March 9, 2017


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Hello there, my fellow Cornellians! As you will have already noticed, this week’s edition of my blog will not cover any sites or events around Ithaca. Due to how busy I’ve been as well as my longing for warmer, sunnier weather, I’m jumping back to the West Coast – more specifically my hometown of San Francisco! As much as I wish I had flown back home this past weekend, all the photos in this blogpost are ones I took this past summer, during which my high school friends and I decided to do as many touristy activities around San Francisco as possible. This silly challenge was conceived after we returned from freshman year of college and realized we had never done most of the things for which San Francisco is famous. The first of our many adventures was a hike up Telegraph Hill through the Filbert Street Steps towards Coit Tower.

And so, on Tuesday, June 28, 2016, Ashley (Ash), Robert (Bob) and Jacqueline (Jackie/me!) met in downtown San Francisco, whence we walked towards Levi’s Plaza:

CT Levi's Plaza 1

To be honest, I don’t have much to say about Levi’s Plaza other than the fact that it’s where the headquarters of Levi Strauss & Co. (as in the jeans) is located. Had the Filbert Street Steps not been located right behind the plaza, we never would have known it existed. Anyhow, as we’d met up in the middle of the day and were about to ascend hundreds of steep steps, we decided to get lunch on our way to the plaza. We stopped by CHICA, a Mexican take-out window restaurant with great reviews on Yelp, and each ordered a carnitas bowl:


Since CHICA is a take-out only sort of place, we had to bring our food with us to the plaza, where we had lunch underneath the shade of planted trees. As a Chipotle lover, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked my CHICA bowl. I assumed that its absence of beans, corn, sour cream, etc. would mean a less flavorful dish, but my carnitas bowl was delicious. Furthermore, it was just the right size, so that I felt energized (rather than sleepy, which happens whenever I have Chipotle) for my hike.

As I mentioned before, right behind Levi’s Plaza are the Filbert Street Steps:

CT Filbert Steps

As you can see, Filbert isn’t your typical street–it’s not meant for cars, and it’s so narrow only two or three people can walk side-by-side throughout its entirety. Furthermore, it’s got an abundance of greenery flourishing around it, which explains why Telegraph Hill has so many wild parrots…as well as a few coyotes.

Once Ash, Bob and I got to the part of the steps that starts to disappear into the greenery in the photo above, we turned around to take a look at our surroundings. We noticed a pretty arrangement of trees that brought our eyes towards the Bay Bridge.

CT Filbert View of Levi's Plaza

As we continued to punish our calves, we walked past Napier Lane, a short bridge made of wooden planks.

CT Napier Lane

Here’s me pretending to be a tree whilst enjoying the monochromatically green nature of my clothing and surroundings:


I don’t know much about Darrell Place, but it’s a lot like Napier Lane–they’re both ridiculously short streets that serve well as scenic resting points throughout the Filbert Steps.

CT Darrell 1

As we got closer to Coit Tower, the steps would be intermittently interrupted by paved streets where the residents of Telegraph Hill parked their cars. As you would expect of any scenic neighborhood that is actually within the city, housing prices here are especially high, meaning the residents of Filbert Street tend to be affluent, so they take great pride in the appearance of their houses.

I thought this house’s presentation was so beautiful–the bush is pink, like the house itself, and the bottom green part of the bush seems to be shaped into a “V.” Moreover, from the angle at which I took this photo, the top of Coit Tower looks like an extension of the house’s chimney:

CT Beautiful House

If you look to the left, you’ll notice the Transmerica Pyramid, the Filbert Street sign, and the reflection of the pretty house:

CT Transamerica Pyramid

Speaking of which, it may interest you, my learned readers, to know that the Transamerica Pyramid used to be one of the most heavily criticized skyscrapers. According to a 2009 SFGate article by John King, throughout its proposition and development, the Transamerica Pyramid was referred to as “an inhumane creation” and “a second-class world’s fair Space Needle” by those well-versed in architecture, with one magazine denouncing the effect of its construction in the city as “no less reprehensible than…destroying Grand Canyon.” Moreover, in 1970, politician John Burton protested that the Transamerica Pyramid would “rape the skyline!” Although it has gradually become a staple of the San Francisco skyline, some continue to refer to the pyramid as the “dunce cap building.”

As we continued to ascend the steps, I began to admire the gates in front of each house. Since the doorways of the houses aren’t built right next to the steps, the residents of Telegraph Hill need gates to protect tourists and strangers from wandering into their front yards. Some are modern…

CT Gate 1

while others are quaint…

CT Gate 2

or classic.
     CT Gate 3

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally reached the top end of the Filbert Steps, where I took a celebratory selfie:

CT Selfie

We then followed a paved pathway towards steps towards Coit Tower. After entering the base of the tower, we waited in line to get admission to the landmark, admiring the stunning murals within the lobby:

CT Mural 1

I remember finding this specific mural immensely entertaining; what could possibly be so special or historically memorable about one man getting pulled out of a car and another being pulled out from under another car subsequent to a collision? I also love the walking stance of the photographer in the center right–he’s obviously in a hurry to take some photos. Upon further reflection though, I suppose this mural could depict the importance of the police and fire departments? One thing I know for sure is that these painters really liked hats.

CT Mural 2

No, the NRA you see on the crates of oranges do not stand for the National Rifle Association (if it did though, that’d be hilarious), but for the National Recovery Administration.

CT Mural 3

Perhaps it is in the name of environmental health, but Coit Tower doesn’t give out tickets–it stamps your hand instead.

CT Admission Stamp

After our hands were stamped, Ash, Bob, and I had to wait in line for an even longer period of time, since the sole elevator (which was the only way of getting to the top of the tower) could only fit a maximum of about twelve visitors at a time. This meant I had plenty more time to appreciate the items in the lobby, such as this mini Coit-Tower-shaped donation bank…

CT Mini

which reminds me that I should inform you all that Coit Tower was actually not intended to resemble the nozzle of a firehose, despite Lillian Coit’s close relationship with the San Francisco Fire Department. I guess it’s just a coincidence!

Eventually, we made it into the elevator and arrived at the top of the tower:

CT Circular Window

Of the trios of windows you can see above, only one window of each trio is opened for visitors to peek outside and take photos. And let me tell you, once you realize that there is literally nothing between the ground and the iPhone you’re holding out the window, your hands start to sweat like crazy. Nonetheless, the risk of dropping your phone camera is well worth it, as evidenced by my amateur photography below:

CT Architecture

CT View 1

A few piers along Fisherman’s Wharf. Alcatraz Island on the left.


CT View 2

A shot of the parking lot and a statue of Christopher Columbus.


CT View 3

A closer shot of Alcatraz.


CT View 4

A panorama that conveys the hilliness of San Francisco. Sutro Tower at the left third of the photo, towards the back, partially covered by fog. Golden Gate Bridge enveloped with fog in back right.


CT View 5

Another panorama. Transamerica Pyramid to the left. Sutro Tower towards the right, to the immediate left of the hill.


CT View 6

An opened window, through which the Transamerica Pyramid can be seen.


CT View 7

The San Francisco skyline. Bay Bridge to the far left. Transamerica Pyramid in center right. This (or the one above) is probably my favorite photo of this bunch.


CT View 10

Closer shot of the Bay Bridge.


When we got tired of walking around in circles in the surprisingly chilly tower, Ash, Bob, and I decided to descend the steps towards the elevator. After disembarking the elevator, we exited the tower through what we soon realized was the front entrance, next to which there is a sign:

CT Sign

We took one last look at Coit Tower…

CT From the Ground

and began to descend the Greenwich Street Steps, which are slightly more paved than and run almost parallel to the Filbert Street Steps.

CT Greenwich by Telegraph Hill

During our descent, we saw a biker stop to check out not only the view…

CT Greenwich Steps 2

but also this building–Julius’ Castle. Before its closure in 2008, it was a famous restaurant that was popular among celebrities since 1924. According to this site, Robert Redford, Cary Grant, Sean Connery, Marlon Brando and Ginger Rogers used to hang out here back in the day! You can’t really tell from this angle, but it does in fact resemble a castle. The part of the building to the far right with white posts extending from its top is supposed to be a turret.

CT Julius' Castle

A cute tiled sign that points to where the steps continue:

CT Greenwich Steps 3

Bob and Ash walk ahead of me while I check out this yuuuge plant that reminds me of rhubarb.

CT Greenwich Steps 6

Unkempt flowers and bushes surround us as we near the bottom of the Greenwich Steps.

CT Greenwich Steps 7

The sign marking the end of our journey… apt considering Ash almost fell down the steps thrice… in dry conditions:

CT Slippery When Wet

Because the Greenwich Steps are also behind Levi Plaza, we found ourselves to be right back where we started from. And thus, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

Ponder that.

CT Levi's Plaza 2