Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Morning Walk

Green Building Downtown SF
Today I went for a long morning walk. I usually walk Joe halfway to work and then turn around before hitting downtown pedestrian traffic. I have no problem enjoying the masses of people who are intensely focused on arriving to their workplace on time, but I worry about Bomber getting stepped on by people who are paying attention to nothing other than their smart phones and who do not expect to see a small dog walking by them.

Downtown SF
Oftentimes, when I’ve walked downtown for whatever reason, I have wondered about what people used to do when they didn’t have constant internet connections. Did they used to be more social? Did they used to read more? Did they used to pay more attention to life happening around them? I don’t really know. I do know, however, that I am also guilty of the face-on-the-little-screen syndrome and, sometimes, I walk down to the train—a walk I have done countless times—while reading the news or checking my email.

Adult entertainment area
Yes, I too am sometimes a smart phone erratic walker.

This morning I decided to take a minute and enjoy life around me. I decided to pay attention to as many details as I could find. This is one of the reasons why I love photography so much. I love the curiosity it inspires in me. Every time I set out to take photos, my eyes become better at seeing things. Every time I set out on a photographic excursion, I feel more eager to walk over steep hills, just because you never know what will be waiting for you on the other side.

Couple in Alley
In reality, I feel happier when my eyes are wandering, when they are scanning the beauty that surrounds me. Connecting to the world around me makes me feel more energetic and more willing to go the extra mile just because I can.

I remember about 6 years ago, when I first traveled to Europe, there was a moment when I really made a mental note of always appreciating what’s around me, regardless of how often I saw it.

Up we go!
Views of SF

Back in 2006, I was on a train going from Nice to Monaco, in France. The train ran all along the Mediterranean Sea, with gorgeous views of the water and, when the train took turns, gorgeous views of the coastline ahead. I was totally mesmerized by the scenery. The other riders, however, all had their faces glued to their newspapers, their electronic devices (although, in my opinion, cell phones are not so much of a social handicap in Europe), or their books. The point is, very few people were actually paying attention to the beauty of the scenery.

Bay Bridge view from top of some stairs
I’m sure these commuters had been on that ride a million times before, and they had probably already admired the views many times. But seeing them made me think that I never want to get used to beauty. What I mean is, I never wanted to stop admiring beautiful things around me just because I had seen them before. In that moment, I told myself I would always try to discover new beauty in the world around me. At least I would try my hardest to do it.

Treasure I found in one of the stairways I discovered!

I started my walk today with that frame of mind. I decided to look at every street, every corner, every building, every alley, with a fresh pair of eyes. I looked at my surroundings as if I were trying to find a treasure hidden somewhere in the streets of San Francisco.

Gorgeous cactus
After parting ways with Joe when we got to Kearny St., Bomber and I started going uphill towards Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. As I walked up the hill, before reaching the stairs, I realized I had done this walk about 3 years ago when Joe and I had come to the city for him to interview. While Joe was interviewing in one of the buildings downtown, I set out on a walk and ended up going up this same hill. I remembered seeing a woman doing Tai Chi when I reached the top and, this time too, there was someone on top of the stairs, working on their Tai Chi!

Beautiful flower

I greeted the Thai Chi man and kept walking. Usually, here, Joe and I would continue going up on Kearny, but this time I decided to turn right and see what was over the hill. Probably a dead end, I thought, but I still decided climb up it.

Almost to the top of Telegraph Hill
To my surprise, once I got over the hill, I found stairs going down the other side of the hill. From the top I had a gorgeous view of the Bay Bridge in the morning fog. I went down the stairs for a bit, let the dog off the leash and started exploring.

I love the fact that San Francisco has so many hidden stairways. These hidden stairways are all over the city, they are usually gorgeously landscaped and they provide a necessary pocket of nature in a city that has done its best to keep as many natural sanctuaries as possible. These new stairs I discovered today were not any different. In fact, they were one of the prettiest I have found to date.


After checking out the new place, we continued walking up to Coit Tower. I was very surprised to see how well Bomber knew where to go. He kept making the right turns towards the Tower, even when I was trying to take a different route! We got to the top of Telegraph Hill, took in the views of downtown, which were gorgeous in the fog with some rays trying to peak through, and then we went around to face West and try to catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Quiet stairs
The red bridge was hard to see. The fog was covering about 80 percent of the pillars and I only got to see the base. Next to it, the city was beaming under the first rays of sun. I looked back East, up to the sky, and saw some blue sky patches behind the thick clouds and fog. I decided it was time to start making my way back home, before the summer fog burned out and the sun started to burn me!

On our way back I walked down Greenwich St., on a new stretch of it, at least new to me! As I walked down the hill, I made a point of going into every single alley I saw on the way. 

Secret patio with a view
You never know what’s at the end of an alley, right? Well, I wanted to find out!

In some alleys I found nothing other than a plain dead end but, in others, I found cute and colorful motorcycles, improvised hidden patios with awesome views of the city, and I even found a very colorful elementary school!

Motorcycle alley!

We kept walking towards Washington Square, where Bomber found a perfect playmate whose owner came over and chatted with me while our dogs played.


Have I mentioned that one of the reasons I love San Francisco, besides its awesome public transit and the fact that it’s so walker friendly, is the people? People here love talking to you. They love small talk and not so small talk. In the 8 months I’ve lived here, I have made many friends. Most of these friendships started when we randomly engaged in conversation in the street, usually because of our dogs.

My partner in crime!

St. Peter and St. Paul Church

Anyway, we left the square and headed towards Mason St., and we went up it to Vallejo, where the gorgeous Vallejo Stairs begin. I do these stairs pretty much every day because they are super close to my apartment. Bomber loves them as he gets to do them off-leash. Walking up the stairs I took a second to absorb everything around me. The views were stunning, the flowers were fragrant and in full bloom, and, on top of the hill, three women were doing Tai Chi and chatting loudly.

I said hello and kept going, down Taylor St., the street we walk almost everyday. I continued to keep my eyes really open, my brain really alert, in case there was something I had missed before in my many walks down that street.

A few blocks later, we passed Grace’s Cathedral and shortly afterwards we arrived home. Bomber looked very happy to be back. We had been walking for about 2 hours but only covered about 3 miles! I guess time goes by quickly and distance moves slowly when you are having fun and loving the world around you!
Grace Cathedral

A escape from the city!

Enjoy the photos from this morning’s walk. For more fun photos, visit my Etsy store at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/WorldPhotosByPaola

Elementary school tucked in an alley!

Gorgeous flower

Are these hydrangeas?

Vallejo Stairs
Looking up at the second set of Vallejo Stairs

Hidden stairs


  1. SO beautiful, Paola! You have such a way with words and pictures, they look so beautiful together. Time always does go by quickly when you enjoy everything around you! <3 <3

  2. Thank you so much!! I'm so happy you enjoyed it!!! xoxo