72 Hours in...Oakland, Calif?


The New York Times did a travel piece about Oakland so I felt compelled to share what we did with my girlfriend who flew in for 72 hours (admittedly for a baby shower and to hang/help me start maternity leave). Let's see how our choices compared..ahem.

Well, we didn't really stay in Oakland much...but wait, WAIT...we had several commitments that took us further afield to Martinez (where the hell is that?) and into Marin (it was Earth Day weekend).

Marzano
Dinner on Friday was at this new Glenview spot. We'd been watching as it opened just down half a block from another competitor also serving Italian. The economy continued to tank. We watched. It thrived. It was jammed, in fact. What was so special? It's essentially an upscale pizza joint with some exotic appetizer combos that suddenly appeared on the Bay Area's Top 100 restuarants list. Really? It didn't disappoint, but for those spots that didn't make the list this year, I believe there was a clearer field for newcomers to enter this year.

Sat AM: It was Earth Day weekend and so John Muir House in Martinez was having a big celebration where Dave's group was singing.

Sat PM: After the gig, we headed over to Muir Woods in Marin county. One thing I love about this place is how many languages you hear from people there- Italian, Arabic, Hindi. Oakland does have redwoods too, but none this old. Touristy and somewhat busy, but worth it.

Sat Dinner: The Pelican Inn. The site of David's annual winter solstice (Revels December performance dates permitting) after-ritual celebrating. Folks perform the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance and sing (rain or shine) at Muir Woods. Then they retreat to this 16th century English pub throwback. Even a pregnant gal indulges in the hard cider here where the portabello mushroom tartlette rules, the lamb falls off the bone, warm bread is abundant and dessert is always great.

Sun AM: Blackberry Bistro. Grits, French toast, banana bread pudding... This breakfast place always has a nice California twist on traditional breakfasts. And, we can walk to it!

Sun PM: The lovely baby shower was in central San Jose. It doesn't count as part of the weekend! I wouldn't normally take any guest to see any part of San Jose should they be visiting. And worse: we got hungry on the way home and stopped for light fare at...uh...Macaroni Grill in Milpitas. Where's that? Nevermind, move along, nothing to see or know here.

Mon AM: My first official day off work. We were heading up to meet Pippi at Chabot Stables which overlooks Anthony Chabot Regional Park and encountered a bit of an Oakland reality that I can't turn away from. A starving, injured Doberman clearly turned out on Skyline to limp into her next twist of fate. With food and water and trust, we and another kind lady who stopped wooed her into staying still by the road long enough for me to summon my Oakland Animal Shelter connections into sending an animal control officer.
In a rare twist of luck the animal control officer was available, the cell phones worked on all ends and the very kind Oakland firefighters from Station #21 returned to the scene with leftovers to feed her and keep her still while we waited. In all my Shelter volunteer years, I'd never had an animal look me in the eyes that way with such explicit thanks. Note: in dealing with stray animals you must be careful of disease and aggression issues- don't try this on your own unless you are trained and have the right equipment to handle any animal.
Mon PM: We had to find lunch close to SFO. Where else but South San Francisco, a blue collar town south of the City. Take the Grand Ave. exit off 101 and you'll find many Mexican, Italian and Asian choices. We settled on Ben Tre, a Vietnamese place where the waitress eagerly served me a whole coconut hollowed out with potassium-rich coconut water inside- great hydration for mothers growing kidlets inside. A yummy choice when you have to find eats close to the airport!

About the Times' Choices- Art Deco:
I can't agree more, some of downtown Oakland's incredible art deco splendor includes locations such as the Fox, the green Magnin building on Broadway and others. Besides having performed several times at the Paramount with the Oakland Symphony Chorus as part of Oakland East Bay Symphony concerts, David and I have both been inside the Paramount many times (David's seen the behind the scenes- I haven't).

Courtesy of OneCalifornia Bank who acquired Oakland Unwrapped, a local non-profit dedicated to keeping small businesses thriving and sustainable, we had the pleasure this past January of a an Al Green concert inside of the newly renovated Fox Theatre. Gorgeous!

Flora: Yep, we tried to get in there for an early dinner on a whim about a month ago- no joy! Oakland does foodie paradise as well as anything you can find in Berkeley, Albany, and even San Francisco. Advance planning is required.

Grand Lake Theater: Yeah, it's cool but who travels to go to a movie just to see the inside for a few until the lights dim and the Dolby cranks? There should instead be a tour of all of Oakland's art deco theaters/performance venues (the Paramount, the Fox, the Grand Lake, and let's not forget the Scottish Rite Temple). Oakland does offer an impressive array of walking tours, but nothing specific to just the theaters.

Mama's Royal Cafe: Yep, that's right. This was the first restaurant I was introduced to in Oakland and it's 1950's demeanor (with old personal jukeboxes on the wall in some booths), Fiesta ware decor and napkin art contest still make it awesome. It was also the scene of our first date where I was supposed to be showing Dave around the 'hoods in search of an apartment. Long live Mama's!

The Rose Garden: I talked about getting over there, but we ran out of time. I've adored this Adams Point gem for years. May starts the height of the season to be experienced here. Close by is the Julia Morgan designed Chapel of the Chimes which I recommend to architecture buffs.
Chabot Space & Science Center: Check. 5 minutes drive for us and a wonderful thing to have giant telescopes for your viewing pleasures so close. Chabot is also nestled along the chain of lovely East Bay Regional parks that divide the coastal East Bay cities from the other inland communities.
Oakland also has a small network of private residence-based bed and breakfasts; the Claremont is excellent as well and filled with plenty of history of its own. Friends of ours have had good experiences at Redwood House.
Photo: One of the churches along Broadway in Oakland with sun setting just south of San Francisco.
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