Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A Summer in California Part 1: Berkeley

I'm home now. Back in what seems like a completely different world. I left for San Francisco on May 27th and arrived back in Ireland on September 1st. I love being home but I feel a part of me was left behind. I loved SF despite the cost of living and temperamental weather - God damn the fog!! All in all it was a great experience and I'm itching to go back.

Because I have this blog, I'm going to do a mini series about my time in California - where I lived, worked, played, travelled - everything! First up is Berkeley, my home for the summer. I so desperately wanted to live in SF but rent prices were, and still are, ridiculously expensive so my friends and I decided that Berkeley was best fitted to what we could afford.

I wouldn't call Berkeley a city, even though it has a "downtown", I'd describe it as more of a hybrid between a city and a village. No tall buildings, the odd chain store, a few parks and lots of hippies.

I met a guy during the summer where we discussed the vibe of SF, once I told him I lived in Berkeley he said, "Oh man people think SF is the most free spirited place in America but Berkeley is out of this world".  The atmosphere is so laid back, which I'm sure the constant flow of marijuana in the air aids to the mood of the place.

Music at the People's Park

We lived along Hillegass Avenue. Our landlord was, what we figured, high most of the time and the local park was the resting ground for the local homeless hippies. I bloody loved it. I had all these preconceived ideas about Berkeley that most certainly did not live up to what I was expecting. From living there for approx. two and a half months I got to know the place pretty well, and so, here's my list of things to do and places to see, shop, eat and drink. Voila...


Pieology - Make your own pizza starting from the base working your way up to the toppings. It's around $7 for a pizza and you can chose whatever toppings you want, they also have coeliac friendly bases. 

Pasta Bene - A quiet little Italian on Telegraph beside Buffalo Exchange. The portions are huge and all the main dishes are under $10. Over the summer we visited this place maybe three or four times. The Ravioli and Fettuccini Alfredo were my faves.

Yoghurt Land - One of the girls ended up getting a job here which resulted in a lot of free froyo. When I say a lot, I mean, A LOT. Free samples and tonnes of toppings to chose from. Get the mango flavour if a craving gets the better of you.

Clockwise from top: Yoghurt Land, CREAM, Pieology

La Note - I've heard SO much about this place, I just never made it through the door. This spot is in downtown Berkeley. I used to walk by on my way to work at 9am and, without fail, there were queues every morning for breakfast and the same with brunch, lunch and dinner.

Bleecker Bistro - This is on the corner of Telegraph and Dwight. Loved this place. Cool decor and great for breakfast. Gigantic portions so always ask for a takeaway box! Great vegetarian options too!

Cafe Mediterraneum - I only drank coffee here while using the wifi. But the coffee, oh the coffee.

CREAM - You know those ice cream cookie sandwiches? That's cream, but with so many options. At least 15 different types of cookies and 20 ice creams. The staff are so nice and the atmosphere would make you want to work there. Prices at the beginning of summer were $2 a sandwich but increased to $3 by mid July. So bloody worth it. Don't be alarmed when you see queues out the door and around the corner, it flows at a pretty quick pace. 

Pappy's & Kips - Run-of-the-mill student friendly bars along Telegraph and Durant Aves. $2-$4 drink deals and cheap bar food. During the summer each bar takes turns in opening late so one or the other gets the crowd. Pappy's is basically an American coppers and Kips is a small-ish bar but has karaoke on Sundays which is a laugh!


Drive up the Berkeley Hills, Tilden Peak - I had the opportunity to do this with some of the girls because a cousin of theirs lived nearby and drove us - Thanks Jake! But if you have/rent a car do it, the views are shamazing. 

Lake Anza - A manmade lake with sand along the shore. I'd never seen anything like it, a lake? with a full on sandy shore? I thought it was bizarre! It's one of the few places to swim in Berkeley.You can walk here depending on how close you live, otherwise I'd recommend getting an Uber - make sure to nab some discount codes. 

Berkeley Swing - This is a difficult one to explain. The road to this place is hard to find, I'm not even sure how we got there. It was explained to us that the road is behind the Greek Theatre's car park - that's all I can tell you! It's not widely known, but it's basically two swings up a ridiculously steep hill. The upside is you'll have done your exercise for the day and have a swing with a view!

Starting from top left clockwise: Berkeley Swing, Lake Anza, Salsa Dancing at Eats, Beats and Brews, Cal Stadium

Cal Stadium - Berkeley University's stadium. It was surprisingly smaller than I expected but still fun to run around and climb up the goal posts...

Rose Gardens - It's a gorgeous walk and perfect for those Insta snaps. It's a chilled out spot to read a book or have a picnic while trying to pronounce the different species of roses.

Eats Beats and Brews - It's a combination of eating, dancing and playing games. It's on every 3rd Sunday of the month during the summer in Downtown Berkeley. Live salsa music, a beer garden and board games to play - a random blend but it works. 

Explore Berkeley University - Hello, it's Berkeley University, why wouldn't you want to explore?

Berkeley Pool - $5 entry and it's by the Cal stadium - a much more convenient spot to go for a swim than Lake Anza. It can get crowded but it's fun if you're with a group of friends.


Mars - Two floors of vintage gems with something from every decade starting from the late 40s 'til late 90s/early 00s. It's really affordable and is stocked with rails upon rails of merch to skim through.

Buffalo Exchange - A second hand/thrift chain store. Stocks contemporary and vintage merchandise at super affordable prices.

Gifts of Tara - I bought an amazing wall hanging from here for $20 despite that they sold them in the markets for $40. One day I went into the shop and got talking to the owner about his selection of wall hanging prints and jewellery, afterwards he gave me my one for $20. It's a great place for ethnic jewellery, bags and wall hangings - if you're into that kind of thing!

From top right clockwise: Jewellery stalls around Berkeley, $10 shirt from UO sale, Denim jacket from Buffalo Exchange

Street stalls & fairs - I had a few favourite stalls I stopped by everyday on my way home from work. One stall in particular was run by a mother and daughter, the mother would often tell me anecdotes of when she lived in the west village in NYC, and her daughter was a free spirit who often called me "dude" or "man". All of their jewellery was sterling silver and prices started from $5-$35.

Cal Student Store & Bancroft Clothing Co. - Great spot for getting all your Cal University paraphernalia. It's located on Bancroft Street just opposite the Uni. 

Urban Outfitters Sale - The sale in the UO in Berkeley is usually pretty good, cause it's never that busy and it's a big shop too! It's located on Bancroft & Bowditch street.

***You can catch a lot of these places mentioned on my YouTube channel through my J1 Vlog series HERE 



No comments:

Post a Comment