The Secret Stairways of San Francisco

Secret stairways are a big thing in the hilly San Francisco, so much that there are entire books and websites dedicated to mapping and telling the history of these places.

My first stairway was the Greenwich/Filbert Steps next to the Coit Tower. I wrote about them here. It’s an amazing secret walkway between extremely well-kept community gardens with gorgeous flowers, leafy trees and all sorts of vegetation. They are also known for a colony of green parrots who were brought in some years ago and have multiplied ever since. I was so lucky to see only one parrot. These guys are a pretty sneaky bunch! These stairs are quite difficult to find but you will manage too if you look hard enough behind Coit tower’s parking lot (and on Google Maps). There is a way to get to them from the Embarcadero side, but I think that going from higher to lower points offers the better views.

My next stairway was in Fort Mason. I was exploring the area and then saw a woman and a child coming down a stairway along the hill. I got really curious and climbed it. It took me to the top of a hill and inside a very quaint park. It was full of teenage boys and homeless men so I kind of had to make myself into a getouttathere. The view from the top was kind of worth the risk, anyways.

view from the top, fort mason, San francisco
View from the top of Fort Mason stairway

My third stairway was the Lyon Street Steps in the Pacific Heights neighborhoods. I was just wandering around and being impressed by all the beautiful mansions when I suddenly stumbled across this stairway from a fairy tale, perfectly manicured with a breathtaking view of the Palace of the Fine Arts. I later on found out that the beautiful mansions are actually located on a street nicknamed “Billionaires Row”, home to some very famous rich people like the Getty Family, Founder of Oracle, and Senator Dianne Feinstein. Rich Bastards. They got the best views.

The last stairways I discovered were Vulcan and Jupiter stairs in Castro district. I thought that Castro was all about the sex shops, nightclubs and bars but turned out that there are many quiet and very green sections of this neighborhood. The steps were not as impressive as the ones I saw before, but I had fun looking at all the beautifully designed houses around them.

If you’re looking for other tips on San Fran, you can read my other posts

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The Artsy Side of San Francisco

McLoughlin Gallery, San Francisco

A few weeks ago I was feeling artsy and through my loyal friend – Google – I discovered the famous Fraenkel Gallery, about 3 blocks from my apartment in SOMA. The art gallery turned out to be one of many in a 5-story building that reminded me more of my alma mater than a creative space. It had long and narrow abandoned hallways that led to different offices with heavy wooden doors and small planks that named the residents. I found Fraenkel Gallery on the 4th floor. Most of the exhibition featured very large photographs of water bodies with one or two people swimming in them. The most interesting thing about them was the price tag that revolved somewhere around US$40k each. I would have paid maybe 20 bucks to have one of them, but who is asking me?

The artist is called Richard Misrach in case you want to find out more..

Despite the creepy emptiness of the building I decided to explore more floors where I saw some avant-garde gay art from Sausalito, strange music installations and more random junk that was pretending to be art. Of course, every single one of these galleries had a white desk with a giant Apple computer screen on it. I think it’s a pre-requisite for getting an operating license in the art industry.

gay art, san francisco
I think there are phallic insinuations in this piece of art..

Of course, as always with my expeditions, I ended up discovering the incredible McLoughlin Gallery, which had a NYC Soho vibe with an array of interesting art works, which reminded me of Rio’s colorfulness. Despite my anti-social self, I struck a conversation with the owner, Joan, who happened to share the same love for colorful esthetics (I felt super artsy because I could hold a conversation with a pro!!).

I told her about all the beautiful art I got to know in Brazil. She claimed that she knew the world-famous Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado because he wanted to exhibit in her gallery but his style didn’t fit in with her esthetic interests. I am not sure I buy this because right after she said this, she got completely engrossed in googling his photographs and talking to herself about each one. At first it was amusing but then I started to get bored and to invent an excuse in order to leave.

Joan and I parted on friendly terms with her asking me to find her Brazilian artists to present in her gallery. The random things that happen…

If you’re looking for tips on San Fran, you can read my other posts: