Sunday, August 18, 2013

August 17, 2013: A Day Immersed In San Francisco, Part 2

Date: August 17, 2013
Event: A Day Immersed In San Francisco, Part 2
Location: San Francisco, California
Cost: $24 for transportation to SF and a day pass on the transit system
Summary: You might think climbing staircases would be a terrible way to pass time in San Francisco. But you'd be wrong.

This is post two of four posts about my one day in San Francisco (yes, just one day, lol). See these other posts if you’re interested.

This post has photos and descriptions from the second section of my day which involved both book guided as well as self-guided stairwalking tours of various stair cases on Russian Hill as well as Telegraph Hill.

Here’s the territory I covered in this second section (after getting to San Fran).

So, here’s the deal. I had soooo many different staircases I had read about and wanted to visit and I had looked at different sites that rated them differently (one person’s ‘must see’ is another person’s ‘don’t bother’). I had purchased Stairway Walks in San Francisco and decided to do the full ‘Russian Hill South’ walking tour then make my way over to Telegraph Hill and using maps and combined descriptions from sites and part of the Telegraph Hill tour in the book I’d see some staircases over there.

Well, the Walking Tour of Russian Hill was wonderful and led me into several places (Havens St. and Macondray Lane specifically) that I would never have found on my own. The Telegraph Hill portion of my trip didn’t go so well as I got lost…several times. But I eventually found the Filbert Steps coming down off Telegraph Hill and THAT set of steps is DEFINITLEY on my own personal ‘must see’ list. I went down them. If my knee hadn’t been starting to bother me I would have turned right around and went back up them. Spectacular.

Actually, the whole thing was spectacular. I frequently just stopped and took in my surroundings: the fact that I was in the middle of a major metropolitan area, the care and time the neighbors put into maintaining these lush gardens, the pure urban planning and urban architecture on these massive hills, all of it was really quite amazing. And I appreciated it, I really appreciated it.

Going on Stairwalks may not be a ‘normal’ touristy thing to do in San Francisco, but if you’re in San Fran and like active ways to see hidden gems, ago buy that book, look up some things on line, grab some water and go walk some stairs!

Russian Hill

This is the walking tour I did from the book I had purchased. I mostly followed the book though sometimes veered off if I saw something that interested me. These pictures aren’t in the order in which I saw them but gives a general flavor of the very varied trip, such amazingly different neighborhoods and streets and architecture in such a small area!

Filbert Street

The tour started near Filbert St. Now, Filbert Street runs over both Russian and Telegraph Hills. It’s the Telegraph Hill portion of it that is truly, amazingly spectacular as I noted above and I’ll get to that a little later. Here, the Russian Hill portion of it isn’t lush with gardens, but it does have some stairs (which I, of course climbed) along the sidewalk to help with JUST HOW STEEP IT WAS. And it really was super steep. Also, from Russian Hill you could look down into the valley and across all the way to Telegraph Hill (and Coit tower atop it), where I’d be traveling to in the not too distant future.

Looking at Telegraph Hill from Russian Hill (also, look how steep it is where I’m standing!)

These are the little mini-steps along this section of Filbert. Again (see second picture) look how steep this is!!


This is a different block of Filbert and, as I said, the stairs aren’t beautiful on the Russian Hill section, but I love how even along the same block, they differ so much in age and material and condition. And in that way, they kind of are their own kind of beautiful.

Jones Street

Along the way I encountered Jones Street. This wasn’t really one the walking tour; more like just a street you happened to have to take to get from one place to another. But I was taken by it. Not because it was visually interesting, but because it was physically challenging. It was two full looong blocks of stairs stairs stairs. I walked down one block for no other reason than to walk up the two long blocks. I counted the first block of stairs – over 200. Got my workout in! :D

Oh, and also from the top was another good view of Alcatraz! Fun!

Then there was Leavenworth. It wasn’t the stairs here but the light posts and the views and the architecture that I was taken by. I do love me some old fashioned light posts! And just love the view of them with the Bay Bridge in the background and the houses that line this street. I mean look at them! How cool are they!



So this little stair case was my first real gardens staircase, and I loved it. It’s apparently only accessible from one side now (doesn’t go all the way through to the next street. Turning the corner up these stairs I knew it was going to be wonderful.

And it was beautiful, a lush fern garden with Eastern-theme statuary. But what struck me most about it was the mailboxes. Yes, the mailboxes. As in United States Post Office delivery points. Because it was just one of those moments where I went, people *live* here. Some postal worker climbs these stairs and walks through this garden every day just to deliver a couple family’s mail. Wow. Just wow.

This is someone’s front sidewalk…in the middle of San Francisco! Not what you’d expect!

Macondray Lane

Macondray Lane was another little hidden gem. A brick and cobblestone path through another well-tended garden, another tucked away little place where you can’t hear traffic noise, can’t see cars or power lines, can’t believe it’s in the middle of a big city.

How beautiful is this? I mean come on!

The book suggests turning back before the cobbles as too unpassable / not safe. Of course, ‘not safe’ is my middle name! (not really, but while these cobbles were very uneven, they weren’t wobbly and I found them quite passable (and worth seeing!)

And I loved the wooden staircase at the end of the cobbles. A simple structure leading up into mystery. Makes you want to climb it to see what’s at the top!

Vallejo Street

This, I believe it the high/middle/epitome of ‘Russian Hill’. And, like Leavenworth, the stairs really aren’t the most impressive part of Vellejo (at least I didn’t find them to be the highlight) but the architecture. The architecture! You climb this set of divided stairs and open up onto this most unexpected set of homes.

Love so much about this – the little country cottages juxtaposed against the modern (ugly, lol) apartment behind them, the bigger ‘manor house’ next to them, and also how slanted you can tell the street is here, too, based on the garage.

And across the street from those...

From here you do descend some stairs, which do have some impressive parts…and I probably should (and will) return to them to take them in fully and appreciate them in their own right. But as it was, they just didn’t stand out to me when sandwiched between the beautiful architecture and the stairs I’d encounter on Telegraph Hill.

Telegraph Hill

I had so many plans for Telegraph Hill. But apparently the directions I wrote for myself weren’t as good as I had thought (not to mention my ability (or lack thereof) to read a map). So Greenwich street stairs (on both sides of the hill), Francisco Street Stairs, Montgomery Street stairs, exploring Coit tower… yeah, those plans fell by the wayside. I could have done them but physically my legs were starting to give out and I was looking forward to a little rest. So, pretty much, I just saw the Filbert Street stairs on Telegraph Hill. But, honestly, there is no “just” or “only” about them.

The gardens were amazing, the flowers blooming, I adored the many many wooden portions of the staircase and wooden plank walkways. It was more crowded, perhaps, than other staircases including tourists (as well as more than one jogger out getting quite a workout) but it was wonderful. If you only see one staircase, see this one.

Filbert St.

These two pictures give an idea of what it looks like – a green oasis tucked in between houses. The land was too steep to run a proper street, so it was turned into a garden instead.


The stairs are in two sections, spanning two full city blocks. Here are the respective views looking up and looking down at the halfway point.


Then there were the flowers. Pretty!!




And here are the wooden sections. You most certainly didn’t feel like you were in the middle of a big city. ‘Oasis’ is definitely the right phrase for it.




Then it all ended with THIS. Yes, I was definitely happy to be walking *down* these rather than up. But…as I said… I want to return one day and tackle these going up. Just because they’re there. :)

After this, it was off to a different section of San Francisco – the Castro! There, fun street cars, more stairs, interesting people, and wonderful outdoor murals awaited me!

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