'm later told that the bikes are for Googlers-only, due to liability concerns.

The bikes seem to be scattered randomly, littering sidewalks and parking lots. I suppose there are people who come to pick them up.

The free food at Google is certainly not exaggerated. Not only are there buffet-style cafeterias, but sit-down restaurants and food trucks.

I was surprised to find that the food trucks are Google-exclusive. Google IDs are required to purchase from them.

At lunch time people crowd into the cafeteria, my host and I have some trouble finding seats.

I ordered a burrito, it was excellent. The American portions seem just a bit larger than my stomach.

This sticker in the bathroom made me laugh. People sneaking in must be a pretty big problem.

At first glance, Google's work environment didn't seem particularly extraordinary. The company's attraction comes from the people that work there and the things they work on.

I also managed to visit Square in downtown SF.

Fresh off its IPO, the atmosphere here feels much more like a startup.

The lobby entrance leads to a small museum that recounts the history of Square.

beyond this point, photography within the office is limited.

Compared to the sprawl of Google, the interior of Square is a cathedral. The entire space feels intentionally designed, beautifully open and minimalist.

iMacs and Aeron chairs are lined up in neat rows, uniformly dotting the spartan floorplan. As a worker I'm conflicted about open-plan offices, but it's certainly nice to look at.

The food isn't quite as good as Google, but there's a nice variety of snacks, shakes and coffee to keep you full at all times.

"Google and Facebook are great places to work when you're fresh out of college", my host tells me. "But you can make more impact with a company like Square"

San Francisco

I stay in San Francisco to see the sights. I haven't been back in over a decade but the place hasn't changed much in my absence.

Walking along Fisherman's Wharf, I buy a shrimp sandwich from a roadside stall.

A seagull flies from behind me and knocks the sandwich out of my hand. I'm not even mad.

San Francisco is a beautiful city. The steep hills make for scenic photos, but it's hard on the legs to just wander around.

Taking a walk in Golden Gate park near Haight street.

I go to a public bathroom, saying hi to the methheads smoking inside.

"I'm from Canada" I say. "We're pretty tolerant about drug use up there"

San Francisco's Chinatown has a character different from its eastern origins.

Ordering food from a Chinese restaurant I receive a dish unrecognizable from its Chinese equivalent, though still good in its own way.

I visit a fortune cookie factory in Chinatown (a Chinese-American invention), a cool little place where you stuff them with your own messages.

I end my stay with a drive up to Muir beach. In the winter it's cold and windy, but the view is amazing.