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Posts Tagged ‘Diamond Heights’


Our first morning in Bernal Heights was spent in getting the washing done from the week in Tahoe (one of the most welcome features of having your own place in the city), catching up on the morning commute and weather forecast on KRON4, trying to avoid re-living the Giants’ frustrating defeat in Phoenix the night before and re-acquainting ourselves with proper granola and sourdough toast.

We finally slipped out into the warming sunshine (was the rain really so torrential when we arrived last night?) a few minutes before one o’clock, heading for our favourite lunch spot (well, actually our only one up until now) of Progressive Grounds on Cortland.

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Lugging – perhaps unwisely – bagels filled with cheese, egg and peanut butter in our stomachs, we set off on one of the neighborhood stairway walks described by Adah Bakalinsky in her extraordinary book entitled, strangely enough, Stairway Walks in San Francisco. Bernal Heights has the greatest number of stairways, around fifty four, in a city boasting several hundred.

Normally, we would wander aimlessly around the area, stumbling, or not, upon some natural or architectural gems purely by chance. But today I wanted to ensure that we didn’t miss any of the sights (though locals will surely disabuse me of such presumption when they read this ).

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Our walk began at Holly Park Circle at the intersection with Bocana Street. The view looking back towards the hill provided perspective and familiarity.

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One of the most satisfying features of a visually stunning city are the signs at the intersection of streets. For me, they are as iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz or cable cars.

Whilst Haight/Ashbury and Powell/Market may be among the most celebrated, it is those that you discover in half-forgotten corners of downtown or out in the neighborhoods that provide the real thrill, not least when the juxtaposition of names appears particularly incongruous.

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We circled Holly Park, stopping intermittently to scan the horizon – from downtown to Bayview, Hunters Point, Candlestick Park and McLaren Park. The marriage of sky and trees enabled some lovely photographic opportunities.

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The decision to follow a recommended walk was vindicated because we might otherwise have missed a number of delightful and ingenious gardens and stairway as we criss-crossed the streets of the western side of Bernal Heights.

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Stunning views of Twin Peaks, Diamond Heights, Noe Valley lay before us or peeked through overhanging trees at every point.

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The love lavished on these community gems was evident in the signage that accompanied them. How could you argue with such requests?

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This being San Francisco, the stroll was never on the flat for very long.

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Fortunately, there were rest areas laid out to enable the perspiring hiker to take a breather, notably on the long, steep Esmeralda Stairway that we dipped in and out of towards the end of the walk.

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Such a shame there isn’t a Wordsworth Street, especially in such a literary and artistic neighborhood.

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Why couldn’t this have been a downhill stretch at the beginning of the walk rather than the latter?

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Finally, proof that aliens are among us.

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At the top of Esmeralda we joined Bernal Heights Hill where, as had been the case when we visited last year, dogs greatly outnumbered humans. We sought out the mud and pebble path of the short Moultrie Stairway and, via Powhattan and Bocana, returned to Cortland where frappés beckoned at Martha and Brothers.

The walk had been every bit as thrilling – and challenging – as we had anticipated, undertaken in increasingly warm conditions.

A great first afternoon in the neighborhood!

 

 

 

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Not so much a hike, more a leisurely uphill stroll.

The view to the east from the deck of our apartment is dominated by Bernal Heights Hill, a rocky outcrop with stunning 360 degree views of the Bay and inland areas.

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Staying in Noe Valley, this was one of our local “things to do”. We set out from the apartment, joined Cesar Chavez Street, crossing Mission and Folsom before turning right up Harrison into pretty Precita Park, the starting point for the walk. Inevitably, dogs outnumbered humans in this neat green space adjacent to the Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School.

The walk began from the southwestern corner of the park, the steepest part being up tree-lined Folsom Street with fine views of the City through the treetop leaves.

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The top of Folsom merges left into Bernal Heightd Boulevard and the entrance to the park.

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You are immediately aware that this is dog territory as the profusion of signs describe the best trails, advertise dog walking and grooming services and, less happily, contain heartfelt pleas for for the restoration of lost animals to their owners.
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The route to the top takes a gentle, winding path, though the adventurous or merely mad might be tempted to clamber up the green-brown hill itself.

The dazzling vistas begin by the entrance and become increasingly spectacular as you ascend the path.

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No tourists, and, by my understanding, few local residents, make this journey, but they are missing a treat. Step aside Twin Peaks, this is by far the  best vantage point to enjoy the San Francisco panorama.

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Downtown, the “bracelet of bridges”, Mount Davidson, Twin Peaks  and Candlestick Park are all clearly visible from this spacious peak. The wide expanse stretches almost into the bay itself.

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On the opposite side are Noe Valley, Diamond Heights and Glen Park, nestling under the benign family of Twin Peaks and Sutro Tower.  

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We can almost reach over and touch our apartment, two minutes walk from the stately St. Paul’s Catholic Church, where the movie Sister Act  was filmed.

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At the summit we felt even more like human intruders in doggie heaven, and the canine armies continued to assemble as we passed through the small car park beneath it.

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We dipped down Anderson Street into Cortland Avenue, the main shopping and dining thoroughfare of the Bernal Heights neighbourhood, and after an excellent lunch at the Progressive Grounds coffee house, took the surprisingly short and relatively flat walk back into Noe Valley. This would – and may – warrant a separate article in itself, but suffice to say that we found it a delightful spot. 

But the final word goes to the characters that dominate this wonderful open space.

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After an all too brief week in the area last year, we landed back in the southern San Francisco neighbourhood of Noe Valley yesterday. Well, we didn’t actually land here – that was further south still at San Francisco International Airport, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

After the frustrations of recent flight delays to both San Francisco and Las Vegas, our journey went astonishingly well. But it started ominously as, alone of all flights out of Heathrow that morning, we were delayed by an accident on the M25 motorway which halted the progress of Virgin Atlantic cabin crew. Which begs the question: why was no other airline company affected?

But never mind. We took off fifty minutes late, but with a remarkably short flight time, touched down at San Francisco International Airport fifteen minutes early. The twenty minute wait to collect our luggage afforded us ample time to contemplate, fresh from stories of friends experiencing hours in line at other American airports, the anticipated horrors of actually getting into the country through U.S. Immigration, especially, as there had been significant cuts to staffing in the service in recent months.  

We needn’t have worried. The entire process – waiting in line, one last, frantic check of our customs declaration form, having our photographs and hand prints taken, and explaining what we planned to do whilst in the country – took less than ten minutes!

And the Eurasian guy who saw us was chatty, friendly and intrigued by both our love affair with SF and also the fact that we waited 30 years before getting married, and then doing it in Vegas! I think the story would have been repeated over a beer with his mates later that evening.

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A short taxi ride brought us to our spacious apartment an hour and a half after landing, and we were quaffing Sierra Nevada Pale Ales and Coors Lights in the Valley Tavern on 24th Street less than an hour after that. A typical American sports bar – voluminously stacked shelves behind the bar and lighting provided by around a dozen TV sets all showing the (Indiana) Pacers and (Miami) Heat NBA play-off game. After a shop for essentials at the 24th Street Wholefoods market we settled down for a plate of pasta and bottle of wine, followed by some mellow Jerry Garcia licks on the ipod as we struggled to stay awake (no reflection on Jerry, mind).
It was a little too cool by now to take advantage of our outside deck with views of Bernal Heights to the east and Diamond Heights to the west. Forecast is for bright, largely sunny weather for the duration with temperatures varying between the lower sixties and early eighties.
Despite, as ever, gaining minimal sleep on the plane, I needed only six hours sleep before rising at 4.30am to await the sunrise over Bernal Heights – and sate my craving for peanut butter granola and sourdough toast (though not at the same time). The cloud cover, however, and the fact that the sun was hidden by the hillside anyway, rendered this an uninspiring event. But I’m sure there will be more spectacular mornings to come. 

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