Walking in San Francisco

This morning, I find myself in the Castro – or is it the Mission District, it is increasingly ambiguous where one ends and the other begins. Some thoughtful person took it upon himself to suggest that I would go blind using my laptop. He of course said this while puffing away on a cigarette. I ask you who is taking the bigger health risk here?

One activity that almost no one disputes as being healthy is walking. And San Francisco is a great walking city. For one, it is quite small, and the areas of the city one would actually want to visit are even smaller. So instead of presenting another highway article this weekend, we at CatSynth will share a little walking tour of our new hometown, weaving in other articles from the past month. The approximate path is indicated in the map below:

[click to enlarge]

Heading north from CatSynth HQ through the South of Market neighborhood, we quickly arrive at Yerba Buena Gardens, next to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. It still amazes me how close this is to home now, just a short walk if one knows the short cuts underneath the highway. I continue to enjoy the gritty industrial nature of the area as typified in these photos from Gabriele Basilico.

After crossing the welcome greenery Yerba Buena Gardens, one is only a block from Market Street, San Francisco's main commercial thoroughfare through downtown and the Financial District The main activity on Market Street is attempting to cross it. Though it is also home to the Luggage Store, where I performed in February and will play again in May.

The side streets of the Financial District are strangely quiet on the weekend as one continues north, towards the Jackson Square neighborhood This is the oldest part of the city, with old three-story iron and brick buildings crowding narrow alleyways that typify nineteenth century urban areas. Some of the buildings here do in fact date back to the nineteenth century, having survived the 1906 earthquake and fire. However, right around the neighborhood park are a bunch of low-rise residences that look more like the 1970s than the 1870s, and a bit surreal given the surroundings. Nestled in the old (and not-so-old) buildings and alleyways are furniture and interior-design stores that are a bit on the expensive side, as well some restaurants and watering holes, art galleries, and the hair salon at which I had an appointment.

North and west of Jackson Square, one weaves in and out of Chinatown, which is hard to miss, on the way to North Beach. This is a typical place to end up for food and drink, and I was headed to a pub on Washington Square park that was recommended to me. They had an unusual selection of beers, including a chipotle ale. I cannot eat or drink and do nothing else, and having not brought my computer or a book on this trip, I did something I normally wouldn't do and got something to read from City Lights Bookstore: a small book of surrealist games from the 1920s. This might actually be useful, but in any case it seemed to go well with chipotle ale.

If one plans to do any walking in San Francisco, one has to be prepared for hills, either scaling them or taking extra-long routes around them. North Beach in particular is surrounded by hills, and from the Washington Square, one can head east on Union Street towards Telegraph Hill (which is featured in many a film, including the recent Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill) and then down to the bay. Or one can head south along Powell Street to Nob Hill. As you climb Powell, you can watch tourists waiting at cable car stops.

This is not a short walking trip, a few hours in all (including stops). One can try to catch a bus or a streetcar, but my experience has been that one can walk several blocks in the time it takes to wait for a bus, so unless it is one that is frequent and reliable, might as well try and walk. Of course, if one is headed to one of the districts further away, the calculation changes. But we will save those for future articles.

This article is featured in the March 26 edition of the Carnival of Cities, hosted by Family Travel.

5 thoughts on “Walking in San Francisco

  1. I do like going for walks. You can see more stuff that way, than taking a bus or driving, and stop where you want if you see something interesting. Just make sure you have a nice pair of walking shoes, and perhaps a small book in case you want to stop for a rest.

    Thanks for a 'tour' of SF. 🙂

  2. Hi.

    SF is one of the best cities to walk in, i agree. There is so much diversity in the city, and even some very odd areas, such as Haight Ashbury. It's fun to watch all of the "crazy" people handing out there at night. And even being from a small town, I didn't feel worried about my safety.

    Enjoy the great city where you live!!



  3. I, too, love walking when visiting a city! Thank you for this nice overview of San Francisco – a couple years ago, I took one of the organized walking tours of Chinatown and North Beach, with a guide who has lived in the City her whole life. She pointed out all sorts of historically important buildings and stopped for yummy tasty treats along the way. Made much more of an impact on me that sitting in a tour bus!


  4. Hello, this is so much fun, I always love reading your posts. Sorry I don't always comment, but here goes:

    How amazing is this??

    I was clicking through on your links and when I got to the bookstore's wiki, I clicked on [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Ferlinghetti]Lawrence Ferlinghetti's wiki link.[/url] I had once read a poem he wrote, which was published in the Times quite a few years back and had caught my attention, and my heart.

    I cut it out and taped it to the back of a framed photo of a loved one who was "missing." The tenor of it matched my internal impressions about her and the situation, and I was comforted by this [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coincidence]coincidence.[/url]

    As I read about Ferlinghetti tonight, I came across the following: [i]He was raised by his French aunt Emily….Lawrence was placed in an orphanage in Chappaqua, N.Y. while Emily looked for employment.[/i]

    EEK! And of all things, "Chappaqua" was mispelled — it only had one "p." I took the liberty of editing it first before I came back here to tell you about it this additional coincidence.

    Next time you ramble past the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Lights_Bookstore]City Lights Bookstore,[/url] stop in and tell him what a small world it really is.

    And feel free to tell him that an old catblogging friend, in the boonies of South Carolina, to this day is even more comforted by [url=http://www.levity.com/interbeing/99.html]his poem [b][i]#99[/i][/b][/url] — still taped to the back of the frame of the same photo, which I can easily see every day from where I sit at my desk.

    Or, just a simple silent wave from me will do.

    So, thanks for your wonderful article about walking around a wonderful city. The last time I was in a great city, it was November, 2001, in Manhattan. My husband and I had emerged from a show we had gone to see at the beautiful [url=http://www.amnh.org/rose/]Rose Center for Space and Earth.[/url]

    There was still an hour or two of daylight left and we decided to walk back to Grand Central Station to take a commuter train to the [url=http://www.railroad.net/articles/railfanning/harlemdivision/index.php]N. White Plains station,[/url] where our rental car was parked. [We were staying in Armonk.]

    Considering the date and [url=http://www.kevinfilan.com/Hybrid/2002/September2002/sept2002.html]what was going on downtown,[/url] we were surprised how alive and bustling midtown seemed. It was a Saturday and people were streaming in and out of entrances to fall-foliaged Central Park — wedding parties and teens and dog walkers, joggers and bikers, [url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1620767.stm]"NYPD" & "NYFD" t-shirt vendors[/url] were doing a brisk business.

    I guess that's what the great cities do for us — me, at least — aside from and in spite of the planet's great tragedies and disasters, natural & man made: allow for the possibility of joy and poetry to return.

    Thanks for your post. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
    Tickle tummy, Luna — city kitty!


  5. I love San Francisco and this post has evoked some very nice memories of my last visit; very well done!

    I love the parrot photo!

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