Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms
When most people think waterfront hotel around the San Francisco bay they think big bucks. And usually that’s the case, except in one very rare instance: Just a stone’s throw from downtown Oakland in the harbor city of Alameda looms a secret treasure for travelers coming to Herb Caen’s “Baghdad by the Bay.”
The treasure I speak of is the Marina Village Inn. Simply put, if you love the water and dream of a hotel room at the harbor’s edge, then the Marina Village is something that warrants serious investigation.
Travelers who long for that natural and unique experience and who are less concerned with pomp and posture will be thrilled with this inn. It’s not fancy, but it is quite comfortable. And very affordable. In fact, affordability is the operative word when describing the Marina Village.
Even though it’s far from fancy, there is nonetheless a certain luxury to this hotel – offering the best of a bay experience for a relative pittance (with its 51 rooms ranging in price from $70 to $150, depending on the day of the week and vacancy-rate).
As I said, the hotel itself is comfortable. Nice big beds and clean rooms (many of which offer an elegant view of the bay and the skyline of Oakland) literally sit at the water’s edge, where sailboats stand in lines, lapping against the waves. There is free wifi; HBO; complimentary breakfast (expect only very basic fare with cereal, toast, apples and coffee the centerpieces); bedside sitting chair; and high-end shampoo and soap in the bathrooms. Travelers should be aware that the Marina Village only offers rooms with one bed; thus, the facility is not an option for large families looking for twin-bed settings.
So far, you might say it sounds like a tiny upgrade to your basic Motor Lodge or Budget Inn, right? Wrong!
What sets the Marina Village apart is the setting: Where else can you get a clean room with free parking at the edge of the Oakland waterfront for around a third of what chains in the city are charging for a much more muted experience? And where else can you take a morning walk along the marina as the ducks congregate to chat and the sailboats move wistfully across the water toward the Bay Bridge? And where else can you sit at the edge of the water at midnight and watch the lights flicker through the tip-top brow of the Tribune building as the stars rain down on the Oakland hills in the distance? And just where else can you have a water experience in the shadow of San Francisco without maxing out your Visa card and later wishing you didn’t?
After more than 30 years of working in this part of California, the Marina Village Inn is the only place I’ve found that provides answers to any of these questions. Take my word – this place is worth your time and a couple more second looks. The harbor sounds alone command the price of admission.
This old-time 50s’-style diner is worth repeated visits. Big plates of food at throw-back prices put the place on par with the Marina Village Inn in terms of value for your dollar. The waffles are the calling-classic and they literally fill-up the plate, while the ham and eggs is really a ham-steak and eggs. Even big eaters will be challenged to finish this tired-and-true staple.