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.
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 Berkeley. University of California (UC) Berkeley was the first stop.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
After a few minutes I arrived at 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 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.
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.
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.
I really am going to miss this place.
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Bay Area Chronicles