Pavement painted with NL RESERVED

Look Down While at UC Berkeley, Part 2

Last week’s post about the Free Speech Monument was very timely – since they established their right to protest at the university which others are now currently exercising. 

This week’s post is more a beginning of summerone. Not too serious. But if you are interested in quirky things about the Bay Area you might appreciate this post.

Parking sign for the Nobel laureatesAnother interesting thing you might see while looking down at UC Berkeley are the parking spots reserved for their Nobel Laureates. A sure nod to Berkeley’s overwhelming Nobel Prize winners. Currently the UC system counts 70 people who have been awarded 71 Nobel Prizes. UC Berkeley’s contribution is 27 faculty and staff members who were affiliated with the UC when they received their award; or joined UC after their recognition. Second in line is UC San Diego with 16 prize winners. 

When Berkeley News posted their interview with Nobel winner Reinhard Genzel, they actually titled it: The biggest perk to being a Berkeley Nobelist? Free parking.

You can look for the parking spots while on campus – they are marked with blue signs ‘Reserved for Nobel Laureate, Nobel Laureate Reserved Space, Special Permit Required At All Times’. Atlas Obscura locates them as:

Pavement painted with NL RESERVED“Five of the parking spots can be found on University Drive, outside Campbell Hall (Physics). There are two more behind Latimer Hall (Chemistry), and one over at Evans Hall (Economics).” 

Here you also learn about the history of the spots. Apparently Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, who received a Nobel Prize in 1980, just asked for the spot. This started a common practice. 

Where do you park when you visit UC Berkeley? 

The Free Speech Monument at UC Berkeley

Look Down While at UC Berkeley

I always encourage you to look around. It makes sense that you do this on the UC Berkeley Campus, too. There is plenty to admire, like the Sather Tower, Cal’s well-known symbol, or the Doe Library with its impressive internal architecture. 

The Free Speech Monument at UC BerkeleyBut there are also some interesting marks at the tip of your foot. When you enter Cal from Telegraph Ave right before you pass through the ornate Sather Gate, you should look down for the round plaque on the ground. You will encounter the Free Speech Monument.

The Free Speech Monument with a six-inch hole and concrete circle represents a protest autonomous zone. Its inscription reads “This soil and the air space extending above it shall not be a part of any nation and shall not be subject to any entity’s jurisdiction.” This public art by Mark Brest van Kempen, installed in 1991, commemorates the Free Speech Movement that started in the 1960s at Sproul Plaza. Named after the first act of civil disobedience on an American College Campus the Free Speech Movement in 64/65 was protesting the right to protest on a college campus. 

When I came up with the idea for this blog post I had no idea how timely this would be. 

The Free Speech MonumentAre you protesting right now?


People entering the California Honey Festival in Woodland (2023)

Taste some Honey at the California Honey Festival

A sign post advertising cooking demonstrations, honey lab, and garden areaIn February there is the Almond Festival in Capay Valley. Honey Bees are a business related to almonds and other orchards. These flying workers ensure that the almond blossoms get pollinated. A valuable byproduct is the honey that the bees produce. 

A stand at the honey festival to sample honeyThe annual California Honey Festival on May 3rd, 2024 along Woodland’s Main Street celebrates everything honey related.  From 10 am to 7 pm you can learn about honey bees, games for the kids, and honey tastings at every stand that sells the golden nectar. They have a stage for speakers and you can also meet the current Honey Queen. 

A couple enjoying a photo opportunityThe California Honey Festival is happening on May 3rd, 2024 along Woodland’s Main Street. The admission is free.

Bells from the Sather Tower, UC Berkeley

Admire the View, Campanile, UC Berkeley

Sather Tower from belowThere are two things I find iconic visiting the UC Berkeley campus. First is the Sather Gate, the gate that greets you when you enter the campus coming from Telegraph Ave. The other being the Sather Tower, also known as the Campanile because John Galen Howard the architect was inspired by the Campanile di San Marco in Venice. He left a huge mark on campus both because he was the supervising architect for the design of the University of California, Berkeley from 1901-1922, and he was the founder and Director of its School of Architecture from 1903-1926. 

The view from the towerBuilt in 1914 with the addition of the clock tower in 1926 it is now, with 307 feet, the second largest clock tower in the world. This makes it easy to orient around it while visiting the campus. Of course it is even better to take in the view from the observation platform. General admission is $5 per person, but there are discounts available and if you are faculty or a Cal student you can enjoy the views for free.

A couple enjoys the view from the Sather towerPayment method is only credit card or Apple pay, no cash. They do ask you to check larger bags, and food and drinks. After you pay you will enter the elevator and can chat with the elevator operator. Because it takes 38 steps after you leave the elevator the Campanile is not wheelchair or stroller accessible. 

Some of the tower bellsI am not a big fan of heights, but I knew already from the time I visited the Hoover Tower in Stanford that I felt secure being that high. The reason might be that the columns start from the ground and end in a kind of windowsill which made me feel enclosed. Also the metal bars, which surely prevent you from ending your life at this location, give you a sense of security. 

The view is spectacular! I also enjoyed the Carillon in the middle with its 61 bells. I’m not sure how loud they are if you happen to be there during the concert, but there are three daily carillon concerts at 7:50 am, 12:00 pm, and 6:00 pm. 

The opening hours for the Sather Tower are:

Monday-Friday: 10 am – 4 pm

Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm

Sunday: 10 am – 1 pm and 3 – 5 pm (it is closed for the 2 pm carillon concert)

Please note that they might close on short notice. 


Admission is $5, credit card only, discounts available. 

Here is a short video from a carillon concert.

Explore Six Times History in Sonoma

Explore Six Times History in Sonoma

A sign reading Dining RoomSometimes you have to show interest and interesting things will happen. Like when I was looking into the window of the Toscano Hotel near Sonoma Plaza and someone with a small group came by and let me in, too. 

Chalk board with menu for the Toscana HotelI really enjoyed the collection of old kitchen utensils and the chalk board with the menu of the day listed. Imagine getting a minestrone, a roast chicken or pot roast, ravioli, salad and bread and a glass of wine for 75 cents! This is equivalent to $8.70 today; assuming this is from 1955 when the place closed. I found one reference noting that the hotel is staged for 1890; this means this 75 cent multi-course menu would cost about $25 today.

Dining room at the Toscana HotelWe only briefly visited a few of the other sites, since this was an add on after our hike of the Overlook Trail. I liked the old, blue U.S. mail peddlers wagon from the late 1800s. And we spent some time reading the information signs. 

Information signage for the Sonoma State Historic ParkThe Sonoma State Historic Park is a park of buildings in downtown Sonoma. It is scattered over six sites near Sonoma Plaza. Mission San Francisco Solano, the Blue Wing Inn, Sonoma Barracks, the Toscano Hotel and Kitchen, and the Servants Quarters are right at the Plaza. General Vallejo’s Home, also called Lachryma Montis, is less than a mile west of the Plaza.

Sonoma State Historic Park is $3 per person, 17 years and up. Kids from 6 to 17 pay $2. The admission includes visits to the Sonoma Mission, Sonoma Barracks, Toscano Hotel, General Vallejo Home and the Petaluma Adobe on the same day. There are also free docent-led tours available on weekends. 

Park hours are from 10:00 am to 5 pm every day at all venues. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.


Storefront of the first Williams-Sonoma

Visit the First Williams-Sonoma

A timeline of Williams-Sonoma titled the Merchant of SonomaIf you are like me you might have thought that Willams and Sonoma are two people that got together to sell the finest cookware. Or you saw the kids musical “Dear Edwina”?…one song references “Williams” and “Sonoma” as people that sing along with the Fairy Forkmother to teach a chef how to set a table.” Fairy Forkmother – What a wonderful term!

A wall of photos at the Williams-Sonoma storeIn fact it was Chuck Williams who founded the first specialty cookware store in Sonoma, California in 1956. The store, a 1906 house on Broadway, was also the home of Chuck and his mother until they relocated the business in 1958 to San Francisco. The two story house is filled with pictures and newspaper clippings of Williams’ journey to become a culinary icon. It closed when they relocated to San Francisco, but in 2014 this location was opened again.

A stove decorated with Stanly Tucci’s cookwareHis former bedroom is now the design studio currently filled with Stanly Tucci’s cookware in a I-really-want-all-of-this kitchen. Upstairs, where you now can admire the furniture, was his mother’s living quarters. 

It is interesting to see how a great idea became one of the biggest and most successful retail businesses. They started as a catalog mail company and then expanded into stores like Pottery Barn, Hold Everything, and West Elm.

If you like to dive deeper into the evolution of cookware you should stop by the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum in Napa. This museum showcases his extensive 4,000 pieces cookware collection. 

The first Williams-Sonoma store is located 605 Broadway, Sonoma, CA.

Do you have a Fairy Forkmother?


*I do not get compensated for mentioning this business and this blog post is my personal recommendation. 


Tour Blake Garden, Kensington

A group at the garden tour in Blake Garden, KensingtonEvery second Thursday from 2 pm to 3 pm you can join a free tour of Blake Garden in Kensington. Here you learn about the history and design of the garden. This is a fascinating walk starting from the former residence of Anson and Anita Blake with the koi pond to the redwood grove, and to the more experimental parts of the garden.

The former residence of Anson and Anita Blake with the koi pond in front.The garden was deeded to the University of California in 1957. From 1967 to 2008 the former residence was used to house the UC Berkeley president. Now structurally unsound because the Hayward Fault Line runs underneath it, and crucial maintenance has been deferred. On clear days, as we had, you can enjoy a view of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. 

A stack of sticks and a sign that reads: Create with natureI really liked the projects that included art but also a few play gardens. There is a huge boulder and a wonderful tree that would invite kids to climb, but for security reasons it is not allowed. Luckily they created a few play garden areas that will inspire kids to interact with nature. 

Bay view from Blake GardenNowadays, Blake garden is part of UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design (CED). It serves as a site for experiential learning for students in the Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning.

Starting in 2009 the garden opened to the public. The next garden tour is Thursday, April 11, 2024 from 2 pm – 3 pm. The tour meets at 70 Rincon Rd., Kensington. Parking is free. To register for the tour email Kathryn Lincoln, Blake Garden Manager, at

A bee hotel at Blake Garden, KensingtonBesides the monthly tour, Blake Garden is also open for exploring on your own, weekdays, Mondays through Fridays, 8 am – 4:30 pm (closed for major holidays). Admission is free. 

Please remember that you should not pick any flowers. Leashed well-behaved dogs are also allowed on the tour. Due to some steep hills and uneven ground this is not wheelchair or stroller accessible.  


Follow the Bagels at Boichik Bagels Factory

Follow the Bagels at Boichik Bagels Factory

A bagel bot and conveyer belt where bagels are madeI love seeing things being made. At Boichik Bagels in Berkeley you can watch the conveyor belts of doughy bagels being made into their glutenous treat. The factory is located at 1225 Sixth St. in Berkeley. Opening hours are from 7:30 am till 1 pm. If they run out of bagels they might close early!

When we got there to order lunch we were almost too late for the taste test. 

And we were too late to watch the bagels being made, though we were able to try the bagels and their famous white fish spread. I definitely plan to go back and see the factory during operation hours. 

A platform of legos. The sign says: Caution Standing on this Lego could result in injury and it is at your own riskNonetheless I liked the big window where a whole school class could put their noses on to get a closer look at the machinery. But the most sensible thing was the block for shorter people – I saw a little girl standing on it  – to get a better view. 

The outside seating was great, except for the next door neighbor who has an automated triggering system that tells you you are trespassing even if you just crossed the street. 

Boichik has four more locations in the Bay Area and is expanding. There is a factory tour on Saturdays at 8:30, but I’m not sure I can make it that early. I will report if I do. Mahjong Mondays 10am – noon might be an option for further exploration. 

One half of a bagel with white fish spreadHave you ever seen bagels being made?

The Boichik Bagels factory is located at 1225 Sixth St. in Berkeley. Their opening hours are every day 7:30 am – 1:00 pm (or until sold out).  

Visit the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, Berkeley

Visit the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, Berkeley

One of my earliest blog posts was about the Lace Museum in Sunnyvale. A small storefront in a stripmall with amazing examples of lace and rotating exhibits.

A table with leaflets about upcoming classes at the Lacis MuseumI was expecting a similar small space for the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles in Berkeley. It turns out the Berkeley museum is exponentially larger! They have a store that sells lace, and equipment for embroidery and lace making. If you’d like you can take one of their classes, on embroidery, tatting, or bobbing in their upstairs classroom. To receive an overview of the museum we enjoyed the two tours they offer. 

Mannequins wearing pajamas at the day's end exhibit Our first tour was Day’s End: Personal Glamour Exposed, a fascinating look into the history of night time fashion. From the rather starchy looking undergarments of the 1860s to the silky, lacy nightgowns of the 1920s, a collection of nightcaps and bonnets, and the pajamas of the 1930s. They made a YouTube video of the exponents, but of course it is more stunning to see them in person.

A collection of handkerchiefs from the Transcending Fashion exhibitThe second exhibit is a lesson in lace history: Transcending Fashion: The Lace Accessory. First you learn about the secret language of handkerchiefs, while you bend over a looking glass to see the snowflake like miniature patterns. The history of the communal work of Irish lace and other different techniques to create these intricate patterns are truly amazing

Lace seen through the looking glassEach tour is $3.00 per person, Monday through Saturday, at either 1:00 or 3:00 pm. Tours are by appointment and can be scheduled by calling the Lacis Museum at (510) 843-7290 during regular business hours.

The Lacis Museum is located at 2982 Adeline Street, Berkeley. Hours are Monday to Saturday from noon  to  6pm.


Buy Chocolate in Bulk, Ghirardelli

Buy Chocolate in Bulk, Ghirardelli

A shelf full of Ghirardelli's chocolatesGhirardelli is the longest continually operating chocolatier in America. In 1849, Domenico Ghirardelli opened a supplies and confections store to miners in Stockton, CA. Within the same year he established himself in San Francisco. The San Francisco store at  900 North Point, near Fisherman’s Wharf, is now labeled the original store. In 1965 San Francisco declared Ghirardelli Square an official city landmark.

Little Ghirardelli chocolates by the poundAs a bargain hunter I was intrigued by the outlet store. In fact they have four outlet stores in the Bay Area! We went to the San Leandro’s outlet store. It’s fun to see all the different products they offer, from small packaged chocolates to hot chocolate mixes, and all chocolate related baking ingredients. As an added bonus you can also sip a mocha or enjoy an ice cream fudge. Which is a nice idea so you won’t shop hungry. We found that the super bulk items are the best deals. So, if you eat a lot of little chocolates, you might consider visiting. 

A bag of chocolates by the pound from the Ghirardelli outlet store in San Leandro including a chocolate bunnyGhirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Factory Outlet Stores: 

1111 139th Avenue, San Leandro

1015 Promontory Pkwy, Tracy

11980 S Harlan Road, Lathrop

447 Great Mall Drive #189, Milpitas


Are you a chocoholic?