September 26 – 30
Arriving so late Thursday night meant we did nothing more than hop into bed for a good night’s rest. The next day we killed time until Kim and Marty arrived from the airport and checked into their hotel on Broadway, where we met them and walked together to one of our usual Oakland haunts, The Trappist on 8th Street.
We opted to sit outside on the back patio, an oasis of calm in a busy, noisy city and after a couple of rounds and some snacks and some time spent back at the apartment, made our way to a recently reopened favorite, Tribune Tavern. Chef-restaurateur Chris Pastena and his wife Jana, who own Calavera and Chop Bar, had opened the Tribune Tavern on the ground floor of the historic newspaper building in 2013. But a thicket of legal issues involving the building’s owner led to the restaurant’s closing in early 2017.
We’d work our way through the entire appetizer list, the standouts being the Pan seared Monterey Bay Calamari, Tavern Carbonara, Steamed Mussels, and the Fried Green Tomatoes which were topped with creamy lemon Dungeness crab. The Mussels required multiple re-loads of the crusty bread to completely consume their delicious broth.
We spent the bulk of Saturday out dropping in on open houses somewhat proximate to the apartment given that Jessica and Kris will need to move someday given their pending addition to their family. It was exciting and depressing all at the same time; the bay area is one of the most expensive housing markets in the country and we found, much to our dismay, that if you really liked the house you more than likely couldn’t afford it.
To close out the day in a positive fashion, we went to dinner at The Wolf where we had enjoyed a nice meal a year or so ago. This time we focused on main courses, one of the Berkshire Pork Chops and for others at the table including myself, the Alaskan Halibut.
Each dish was imaginatively prepared and the halibut, always one of my favorite fish dishes was a good as one could hope for.
Sunday was a quiet day with dinner at 3-Spices, featuring delicious and inexpensive selections of noodle bowls and standard items found in a Chinese restaurant. And then before we knew it, we were ready to roll out of the apartment Monday morning for home. Our return journey would be by bus, using the company we’d had a good experience with in 2017 in Europe, FlixBus. For the princely sum of $25 apiece we rode from the West Oakland BART station back to Union Station in a little under eight hours, not much longer than it would take to navigate the route by car.
FlixBus uses new buses (ours was clean and not worn out) with a restroom and provides charging ports (USB and AC) at each seat bank, Wi-Fi (not particularly robust) and an onboard entertainment system similar to those one would find on an airline, one where you use your personal device (laptop, tablet or phone) to access the programming.
For breakfast that morning, we dropped into a new coffee establishment on 14th Street that Jessica recommended, Café Uccello. Joanna ordered a Lavender Latte (she really liked it) and I a regular drip while we split a gigantic Spring Medley Crepe, which contained Spinach, onions, cheese (we held off on the offered bell peppers), Dragonfruit Hummus paste, pesto, avocado, and sesame seeds. An unusual sounding coupling of ingredients, it was really good and so filling that between the two of us we were quite full at the end of the meal. Our only complaint was that the staff played music over the store sound system so loudly that another customer had to go out to the noisy street to make a phone call.
We then walked to a Subway on 12th Street and picked up a sandwich apiece (figuring there wouldn’t be any lengthy stops or access to food on the trip home) and then caught a LYFT to the West Oakland BART station where we met our coach. It left promptly at its stated departure time of 11am and proceeded to stop in San Francisco, San Jose and one 30-minute rest stop in Avenal. We had planned our trip based on our experience in Europe, where the stops were brief with no opportunity to get food or drinks. Our rest stop on this trip was at a large truck plaza with numerous food options (Subway, local Mexican chain, etc.) and just enough time to order food and either consume it there or later on the bus.
Back on the bus, ride comfort is decent, the seats firm with a reasonable amount of legroom, but not as good as on the train. Being a bus, the ride quality is mixed, running slightly harsh on the rougher sections of pavement, but no worse than the vibration we experienced on Amtrak. We got lucky as we entered Los Angeles, with traffic moving smoothly hampered only by a couple of slowdowns. In the end we arrived about 20 minutes early at a lot across the street from Union Station, enabling us to simply walk there and jump on the Metro for the ride back to the Expo Bundy Station.
All in all, it was a good way to travel to Oakland. For the money, FlixBus is the winner, offering inexpensive fares (about what it would have cost us in gas to drive) and a moderately comfortable experience. Given that parking in Oakland is problematic, not having a car there is a bonus and consequently and with around 11 daily runs to the Bay Area, we’ll likely give FlixBus another try in the future.
The Trappist: https://www.thetrappist.com/
Tribune Tavern: https://tribunetavernoakland.com/
The Wolf: http://www.thewolfoakland.com/
Café Uccello: https://www.cafeuccello.com/