We’ve been gone from San Francisco for five years in July, and in that time, SVV has been back to his hometown all of once. For those who don’t know what this elusive husband of mine does, he works for my family’s accounting firm and after a particularly harrowing tax season for all, made all the more difficult by my dad’s stroke and all the implications that followed, we knew we wanted to head west to shake off the past four months.
So 48 hours after the firm was all buttoned up—at least for the time being—we boarded a flight to California for five days.
Back when I was a Bay Area resident, there were no direct flights to Nashville and it was a painful process to go home for anything shorter than a long weekend, made only worse by the time change, but thankfully Southwest had the good sense to add one back beginning last summer. It was an easy and relatively quick (four hours) in the air, and we landed around lunch time. Our stomachs growling, we wasted no time after getting our rental car before heading straight to Summer Kitchen to take care of business.
SVV’s old Navy pal Roy had told us this Berkeley restaurant was home to his favorite sandwich, and that’s all it took for SVV to pick that as our meeting place.I didn’t even pause to take pictures; that’s how good the sandwiches were.
Roy and Crystal joined us for lunch, then whisked us next door to Ici for some of the best ice cream in the Bay before giving us the lay of the land.
They’ve lived in this pocked of Berkeley for going on a decade, and we wandered around their gorgeous neighborhood just off of College Avenue to
creep people out by taking photos of people’s houses admire all the flowers in bloom.
Berkeley is far prettier than I remember it, and I fully believe had we stayed in the Bay Area long term, we would have wound up living in this area, too. So neighborhoody, so peaceful, so many delicious things to eat and drink in walking distance.
When we were done strolling and travel fatigue began to set in, it was time to check into our hotel for a nap. Only, this time we decided to ditch the idea of staying in the city—we had a car, after all, and San Francisco and parking do not mix—and make our home base in the East Bay instead.
I’d never before been to Hotel Shattuck Plaza but after four years of compiling the annual Frommer’s California and Frommer’s San Francisco guides, I knew of it—it’s one of the most celebrated properties in the East Bay—and had always wanted to stay in this charming boutique hotel.
A tiled peace sign greeted us in the entryway—so very Berkeley—and the check-in process was quick, and we were on the elevator en route to our room. All it took was me getting off on our floor to fall head over heels for this property. Would you look at these patterns? They’re a color lover’s dream!
Hotel Shattuck occupies a mission-style building from 1910, though each room seems recently renovated and is outfitted with modern furnishings, plus the token patterns on every which surface. We had a corner room on the fifth floor with a large seating area, and as the skies were clear that first day, we could see all the way to the Bay Bridge.
That night, we walked out the front of the hotel and just across the street to Jupiter. This beer garden is a long-time Berkeley institution, but I’d never been before. And although it was your typical brisk Bay Area weather once the sun set, we fought the cold and settled in for a couple rounds and some pizzas with Roy and our old pals Leah and Simon and Moose.
The next morning, we rolled out of bed at Shattuck early—6am since our internal clocks were still on Tennessee time—and were some of the first diners at FIVE, Hotel Shattuck’s resident restaurant, when it opened for breakfast.
SVV went a little more high-brow with his smoked salmon on a bagel, while I stuck to the classics. There were so many things on the American-style menu I wanted to try, but in the end, the chocolate chip pancakes with banana topping were calling my name. I regret nothing. Best pancakes I’ve had in a very long while.
The patterns I so loved on the upper floors extended into the lobby level common areas with enviable wallpapers and bold light fixtures, plus a serpentine bar—the state rock, my geology-loving husband points out—just around the corner. Speaking of gluttony, I unfortunately didn’t even have time to peak into the fitness center, as Hotel Shattuck has one of those, too.
The only minor downside was the lack of parking, but we wound up finding easy street parking directly in front of the hotel (and there’s an easily accessible pay lot across the street had we had trouble finding a spot).
To those of you coming to the Bay Area soon and looking for a hotel, let me just tell you this: Your life will be substantially easier if you don’t stay in the thick of San Francisco. And another bonus for Hotel Shattuck: It’s directly across the street from the Downtown Berkeley BART station, so you can be into the city in no time at all.
Because we had places to go and other things to eat, we checked out of the hotel relatively early and headed over the Bay Bridge to start the next leg of our trip.
Planning a California vacation? I have plenty of travel tips here:
- Windswept + Wild Down Highway 1
- A Day Trip to Half Moon Bay
- A Detour to Point Reyes National Seashore
- A Magical Weekend in Muir Beach
- Planning a Family Vacation to Santa Cruz
- Planning the Ultimate California Road Trip
- Art and Food in San Francisco’s Mission District
- Skiing Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Resort
- Sunny Days on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk
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