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Jack London Square - Oakland, California



It's beginning to look a lot like Jack London Square in Oakland, California. For those who don't know much about this jewel by the sea, Oakland has its hills that are home to a ton of famous athletes, it less savory spots, and the tourist "must see", the waterfront.

 

Arriving by way of Amtrak train from Yosemite's Bracebridge Dinner, I rolled my suitcase just a few blocks to my hotel overlooking the bay, Waterfront Plaza Hotel. For four diamond luxury and its very own restaurants and shops filled with ambience, great drinks and food, I found a room for under $150, offering city lights views.

Outside my door was this huge, live Christmas tree that was beautifully shaped and cast a warm glow on the surrounding pavement of the plaza. The fragrances of food came not just from my hotel,

but from Scott's Seafood next door, as well.

 

I strolled by myself along a four or five block area and had some incredible experiences, dining, pubbing, shopping, taking photos and walking along this winter wonderland that's vibrant and fun. Each time I've gone to Oakland I feel an attraction for the warmth of the people I meet, the variety of restaurants that offer very ethnic flavors (Oakland has a large Afro-American population that enjoys BBQ or Chicken & Waffles), next to China Town with Asian faire. I settled for my favorite (BBQ), then shopped at a futon store run by a Japanese mother and daughter. Next I wandered down to some unexpected waterfront chain shopping--Cost Plus, next to Bed, Bath & Beyond. The Oakland holiday shoppers looked like a similar crowd to back home in The OC. They were all were focused on purchasing gifts in an effort to meet deadline (December 25). 

 

Sundays you can enjoy the Farmer's Market in the Square. I've never seen such a quality mix of fancy foods, organic vegetables and artist's paintings, photographs and crafts.  From crafted goat cheeses (several cheese companies come from Bodega Bay or Oakdale), to delicious muffins, cookies and cupcakes (the most beautiful you've seen), you need to stay over for the morning and treat yourself to samples of the wonderful foods. You can make a meal of it, but better yet, get their business cards and have items shipped if you prefer not to take them home on your flight.

 

Speaking of flights, this one airline is what my friend calls, "da bomb." It offers more leg room, leather seats and individual TVs in each seatback.  Jet Blue is pure joy compared to many other cattle call airlines I've taken recently. I flew out of Long Beach Airport (an awesome airport with loads of history and places you can relax), into Sacramento to see a friend and travel to Yosemite Mountains on Amtrak. Jet Blue sells its tickets in one-way portions so you never have a fuss about arriving in one place and returning from another. When we left the mountains and headed for Oakland where this friend had to attend a holiday party, I simply caught a Jet Blue flight at Oakland Airport only a few miles from Jack London Square.

 

Places such as Oakland that you want to explore, grab you with a hook. Just one visit is seldom enough, and that holds true for the legs of this trip...Sacramento, Yosemite and Oakland. I must return to them all. Sacramento is a city I've been to dozens of times and have never tired of. It has great character and offers some incredible people. Yosemite - can you take a crummy picture there? I don't know, but nature's splendor makes you realize why Ansel Adams, the famous black & white photography with the zone system, found so much inspiration.