June 24, 2013

greetings from oakland

By Gabrielle.

It was fun to see the guesses come in last Friday and over the weekend. At last count, 55% of people who voted guessed San Francisco. And they guessed right. We’re moving to the Bay Area!!

The home we’re moving to is actually in Oakland, not San Francisco. But when I’ve mentioned Oakland to people, some give me a blank stare (apparently most of our French friends have not heard of it), so I’ve mostly been telling people we’re moving to San Francisco. : ) We actually don’t know much about Oakland at all, so we’re trying to get caught up! We’ve heard it referred to as East Bay, Berkeley, and Oaktown, and several friends have described it as the Brooklyn of the Bay Area. If you are an Oakland lover, I hope you’ll chime in with some of your favorite things about the city — and I’ve been scouring SFGirlbyBay’s Oakland guide, too!

Here are a few FAQs we’ve been getting about the move:

Q: Why are you moving?
A: We first made plans to move because the family that owns La Cressonnière was going to move back in. They’ve since decided to stay in Australia for another year or more, so yes, we could have stayed around. But we feel like it’s time to head back. Ralph and Maude are ready to try American high school. And sometimes, living here affects how easily we can run our businesses. But we hope we stay tied to Normandy for the rest of our lives! In fact, we hope our cottage purchase ensures that we do. But the whole family agrees that it’s time for us to head back to the U.S..

Q: What brings you to Oakland/The Bay Area?
A: Good question. We can live and work virtually anywhere, so we opened our search pretty wide when we thought about where to move back. Ultimately, the Bay Area tempted us for 3 basic reasons: 1) because we have family there (my brother Jared — he’s married to Liz of Say Yes to Hoboken, and my sister Jordan of Oh Happy Day), 2) because there are particular opportunities for our children there, and 3) something Ben Silberman, the founder of Pinterest, said in his Alt Summit keynote speech a couple of years ago about being where your field of work is centered, stayed with me. As non-techy as I often feel, our fields of work (blogging, Olive Us and Alt Summit) are all online. And the world behind the online world is based in Silicon Valley. There’s actually a longer story about why we’re headed to Oakland, but I’ll save it for another post. : )

Q: How often will you return to France?
A: Alas, we don’t know the answer to that yet. I’m sure some of it will depend on how the cottage renovation goes. (Speaking of which, we meet with an architect tomorrow! We are very excited.) We like to imagine spending our summers here in France, and maybe the Christmas holiday. Who knows! We’re also open to moving back here if for some reason our family isn’t thriving in California.

Q: Are the kids excited about the move?
A: For sure! I think everyone is feeling ready to start the next chapter of our lives. And they’ve already started thinking about their future bedrooms and what their school life will be like in Oakland. But the kids are feeling reflective too — talking about what they’ve seen and learned over the past 2 1/2 years. Making note of what they’ll miss.


I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you ever spent time in the Bay Area? (I’ve spent many a vacation in San Francisco, but Oakland is fairly new to me!) If you could live and work anywhere in the world, where would you pick?

P.S. — Hah! As soon as we announced the move to our families, I received this video from 2 of my siblings:

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1 Jenn June 25, 2013 at 4:08 pm

I was so surprised when I read that your moving to Oakland. Both my parents are from there. My dad grew up right by the temple and my mom just below it. My grandparents old home is on Diamond Avenue and is now a school. My Aunt and Uncle lived through the tunnel in Danville for years too. It is beautiful there. My extended family has all moved to Southern California in recent years, but It will be wonderful to see that area again through reading your blog. Love Fentons too.


2 Susaninfrance June 25, 2013 at 5:35 pm

We’re moving from the bay area to france—leaving next Mondy in fact! crazy serendipity!!
xoxo good luck!!


3 Design Mom June 26, 2013 at 2:50 am

Wow! Sending you high fives and bisous as we cross paths.


4 SarahBeth June 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Woohoo! Thrilled for you! Let the next chapter of your adventure novel begin!
My husband and I live in Canada, but he works for a tech company based in the valley. For months we’ve been angling to relocate there, and it looks like it may soon become a reality. I’m excited to get a better sense of it through your writing and lens!


5 Design Mom June 26, 2013 at 2:50 am

Exciting! Maybe we’ll be neighbors soon.


6 Madelyn June 25, 2013 at 7:45 pm

“We’ve heard it referred to as East Bay, Berkeley, and Oaktown, and several friends have described it as the Brooklyn of the Bay Area.”

You have heard Oakland referred to as Berkeley? That is very strange and misguided.

Well, good luck to you and your family in Oakland!


7 Lisa June 25, 2013 at 8:22 pm

My parents were married in Oakland! Such a beautiful city. There’s a famous ice cream shop called Fenton’s near the temple. It’s been there for years and years. My parents used to go there on dates and it was fun that they took us there! I think your kids would LOVE it! http://www.fentonscreamery.com/ :) Such happy news!


8 Marja June 25, 2013 at 8:48 pm

YAY! I adore Oakland! I’ve lived here for the past 14 years and couldn’t be happier. It’s urban but with tons of trees, and is resplendent with great food, creativity and diversity. One of my favorite places that I have to recommend you visit is Pizzaiolo on Telegraph. Ridiculously good, fresh, local food and an outdoor patio in back with a bocce court (!). Temescal alley (directly adjacent) has lovely, small, independent storefronts with a wide range of handmade delightful curiosities (including Doughnut Dolly, where Hannah will custom fill your doughnuts with ridiculously fine fillings). You are going to love it here :)


9 Hanna June 25, 2013 at 9:40 pm

hi gabrielle,
we actually live in berkeley with our 2 daughters. we moved here from munich, germany about 2 years ago. let me know if you need help with anything. The bay area was definitely the right decision. you will love it!!!


10 Design Mom June 26, 2013 at 2:51 am

Thank you, Hannah!


11 Rachel June 25, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Welcome to the Bay Area! Now you’ll be close to the temple! Just make sure you check out the area in Oakland before you commit, because some parts are really nice, but a lot of areas are filled with crime. You should check out Castro Valley :) It’s a cute smaller town, right next to Oakland, and close to SF/Pleasanton/Silicon Valley. Good luck with your move!


12 Sarah June 25, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Oakland is super hip. Love shopping on 4th–Design Within Reach, Nest, California Closets!–and love buying groceries from the Berkeley Bowl. If your kids are interested in attending a French school, check out Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley. We have two wonderful friends who teach there. Best wishes for a smooth transition.


13 Claudia June 25, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Congratulations on your move to Oakland! I don’t know much about Oakland but a friend from college just bought a house there and is so excited about his move from SF. I’m sure you will all love it there!
I live in Colorado and am curious about when/where you lived when you were here.
Best wishes! xo


14 LeeAnne June 26, 2013 at 12:32 am

Omg, welcome to the East Bay! I love Oakland and could go on and on about the amazing things to see and do, from dining in Uptown to shopping Rockridge or Temescal Alley to hitting Jack London Square for a festival. Oakland Zoo, Oakland Museum…


15 Design Mom June 26, 2013 at 2:52 am

I’ve been sharing all these recommendations with the kids and the whole family is so excited to start exploring our new city!


16 Elise June 26, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Yippee! This is unexpected and exciting! I hope your move goes smoothly and I look forward to seeing and hearing all about it. And how exciting that I might actually get to meet you then! The Bay Area is a wonderful place to be, SO much to do. Would love to show you all around!


17 MSH June 26, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Welcome and congratulations! Oakland and the Bay Area are lovely. Whenever I travel, I always get back thinking, “Man, I am LUCKY to live here.” We’ll keep our eyes out for you and your family–;)


18 Kimberley June 26, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I’ve never lived in Oakland, but I did grow up in the East Bay Area and have lived in SF as well. What I think is great about Oakland is how close it is to SF, but close to the East(er) Bay too. I think the East Bay, particularly Berkeley, Orinda, Walnut Creek and Danville, are such great cities in the Bay. I now live in Southern California, but sometimes yearn for the diverse culture, restaurants and variety of activities that are available all over the Bay Area. From what I’ve read on your blog, I think your family will love it!


19 Katy June 26, 2013 at 4:16 pm

What wonderful news. You’re going to love it out here! We moved to SF from Boulder a few years ago…back then I loved seeing my beloved Denver through your eyes, and now I can look forward to sharing the Bay Area with you! It’s a great place…there’s a creative energy here right now that is just amazing to get swept up in. We moved for a tech job and have found ourselves wrapped up deeply in the Makers’ culture. It’s also a fantastic place to raise kids! Congratulations!


20 Jeanne June 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Wow, that’s a big move! My husband’s company is based in East Bay, and we almost moved there. He can work remotely, so we stayed in CO. Oakland is a very interesting area (we have several friends there). There’s so much to do, easy to get to SF, great people, and the weather is perfect.

We looked at houses in Oakland, but the lack of yards, high crime rate, and poor quality schools (we’d need to pay for private school after grade 5), and being on the Hayward Fault held us back. If we moved to East Bay, we’d probably go for the more family-friendly San Ramon, Pleasanton, Walnut Creek areas. We wouldn’t have to pay for private school at least.

Best of luck on your exciting adventure! I look forward to reading about your new life in CA.


21 Yvonne June 26, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Another East Bay native here… Welcome to our part of the world! After spending years in Oakland we currently live in Alameda (which you will find is an awesome spot and) Oakland’s western neighbor :-) – SO SO SO much to see and do and EAT here – hope you’ll stop by our restaurant sometime and if you’d like some good food and kid tips just ask! Happy moving!


22 Kathryn June 26, 2013 at 10:19 pm

For entirely selfish reasons, I couldn’t be happier! We are East Bay natives — San Leandro and Union City — currently UC. My Bay Area lifestyle is so going to improve as soon as you land! Can’t wait. Thanks to your sister, at ohhappyday.com, my worklife (aka lunch time) has improved dramatically — I work if the City (yes I do call San Francisco, the city) and live and go to school in the East Bay.

Thank you! You, Designmom, have made my day.


23 Moitreyee Chowdhury June 27, 2013 at 1:36 am

So glad that you are coming over to our side of US. You will love Oakland, and it will give you such inspiration for your blog.
Now, how about a blog summit/training/info/wine night for all the fellow wannabe blogger like you, in the town?
I will hop over from Palo Alto for sure.


24 ClumberKim June 27, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Another of my fav bloggers just moved to Oakland. Now you. And my husband’s company has been trying to get us to think about relocating Silicon Valley for the last 7 years. It’s starting to feel like a sign!


25 Kirsten June 27, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Oakland is fantastic and I think you will be very happy there. I’m so jealous. San Francisco is my favorite city and you will be so close. And then there is Napa, Santa Rosa….I love the area.


26 Amy June 27, 2013 at 8:37 pm

We are also moving to the Bay Area, not sure where yet, these tips are great!


27 Alyssa June 27, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Oakland is a great place to live! Such diversity on many different levels. I’m a native northern Californian and can’t imagine living anywhere else. There are multiple day trips — Santa Cruz, Napa, Sonoma, Calistoga, Santa Rosa/Petaluma, Half Moon Bay. And plenty of options for longer road trips — Tahoe, Yosemite, Kings canyon and Sequoia National Park, Southern California (Disneyland!).

I second the reccs for Fentons’s, the saturday farmer’s market on Grand (right near Lake Merritt), or Sunday farmer markers at Jack London Square, and the zoo (we keep an annual family membership)

I’d also add the Chabot Space and Science Museum and Lawrence Hall of Sciences (in Berkeley). So fun!

Bakesale Betty’s in the temesal neighborhood is a must for friend chicken sandwiches. Zachary’s pizza in the Rockridge district is a popular deep dish place. My advice to avoid the long wait to sit is to order a half baked and bring it home to cook and enjoy. I also like Cactus Taqueria in Rockridge because it’s really family friendly. I go to a French bakery about 15 min from Oakland called Swiss Delice in Castro Valley. The owner is French.

The Piedmont theater is great for independent movies, as is Shattuck Cinema and California Theater in Berkeley. Grand Lake theater shows mainstream movies and is a beautiful old theater with a long history. Don’t miss the New Parkway for movies. I haven’t been to this new one since it reopened but loved going to the old one.

Redwood Regional Park is beautiful for hikes (and redwoods!). So is Tilden Park in Berkeley. Make sure to ride the steam train and beautiful merry go round there (if its opened). The farm there is also a fun outing with kids.

This is getting really long but obviously I love Oakland/Berkeley and all they offer. There really is so much! And also so much beyond Oakland (SF, Marin, other east bay, south bay, the peninsula). My last recc is don’t miss the Berkeley Bowl, the one Heinz Ave. The produce section is beyond belief. Best of luck to you and the Blair family. Look forward to reading about the adventures.


28 Monica June 28, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I lived in Alameda for 5 years and was a middle school teacher there, so I really knew that town like the back of my hand. It’s an island city that is right next to Oakland–basically between Oakland and the City. I highly recommend looking into living there. Great diversity, easy-to-access farmer markets, local businesses, good schools (I can recommend which ones, if you’re serious), great history behind the city and great city pride, two down towns, very very walkable, family oriented, running trails, biking lanes, tons of parks and even a beach, and on and on. I am Mormon and the ward was the perfect mix of old/young, liberal/conservative, white/diverse, etc. Can you tell I miss it? We moved further out in the East Bay, over the Oakland Hills and bought a house. Alameda was too expensive for us to buy, but we are really hoping we can get back there some day.

I taught at a scary middle school in Oakland for a bit as part of my student teaching (I went to Mills for my teaching credential, which is a women-only college in the Oakland hills), so that’s what I tend to think of as Oakland. I know people really love some neighborhoods by Lake Merritt and further up the hills, but you really do have to be careful about where you choose to live. Crime is pretty terrible overall and the public school district has been through some devastating times. There are some great charter schools, but I’d be wary of most of the public ones. However, you find the right neighborhood and schools, you will likely love it as many, many of my friends do. That being said, can I recommend you at least drive around Alameda? If anything, you’ll fall in love with all the victorian houses… Good luck!


29 Michelle Glauser June 28, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Ha, I love how on that “Shiz People Never Say” video, they say, “We should move to Oakland!”


I do love the Rockridge area. So lovely.


30 U June 29, 2013 at 1:50 am

Welcome from an Oakland resident! The blank stares aren’t surprising – plenty of people have never heard of Oakland and plenty around here just don’t know what to think of it, but it’s a wonderful place. I thought we were basically moving to a suburb of SF when we came here but I was completely wrong.

For my Love the Place You Live submission:
- everything about Lake Merritt – it’s just the right size (3 miles around, a perfect 45-60 min stroll with a friend), and on weekend mornings, the mood is especially neighborly and warm
- the weather – it’s pretty much perfect. (We moved here from LA so my standards are high!)
- the Great Wall of Oakland during Art Murmur, the Oakland Museum of California on Friday nights, Children’s Fairyland (it’s bizarre but charming), the cathedral on Harrison and Grand (the sunlight filtering through it during the day is stunning), the Crucible
- the food – Burma Superstar, Bakesale Betty, Ike’s, Plum, Flora, Kamdesh, Zachary’s, Farley’s East (this is coffee but the community feel here is what I really love)
- the farmers’ markets – the Lake Merritt one is crowded but fun, and the Temescal one is peaceful and better for actually buying things
- the proximity to other wonderful places – hikes in Marin and brunch in Sausalito, the steam train and merry-go-round at Tilden Park, Half Moon Bay, the easy commute to SF (truly, it’s faster than most commutes within SF), South Asian and Afghan food in Fremont, Alameda’s cute downtown

Really, though, the best thing about this place is, as it should be, the people. The playgrounds are diverse and the parents are friendly; the businesses really want to be here; even the Whole Foods feels like a community spot. I’m stopping myself now but thank you – writing this was so fun! I’ll say hi if I see you and your brood out and about.


31 Anneliese June 30, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Oakland! Wow. Very cool. We lived there during the dot-come era. Right in downtown Oakland. Near Lake Merritt. Totally urban. Went to church right by the O-town temple. There are some beautiful neighborhoods there. We were not in one of them! You have to eat at Pho 84–it’s the best! And right downtown. So many good foodie spots. Can’t wait to read all about it. Good luck with the France-Oakland balance. Should be fun and thoughtfully designed.


32 Lauran June 30, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Hi Gabrielle. I was born and raised in the suburbs of the East Bay, and have lived in Oakland for 20 years. Like everyone else has told you, it’s incredible. Weather, people, art/artists, and true diversity. My husband, son and I went to the Oakland Museum last Friday night for the food trucks/live music/wine tasting event that’s held every Friday night, and all night I kept looking around saying “This is why I live in Oakland!” You can find every single type of person here–single, married, straight, gay, transgender, black, white, Latino, mixed, whatever! And while everyone cares for each other, no one cares if you’re “different” than them. We are a mixed race family and it just isn’t an issue here. But just to be clear — Berkeley, Alameda, Emeryville are all separate cities with quite different identities. But all are pretty great. I just went through the whole private vs. public school search last year so if you need any help please shoot me an email! Welcome to Oaktown!


33 Amy July 1, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I was thrilled when my sister just informed me of your move to Oakland. I live just down the road from Oakland in the East Bay, and while I can’t remember the ages of your daughters, they most likely will attend girls camp and dances with mine! I heard a few young women speak last night from 3 of the Oakland wards and they all seemed like such lovely girls. I’m sure your daughters will be happy. A few random and unsolicited items I love about Oakland: 1) My husband and I have heard some great live Jazz (and other music) at Yoshi’s in Jack London Square. It is a super fun venue. 2) Oakland Zoo is a great, accessible zoo and my crew has enjoyed many hours there. 3) My friend runs his business Urbio out of Oakland and it seems to be a great place for design minds, so perfect for you. 4) The stake president lives in Piedmont right outside of Oakland, and really he could not be more amazing. 5) (and very random) our orthodontist is in the Oakland area and I really, really like him. If you are in need his name is Dr. John Huang. Best of luck to you and your family!


34 Michelle b. a. July 3, 2013 at 12:45 am

We live in Oakland and love all the above mentioned features. It looks like no has mentioned BPN ( berkeley parents network) yet, if you are not familiar it is the greatest resource in the east bay. Need an doctor, look up the recs or post a question or sell/buy a kids bike. bPN has it. Good luck on your move and finding schooling check out the charters there are many worth the wait list.


35 Ethyl July 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Oakland is not San Francisco by a long shot. A bay separates the two. It is not referred to as locals as “East Bay” but “located in the East Bay” nor “Berkeley” as that is a different city. It also is not part of Silicon Valley, but it is close. Hopefully you enjoy Oakland, because SF it is not.


36 Mimi @ hello shiso July 5, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Congratulations on your upcoming move! I agree with all the wonderful amenities that everyone’s mentioned before, but one thing that I really love about living in the East Bay is that I’ve found our neighborhood to be such a community. We keep an eye out for each other and see each other often during block parties. Also, there are lots of families and tons of kids, so our kids are often out and about in the midst of a pack of kids. It feels old-fashioned to me, and I love that they can do that. I hope that you find such a community where you end up!


37 Lady Steed July 7, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I am a bit starstruck at the idea that I might bump into you at Stake Conference. The Oakland Stake is wonderful and our Stake President is amazing. I am a member of the Berkeley Ward but have friends in the Oakland Wards and each one sounds great.

I am very excited for you and your family and your move to Oakland–I think that you will love it here!

PS After you’ve been to Fenton’s a few times, head down the street and try out the gelato at Lush.


38 Sarah July 8, 2013 at 10:22 am

Congratulations on your decision to move to the Bay Area! The most wonderful place to live:) I grew up in Napa Valley and moved to the East Bay shortly after getting married. Although we lived in Berkeley for 4 years, we were always in Oakland for different reasons. Oakland is divided into different districts and as long as you stay above Highway 580, you should be fine. Oakland tends to be weird when it come to neighborhoods, where one side of the street is fine and the other is sketchy. That’s why most people stay in the hills: Montclair, Piedmont, Skyline. The Claremont area is what connects Berkeley to Oakland from Highway 13 and is a beautiful area. Below that would be Redwood Heights and Crocker Highlands and some areas of the Laurel District. A hip area with access to boutiques, shops, restaurants and public transportation is Lake Shore and Rockridge & Temescal. Rockridge basically connects you from UC Berkeley to Oakland. Another area where people move to because of the school district is Alameda, which is a small island off of the Oakland port. It has beautiful neighborhoods and homes.
Some of my favorite places in Oakland: Joaquin Miller Park beautiful hike, Lake Merritt (Where they have Children’s Fairyland if you have small kids.) and lots of restaurants and shops around the lake. Lots of bookstores, cafe’s, boutiques, restaurants in Rockridge. A must try: Lavender Ice Cream from Tara’s Organic. http://www.tarasorganic.com/
You can easily schelpp your way to Berkeley where there is a farmer’s market every day of the week :) Plus you must explore Berkeley Bowl Market http://www.berkeleybowl.com/ and Monterey market http://www.montereymarket.com/for produce..the best Trader Joe’s is in Rockridge, it is well stocked and very friendly. It is also right next to the Rockridge Bart Station.
The Bay Area has so much to offer and is diverse. You are a skip and a hop a away from SF, can cross the tunnel East to Walnut Creek, take a short drive North to Napa and go wine tasting. Best wishes and safe travels!


39 TopHat July 10, 2013 at 8:37 am

Oakland is the bee’s knees! Great weather, happy people. I’ve been living here for 3 years now and I will never leave! Lots of things to do all the time. We’re carfree and the public transit and bike infrastructure isn’t that bad either (though improvements are always possible). Also, the ward is the best. ;)


40 Sarah from a fine line July 11, 2013 at 6:59 am

I had no idea you were related to Liz AND Jordan, what a small world! My husband and I have toyed with the idea of moving our family somewhere exotic, but ultimately feel that family close by is most important when you have young children!


41 the emily July 17, 2013 at 11:12 am

My husband is from the Bay Area (Benicia) and I just love that area. It’s so green and beautiful! I still kick myself every time we visit for choosing my hometown temple (Albuquerque, NM) to get married in over the Oakland temple. Such views! :)


42 Audrey - This Little Street August 6, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Gabby – I was catching up on Liz’ blog and read the news, congrats on the move! I am moving with my little family to Berkeley this summer also, and like you I am so excited to be moving to this beautiful, super-dynamic region – even though, being from Normandy myself, part of me will always miss France, and all the great food…and wine. Good luck with everything, and hope we’ll run into each other at some point.


43 Emma September 2, 2013 at 10:57 pm

We just moved to Oakland as well and I’m enjoying reading your posts about what all of you have been up to since you got here.


44 Rosie November 23, 2013 at 4:12 pm

We moved to the East Bay from Brussels two years ago with two little boys. In many ways it was with such a heavy heart. We had a great calm family life over there and couldn’t imagine finding something better. But…. two years in and we can’t imagine leaving! I feel our whole family is thriving in our new and more outdoorsy life! We found a wonderful French/English bilingual school so that they don’t lose their French (Ecole Bilingue, Berkeley).
excited for you being new and having it all to discover! Lots of luck!


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