December 11, 2011

The Claremont and Breakfast in Berkeley

The Claremont Resort and Spa is propped up on the hillside above Berkeley, CA as if placed there to be a safe distance from the hubbub of life in a university town. Opened in 1915, this hotel is a designated California Historic Landmark and continues to welcome guests. On my recent trip to the San Francisco bay a friend and I spent a few nights at this historic hotel.

Leaving San Francisco we drove across the bay bridge in the dark. Continuing through Berkeley, we soon arrived at the Claremont. Situated halfway up the hillside east of Berkeley, this grand old hotel is a reminiscent of a bygone era. Inside the hotel there is a grand lobby, spacious rooms, and lush carpets. It is the kind of place where I appreciated the luxury, but at the same time felt out of place. I normally prefer homey accommodations, so this was a bit over the top for me to feel at home.

The next morning I woke up early and walked down the hill to College Avenue. This street runs perpendicular to the hills through two trendy neighborhoods, Elmwood in Berkeley and Rockridge in Oakland. The street is lined with local shops and cafes for over a mile. It is an eclectic mix of clothing, books, food, antiques, and culture. But, before venturing too far, I needed some breakfast. I stopped in the Elmwood Cafe at the intersection of Russell Street and College Avenue. This relaxed neighborhood restaurant has a 90 year history. I ordered hot chocolate and a pastry and found a table by the window.

Soon I was eating a warm, flaky croissant, drinking a French bistro bowl of rich hot chocolate, and enjoying the neighborhood scene. People were walking to work, students were chatting over coffee before class, and locals were greeting each other as they began their day. I sat there with my breakfast and book and for a just little while became part of the neighborhood. This place felt comfortable and homey to me.

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