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Introducing Berkeley

With more than 30, 000 students and enough Nobel Prize winners to give the Swedish Academy its reason for being, the University of California is clearly what makes Berkeley something more than a picturesque bedroom community. The student body is not stirring things up the way it did during the free speech movement of the 1960s, but the city at large still seems to fire-breathe its politics. The town is thick with intellectual inquiry, discourse and creativity. For an idea of what Berkeley stands for, get stuck in the town’s maddening traffic and catch up on your reading - of bumper stickers. Alongside ‘Lick Bush in ‘04’ (which you can rely on seeing until at least 2010), you can ponder complex-inducing mottoes such as ‘Don’t Believe Everything You Think!’

Much of Berkeley’s youthful, radical culture concentrates on a few intense blocks of Telegraph Ave, immediately south of the University campus. It’s a good shopping zone if you’re after books and music, and the cafés here twitch with student energy. But probably the number one reason to visit Berkeley is to eat a fine meal at the northern end of Shattuck Ave. Chez Panisse and many of its offshoots operate along this drag through the town’s ‘hood of haute cuisine.