Photo courtesy of Barbara L. Steinberg
Need a getaway? Think the three R’s: Renew, Restore, Rejuvenate.
Many destinations fill the bill, but few deliver as much or more than Berkeley. While the city still holds tight to its flower power lineage, it has evolved into a culinary and cultural sanctuary. Many of its most endearing landmarks – ideal for an overnight or weekend retreat – fully embrace the three R’s.
If your heart’s desire is to live like a king or queen, the Berkeley City Club is your getaway kingdom. Originally a woman’s club, it has been lovingly revamped and is now part of Historic Hotels of America. Not today’s boutique, the BCC is all about quiet elegance of bygone times. With a Julia Morgan design, affectionately known as “The Little Castle,” it’s the closest you’ll ever come to a night at her legendary Hearst Castle. Only members and guests can indulge in the indoor heated swimming pool, reminiscent of the bigger castle’s famous Roman Pool. Guest rooms are cozy and TV-free, while common areas beckon you to unwind and garden courtyards offer meditative space. Bring a good book. A good friend. A lover. Come solo. Check online for special events and theatrical productions performed at the Club. Kelley, a first-time BCC guest, comments, “I love the history! It has a wonderful feel. Bonuses? The rate includes breakfast and it’s a great location!”
On nearby Addison Street, the Arts District’s innovative tenants include the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and The Jazzschool. Famed for traditional music, the 40-something Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse is the spirit of renewal. In 2009, F&S unveiled a renovated, state-of-the art and LEED green venue. Extensive use of recycled wood and a living roof turned a 70-year-old garage into a work of art. Built for comfort, the 440-seat F&S features the finest acoustic music more than 300 nights a year. Blocks away, Hotel Shattuck Plaza is 100 years fresh and the poster-child for renewal. Berkeley’s original hotel, it’s been brought back to life with the perfect blend of 21st century meets 1910 – boutique vs. avant-garde.
You won’t starve in Berkeley. Options on North Shattuck’s Gourmet Ghetto are dizzying. Saul’s Deli is true New York-style with locavore flair; yes, they buy local! These gastronomic delights can’t be found in the Sierra foothills. A bowl of kosher pickles will satiate until orders arrive. Ruminate over house-made sodas – celery, lime, ginger, cream and black cherry – a delightful change from high-fructose brands. Indulge in half of a Reuben-Niman Ranch corned beef served on Acme rye bread with a potato pancake on the side and Saul’s Blintz for dessert. OMG! Next door, Masse’s Pastries makes some exquisite creations. In a revitalized 1916-era movie theater, Epicurious Garden is the “Rolls Royce of takeout.” Chocolate lovers rejoice! Alegio Chocolate is your new drug of choice.
Take a course in Sake 101. Inside an unremarkable industrial building (one-time dairy) at the end of Addison Street, Takara Sake’s remarkable tasting room is one-of-a-kind. The “bar” is constructed of Douglas fir and granite-finished tile. Blue glass-tiled floors symbolize Japan’s rice paddies – the name Takara means “treasure from the rice paddy.” All wood is reclaimed lumber, while the granite floor tiles contain glass recycled from sake, beer, whiskey and other bottles. Takara Sake educates both mind and palate. For $5, sample one of six sake courses: different types vs. different tastes.
Embrace the counterculture of urban renewal, and get away to Berkeley. Peace, love and visitberkeley.com.
Postcard from Berkeley
Alegio Chocolate in Epicurious Garden
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse
Lawrence Hall of Science
University of California Botanical Garden
Tilden Regional Park
Berkeley City Club
Hotel Shattuck Plaza
The Claremont Hotel Club and Spa