people perched on rock hill watching the sunset
A sunset on Indian Rock on July 10, 2020. Photo: Kevin Murphy

In Place/Settings, a new audio series from Berkeley Repertory Theatre, artists, writers, composers and playwrights from around the country wrote short stories and articles about their favorite places in Berkeley. The locations varied widely from West Berkeley to Jewel Lake in Tilden Park to Codornices Park.

We teamed up with Berkeley Rep to ask our readers about their favorite places in Berkeley. We asked that they submit 100-word articles. From the winding paths up its hills to the waves that lap up against its marinas, Berkeleyans have a plethora of places they consider special.

We put a call out for stories in early January and set a Feb. 15 deadline. However, we’ve gotten so many responses that we are closing submissions. We will share more favorite places in a subsequent article, but feel welcome to add your favorite place or a favorite memory of Berkeley in the comments section.

Favorite one-of-a-kind Berkeley haunts offer solace

A view of the closed down Berkeley Municipal Pier at the Berkeley Marina, with three figures walking down the pier, Sept. 3, 2020. Photo: Pete Rosos

I loved walking along the Berkeley Marina pier when it was still open. It was a very peaceful walk, with amazing views and silence away from the car, with a bustling population of fisherman and first day lovers. The population on the pier was more diverse than anywhere in Berkeley, and the sun would come down, for free, every day. Antoine Wojdyla, Berkeley

On a cold, damp, December morning, I was the first volunteer to arrive at the potting shed at the EBRPD Botanic Garden. All was still and quiet. An ever-so-slight glow from the sunrise shimmered through the wispy fog hovering over this little valley hugged by tree silhouettes like those of a Christmas card. Someone had hung shiny ornaments in the potting shed windows. They sparkled like colorful stars. Was I in a land from my children’s fairy tale books? Astonishingly, this moment of otherworldly beauty was real, right here in the Berkeley Hills. Cheryl Perko, Oakland

I stumbled upon Alembique Apothecary nearly six years ago. It was tucked away in a very unsuspecting neighborhood and as soon as I walked in it felt like I was transported back in time to a true apothecary from the Middle Ages or to Harry Potter. The jars lined across the walls, the beautiful smells, and charming owner, B. For some time I would come to buy things and end up spending hours there hanging out. To this day it is still the most magical spot in Berkeley! Kendall Frey, Berkeley

The Berkeley Public Library Central Branch. Photo: Pete Rosos

I visited Berkeley in August 1997 to attend six of eight shows at Yoshi’s by Anthony Braxton. Being a librarian, I naturally visited the downtown public library. It was the old pre-restoration building. I strolled up the rickety stairs to the music room, where I heard music playing over the PA. It was the music of Braxton. That struck me not as a marvelous coincidence, but as a sign that the library clearly had its finger on the pulse of the local cultural scene. Dean C. Rowan, Berkeley

I used to walk all across the city at a very young age. I lived above the Starry Plough. Sometimes, I’d walk from there to the small stone mason bench at Euclid and Cedar, where I’d hide in the rain from mean adults, school bullies and pushy parents. My childhood is still safe there, with a paper cup of hot cocoa from the Med, and a copy of Encyclopedia Brown Mysteries, in a spot all my own, where I could finally breathe. Piero Infante, Berkeley

When I was a little girl we would go to Strawberry Canyon for swimming lessons and stay the whole day. I remember spending hours in the lower pool, learning how to somersault underwater and then floating and looking up at the impossibly blue sky with the occasional bird. We brought lunch and got a quarter for the vending machines, and my mom would cut up the sandwiches and fruit with her special picnic knife she had bought while living in Denmark. I have always remembered the strong physical sensations of those days — cold water, hot concrete, lukewarm showers, soft towels. We would bundle ourselves home down the hill looking over the top of Memorial Stadium as the sun lowered, skin heated and hungry for dinner. Sarah Baughn, Berkeley

The Daniel's Caribbean Kitchen cart at the Ashby Flea Market in Berkeley.
The Daniel’s Caribbean Kitchen cart at a 2019 Ashby Flea Market in Berkeley. Photo: Daniel’s Caribbean Kitchen

My memories were the flea market at the Ashby BART station. Every weekend is a big gathering, a lot of fun meeting people. The weather was nice — so many nice things. Also on Telegraph Avenue, the people hearing music — such a great environment I miss so much. I’ll always remember and love Berkeley. Kathy Hernandez Rote, Stockton

When I was a kid, I loved going to the Kiddie Corral at the Berkeley Co-op. There were toys and books, and the best thing was that I didn’t have to go with my mom while she grocery shopped. Susan Smith, Berkeley

Nature and animals bring joy

When I first moved to the Bay Area 20 years ago, I was renting a room in a house in the Claremont/Elmwood area. And I was charmed by the small serpentine steep paths and stairways I would discover on my walks. Since then, I’ve moved up to Solano Avenue and become a daily walker. I enjoy long treks in the hills, often choosing the paths over the broad tree-lined streets. Whether clearing my head at the end of the day up on Indian Rock or starting my morning with exercise in my neighborhood, I love the quiet moments walking along these paths. They are special hidden jewels of Berkeley. Harriet Patterson, Berkeley

On the intersection of Oxford and Berryman path, there once was an elderly black and white cat that would eagerly greet anyone who wanted to give him scratches. I came to Berkeley without friends or family, so having this one consistent friend who would eagerly greet me every day was a blessing, while it lasted. Rorschach — wherever you are — Berkeley misses you. Andy, Berkeley

Cesar Chavez Park. Photo: Sarah Han

I love Cesar Chavez Park. It’s so beautiful and peaceful. When you walk there, you can see your Berkeley neighbors, but also beautiful birds and seals. It has vibrant, lush vegetation and succulents that scream Northern California. The sky is always clear and bright blue, and just across the bay, you can see the hustle and bustle of San Francisco and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. My dog, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, loves it too, and she runs and rolls around. She has quite the fan base among park patrons. Kites in the sky and small children frolicking are staples. When I need a break, this is my happy place. It’s so quiet and peaceful but also happy. Melanie Fontes Rainer, Berkeley

My brother’s home on Spruce Street. I have this memory of my father sitting in a chair in a patch of sunlight reading the newspapers, his head down. He’s wearing a maroon fleece to keep the bay chill away. If he turns behind and looks out of the glass doorway, he sees his granddaughter in her treehouse. If he looks ahead of him, he sees his doppelgänger grandson also reading the papers. He may take a walk with my mum, turn right on Vine Street and stop at Peet’s for a coffee. Or they may walk uphill towards the Rose Garden. But because he won’t be doing this again, at least not in his physical body for I am sure his ethereal body still sits in that patch of sunlight on the stair on Spruce Street. Kirtana Kumar, Bangalore, India

I have a little leather coin purse with a single eucalyptus cap inside. With it, I can be transported to my favorite place: Tilden Park. Growing up, the trifecta was a pony ride, a spin or two on the merry-go-round (plus ice cream in summer) then a journey on the little train. My favorite pony? The one with the starkly upright black and white mane. At the carousel, the tiny mechanical bandleader enchanted me as much as the magnificent animals and dreamy painted panels. All were overlaid with the unforgettable, heady fragrance of eucalyptus. Carol Heath Stabile, Port Townsend, Washington

The tunnel at Codornices Park. Photo: Pete Rosos

The tunnel connecting Codornices Park to the Rose Garden has been a magical place for my children. When my oldest son was a toddler, he would scream delightfully, his little voice echoing, as I chased him through the tunnel into another wondrous, community space. As the kids grow older, I see them approach the dark, damp tunnel with both curiosity and fear of the unknown. The relief and pride in their eyes when they get to the other side — unharmed — is something to behold. It’s an unusual and cherished site of connections and transformation — both metaphorically and literally. Veena Dubal, the Peninsula

Gourmet by the bay

I remember and truly miss the best neighborhood restaurant ever — the Fourth Street Grill. When Chef Amey Shaw took over the reins, the restaurant shot to the most innovative, tastiest food I ever had. The cioppino was amazing, the steak tartare memorable, and creative internationally influenced dishes I’ve ever eaten. Jelly, Berkeley

Vivoli Gelato off of Allston Way — back when gelato was something exotic, this was a special treat! MG, Oakland

The hunger pangs hit after late work, a movie, or a concert at Yoshi’s, Keystone Berkeley, or Zellerbach. What is open to midnight in that conservative bastion Berkeley in the 1980s on a weeknight? A place with a free-pouring bar, an acceptable wine list, and some decent food that wouldn’t bust the non-existent bank. The historic seafood restaurant, Spenger’s Fish Grotto, on Fourth Street and University Avenue that was too unpretentious for the hip crowd, often did its job in a most professional manner. Clean, neat, well-managed, with wait staff of all nationalities that had worked there often for dozens, or scores of years, and were pure pros. We knew the waiters by first name. The decor was nautical with fishing net corks glued to the ceilings, harpoons, remnants of ship’s fixtures, paintings of faraway places, glass cases with ship models, and quaint names for different dining rooms (like the Brig). The ceilings were so low in certain places that you had to duck, particularly if you are 6’4”. The fare was basic: Mostly fresh fish that was mostly deep-fried, pan-fried, pan-sauteed, or oven-baked. We often ate the shrimp scatter, a platter of deep-fried shrimp and french fries with excellent tartar sauce washed-down with an unassuming bottle of Livermore Valley Johannesburg Riesling from a producer like Wente or Weibel or an “eastern” or “western” made US beer. The conversation was wild and entertaining; we were never bored. Bill Easton, Berkeley

Favorite Berkeley places on the university campus

UC Berkeley eucalyptus grove. Photo: Pete Rosos

The eucalyptus grove at UC Berkeley. I bike into the university every day for work, and the best commutes are after rainy nights when I get to smell the petrichor emanating from the Eucalyptus Grove. I also get an up-close view of the majestic trees from the window at work. It’s a small but prominent patch of nature of the Bay Area that is also my spring of hope and energy. Masato Sadahiro, Berkeley

Griffiths Hall, Unit Two. They’re just dorms to outsiders, but countless memories are made in that building by a countless number of people. Those memories define not only the individuals but the city of Berkeley. I’ll never forget having my college partner staying over every weekend. We cuddled and watched movies and did whatever else in that tiny room. I stood on the south side of the building five floors up and I had an immaculate view of the Oakland and San Francisco skylines. I hope the next generations enjoy room 515 as much as I did. Stephen Hernandez, Southern California

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