Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hip off the Old Block; If You're Going to San Francisco, Make Sure You Visit Oakland - the City across the Bay - Too, Says JUSTIN CONNOLLY

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hip off the Old Block; If You're Going to San Francisco, Make Sure You Visit Oakland - the City across the Bay - Too, Says JUSTIN CONNOLLY

Article excerpt


IT MUST be hard having a younger, hipper, more interesting brother. I wouldn't know, of course, because in my family I am the younger, hipper, more interesting brother.

Which is why I don't really know how San Francisco feels about Oakland, the city across the Bay.

I'm joking, of course. There is a lot that is hip and interesting about San Francisco, but Oakland has certainly got an edge at the moment. It is, as they say, the place to be.

And if you take advantage of the new flights from Manchester direct to San Francisco from Virgin Atlantic, you could do a lot worse than to set aside a day or three to check out all there is to offer across the Bay Bridge.

You will, of course, have to do San Francisco as well - and there are two headline activities that everyone who visits there just has to do. But more of that later.

Oakland LOCATED on the east side of San Francisco Bay, Oakland is the eighth largest city in California, and is dominated by its huge port - the busiest in the state.

It has emerged in recent years as a kind of spillover for those seeking a more affordable standard of living than can be found in the west and south Bay Area - housing is at a premium in San Francisco and the huge growth in Silicon Valley has seen house prices skyrocket.

And so Oakland has, over the last decade or so, become a real hotspot for that most dreaded of urban redevelopment expressions: gentrification.

It hasn't lost all its edge, though.

Alcatraz Itis widely regarded as being one of the most demographically diverse cities in all of the United States. That in itself makes it a very interesting place to visit. There truly is a healthy mix of cultures that manage, on the face of it at least, to avoid clashing.

They mean there's more to the place than the sum of its parts.

Our visit focussed on the downtown area around Telegraph Avenue, a street which runs from the centre of town all the way up to the edge of the University of California campus in the neighbouring city of Berkeley to the north.

With its extraordinarily diverse collection of shops, restaurants and cafes, Telegraph Avenue is a big attraction for tourists, and you should certainly make a walk along its length the centrepiece of your visit. Look out for the beautifully restored Fox Theatre, now a fantastic music venue.

Next door is my first eating out recommendation - Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, a very cool diner part-owned by Mike Dirnt, the bass player from the band Green Day, who hails from these parts. Green Day fans can also visit the guitar shop owned by the band's frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, Broken Guitars, in the hip Temescal district of Oakland, on the way up to Berkeley just off Telegraph Avenue.

You won't be short of places to stop for a drink or a bite to eat, but for a cut-above dining experience visit the "modern American" restaurant Flora, just opposite the Fox Theatre.

Heading the other way down Telegraph Avenue you'll eventually come to Broadway, which takes you all the way down Jack London Square, named after the celebrated writer who hung out in these parts and has a statue here in his honour.

and son Finn cycle Golden Gate Bridge The square itself boasts another selection of eating and drinking options if you find Telegraph Avenue a bit too cool. Which you might.

Close to Jack London Square is Buttercup, the only place to visit for breakfasts (which are absolutely not for the faint-hearted). My son Finn enjoyed waffles with fried chicken.

There's no doubt a lot more to see in Oakland, and I loved my first toe-dip into its waters so much that a return visit has made it onto the itinerary for my next summer holidays.

We stayed at the Oakland Marriott City Centre - it's on Broadway, close to the action, and has recently been refurbished. It's not too pricey, but perfectly comfortable, and it's a great central location. …

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