OK, I underestimated the time & effort involved in the care & feeding of two teenage girls, so I am a little behind on this, but let's see if we can knock one out before we head out to Chinatown today. This is part travel guide, part travellogue, part stream of consciousness blathering. I try & include some relevant details to help you decide if you want to visit somewhere, but mostly it's the blathering…
Wednesday afternoon was the girls first full day in the Bay Area. I had taken the day off work, but I still had to meet some co-workers at KPFA to record a PSA for a benefit our office is doing. For some reason, the girls were unimpressed with my voice appearing on the bastion of the liberal media, but after we were done they were excited to explore Berkeley.
Ah Berkeley, it's not just the juxtaposition of aging hippies living in trees with fresh faced young college kids who probably love Obama because of something they read on Livejournal. It's also a shopping district rapidly seeing it's quirky indy roots being overtaken by Hot Topic and Juicy. It's also one of the most celebrated Universities, truly a center of learning. It's also street merchants smelling of far too much patchouli offering to pierce kids right there if they buy a nose ring.
We started our little tour at the heart of Berkeley, the Downtown BART Station. The girls wanted to do some shopping, and I wanted to take them to the campus (in a cheesy and transparent effort to get them excited about higher education…) So, first they hit a couple of stores. I was glad that Gamestop was among them. The girls both have DS' and love them! As shopping went, this was relatively harmless. The worst was yet to come.
It was a beautiful day. Warm for SF, maybe 75 or so. Very little breeze. Perfect walking weather, so I decided we would walk the campus. Our goal was to head up the Campanile at the center of campus. It's a beautiful clock tower (the third largest in the world) standing 307 feet tall. It gives you a great 360 degree view of the Bay Area, and three times a day, the massive bells perform a carrillion concert.
I had never been up in the Campanile before, so I was excited. The girls were sort of apathetic, but I am discovering that is their default setting. To get to the tower, we walked a very gradual hill, wandering lazily among the massive marble and stone buildings housing the students. This is when I discovered a serious problem – the girls are true Texans, so they don't even walk to the corner store. By halfway up the hill, one of them sounded like she was going to have an asthma attack. Let's just say this didn't bode well for further adventures.
The Campanile costs $2 ($1 for kids) and we had to wait about 5 minutes for the elevator up to the top. In the elevator sits a bored Cal student, usually doing homework or reading. I like that on her nametag, it lists what her major is. This was true at all campus attractions, and I think we should put this information on all namebadges in business. It would be funny to find out that your CEO was a Music Appreciation major or something. Maybe it just amuses me.
The top of the campanile is an open area with views of the entire Bay Area. Unfortunately, when it is hot, the pollution and haze make it not quite such a breathtaking view. We could barely see the City in the distance. Very sad. We did get a good view of the site where the police were removing those tree sitters I mentioned above. Sort of funny to see a helicopter from the same height. Callista's one sentence review of the Campanile: "It puts everything in perspective." Katya still resents having to walk up that hill, so I won't print her one sentence review.
After the tower, the girls were hot, tired and hungry. So, we headed for Telegraph Avenue, UC Berkeley's main drag. We ate at a self proclaimed "healthy fast food" place called Smart Alecs. It was solid, but not spectacular. I was bummed that the cereal restaurant was not open yet. What a great idea. It should be open by the Fall, and I would definitely recommend checking it out.
After eating, it was more shopping and if you've never done it, clothes shopping with two teenage girls is a harrowing experience. Not just because of the time involved, and not just because of the outfits they want to try on. Mostly because they spend an hour trying things on and then don't buy anything. Although, I guess the store is used to that, because they didn't seem to mind at all. I almost bought something out of sublimated guilt.
One place we didn't get a chance to go, but I highly recommend is the Bone Room. It's a weird store/museum dedicated to bones. Any store who's FAQ has to answer if they sell endangered species or not is bound to be interesting. Definitely a place to add to your visit list.
Reading this back makes me realize just how little we actually did in that 7 hour visit. That might be a portent for future outings. OK, off to Chinatown.
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