Berkley is one of my favorite places in the bay area, and not because of all the funky shops and restaurants. There’s much more to this area once you get past all the shops, college campus and multicultural eateries. Taylor and I decided to spend a day touring the UC Botanical Gardens at Berkley. It’s one of her favorite go-to places when she wants to kick back and relax. Situated high in the hills and open to the public, it offers sweeping, flower framed vistas of Berkley, Oakland and the San Francisco bay area that are typically only accessible from the glamorous homes and cottages close by.
Taylor recently became a member to show her support and passion for preserving plants and the natural environment. She comes to the botanical gardens regularly to meditate among the beautiful plants, and it was a perfect way to show me a slice of her daily life in California.
The gardens are laid out thoughtfully, layered with sloped gravel paths, vertical stone steps and strong wooden walkways that lead in all directions to carefully manicured areas that showcase flora from around the world. Small wooden bridges provided functional yet picturesque walkovers above the winding streams that run through the gardens. One even led to a tiny waterfall surrounded by mossy stones and tiny clovers and flowers that came right out of a story book.
I really enjoyed how the gardens featured a seamless, rolling exhibit of live plants gathered from continents around the world. In one moment you could be in South East Asia, and just a few steps away, the plants subtly changed and gave way to Japan.
I was particularly excited to see the Eucalyptus trees from the Australasia exhibit, and breathe in the minty, spa-like scent they infused into the cool California breeze. Just by closing my eyes it made me feel like I was back in the Eucalypt forests I visited recently in Sydney, Australia, where the outdoor air at any given time, even right outside the city, smells like a holistic day spa. It’s amazing how the look and smell of different trees and flowers from around the world can strike emotions, and instantly bring back memories from different places and experiences.
We carried on our self guided tour, and came upon a cluster of striking cacti that honestly just reminded me a lot of Florida. These plants may be uncommon in some areas of the world, but they are very common where I live. In fact, they grow so profusely that some people tend to them almost like they are weeds that need little water, minimal care and occasional trimming. Despite their familiarity, I found them vibrant still, with their spiky green arms covered at the edge with tiny thorns.
After exploring the botanical gardens, we crossed the street to see the mini redwood tree forest. The trees were giants, and I only say mini because this is just a small slice of what Muir Woods offers. It was still beautiful, and I was thankful the botanical gardens included the forest in their offering.
After a nice afternoon of climbing the hills to view the gardens, we hopped in the car and continued up the Berkley hills a bit more, and enjoyed a golden sunset overlooking all of San Francisco, its bridges and its glory.