Town and Country celebration for seniors spurs nostalgia

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Despite the pandemic lockdown, many Palo Alto High School seniors have found ways to return to Town and Country Village to reminisce on pre-pandemic lockdown times. “Sometimes after our soccer conditioning, we’ll grab Jamba Juice at Town and Country with a couple of my teammates,” senior Ben Stein said. “Which you know is very rare right now, it’s pretty difficult to find a place to hang out with friends in a safe way.” Photo: Maia Johnsson

Ryan Lee, Staff Writer

Shoppers wait in line to enter Trader Joes. Despite the pandemic lockdown, many Palo Alto High School seniors have found ways to return to Town and Country Village to reminisce on pre-pandemic lockdown times. “Sometimes after our soccer conditioning, we’ll grab Jamba Juice at Town and Country with a couple of my teammates,” senior Ben Stein said. “Which you know is very rare right now, it’s pretty difficult to find a place to hang out with friends in a safe way.” Photo: Maia Johnsson

A staple of student life, Town and Country Village has served generations of Palo Alto High School students. A perfectly timed midday escape from the confines of campus, Town and Country has rarely failed to attract a packed crowd of students to its Embarcadero crosswalk — until the pandemic hit.

Now, after a year devoid of students stepping foot in their former lunchtime haven, the shopping mall is looking to lure back students.

Last month, flyers from Asian Box, Howie’s, and Oren’s Hummus offering discounts to seniors on the third Sunday of every month began circulating as county pandemic guidelines begin to relax. Already, some students have begun taken advantage of these deals. 

“Last Sunday [Feb. 19], I went to Howie’s with a few friends of mine and we used the senior special on our lunch,” senior Avantika Singh said. “The food is also always so good there.”

For many, including senior Kevin Zhao, their first recollections of Town and Country come by word of mouth.

“My friends had all been talking about how the transition from middle school to high school would be great because we’d be able to have access to a shopping mall across the street,” Zhao said.

Like many Paly students, senior Griffin Zajac likes that Town and Country is a quick one-stop-shop that allows him to grab a quick bite with his friends. 

“I like how easy it makes eating out with my friends,” Zajac said. “It’s very convenient for everyone to pick where they want to get their food from and eat together.”

For many, lunchtime is the highlight of their Town and Country experience.

“I just have great memories of going and getting pizza with friends or getting sandwiches with friends and just talking during lunch, and just hanging out,” senior Ben Stein said.

For senior Antonia Mou, the adrenaline-filled race to Town and Country and back brings back fond memories — sometimes at the expense of displeasing her teachers.

“My favorite memories from Town and Country are just the times that my friends try to rush there and back and see if we can get to class without being late,” Mou said. 

With new restaurants constantly cycling in and out, the variety of cuisines has not gone unnoticed either.

“I love all the restaurants available to enjoy at lunch,” Zhao said. “You could have pita for lunch one day and teriyaki on another.”

Despite the pandemic, Singh said that she has still found ways to safely explore Town and Country again, reminiscing on simpler times.

“Even during the pandemic, my friends and I often find ourselves going back to Town and Country when we want to get lunch or dinner and then we’ll take our food back to Paly and eat on the Quad,” Singh said. “It’s super nostalgic for me, and I miss doing it since getting food from Town and Country was such a huge part of our lives at Paly.”

As Zhao reflects on his time spent hanging out with friends while grabbing a quick bite at Town and Country, he notes that Paly students have a unique opportunity that most high school students never get.

“I don’t think many high school students can really just walk with their friends to restaurants and grocery stores in minutes,” Zhao said. “And I’ve certainly been able to enjoy that privilege many times at Paly.”