the stairways of russian hill

I have a small fixation with the neighborhood of Russian Hill, the hill directly to the north of mine (Nob Hill). It started when I first started exploring outside my own neighborhood and realized how many pretty houses with great views were on Russian Hill. Then, I started coming across its many staircases, walked through its small gardens and discovered a couple of “hidden” laneways (not quite so hidden as some of them, most notably Macondray Lane, are actually in San Francisco guidebooks), and I became completely enchanted with this flowering, idyllic neighborhood. It’s European-like, with charming homes that sit off the steps, hidden from passers-by by wooden gates and lush shrubbery. Many of the staircases are beautifully landscaped, with small ponds and fountains, palm trees and lots of flowers.

There is a long loop I walk that takes me up or down all the stairways that I know of, to date. It’s 3.4 miles, round-trip, and depending on how often I stop to enjoy the view of the bay and how much I jog versus walk, it takes an hour or two. This is a fantastic time of year to do it, as flowers are blooming everywhere.

I start by heading east from my apartment on Pine Street to Mason Street, and then I turn north for eight blocks, which takes me to Vallejo. This is the first staircase – a beauty, which leads into Ina Coolbrith Park with its wonderful hilltop perch that affords great bay views.

Click here to follow the rest of my route in photos.

Stairways on Chestnut Street (left) and Green Street (right); click here to follow the rest of my route in photos


yoga on the labyrinth

I found a new place to do yoga last week, and until I go on some awesome yoga retreat on a tropical beach, this is probably the coolest place I’ve ever done yoga – in a beautiful, Gothic-style, Episcopalian church. Yes, you read that right – yoga, a practice with deep Hindu and Buddhist ties, in a Christian cathedral, complete with stained-glass windows and a labyrinth on the floor. Grace Cathedral, atop Nob Hill, is only a block from my apartment and is a popular tourist attraction, as it sits directly across a small park from the grand and historic Fairmont Hotel. It’s not as old as it looks, but its pre-1906 earthquake history dates back to the Gold Rush. It’s a beautiful church, and I love that I now have a reason to visit every Tuesday evening.

Photo by Marlith
via Wikimedia Commons


historic waterfront districts

San Francisco is no stranger to historic buildings and districts – it’s one of the things that makes simply strolling around this hilly city so enjoyable. The northeast corner of the city – specifically the Northeast Waterfront Historic District, Jackson Square Historic District and the Central Embarcadero Piers Historic District – is home to leafy streets and many pieces of beautiful architecture. Starting at Levi’s Plaza on Battery Street, I walked south from Greenwich Street to Green Street through the NE Waterfront Historic District – this is where most of the buildings below are located. When I hit Broadway, I turned east and hit the Embarcadero, where the stately pier buildings stand tall, offering many caf├ęs and little spots to catch a view of the bay. At Pacific Avenue, I turned back west and walked through Jackson Square, a quiet spot where highly regarded restaurants like Quince can be found.

Buildings along Battery Street from Greenwich to Green (above); back of Pier 3 on the Embarcadero, with Bay Bridge in the background (below left); Jackson Square district on Pacific Avenue (below right)

a night for beetles, both british and insect-ual

Last Thursday I headed with some work friends to Golden Gate Park and the California Academy of Science’s weekly NightLife event. This is a great thing the academy does, where for a much-cheaper entry price ($12 versus the $30 it costs to get in during the day), a 21-and-over crowd can browse the museum’s exhibits, including a rainforest, a planetarium, an African wildlife display, an albino alligator and a really cool basement aquarium, while sipping cocktails and listening to DJ-spun music. Last Thursday, the event was even more special with an exhibition of just-released early Beatles photographs from The Beatles Story museum in Liverpool. Along with the rare photos (just uncovered in the photographer’s attic after 50 years), a creepy, yet colorful, selection of beetles were on display.