Not quite 36 hours in Berkeley: Claremont

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During the fall of my sophomore year, The New York Times came out with an updated “36 Hours in San Francisco” article, highlighting all of the new hotspots and must-see attractions that had popped since the previous “36 Hours in San Francisco” article was published. Filled to the brim with exciting new restaurants, hidden dive bars and classic landmarks, I immediately bookmarked the page, certain that I’d make a visit to each of the destinations by the end of my time at Berkeley. But I’m now a second-semester senior and have only made the trek to a single spot on the list: Dolores Park. If I’m being fair with myself, Dolo is hardly a dive into everything the City has to offer. I’m sorry, sophomore self.

As much as I love getting off campus, school can often feel all-consuming. There’s a certain level of guilt associated with taking a night off, using the weekend to relax or, dare I say, going to a party. While we are students and should absolutely prioritize our work and studies, I’ve learned to appreciate just how important taking time for yourself, in whatever way brings you the greatest happiness, can be to increasing productivity and maintaining positive mental health.

In an effort to promote self-care in a time of great national (and midterm season) unrest and celebrate everything our greater campus community has to offer, I will spend the next few weeks highlighting different local neighborhoods in the East Bay area. Instead of the NYT model of 36 hours, I’ll provide several ideas for how to spend a few quick hours (a study break of sorts) right here in Berkeley. From engaging group activities, the best deals, places to eat, hip study spots and exciting events happening right here in our backyard, I hope to help provide you the balance that makes each of us the best versions of ourselves.

Without further ado, this “not quite 36 hours” article will be focused on Claremont. Just a few blocks away from CKC, the Claremont neighborhood of Berkeley and Oakland feels like a different world. I’ve always imagined it to be the type of area that gives out full-sized chocolate bars on Halloween, if you catch my drift. With a small selection of high-quality shops and eateries, and a close proximity to campus, the Claremont area seems like the perfect place to begin our East Bay staycation.

Friday night: Sunset drinks and oysters

The Claremont Hotel definitely doesn’t scream “student-budget friendly.” Though this is true most of the time, I recently learned about a rock-solid happy hour deal offered Monday through Friday. We’re talking $1.50 oysters and half-off martinis. Did you hear that? Half-off martinis! Go with a group of friends, ask to be seated outside on the balcony and enjoy the insane view of the sun setting and the city lighting up. For bonus points, or if you’re interested in a touchy-feely movie moment, consider (quietly) playing the song “Lights” by Journey in the background. It’s 100% an unnecessary touch, 100% over-the-top and 100% worth it.

But seriously, there’s nothing like being at a hotel to make you feel like you’re on vacation somewhere special. The view is really something to marvel at and the martinis are wicked good.

Saturday morning: Casual croissants and canines

Just across the street from the Claremont Hotel sits the unsuspecting holy of all holies, Fournée Bakery. If the line out the door doesn’t give this small bakeshop away, the intoxicating aroma of butter and happiness will. While everything, and I mean everything, is absolutely delicious, I could write poetry about their almond croissants. They’re crisp, sweet and flaky, and the best thing the French have given us since the Enlightenment. The line moves quickly, but consider getting there on the earlier side (before 10 a.m.) to ensure that you’ll have the freshest and widest selection of treats to choose from.

Since the little street around the bakery will be busy with dogs, babies and bicyclists on a Saturday morning, I recommend taking your coffee and croissant to-go for a walk around the beautiful residential neighborhood of Claremont. The houses are crazy impressive and you can work off a few sticks of butter as you go. A win-win if I’ve ever seen one!

Sunday afternoon: Park picnic 

Berkeley’s best-kept secret is the sandwich counter at the back of Star Meats Grocery Store, which serves up amazing sandwiches every day from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. I actually cannot comprehend how I made it through the first two years of college entirely unaware of the Star sandies. Their ingredients are always fresh, and the combinations are absolute perfection. I’m partial to the Raging Bull, which consists of turkey, pepper salami, provolone, olive spread, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, but I also love the Goodfella, made with genoa salami, hot coppa, fresh mozzarella, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a touch of mayonnaise, when the mood strikes. Consider calling in your order ahead of time to beat the line and maximize your brief study break.

No matter which sandwich you get, grab a bag of chips, something from the produce section and maybe a bottle of something fermented and go to eat in Willard Park, just above Telegraph Avenue. The grocery store and park aren’t exactly next to one another, but you can easily bike between the two locations or bribe a friend with a car and a cured meat dream of a meal. The park, while close to campus, feels distinctly different from the Telegraph buzz just one block away. Bring a blanket, some portable speakers and a good book (or some homework) to feel that you’ve fully escaped the Main Stacks mayhem.

Contact Natalie Abber at [email protected].