2014 Roadtrip: Getting to Know Oakland, Our Rockridge Neighborhood and Berkeley

Rockridge is a very "neighborhoody" neighborhood (click here to read about Rockridge). The houses are solid, old and well-lived in. Many are wooden Victorians. Many others, like ours, are of the craftsman style and over 100 years old. The front yards tend to be small but have long lots with big backyards. Most have driveways and detached garages. A block away from our Hillegass house, was College Ave. It was lined with shops and restaurants. We love being able to walk to restaurants for dinner and we could do that easily from our house on Hillegass. Have a look at our 2014 San Francisco Bay Area Restaurant Reviews by ALEDM to read about our eating adventures.

The weather in Oakland was better than in San Francisco for us. It was warmer--typically in the 70°'s whereas San Francisco could be in the high 60°'s. It might be sunny in Oakland when it was foggy in San Francisco. We learned that summer is the coolest time of year in the bay area. September is the best month for weather. There is (what might be an apocryphal) a quote from Mark Twain that "the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." This information was not new to Audre. During the summer of 1967 she interned for three months in San Francisco at what was then called the Post Office Department. She moved from San Francisco to an apartment in Berkeley because she was so cold living in San Francisco.

In addition to scouring Rockridge, we loved getting to know the Oakland and especially Oakland's Chinatown. It is lively and vibrant, with great Chinese restaurants and fish and fruit markets. When we cooked at home, we liked to shop in Oakland's Chinatown. We got to know the Piedmont area of Oakland a little bit too.

The New York Times did a piece on May 4, 2014 called "Oakland, Brooklyn By the Bay". It may or may not be like Brooklyn but it definitely is changing. Fabulous deco buildings that were boarded up for 50 years, like the Paramount and Fox theatres, have been renovated within the last six years. They are gaining a following for their acoustics (Fox) and for their great interior space. Commis in Oakland has 1 Michelin star and their are many highly Zagat-rated restaurants moving to Oakland because of the outlandish rents in San Francisco. Well let's face it, we chose to rent our Rockridge house because of the outlandish SF rents. We were very impressed with a trendy restaurant called Hawker Fare in Oakland (click here to see all of our restaurant reviews).

The New York times also did a "36 Hours in Oakland" May 3, 2009, sealing its fate as trendy. Not everyone is thrilled as rents increase in Oakland because of all of the hype.

We drove the UC Berkeley campus, up into the hills and around town. We walked the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley on Shattuck between Hearst and Rose and ate there too (but not at Chez Panise this trip).

One of our long biking excursions was south from Rockridge, around the lovely area of  Lake Merritt, down to Jack London Square in Oakland and south along Oakland's Embarcadero to East Oakland and the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline Park. We expected to have a bike path along the San Francisco Bay. Instead we were biking along the railroad tracks, an industrial area and "down and out" areas (that have definitely not been gentrified). It was awful and had an "up close" view of the dreadful neighborhood in which Homewood Suites was located. We had considered there staying for the month of June at a time when we couldn't find anything else to rent around the bay area. When we finally got to the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline Park it was very nice and very deserted. Instead of continuing after we had already biked 2 ½ hours, Audre wanted to go back. Dimitri did not want to return along the same ugly road we came on. So what we did was turn west and north to the island of Alameda. We biked along Central Ave. in Alameda. We came to Troys and had a very good lunch there. After lunch we were reluctant to go through the 1 ½ mile tunnel connecting Alameda with Oakland and we did not know of any other option. We went east one block to City Hall and were locking the bikes up to go in and inquire about our options, when Audre looked up and saw a bus arriving at the stop in front of us that said "Rockridge BART" on it. She couldn't believe her eyes. She didn't know the name of many neighborhoods around the SF Bay but she sure knew "Rockridge". She nudged Dimitri and we both sprinted over to the bus. There were no bikes on the rack and quickly loaded our bikes onto the bus. We could not believe our good luck. By the time we got back to our house from the Rockridge BART, we had ridden 20 miles and had had a great time!

We loved going to The Pasta Shop at Market Hall at 5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618 (tel. 510-250-6005). While we have small versions of this in the Vail Valley, we don't have anything with the choice that Market Hall has. Indeed, when we got to Berkeley Bowl (920 Heinz Ave., Berkeley, CA 94710, tel. 510-898-9555, www.berkeleybowl.com), we were very impressed by the 17 bins of different lettuces (for instance). Wow! Living in a city does have its advantages. We don't think we'd trade our mountain life in Vail for the advantages of city shopping, however.

Another day we went hiking in the Redwood State Park in the Berkeley Hills. It was 95° when we got there versus the 70° in Rockridge. Dimitri was thrilled to be able to warm up! We hiked there for 1 ½ hours and were very happy. 
A redwood grove in Redwood Regional Park
We took our bikes out to check out the new bike lanes on the new Oakland Bay Bridge and originally we were going to go biking on Treasure Island from there. Although we could only get about one-third of the way across because of the construction and the dismantling of the old bridge (there was no biking access to Treasure Island), we had nice views and were happy we did it.
A portion of the new Oakland Bay Bridge, the old and the new bikepath
Other days we walked, toured, hiked and got to know San Francisco. Have a look at that post to check out what we did there.