Berkeley, across the bay from San Francisco, offers better weather and a relaxed vibe.
It’s the home of the University of California’s jewel, its Berkeley campus. In a scene in my book Joyous Lies, I describe a campus rally to protest the Vietnam War fifty years ago, just before my characters Neil and Johanna flee Neil’s draft call-up to settle in the far reaches of Northern California and to found a hippie commune.
Today, Berkeley’s counter-culture still thrives. If you like your cannabis sustainably grown, from “small farmers, cooperative run farms, and independent collectives,” you can buy it from ten legal dispensaries in Berkeley.
“Organic” has gone mainstream here. Restaurants and many supermarkets offer carefully sourced sustenance, wellness in every bite. Boutiques sell fashion made from natural fabrics.
Let’s pretend the pandemic is over and restaurants, museums, and other attractions are actually open, and take a tour.
First, we’ll eat breakfast at Saul’s Delicatessen (1475 Shattuck). Famous for its pastrami and Israeli-inspired platters, Saul’s will refill your coffee endlessly. This part of town abounds with ethnic food of all types. It includes The Cheese Board Collective (1504 Shattuck), which carries cheeses from all over the world. A few years ago, this workers’ collective expanded next door to 1512 Shattuck and now serves fabulous pizza. There is always a line out the door.
The most famous dining establishment of all is Chez Panisse (1517 Shattuck). Fifty years ago, chef Alice Waters started serving dinner to friends, and so revolutionized American cuisine. Her meals emphasize local ingredients harvested or bought seasonally. We made a reservation for dinner so we’ll come back later.
Right now, we need to walk off Saul’s bagels and lox. We’ll head to 1518 Walnut Street,
where, in a tiny house, we will explore the only perfume museum in the USA. This is the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents. The museum is an olfactory and educational delight.
Now we’ll head up Hearst Avenue. We are about to enter UC Berkeley. Set at the base of Strawberry Canyon, the sprawling campus cover 1234 acres, from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory up the hill to the recently earthquake-proofed football stadium (Go Bears!) to classroom buildings and fraternities. Reserved-in-advance tours by student ambassadors start at 10 am daily from the Campanile, which offers a fabulous view.
From the university, let’s proceed westward to some of Berkeley’s landmarks. If historic
buildings move you, download the app: Walks in 1K+ Cities; from iTunes App Store or Google Play and let your phone or tablet lead the way.
In the first decades of the twentieth century, the Arts & Crafts style of architecture and furniture developed a niche in Berkeley, its ethos of natural wood and materials echoing the tree-filled canyons. Architects for the wealthy such as Julia Morgan, Greene & Greene, and Bernard Maybeck built churches, halls and private homes, but the movement spread beyond to the middle classes, and the California Bungalow was born. These modest homes line the streets of the “flats” as Berkeley’s valley area is called, while the hills are adorned with substantial houses in this distinctive style. You won’t want to miss the Bernard Maybeck-designed First Church of Christ, Scientist. Now known as the Christian Science Society, the church at 2619 Dwight Way, is the only Berkeley building to be named a National Landmark. Now we are going to head further west to one of Berkeley’s more quirky attractions. At2982 Adeline Street we’ll visit the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles. Berkeley has always been home to the arty and the inventive and here visitors can learn about the history of lace and textiles.
Time for lunch! You remembered to bring your shopping bag, I hope, because Berkeley, like many California towns, charges for a plastic bag at checkout. At the Berkeley Bowl, at 2020.
Oregon Street (there’s another at 920 Heinz Avenue), we’ll find a cornucopia of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and meat, cheese and pastries. Let’s buy goodies for lunch and we’ll head to the Berkeley Rose Garden (1200 Euclid) and find a bench to picnic.