After meeting and falling in love on a Venetian gondola ride, April Quinn and Angelino Sandri decided to bring that romantic experience to others with Gondola Servizio. Drawing from a mutual love for Venetian boating culture and history, they’ve assembled a staff of skilled gondoliers to lead intimate nautical cruises. On these excursions, personal gondoliers in traditional dress serenade passengers with lilting Italian melodies and half-remembered TV-sitcom themes. When not leading standard tours, gondoliers work with professional photographers to orchestrate on-water photo shoots.
Each gondola carries up to six passengers, and sandolos offer a smaller, though still traditional, boat alternative. Gondolas with felzes boast an on-deck cabin where guests sit sheltered from the elements on a love seat behind etched glass windows. A flexible schedule allows significant others to arrange lunchtime jaunts around Lake Merritt or romantic evening cruises beneath the moon’s jealous gaze. While on land, visitors can enter the Bottega Veneziana gift shop inside the Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill, which abounds with locally handcrafted jewelry as well as imported shawls, Venetian chandeliers, and the fossilized remains of the first known cannoli.
Flying Yoga owner Laura Camp draws on her experience with contemporary dance, circus aerials, and various yoga modalities to create her studio’s curriculum, incorporating elements from a number of strength disciplines to ease students into a new practice or push seasoned exercisers to the next level. Laura cultivates a noncompetitive, judgment-free atmosphere where guests can feel comfortable trying their hands, arms, and legs at Ashtanga- and Vinyasa-style yoga poses, engaging Zumba dance steps, and muscle-sculpting body-weight exercises while hanging safely from a TRX suspension system.
Throughout each class, instructors encourage pupils to modify techniques or utilize the center's posture-aiding blocks and straps to accommodate physical limitations or injury. Inside the recently renovated and expanded studio, instructors keep students engaged in workout sessions by playing music during class or ratcheting the temperature up to 90 degrees, which helps to purge bodies of toxin-laden perspiration and parasitic ice sculptures.
Owner Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars has always been interested in the world of wine, but it wasn't until he tasted a Chateauneuf-du-Pape that the cosmos unfurled before him. "To go from tasting only single varietals to a blend really opened my eyes," he wrote in his bio. He started crafting his own wines and tinkering with production methods, experimenting with different yeast strains. Cohn eventually produced the 2003 Rhodes Vineyard Zinfandel, which was named number three on Wine Spectator's Top 100 List—the first time a California Zinfandel had even been in the top 10.
Now, Cohn curates a roster of 21 vintages based on Rhone grape varietals at JC Cellars. The wines are the product of both his own production techniques and time-tested French methods. Visitors to the cellars can gaze upon the aging barrels during tastings led by seasoned wine educators, before taking a bottle home to christen a life-size replica of the Millennium Falcon.
The Museum of Children's Arts was originally founded in 1989 around the idea that creative, curious children build stronger communities. MOCHA continues to serve East Bay schools and neighborhoods today, teaching children as young as 18 months to channel creative energy while developing self-confidence and critical-thinking skills.
MOCHA's mission is most apparent during open-studio times, which allow parents and children to work together and experiment with painting or creating traditional folk art. A teaching artist is on hand to provide guidance, assistance, and lectures on the differences between Rococo and Impressionistic landscapes. Although these hands-on experiences are an integral part of the museum, MOCHA also invites visitors to peruse its community-inspired exhibitions, such as its displays of original pieces created by students of the Oakland Unified School District.
Body Mechanix’s talented personal trainers, including a nationally ranked strongman and a Harvard grad, didn’t get buff all by their lonesome. Believing that encouragement and camaraderie make as much difference as weight and reps, they cook up ever-changing routines through collaboration with their fellow fitness gurus, a practice that allows them to share ideas and show off their ability to bench-press other bodybuilders. Individual lessons send clients sprinting across indoor stretches of turf or hiking heart rates with cardio and weight machines, whereas group classes help them sweat off inches with fast-paced boot-camp exercises or teach them how to jab out aggression with circuit boxing.
As an LGBTQ gym, The Perfect Sidekick aims to create a safe, welcoming environment where anyone can feel comfortable striving to meet their personal fitness goals. The intimately sized space emphasizes a sense of community between the members and the dedicated trainers, who provide encouragement and support while pushing visitors to challenge themselves.
Instead of unwieldy machines, the gym stocks kettlebells, resistance bands, and free weights for guests seeking to strengthen and tone their muscles. The trainers also lead small group classes that provide a bit more focused guidance, including cardio-intensive interval training, Vinyasa-style yoga, and lengthy jogs around the subterranean particle accelerator.