04
Apr
14

Bay Area Chronicles: Berkeley, Walnut Creek, and My Last Week in California

Eventually, my dreaded last week on this side of the world had come.  But before the fat lady sings, I still had the chance to visit a few more places: Berkeley and Walnut Creek.

Isn’t this just beautiful?

Berkeley

It was my last Friday at work, and as much as I was sad that I’d be soon leaving, I was also excited that I had another chance to see more of California.  For my last tour hosted by an officemate, it was BerkeleyUniversity of California (UC) Berkeley was the first stop.

UC Berkeley is as expected, surrounded by quite a lot of shops and good affordable food

UC Berkeley was just the liveliest place I’ve ever been to this side of California (apart from San Francisco).  There were quite a lot of people all around which was not something I often see in my area.  It was a Friday so I was told that I’m seeing just a portion of the campus population as many already left for their homes.

Look at this very nice looking building

Yeah, my perspective on this shot is a bit skewed

Not sure what this building is but it looks nice

As we walked around UC Berkeley, I was just impressed by how beautiful their buildings are.  They serve their purpose while being pleasant to the eye.  The campus was big and the buildings are not that far apart.  And they do have lots of open spaces and lawns too!  It’s just that the campus grounds generally isn’t flat so many open spaces tend to be uneven.

These trees look dreadful but they are in fact alive (just wait till spring)

This visit just reminded me of my campus life back in college

And these uneven grounds proved to be perfect for having a spectacular view of the bay.  We didn’t have enough sunlight when we arrived to fully appreciate the view, but we were blessed to catch a beautiful sunset.

Lovely sunset

Of course, no trip to UC Berkeley would be complete without a visit to The Campanile (Sather Tower).  You definitely won’t miss it as stands proud and tall over the skyline of the campus, and is perhaps its most famous symbol.  It stands 307 feet and is the third tallest bell and clock-tower in the world.  Unfortunately, visiting hours are over when we arrived.

The Campanile (Sather Tower) of UC Berkeley

We also went around the bustling community around UC Berkeley and found a lot of very interesting shops.  Too bad we were pressed for time as I would’ve wanted to take a closer look at some of the shops and try some interesting food in the area.  Like the University Belt area of Manila, prices of food and other items in this area is very affordable, relatively speaking.

Concluding our Friday night was dinner in Emeryville where the view of the bay was just spectacular!  Public Market Emeryville offers a lot of international cuisines so it’s perfect if you’re group is diverse and is looking to try different tastes under one roof.

Walnut Creek

The following day, Saturday, was my last day in California.  Since I pretty much had seen everything around the “walking distance” radius from where my hotel is, and I can’t really go very far as I may miss my flight, Walnut Creek is the perfect choice.  I’ve been to Walnut Creek a few times throughout my stay but I never really had the chance to explore the place thoroughly.  It is conveniently “just” a BART station away from my location, Pleasant Hill.

Last breakfast at the hotel

I have not been able to finish these two: almond milk (left) and caffè mocha (right)

All my bags are packed, but I am not ready to go just yet 🙂

Quarters from different states that I accumulated throughout this trip

It was another bright and sunny day as I stepped out of my hotel.  But unlike all the days we’ve had before, it was actually quite warm as if spring had officially arrived.  Because of this I just opted for a regular cotton tee and jeans with my running long sleeved shirt.  I still brought along my waterproof jacket just in case it rained or get too windy.  It still was too early to checkout, but I did anyway as I won’t be returning until late afternoon.  Good thing that the staff of my hotel, Hyatt House Pleasant Hill, were very accommodating and they agreed to keep my things until I return.

What a lovely day for running around

Since I was crossing a freeway there are places where pedestrians are not allowed

One of the many flyovers in the area

The wide roads of California

As usual, it was quite a long walk from my hotel to the BART station.  And because of the warm weather I really got sweaty as I ran the “boring” sections of the way!  Since I don’t want to arrive at the BART station dripping in sweat I had to just settle with walking as I got close.

Selfie!  Nearing the BART Pleasant Hill station

I could not imagine myself getting into places without BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit).  Sure it’s very expensive (minimum of $1.85 or about ₱80) if you compare it similar trains in Metro Manila (₱20 maximum for the entire line or less than half a dollar), but it’s very cheap if you compare it with taking a cab (around $2 for a 2 mile ride) and it takes you in a lot of places very quickly and conveniently.  According to BART’s website, the trains run at a maximum of 80 mph (miles per hour; around 129 km/h) and average of 33 mph (53 km/h) so it’s much faster than any train in Metro Manila!  Putting that into local perspective, its average speed is just below the maximum speed limit in Commonwealth Ave. (60 km/h) and its maximum speed is beyond the speed limit on the SkyWay!

The simple but very functional BART Pleasant Hill station

Secure bike parking below BART Pleasant Hill station

A BART train

Aside from speed, BART trains are also very long so their passenger capacity is also huge.  The first one I rode had 10 coaches and the shortest one had 8.  Imagine the MRT being three times longer and at least twice faster… (Yes, I’m envious of the BART system!).  And it’s also the most bike-friendly train system I’ve ever seen personally as they have bike parking in their station and dedicated spaces for bikes in the train itself.  I sure hope that when the next train system in Metro Manila gets built (whenever that is) they consider systems like BART as an example.

BART Pleasant Hill station train platform

Inside a BART train

Bicycle Priority Area inside a BART train

These seats come in forward and backward-facing orientation

Tip: For iOS users, you may download the mobile app called Embark iBART where you can view BART train schedules, fares, announcements, etc.

After a few minutes I arrived at Walnut Creek.

View of the mountains from BART Walnut Creek station

Bike racks at BART Walnut Creek station

Interesting sky over Walnut Creek

My tour of Walnut Creek was obviously based on its proximity from the BART station.  So after getting a bottle of water for all the walking ahead from Target just across the BART station, I was off to the nearest landmark, Civic Park.

Civic Park

I just love their lawn!

This is just the cutest placement of this push button (as you have to bend over a bit to push it :D), located just across the park

One of the park benches

Another selfie by the window of the library 😀 (it was pretty warm at this time so it was time to show off the tee :D)

A beautiful big tree near the park

Civic Park isn’t really that huge, but I really love their lawn.  I just love parks that have a lot of grass and you’re permitted to step on the grass!  Parks from my side of the world are usually (and needlessly) paved for the most part, and the little area for grass is off-limits.  And there’s a creek that runs through this park too!  But I didn’t explore the park that much at this point yet as I was aiming to go for some shopping around Broadway Plaza.

Walnut Creek Library as seen from Civic Park

Small, but very nice

Time for some shopping!

There are quite a lot of shops in and around this area

Some plant sculptures

And more shops!

A local referred me to this place called Habit which indeed serves good burgers

Free bus service that loops around Broadway Plaza and BART Walnut Creek station

You just have to wait a while, but it’s worth it

After doing my shopping and stuffing myself with a good burger, I went back to Civic Park to explore the area more.  Of course I took some sightseeing along the way to maximize coverage.  And as I walk around Walnut Creek I realize that people here value nature, particularly their creek, as I hardly see any litter.  I feel sorry for my generation and those after that grew up in Metro Manila as we didn’t experience having a clean and living flowing body of water in the Metro.  Sigh.

Going out of the shopping district

An interesting fountain

Exploring the other side of the park

The very clean creek where ducks and other birds abound

Selfie at the park 😀

A closer view of the bridge over the creek

At the middle of the bridge lies this notice about preserving the creek

More about the creek

Another big and beautiful tree in Civic Park

View from under the tree

First selfie that is not a reflection 😀

Finale: Pleasant Hill

After charging up some clean air, I was back to BART station, headed back to Pleasant Hill for some last minute shopping (aka “pasalubong”).  I didn’t buy much as I already have the things I needed, just more chocolates that everyone in the Philippines seem to be crazy for.  And then finally back to my hotel to get my things, and wait for my limo service to the airport.

Here’s my train back to Pleasant Hill

Last minute shopping at Downtown Pleasant Hill

Spent the lazy afternoon just letting time pass by…

A perfect afternoon to spend doing nothing 🙂

Then it was time to shop in my new favorite store, ROSS (not the widest selection but definitely the best prices!) 😀

Took one last selfie as well 😀

And watch the sun slowly pass across the sky

Ooohh, sugar free chocolates… (these ones are in Lucky supermarket)

One last look at Century Theatres on my way back to the hotel to wait for my service to the airport

I really am going to miss this place.

* * *

Bay Area Chronicles


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