Previously, we’d travel during the winter. Recently, after the start of the pandemic and the birth of our child, we’ve stayed in the Bay Area. Fortunately, my family from around the US makes the trip over to celebrate the holidays with us.
Last year, we spent most of our time in the Peninsula and South Bay, with a weekend at Late Merritt in Oakland.
We first visited Menlo Park’s Allied Arts Guild as guests at our close friends’ wedding. Ever since, my wife has wanted to make a proper visit.
The complex is a collection of gardens, artist studios, and a cafe, all for the benefit of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. It was originally founded nearly a century ago in 1929, and it shows. The whole place has a beautiful patina. The trees are tall and sturdy. The iron and steel on the buildings are covered in rust. Surfaces — from the space between bricks, to the roofs — are home to moss.
Unfortunately for us, they were mostly closed during the holidays. So, we settled for a calm walk around the grounds
Almost hidden away among the sprawling trees and buildings of Stanford’s campus lies an impressive collection of art museums. The largest is the Cantor Arts Center. The building is a mix of classical architecture warm and sandstone echoing the core campus. Up front, four tall ionic columns stand at the crest of the stone stairway. Walk through the portico, and you leave behind California and enter Italy, a vestibule clad in white marble. Further in, most corners of the globe are represented by the works on display.
In 2011, the museum received a large donation of modern art from the Andersons. Given the sheer size and importance of the donated collection, the decision was made to construct a new building to house the works. Ennead Architects oversaw design.
My favorite detail is the building’s footprint, essentially a trapezoid pinched in the middle. The architects and designers mirrored this motif across the museum, from the benches, to the visual identity.
Lake Merritt is a familiar place, as I’ve visited friends and nearby attractions, but this was my first time staying overnight. For an extended weekend, we set up camp in a rental home large enough to fit all of us.
This neighborhood, if you haven’t been, has all the vibrancy and diversity you’d expect from Oakland. In the chilly mornings, we’d walk to a local cafe for coffee and pastries. At sundown, we’d push my kid on his stroller to the grassy lakeside, where we could let in the view while he ran free. We’d later stop by the pergola to listen to a drum circle in full swing.
In our time in Lake Merritt, we enjoyed a sampling of cuisine from around the world. Each and every bite was delicious. Some of our favorites are Fen Classic Guilin Rice Noodles, Haddon Hill Cafe, Arizmendi Bakery, and Cafe Romanat.
Lastly, we spent the better part of a day at Jelly Belly’s California factory. Looking like a time capsule from the 90s, the whole place brought back feelings from my childhood. I’ve always loved Jelly Belly since their flavors are so natural unlike other candies. Also, given that both my wife and I love factory tours, we knew it was a must for us.
Thanks to Q for reading drafts of this.