As you know, when I returned from my recent visit home to LA, I brought my friend Sydney back up to San Francisco with me. After spending a few days at my apartment and exploring San Francisco’s neighborhoods, she went over to stay with her cousin in Oakland. I had Tuesday off so went to see them in a place I hear of much but rarely visit: the East Bay. As with my last post, all photo credits in this post are due to Syd Michelle.
For those of you unfamiliar with the bay area, San Francisco sits on a peninsula that might as well be an island. Places like Berkeley or Oakland lie to the east, over the Bay Bridge, in what is known as the East Bay. Places like Marin and Sausalito lie to the north, across the Golden Gate Bridge, in what is known as the North Bay.
Because traffic on the Bay Brige can get hellacious, this day I opted to take Bart. Bart stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit and is bascially a subway, but those in the know just say Bart. Not “the subway” or “underground”. Don’t ask me why. Anyways Bart is awesome. It’s cleaner, faster, and just better than the SF Muni system. Unfortunately for me, I live in the boonies, so I can’t take Bart all the time, but it’s the only way to the East Bay. I have to take a bus to get to Bart, and the journey takes a while, but it is enjoyable nonetheless!
Syd and her cousin Malka picked me up at the Bart station and then Malka dropped us off in a nice little walking section of Oakland so she could do some work for an hour or so. It reminded me of the main shopping district near where I grew up in Glendale, made up of little boutiques and restaurants that stretched for a few blocks with a small-town feel. Syd and I promptly found an Ethiopian restaurant and had to lunch there. If you have never had Ethiopian food, you must. It is delicious, on the spicy side, and you eat it with your hands! What’s not to love? We split the vegitarian combination and had various veggie stews and salads to devour. That’s basically what constitutes Ethiopian food: delicious stews ladled out on a piece of injera, a type of flatbread. The flavor and texture resembles a sourdough crepe. You use another piece of injera to pick it the stews and eat it. Back in Los Angeles, Zac and I lived near an area known as “Little Ethiopia” and would have it all the time. Afterwards, we walked around and checked out one of the little boutiques. Like most boutiques, it had nice, quirky things that were way too expensive.
When Malka was done working, she picked us up and we went over to check out Berkeley. I always forget how much I like Berkeley until I’m back again. We walked around Telegraph Avenue, which is kind of like Haight street in that it has lots of cool shops and cafes, but is actually cool whereas Haight can be a little weird. We went to Moe’s Books, a dangerous place for three bookworms such as us. Moe’s is a three-story bookstore that has been in Berkeley since 1959 and has an incredible selection of new, used and rare books. I was tempted by an antique book from the late 1800’s called The Girls Book of Queens. It had a beautiful old cover accented in gold leaf and a dated dedication in the front cover. It was $15, but I’m poor so I decided to pass. As cool as it was, I don’t need to spend money on something that is just going to look cool on my already overpacked bookshelves!
A few doors down on Telegraph we went to Mars Vintage. As you readers know or have figured out, I love vintage clothes. I am, however, really picky with vintage stores, because most either overcharge for items that are not that great. Mars, though, had an amazing selection. I went straight to the vintage dresses and had trouble deciding which ones I liked best! They were all in wonderful condition, and there was a good selection of stuff from the 1940’s and 1950’s, which can be hard to find. After helping Malka select a pair of boots, I grabbed my top five and tried them on. Here’s my secret when I go to vintage stores: try on a lot. Old sizing and construction is different from today, so you never know what’s going to fit. Out of the five, only one fit me well. This dress is. . . stunning. Black silk and from the ’40’s, with this cool button detail that looks straight out of film noir. It was $30, but I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and my collection lacks anything from the ’40’s so I had to have it. I wore it the other night to our Channukah party but neglected to take any pictures, so I must take some soon so I can show you all!
Our next stop was to walk around the university campus. For those of you who don’t know, UC Berkeley was the first university in the University of California system in 1869. The school is hard to get into and prestigious, and the campus is gorgeous. It made for a lovely dusktime walk. Syd continued to snap many pictures while Malka and I chatted and got to know each other. I instantly felt like I’d known her forever, but that’s also how I felt when I met Syd countless years ago at summer camp.
When dark fell, we went back to Malka’s apartment for a casual homemade dinner with her girlfriend Jenna and another cousin of Malka and Syd’s named Sienna. I bonded with Jenna over Battlestar Galactica and music. It was nice to spend the evening with good food, wine and company before taking my long ride back into the city. All in all, it was a great day, a lazy day of exploring a new area with friends old and new. I should get over to the East Bay more often!
Good Luck and Happy Travels,