It's the street corner I never intended turn into, the subway I boarded in the wrong direction (easy to fix, but still...), the dangerous neighborhood you somehow managed to get out of safely, the cafe that nobody ever talks about in any travel guide, and might not even be worth mentioning - but was just the right place to sit at after walking an extra hour on those sore feet... And then there is the perfume shop tucked away behind a flower market that you must only visit on Sunday...
I had two days for playing tourist in San Francisco, and most of them I actually spent in Berkeley because of a couple of injuries I had to be careful about. The first day was still raining and misty and cool (Wednesday, March 20th), we took the ferry from Jack London Square to the Ferry Building, got our fill of cutesy pastry shops, hopped on a cable car (so we don't need to walk, aforementioned injuries still in effect), and ended up at the wrong side of Powell street (wrong being needing to go downhill). Taking a cab for 5 blocks down Powell, I finally but sought refuge from the pain at Barney's, where I spotted a couple of favourite new perfumes (I'll tell you about them later). It might have not have been fun at the time, but I'm already remembering it fondly. We toughed it out, and survived.
The second day (being Thursday, March 21st), the sun finally showed her lovely face on Northern California again, and I decided to be adventurous again and go to the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens, which I tremendously enjoyed in my last visit to the Bay area. Information about how to get there by public transit is nearly non-existent. But for the record: you should take the Bear Bus, a black vehicle that serves the inter-campus transportation within UC Berkeley. There are clear signs for the bus stops where it does stop; but you actually have to wave it down. Of course, I did not know that at the time, and let a Bear Bus slip by. So I hopped on the No. 65 (from the corner University & Oxford), the line that was promised to be stopping "very close" to the botanical gardens. Somehow the route did not look right. But what else is new with public transit? They are known for their roundabout. I got off where I was told I should, and a lovely lady gave me directions. I was puzzled at how completely different the place was than what I thought I was visiting. Turns out I was heading to the Tilden Regional Park Botanic Gardens, which are "much better", as the lady assured me, "they are free". OK, I thought to myself - this could go either way.
I walked on following her instructions to the best of my ability. There was no sign in sight for the Botanical Gardens or any gardens for that matter. I avoided the gold course, as per her instructions - only to find myself walking slowly up a hill alongside the very same gold course I was instructed to avoid. After about 20 minutes of walking, and no gardens in sight except for the gold-course fenced-up green, I've decided to stop a car for directions. And we got a lift right to the gate of the gardens from a young gentleman who was driving that way anyway. Upon entering the garden (a vague point in space, when there are no gates or admission) I immediately thought to myself - no surprise this is free. It's just a bunch of native Californian plants growing about, with some plaques stuck every now and then to indicate their botanical names.
Well, that was just the tourist way of looking at that. If you love plants, and especially if you are a perfumer - every garden is a little piece of heaven. This particular one happened to be a perfumer's heaven. A very rustic perfumer, to be exact.
The air was filled with the scent of aromatic plants warmed by the sun - sage (aka artemisia) of all shapes, sizes and kinds. Cacti in full bloom, towering over the sun-warmed lichen-covered rocks. Sweet scent of pollen and the vegetal, surprisingly barely evergreen at all scent of redwood needles. And the opportunity at every corner to just bask in the sun. What more can a tourist ask for?
Five Fingered Fern