“Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.”
The Gold Rush left San Francisco with seedy docks and muddy streets—but just across the bay, 1860s Oakland offered an orderly, elegant alternative. Alongside a snug harbor, tidy streets were soon flanked with Victorian mansions for the nouveau riche. Today downtown skyscrapers abruptly stop just south of Oakland Convention Center, bowing to the stately Victorians and historic brick storefronts of Old Oakland. The city's best happy-hour spots keep a low profile in well-preserved buildings west of Broadway, and the Pardee Home Museum offers tea and tours of an 1869 mansion with Victorian trimmings, from billiards to corsetry. By the 1870s, Chinatown had put down roots east of Broadway, where ramshackle Victorians hunker behind modern storefronts selling authentic Cantonese dim sum, Vietnamese pho, and Cambodian papaya salad.