Berkeley is 10 miles northeast of the city of San Francisco and famous for its university where free-speech proponents took their stand in the 1960’s. The University of California at Berkeley, or “Cal,” as residents and students call it, has been a hot bed of student counter-culture rebellion. Cal faculty and graduates are among the 20 Nobel Prize winners and 300 Olympic athletes that the acclaimed school has produced. The campus has an impressive 25 libraries which is only surpassed by Harvard’s collection. Berkeley’s Bancroft Library is open to the public, but is non-circulating (no books may be taken out) and includes rare books and collections such as the Mark Twain Papers and Project. The Twain collection includes 500,000 pages of his writings and functions as the primary archive of his work. Other collections include Bret Harte, Jack London ,Joan Didion, as well as prominent Beat Generation authors.

The two major Berkeley parks are Tilden Regional Park and the adjacent Wildcat Canyon Regional Park. Tilden Regional contains Lake Anza and the Native Plant Botanic Garden with California native plant species from every region of the state’s 160,000 square miles.

The city of Berkeley was named for Irish evangelist and philosopher, Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753.) A trustee of then College of California suggested the name after reading the bishop’s verses which included the stanzas: “Westward the course of empire takes its way; the first four Acts already past; the fifth shall close the Drama with the day; Time’s noblest offspring is the last.”

Berkeley’s Fourth Street is the place to go for shopping, coffee, cafes and extreme people watching. Jimmy Beans on 6th Street is great for breakfast. (Try the silver dollar pancakes.) And duck into the Bone Room in Berkeley Hills for a fascinating trip back into prehistory. Dinosaur bones, fossils, skulls, insects, and jewelry are the focus of this natural history store.

Berkeley has been promoting itself of late as a culinary and tourist destination. There is a theatrical, musical and artistic area around Addison Street. Restaurants and hotels are popping up as the community gears itself for its downtown revitalization and moves away from strip malls to sidewalk bistros, tapas bars and art galleries. Berkeley is only a 30 minute ride from downtown San Francisco by BART.