Berkley (named after the English philosopher-theologian George Berkeley) is dominated by the University of California, one of America’s most famous places of learning, especially known for progressive politics. The very name of Berkeley conjures up images of dissent and it remains a solidly left-wing oasis, although today the campus prides itself on its high academic rankings and Nobel-laureate-laden faculty. Sproul Plaza, in front of the school’s entranceway, Sather Gate, is where the Free Speech Movement began. Stroll the campus’s tree-shaded pathways or join the free student-led tours that leave from the elegant Campanile (Mon–Sat 10am, Sun 1pm).
The campus’s grand buildings and thirty thousand students give off an energy that spills south down raucous Telegraph Avenue, where dishevelled vendors peddle rainbow bracelets in front of vegetarian restaurants, pizza joints and book- and music stores. Just off it is the now-quiet People’s Park, a site of almost-daily pitched battles between protestors and police in the Sixties and early Seventies, part of the revolt against the Vietnam War.
Older academics congregate in Northside, popping down from their woodsy hillside homes to partake of goodies from Gourmet Ghetto – the restaurants, delis and bakeries on Shattuck Avenue, including the renowned Chez Panisse (see p.897). North of here, on the hills, Tilden Regional Park has good trails and a fine rose garden. Along the bay itself, at the Berkeley Marina, you can rent windsurfing boards and sailboats, or just watch the sun set behind the Golden Gate.