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Hidden stairs and wine pairings in Rockridge

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A bit of exercise followed by a tasty meal, does it get much better? Here’s a moderately challenging walk in Oakland’s upper Rockridge district. The bungalows, stately homes, flourishing and colorful gardens, as well as terrific views across the bay to San Francisco and other points west, will reward your efforts. Then, after your 1.5-hour walk, you can sip a glass of wine, or savor a delightful pairing of featured wines and foods at the nearby Barrel Room on College Avenue.

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This walk as described is a modified version of Charles Fleming’s Walk #30 in his "Secret Stairs East Bay." If you don’t have a copy of his book, you might find the Walk Oakland! Map & Guide, 5th Edition to be of great help. This loop walk is approximately 3.2 miles long. You can start from the Rockridge BART station, or if driving, you can park without meters on Broadway or any of the nearby cross streets such as Lawton or Ocean View.

Begin on (or head for) the corner of Broadway and Rockridge Blvd. South between the old concrete pillars. Saint Peter’s Church should be on your right as you start up Rockridge Blvd. South and “head for the hills.”

About a block along, you’ll see a small, triangularly-shaped park—veer right and gradually work your way uphill to the unmarked staircase just past 6095 Rockridge Blvd. South. Climb the 75 steps to Margarido Dr. At the top, you find a colorful mosaic cube where you can sit briefly if you are so inclined.

Turn left onto Margarido and enjoy the many fine homes—old and new—“new” meaning constructed after the Oakland Berkeley firestorm of 1991. Just after 5918 Margarido, turn right to ascend Quail Lane to Acacia Avenue. Again at Acacia, turn left, pass by Manchester Dr., Verona Path, and Mathieu Ave. and then turn left off of Acacia to climb Locarno Path—which is a fine, broad, old staircase. At the top, you’ll have reached the highest point in Rockridge—the cul-de-sac of Alpine Terrace.

Here you’ll enjoy a brief reprieve from climbing and have some fine views toward the Golden Gate as you walk along Alpine. Next turn to the right onto Ocean View Drive and you’ll soon spot an intriguing house at 6183 with a lighthouse, with windows all around, and which is topped with a weathervane. Cross the street and start down the multiple flights of Brookside Lane’s steps. Partway down, you’ll find a stone bench that is a fine place to sit and take a water break. Upon reaching Brookside Ave., turn right and follow along that street passing Eustice Ave. and the redwood cottages of the College Prep School.

Ready to climb again? When you reach 6251 Brookside, turn uphill to ascend Claremont Path and reach Ocean View Drive again. Turn left and just after 6143 Ocean View Dr., you’ll find West Lane Staircase, which you climb for several steps and then descend for 25. Cross Manchester Drive to continue down on the Prospect Steps, cross Margarido, and continue down Prospect Steps all the way to the cul-de-sac of Rockridge Blvd. North.

Continue on the street past the triangular park you saw at the beginning of our walk, but this time keep the park to your left. Just after 6100 Rockridge Blvd. North, climb the wide steps up to Ocean View Dr. (yes, again). Turn left and walk downhill to Broadway.

Here you can retrieve your car, but no doubt by the time you reach Broadway, you’ll be ready for some refreshment and College Avenue beckons. To eat, or to explore the shops of Rockridge (or return to BART), turn right onto Broadway, walk one block uphill to Keith, cross Broadway and follow Keith Ave. the couple of blocks to the BART station.

If it’s mid-afternoon or later, consider one of the newer establishments such as the highly-rated Barrel Room at 5330 College Ave. This restaurant and wine shop has given wine and food pairings an interesting twist: every two months a different region of the world is featured. First the wines are chosen and then the food is matched to the selection of beverages.

This is a delightful place to decompress and it draws both neighborhood and visiting guests for wine tastings, small plates, main dishes, and/or desserts. The Barrel Room is currently open from 3:00 PM -10:30 PM.

During her visit Susan Alcorn found that sommelier and manager Esteban Brunello and staff were extremely helpful—displaying none of the pretentiousness that can be such a turnoff. Although she was the guest of the Barrel Room, she noted that everyone was treated with the same courtesy and care.

Other suggested resources: What’s Rockridge Like? (very useful listings of the stores and shops, restaurants and cultural offerings of the neighborhood.

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