Oakland on walking tour

A couple of weeks ago I was delighted to read some photo-rich blog posts about the authors’ local territory. Alan (singlemaltmonkey)’s beautiful post on Cycling in the Cotswolds made me long for a leisurely ramble through the English countryside, while Munira’s Finding Falooda series strapped me in the backseat of a foodie journey through Karachi, Pakistan. These posts were about normal everyday activities (exercise, going out to eat), but since Alan’s and Munira’s hometowns are worlds away from me, I was fascinated. I decided to return the favor by visiting a sweet neighborhood not far from me: the Grand Lake district of Oakland, California.

Birds on Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA

Birds on Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA

For those of you from far away, a bit of history. Oakland sits across the bay from its more famous neighbor, San Francisco. It is a diverse and storied city that often gets a bad rap (its notoriously high crime rate is actually, in some studies, exceeded by the city of Richmond which is mere blocks away from where I live). The Grand Lake district, which is near both the gritty downtown and areas of lush expensive homes, gets its name from Lake Merritt and the adjacent Grand Avenue.

Large curved building and its adjacent street

Building near Lake Merritt

Glass and metal contemporary church building

A contemporary church building

Oakland is an interesting city to walk around, because it mixes modern urban architecture with older buildings from the early twentieth century. In residential districts you’re as likely to find a blocky 1970s apartment building as a 1920s Craftsman bungalow.

Large lavender bushes by a sidewalk

Lavender by Lake Merritt

One of the things I love most about the East Bay — the non-SF side of the bay where Oakland, Berkeley, and my home are located — and about Northern California in general is that even where it’s heavily urban, plants still abound. We have a lot of gorgeous California natives like bright golden poppies and coast redwoods, but Mediterranean plants like lavender also do very well here. Fragrant fennel grows on every hillside, and Meyer lemon trees in many residents’ yards.

California Golden Poppies

California poppies: our state flower

Enormous daisies

Enormous daisies blooming and fading

It was a good day for nature all around. Although I had driven by Lake Merritt several times, I’d never before walked around it. When I did so this time, I was surprised at the sheer number of birds.

Birds on the water

These ones seemed to be posing for us.

White bird on green lake water

Those wings!

Geese on the lawn by Lake Merrit

The first of many geese we would see that day

Our route took us right next to the lake for a little bit, then to where we couldn’t see the water, and then back to the lake briefly before heading into the shopping districts.

Birds on a dock at Lake Merritt

Birds on a dock

Street seen through a silhouetted tree

Street seen through a tree

Love and peace graffiti

Graffiti on the back of a park sign

This incredible sculpture was near the entrance to Children’s Fairyland, the first children’s theme park in the US and one of the inspirations for Disneyland. I found out a week later that one of my IWL classmates works there on weekends, setting up birthday parties.

Giant dandelion sculpture

Giant dandelions!

On a Friday around noon there were not too many people about, but we did see some.

Ladies walking by the lake

Ladies walking

People stretching

Dedicated runners braved the warm weather

Of course, they were outnumbered by the geese (at least, by the lake).

Lots of geese next to the lake

They all chomped the grass at the same time, then walked/flew off at the same time.

Goose looking right at the camera

Hello friend.

After we passed the lake we had some temporary shade under an overpass (or do we say in an underpass?) before reaching the Grand Ave shopping area.

Underpass mural

Grey concrete and colorful paint

Graffitied face on a bus bench

More graffiti on a bus bench

By this time we were hot and hungry and tired, so I mostly stopped taking pictures. We had hearty oatmeal pancakes and eggs and chicken apple sausage at a cafe, then Erik went to a bookstore while I browsed vintage dresses and secondhand clothing. But the camera came out one more time when, outside Walden Pond Books, the shop’s resident Samoyeds drew our admiring glances and those of other shoppers.

Two fluffy Samoyeds outside a bookstore

The website says they are Amos and Kip.

Samoyed being petted by a grey-haired man

Hello friend.

Our goal was to spend the entire day out, from 9 AM until 9 PM, and we did so. It wasn’t the most comfortable way to spend a warm day, but we enjoyed it anyway, and came home grateful (that’s what I wrote about on the Fourth of July).