We landed in SF at 7pm. The weather was in the 50's. We took a cab downtown to meet our friend Joy at the Embarcadero Hyatt. The cab driver was very inquisitive but we weren't in the mood to talk after our six hour flight- he probably thought that we were pretty rude.
As we arrived at the hotel and someone tried to push his way into the cab, the difference between SF and NY quickly became evident. The cab driver pointed the passenger to the line of people who were waiting patiently for taxis at the hotel.
We walked a few blocks to the BART station, to take a train to Oakland. We sat next two a few Native American Indians who were in the city to assist in the development of low income housing. The ride was smooth, the train was clean, and we soon arrived at our stop.
Our friends live in Montclair, a small Oakland suburb approximately thirty miles east of SF. We drove up a steep narrow road, past many homes carved into the hillside. Joy and Tom moved in two years ago and did a beautiful renovation of their house by themselves. The air smelled fresh and clean and the only sound that broke the silence was a dog barking in the distance.
We dropped off our bags and headed out for dinner. We drove for a few miles, until we were overwhelmed by the brightly lit, beautiful Claremont Hotel, which towered over a small area of stores and restaurants on the edge of Berkeley. We ate dinner at Rick and Ann's Pantry. The food was generally good, with Continental fare and some traditional American dishes like macaroni & cheese and chili. There were less than ten tables and the atmosphere was warm, quiet and friendly.
We drove home, and soon went to sleep.
I woke up at 5:30am to a beautiful, sunny day. I took a ride with Tom who had to go to his office for a few minutes. He rents a small space in downtown Oakland, in a building of design firms that once housed a tile company. The entire building, inside and out is a monument to the tile industry, with every style imaginable.
We drove back to the town of Montclair, which encompasses an area of less than a half of a mile square. Our breakfast was a combination of things from the Il Fornaio Bakery and Cafe, Noahs Bagels and Peets Coffee. As we sat outside of Noahs, a large yellow labrador named Bear was drooling at, and often jumping on, people walking by with their bags of food. Bear's owner kept warning the passerbys to be careful and keep their food away from him. When one couple started petting Bear, he jumped and ripped the bottom of the bag, spilling half a dozen bagels onto the sidewalk. While everyone was laughing, Bear quickly inhaled two bagels. The owner offered to buy them more bagels but the people laughed and kept on walking, admitting that they didn't heed her warning - she then told us that she constantly buys bagels for people that don't think Bear is so funny.
Joy went off to work and Tom decided to take the day off. Tom and I walked up the road to go jacuzzi at their swim club. We passed the neighboring homes surrounded by tall Eucalyptus and Pine trees.
We soaked for half an hour and were joined by Pam, a woman in her late seventies, who works out on the Stairmaster and swims fifty laps every day. For some reason we started trading stories about her kids and our nieces and nephews, and we began talking about discipline. She said that was raised in a convent in France, and when she would try to hide her spinach (which she hated to eat) in her apron, the nuns would discipline her by rapping her hands with a stick. Those are some pretty tough nuns!
We drove to San Francisco and enjoyed the great view of the city as we crossed the Bay Bridge. We parked near Ghiradeli Square, by the water, and went to McCormick & Kuleto's for lunch. The restaurant was over 100 feet long, with oak columns and a magnificent view of the bay through the floor to ceiling, thirty foot high, windows. We all had great meals of different types of seafood.
We drove to the North End (the Little Italy of San Francisco) and bought a wedding present at a store that was filled with lots of Florentine pottery called Biordi Imports. We walked across the street and sat down at a table on the sidewalk at Cafe Greco for some cappucino. We were going to stay in the area and go to our friends' favorite restaurant called Michaelangelo's, but we were tired and decided to head home.
We picked up Joy at her office, sat in some rush hour traffic, and returned to the house. We all passed out for the next few hours, until Stevie and Michelle arrived in their car from LA. We all piled into two cars and drove to Milano Ristorante in Oakland. The service was very attentive and the food was good in this noisy, modern, Italian restaurant.
After dinner, Tom and I drove around for awhile, trying to find a homeless person to donate our leftovers - we couldn't find anyone and left the food on a bus stop bench.
After talking for a while at the house, it wasn't long before we crashed for the evening.
We went back to town for another great breakfast. The town was filled with cars and people because of an arts & craft fair that took over all of the sidewalks.
We drove to Berkeley through some beautiful neighborhoods and past some of the colleges. Our destination was the funky, and somewhat grungy, Telegraph Avenue. We walked around for a while and then jumped in the car to go to 4th Street . Surrounded by an industrial area near the bay in Oakland, 4th Street appears to be a popular destination to shop and dine. There are upscale several stores, restaurants and outlet shops. We picked Manix for lunch (because the wait and the restaurant next door was one hour). While this attractive outdoor cafe had good sandwiches and pizza, the owner was incredibly obnoxious.
We drove to the house, and got ready to go to our friends' wedding. They were married in a former private school that is now used for parties in the posh Pacific Heights section of San Francisco. We had a nice time with some West Coast friends that we haven't seen for awhile.
We woke up extemely early and munched on yesterdays bagels. By late morning we were out of the house and on our way to brunch in Mill Valley at Buckeye. Mill Valley is thirty minutes north of San Francisco. It is a small, affluent, community with many artists and hippies and just plain old rich folks.
We stopped at the home of Michelle's sister. This beautiful property was filled by trees and flowers everywhere and they had built a small art studio below the house. We walked around the small, quaint, town, bought a few things and then drove back to the house to relax, shower and change for dinner.
We drove a back to the area near the Claremont Hotel to see our cousins. They lived way up at the top of a narrow, winding road in a lovely three bedroom house. We stayed for a few minutes for a quick tour of the house, and then headed to town to have a good Chinese dinner at King Yen. We went down the block after dinner to get some ice cream, and then our cousins were nice enough to drop me off at the airport.
The redeye flight was uneventful and exhausting. The trip, however, was great and I highly recommend a visit to anyone who hasn't been to the area.