Rose gardens and dirty windshields: how to spend a day in Berkeley

This weekend, we took a much-needed trip out of town. Our destination: Berkeley, CA. Having never been here (that either of us could recall, anyway), this was my favorite sort of trip, with a “blind leading the blind” -style of exploration. Carefree, no expectations based on previous visits, and full of possibility. We didn’t even begin looking for things to do until we were on the road (thanks, smartphones!).

Our first stop was the Berkeley Rose Garden, a community-maintained garden of – you guessed it – roses.

So.
Many.
Roses.

roses

We wandered around the garden, trying our best not to get in the way of the wedding party that had chosen the location for its pictures. I can see why. In every direction was a perfect photo, and there’s no fee for admission, just a sign asking that you keep the gate closed. That’s not asking much.

The garden is tucked in a neighborhood not far from the university, and it is fairly quiet, a nice place to wander, take the kids if you’ve got ’em, or just sit on a bench and relax. At the bottom of the large amphitheater-shaped garden, there is a drainage pipe opening into a small man-made stream, which helps add to the calm atmosphere. Each type of rose is labeled with large, painted wood signs. This was my favorite:

Love's the best

After the garden, we spent the day wandering in downtown, because of course we did. Downtowns are the best, possibly one of my favorite things in this life. They come at you from all sides with noise and light and people who don’t talk to you and just let you wander by if you want to (I like people, alright, just, more from a distance sometimes).

After getting our time in downtown, we headed down to the marina. Our real reason for coming to town. R was given a gift certificate because he did something nice for someone (he’s more of a people person than I am, it would seem), and it turned out that it was for a restaurant sitting right out on the water, overlooking the bay. In fact, it was called Skates on the Bay. Silly me, when R first told me that he had a gift card for a place called Skates on the Bay in Berkeley, I thought, okay, we’re going to a roller-skating rink in Berkeley. That should be fun! And for the record, I would have been all over that. R might not have been, but me? All day.

Skates on the Bay

Not a skate in sight. Neither of us minded, though.

Since we were a little early, we decided to meander on the pier and around the marina. A quick look told us we probably didn’t want to walk the full length of the pier, however: it didn’t seem to have an end, it just went on forever into nothingness, probably some alternate dimension halfway across the bay. We couldn’t bother with that, though. Dinner reservations.

Marina

See? Nothing.

Farther back down the marina, we found an awesome little treasure that was meant for kids but I wanted to play in myself:

A creepy abandoned building...for kids?
A creepy abandoned building…for kids?

As sketchy as it looked at first, this place sounded awesome.

I love adventure!  And tetanus shots.
I love adventure! And tetanus shots.

All joking aside, this is quite possibly the playground from my childhood dreams. Kids as young as seven (SEVEN) can be dropped off and left to their own devices for hours building, painting, and playing in their own imaginations made real through the power of wood scraps and basic tools. And don’t worry, parents, the staff makes sure to keep your kids safe (check out the list of ways they can earn tools in the corner there):

Also, they make sure to tell the kids to keep their shoes on - don't want to step on Mr. Dangerous...
Also, they make sure to tell the kids to keep their shoes on – don’t want to step on Mr. Dangerous…

Sadly, they had just closed, so I had to take all my photos of a child’s playground from outside the chain link fence, not looking the least bit creepy as I did so.

IMG_4118

Dinner was great, sunset was fantastic, go to Skates if you ever get the chance. HAVE THE BREAD PUDDING, OMG.

Today, on our drive home, I couldn’t resist busting out the camera one last time:

see?
see?

I love driving through the California Delta. The flat, green or gold fields, bordered at this time of year with bunches of wildflowers and weeds, make even the longest, most tired-because-we-walked-so-much-yesterday drives home have a touch of pretty.

Dirty windshield

Okay, here’s a sunset pic!

sunset

And if you squint, you can see San Francisco!

where i left my heart

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2 Comments

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  1. How cool is that playground?!!? When I was a kid our neighbour was a builder so he let us build stuff with all scraps he had left over. This is like a huge expansion of that! Great idea…I wonder how much liability is waivered there!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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