Sunday, August 16, 2009
Not long ago, if you asked me to join you for a city hike, I would have assumed you meant a marathon window shopping session. But yesterday, we did a true city hike with our friends J & H. Even though we went up to the city in part to escape the heat, the sun was as relentless. Sunblock was not optional. We parked at the foot of Telegraph Hill. Armed with a print-out of stairways of San Francisco, we walked up Vallejo Street to begin our hike of the Filbert Steps. (the youtube video provides the appropriate soundtrack while you read this - Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush - don't you just love her?)
That's us (minus me) at the start of our first steps. This is a very pretty walk up. We saw gorgeous houses on both sides; some had small common areas with a modest grill set-up and chairs. But what you notice first was the well-maintained gardens. The carefully pruned cascade of greens made the place look like it was an abundant garden with some houses at the edge rather than just houses with gardens. Once you reach the top of the stairs and look back, a view of the Bay Bridge greets you.
See the sign at the bottom right corner of the picture above? It says "Stairs to Coit Tower". So the steps we had just taken were leading us to more steps. A beautiful view at the top but a few too many tourists.
The Greenwich Steps (above) were entertaining. The gardens of the homes were peppered with kitsch - a tiger, a frog and a parking meter!
But my favorite is the actual Filbert Steps. Living in one of the houses must feel like you were living in a tree house. The wooden steps snaking along the homes enhances the metaphor. Together, the gardens look like a jungle - tall trees, unruly shrubs and a wild parrot colony! J told us they had just seen parts of a documentary about the parrots so I looked it up. You can read about it here. We didn't see the whole colony although it sounded like they were all there and chatting at the same time. We saw a few pairs and I did manage to take a picture of a parrot using the zoom function of my camera. Apologies for the over-saturation of the picture below but it was dark in the shade of the trees and I want the parrot to be visible.
We were entertained further when we met a couple who used to live in one of the houses. We were curious how they carried bulky groceries bags or moved appliances. They told us that they stopped shopping at the supermarkets, started ordering groceries online and made sure they tipped really well. But the delivery guys still hated them. Appliances - the stores charge $1 per step for delivery charges! And of course, the novelty of the parrots wears out real fast when you are subjected to their daily trillings. But it's all worth it for the luxury of opening your front door to an oasis of green (traipsing camera-totting city hikers excepted).