Discovering Oakland


Words by Cilene Mactaggart - // Photos by Lauren Edith - & Jen Kay -

Celine Mactaggart is the founder of 24 East, the first lifestyle blog highlighting the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. She is an Oakland native, fourth-generation East Bay resident, and the Bay Area as a whole is very special to her. She has a BA in Communication and English, a Master’s in Nonprofit Administration, and does freelance writing. She loves bringing stories to life about travel, the Bay Area, entrepreneurship, design, and the indomitable California spirit of creating your own path. She is a mother to three young children and is working on founding a nonprofit to address skin cancer prevention in children. She invites us to journey with her through her favorite hidden parts of Oakland, California.

Sometimes your personal journey takes you afar, all to realize that the place you’ve always known, is the place where you belong…

I’ve been fortunate to travel to many places during a precious window before having children, when we knew that if we were ever blessed to have children, it would be awhile before we could explore the destinations that called to us.

While many people we knew headed to Hawaii or Tahoe, we took risks and adventures that we might not otherwise take now:

To Israel and Palestine/West Bank, one week after a cease fire in 2006, driving through check points, and honoring the spirits from history at Masada. I wallowed in tears after being in the dark, candle lit Children’s Memorial at the Yad Vashem, and after having been raised Catholic, going to Bethlehem and lighting a candle in the “manger,” I felt that while I don’t have the answers to faith, I felt comfort and the absence of loneliness, in believing.

To Syria and for the first time in my sheltered life, as I walked around Damascus in the early evening, felt uneasy to be somewhere where I didn’t see many women. Then to being in a restaurant where a whole family of various generations was celebrating a special birthday, no different than how we do with exuberant cheer at home.

To Mexico City, where despite it often having a reputation of danger and crime, we walked miles upon miles throughout the city for days, only to be greeted with warmth and kindness.

Once we put down roots close to where I was raised in Oakland, I started to see, and also appreciate, that the open-mindedness and revelations we gain from travel, are part of the fabric of my hometown.  After starting a blog (24 East) that is the first lifestyle blog of this area/the East Bay, and after connecting with the small business owners, local women leaders, makers, community advocates, and more, I started to better appreciate my hometown, and feel even more proud to be from here as well.

Much like Mexico City, Oakland often has a tarnished reputation. When you grow up here, you develop an intrinsic loyalty that bonds you to this place, and to the people here: that fervor brings you together.

Oakland is not shy about voicing her thoughts and passions, and the city whose borders are both hugged by the Bay waters and the Oak tree-laden hills for which the city was named, has a population that is as diverse at its topography. Our diversity makes us vibrant, rich in talent, and fuels an incomparable spirit.

At times, it seems silly to have a blog about lifestyle elements like design and restaurants, when there is so much happening at a national and international level. For me, it is those beloved places, much like that restaurant in Damascus serving as a special place for a family birthday, that bring us together and offer experiences that we deeply cherish.

I actively fought moving back home. I wanted an adventure, to put down roots somewhere new, to feel the thrill of making a mark at an unknown place. But after having traveled many places, for me, nowhere offered the variety in culture, thought, food, geography, and people….like home.

To enjoy: The art deco architecture at the Grand Lake Theatre, an exhibit at a local gallery like Cerrito Contemporary, a performance at the iconic Paramount, and the studio at Creative Growth, which offers art programs to people with disabilities.

To indulge in: In a hot, frothy latte from the family-run Caffe 817, an Apricot Almond Scone from Tart! Bakery at Arbor Café, seasonal Mexican food…especially the Grilled Chicken Achiote…. at Cosecha in Swan’s Market, and the Spaghetti Carbonara at Desco when you swear you’re a vegetarian.

To imbibe: Surrounded by book pages of various poets (like T.S. Eliot) papered to the walls at Plum Bar, on a massive outdoor patio at Lost and Found, sample countless Sakes from Umami Mart, and be festive at the hotel-less lobby of the chic Miranda.

To realize: That the city that has been home to Clint Eastwood, Kamala Harris, Jack London, Isadora Duncan and Bruce Lee, is also home to a future generation of those inspired by living here.

This only scratches a vast surface. Travel, along with motherhood, has been the privilege of my life. Perhaps at Plum Bar, this T.S. Eliot quote is on one of the thousands of pages on the walls:

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

I continue to fall more in love with my hometown, and additionally feel lucky to have the rooted memories of being raised here, like three generations of my family before me. Actually, more than luck, I feel beyond…



For the dreamer - For the adventurer