Kimberly & I have often biked through Lafayette (over the hills, about two BART stops east of Berkeley), but her wrist is hurting her again, so she wasn't up for any biking this weekend. Instead today we decided to BART out to Lafayette to go to Baja Fresh, and while there also walk through the town to see what there was to see.
So, we did.
Lafayette is a gentrifying town desperately trying to become as upscale as possible. Right near the BART station you have all kinds of fru-fru stores selling what I expect is ridiculously expensive crap. Postino, an absolutely gorgeous restaurant whose stonework and ivy make it look like something straight out of the English countryside seems to be the epitome of the trend.
But then you walk down one or two doors and you find a Mexican restaurant or an auto repair shop that looks like it was built in the '50s. Nail salons seemed to be rampant, with at least one a block, and most of them in the run-down '50s style, not that of the posh '90s.
We wandered here and there on the streets, mostly gawking at interesting businesses, then on Moraga Road, near Mt. Diablo Blvd, we came across a sign that read "Historical Point of Interest" and pointed into a parking lot. We headed in and found that the sign led directly to a wall which had a sign on it (or really part of an old sign) which read "St" at the top and "A" below that. We could find nothing of historical interest in the parking lot, and we later circled around to look toward that same wall from the other side, and saw nothing of note.
Was there once a "STudio Actor's Guild"? A "STadium Arboreal"? Or did that "ST" "A" sign have nothing to do with the historical? We'll never know, but the archaeological layer of Lafayette represented by that sign -- its context now lost and forgotten beneath the snazzy restaurants and clothes stores and jewelers -- was fascinating to see. I wonder how long it'll be before the sign disappears too.
About a block past that we came across something that we'd never noticed in our bicycling trips: the Lafayette Public Library. It was an absolutely beautiful building. Coming from a side street, we walked up quite a few steps as a wood and cement building full of windows rose above us. Inside it was even more beautiful. The architecture was generally attractive, but it was the comfort of the library that was the most stunning. There were little side rooms everywhere to quietly study in. There were tons of very comfy chairs and a huge proliferation of computers. Some alcoves even had cushions in them, so that you could sit back like a Roman senator on a divan and read. There were even two patios with chairs, so that you could read books outside. And the library was full of patrons taking advantage of all this comfortable seating.
The only thing really missing was books. Well, there were some. More than most small libraries I've been to, but not as much as you'd find in Downtown Berkeley or Oakland. Perhaps that's not a fair comparison given the comparative size of the cities, but we were struck by the paucity of books mainly because the building looked like it should hold far, far more. Instead less than a third of the entire structure was library. Two-thirds, as it turned out, were for parking, and that's Lafayette in a nutshell.
That beautiful library was clearly the high point of the trip, but we walked a little further to get out to the start of the bike trail we usually take, to kind of put our experience in perspective, then we walked back. On the way back we saw more old and new businesses mixed up and a really surprising number of vacancies (which combined with the two or three going-out-of-business sales we also spotted didn't suggest that Lafayette business was doing that well as a a whole).
A fascinating walk. About 4 miles total, but that included 1.25 or 1.5 in Berkeley to get to our BART station in back. There was good Baja Fresh at the end.