On a balmy Sunday morning in March, I crossed the San Francisco Bay to join Localite Tours’ Picnic Tour in Oakland. It was a relaxing day by Lake Merritt and our group got to experience some lovely sights and tastes of springtime Oakland. Here’s what we did:

The Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland

The Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland

Our first stop was The Gardens at Lake Merritt, a large community park with several different gardens including a sensory garden, a palm tree garden, a Mediterranean garden, an edible garden, and more.

Almond pastry from La Farine, Oakland

Not long after we began the tour, we enjoyed a delicious surprise — almond tea cakes from La Farine bakery in Oakland.

The Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland

The Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland

The Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland

All the flowering trees in the park were blooming and I liked the contrast between the colorful petals and the high rise buildings in the distance.

The Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland

Bonsai Garden, Oakland

Bonsai Garden, Oakland

For me, the highlight of The Gardens at Lake Merritt was a  docent-led tour of the bonsai garden. While I have seen many bonsai trees and I’ve always thought they looked cool, I never really knew much about them. Our guide was really knowledgeable and there were a lot of unique bonsais beyond the typical ones you see at stores, including some miniature versions of tree species that you’ll find around the park.

Bonsai Garden, Oakland

Bonsai Garden, Oakland

Butterfly and Cherry Blossoms, Oakland

Butterfly and Cherry Blossoms, Oakland

As we ended the bonsai tour, I noticed that the cherry blossoms above us were full of monarch butterflies.

Lake Merritt totem pole, Oakland

After we left the garden, we took a walk along the shore of Lake Merritt to Oaktown Spice Shop. It’s a fairly new store with a decidedly hipster vibe that combines quality spices and spice accessories with a fun design aesthetic.

Oaktown Spice Shop, Oakland

Oaktown Spice Shop, Oakland

There, we met the founder of the store who talked to us about how it all began. He told us about some of the spices and blends they offer and focused on the unique array of salts in the store. I left with a complimentary packet of salt — citron-infused salt flakes that come in handy when I’m making fish, chicken, or veggies.

Oaktown Spice Shop, Oakland

Los Topos Rose, Oakland

While we were in the shop, we enjoyed a glasses of Los Topos Rosé.

Oaktown Spice Shop, Oakland

Oaktown Spice Shop, Oakland

After our spice shop visit, we picked a spot to sit down by the lake and ate sandwiches from Grand Lake Kitchen, a casual eatery across the street from Lake Merritt. Picnicking with a lake view and chatting with the new people I met was an enjoyable way to end the day.

Disclosure: This tour was complimentary. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

{ 0 comments }

Three Vignettes from a Room with a View in Popayán

April 21, 2014 Colombia
Overlooking the main square in Popayan, Colombia

By day, Popayan’s main square looks like many colonial towns in Latin America. There is a cafe, a bank or two, and a church on the perimeter of it. Inside the square, you’ll find people watching the day go by from a park bench, city maintenance workers keeping everything tidy, and vendors everywhere. You can […]

Continue reading →

Photo Essay: Scenes from Popayán, Colombia

April 7, 2014 Colombia
???????????????????????????????

It’s only been a few hours since I left Cali, but the big city feels far away as I arrive in Popayan on a quiet Sunday afternoon. I’ve reserved a quaint little hostel room that’s decorated in shades of blue and overlooks the main square of Popayan. It exemplifies simple perfection. I settle in and […]

Continue reading →

Songs for the Road No. 22: A Soundtrack for a Road Trip on the West Side of Colombia

April 2, 2014 Colombia

In Colombia, there are distinct Afro-Colombian cultures on both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts. The Pacifico Afro-Colombian culture is even more obscure to outsiders and harder to access than that of the Caribbean Coast. Perhaps because of that, the Afro-Colombian culture there is quite strong. African rhythms and call and response singing are combined to […]

Continue reading →

Punk, Skate, Salsa: A Weekend in Cali, Colombia

March 29, 2014 Colombia
Mural in Cali, Colombia with stencil graffiti

As my bus meanders through the Valle de Cauca, I can tell that I have entered a different Colombia. Throughout my trip, the landscape and atmosphere have varied wildly from place to place, but something about this region feels entirely different. The tenacious hands of tourism haven’t yet reached this corner of Colombia. We drive […]

Continue reading →

Photo Essay: The Gritty, Endearing Streets of Cali, Colombia

March 24, 2014 captured on memory card
DSCN9095

Cali is the kind of city dresses for itself and not for anyone else. It’s aloof, yet playful with its style; it lets you think it’s all urban grit, then it throws in a little bit of quaintness and challenges your perception of it. It’s generally ugly with a splash of color, art, or poetry […]

Continue reading →

Candid Discussions on Race and Travel in Salento

March 18, 2014 race/culture/identity

There must have been consciousness floating around in Salento’s misty air and truthfulness emanating from the mountains. I’m not sure what it was, but something about that little town seemed to fuel incredibly honest and thoughtful conversation among travelers. It started on the day I arrived in Salento. After my travel partner and I found […]

Continue reading →

7 Empowering Anthems for International Women’s Day

March 8, 2014 female travel

International Women’s Day has a powerful energy fueled by the inherent inclusion, unity, and diversity of the holiday. It’s inspiring to see celebrations and activism around the world and know that you’re part of an international sisterhood of women that is driven to achieve equality. So to commemorate International Women’s Day (and any other day […]

Continue reading →