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Hidden San Francisco

May 13, 2012
MARCH 13, 2012 8:54AM

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“I Left a ‘Piece of My Heart’ in San Francisco”

No, it’s not some gruesome song mash-up, the ghost of dear Janis Joplin scrreaming over a poor crooning Tony Bennett, scaring him so badly that he’s losing that genial smile.

It’s a simple statement of personal fact.  A bunch of us hippies spent a week in SF in the summer of 1970. When I came back East, a part of me stayed, and patiently waited my return.

In recent years I’ve been returning each winter, for increasing lengths of time. Every time I leave another piece of my heart.

Rain or fog, my California dreaming is always sweet. But so is the nightmare of housing prices, from which I can’t seem to wake. Even at the depths of the national housing crisis they’re still too rich for my blood. OK – that $1,000,000 house has fallen to $900,000. Big deal.

I’m back in the old, cold Northeast. Here’s my love letter: not to North Beach, or Fisherman’s Wharf, or Coit Tower, but those lesser known places, dear to my heart.

Alfred Hitchcock loved San Francisco and set much of his masterpiece “Vertigo” there. Just as the famous film director made cameos in his films, SF’s most famous sight, the Golden Gate Bridge, makes cameos in most of my hidden places, maybe to remind that she’s the most beautiful bridge in the world.

The sights form a trail you can follow without much backtracking.


This green oasis in the middle of the city literally hides behind tall trees.  Though it’s but a block from the apartment we’ve rented the last three years, it was only a month ago that I discovered what was behind those trees.


Down a steep Eucalyptus canyon (This is all I could get on camera) ,past an ampitheater where there are concerts in the summer, to a sylvan field,


usually overrun with dogs.


I feel a little naked without a dog for cover- like some park ranger is going to come up and bust me, “Son, may I see your dog? Step this way please.” At the end of the field is Pine Lake, one of only three natural ponds in the city, teeming with yakking ducks.


Here’s the Muses enjoying San Fran in another life:


2. MORAGA STEPS If you happen to walk down these steps, this is all you’ll see,


another set of steep steps negotiating another steep SF hill. Turn around and you see what’s hiding on the risers.


Nothing less than a map of the universe, in lovingly detailed mosaics.


From the bottom of the ocean,  with fish,


to the sky, with birds,


and up to the sun:


The gardens to either side are almost as nice.


If you can stand another set of steps, you can ascend further to Grandview Heights above.


(1st View of the Golden Gate Bridge.)

3. MT. DAVIDSON –Highest you can get in San Francisco (without LSD.) The walk up isn’t too bad.


Great view of downtown.


This plain cross is a memorial to the Armenian massacre.


If you look very carefully through the trees, you can get glimpse No. 2 of the GG bridge.


You might remember this façade from some of the first shots in “Vertigo.”


Step through the lobby.


Peak into the Venetian room, where the Supremes and James Brown once sang, and Tony Bennet premiered “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Then sneak around either side to the back, and a roof garden you never would imagine exists here in the heart of downtown. Complete with palm trees.



Redwoods, smack in the middle of town!


Lyon gets so steep that the road just gives up for two blocks of steps. Not for the faint of physical heart, no matter your love for the city. I am in pretty good aerobic shape, but was feeling a little sick by the time I made it halfway up.  I felt sicker as a girl in a soccer jersey sprinted from bottom to top twice in the time it took me to get halfway up.




Not to be confused with Stephen King’s Pet Semetary. It’s been the final resting place for pets starting in the 40s, when Presidio military families started burying their beloved pets here. Sadly, it’s fallen on hard times. Here the GG bridge’s cameo comes in the form of a new on ramp directly above the cemetery. During its ongoing construction, despite a sign claiming otherwise, the cemetery seems to have suffered greatly. I had to crawl through a fence to see it. I wanted to preserve what I could of the graves, so they will have their own post

7. COLUMBARIUM. This doesn’t look like any cemetery I’ve seen.


(Credit: Hugh7 at en.wikipedia)

Check out the inside:


(Credit: Major Clangor)

Due to limited space, San Fran outlawed cemeteries in the city limits. This odd building is owned by the Neptune Society, which allows it to circumvent the law. Four floors house thousands of cremains of city residents. Very moving if you’re into such places.

8. LAND’S END –Paths at various heights, some of which wind steeply down to secluded beaches, all with spectacular views of crashing waves below, and the Marin Headlands across the water.



Nice sunsets.

9. TENNESSEE VALLEY On Route 1 headed to Stinson Beach, down a narrow road right before the Dipsea restaurant.

The hike is 1 ½ miles down to the ocean. The canyon is filled with wildlife – my son saw a bobcat. Its walls as they unfold, form most pleasing shapes.

Tennessee Valley Hike

(Credit: clarque)

First you see a tiny lens of water, then a duck filled lagoon.


Finally a beach of smooth pebbles and a window through the cliff to the



10. MARIN HEADLANDS These wild hills to the west of the bridge tower over the pacific,


and are riddled with old forts


and gun emplacements.


Some date back to 1890. I guess San Francisco knew what a good thing they had and wanted to protect it.

The underground bunkers onced housed soldiers; now they are guarded by this guy:



(View No. 3 of the GG Bridge.)

The last fortifications were Nike nuclear missile sites, built in the early 60s. during the hottest part of the cold war.


Yes, that’s a nuclear missile. (Minus the payload, Thank God!)

SF-88 is the only Nike site in the country that ha been restored. It deserves its own post.

11. BONUS – McCLURE’S BEACH I covered this in the previous post. 

All photos by John Manchester, except Columbariums and Tennessee Valley overview.

heart plaque

Go to San Francisco and maybe you’ll leave your heart, too.




Enter the amount, and click “Tip” to submit! 


Oh you look so happy there in San Francisco. Makes me wants to sing. Thank you Thank you for all these little views of the special unique things that make it a great city.
I leave my heart there every time I go. Beautiful post~r
I know nothing about SF except its location and that it has a bridge. Thanks for the tour. All beautiful.
I’ve never beennnnnn, to San Fran-cisssco, and now I wish a piece o’ my heart resided there, too.
The ascending shot of the staircase nearly gave me vertigo – great pics and narration – I love SF
The real beauty of SF is that it is the only city west of Chicago where you can use public transportation or walk to damn near anywhere. Every time I spend a week there I lose seven to ten pounds while I eat like a King.
if just for the sunsets alone, the rent is cheap
I liked Mission Dolores with the bouganvillia spilling over the roof. I know it’s a tourist attraction, but it was beautiful.
I run at Tennessee Valley at least 3 times a week! My step-daughter and I have taken a lot of pictures of the scenery there, it is going to be the setting for a children’s book I am writing, because all of the vistas look so magical. I love the ones you’re showing here, among my favorites.

One of these days I’m going to write a post about the Vulcan steps, which is one of the most romantic walks in the city. Love Moraga though – so nice to see it in photos!

There is a large piece of my heart there. Gorgeous photos and post, truly does The City justice. Thank you for a glimpse of it’s hidden side.
I do remember that shot from Vertigo. I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago visiting my Dad; I miss the lovely weather. San Francisco is beautiful too. R.
Such a beautiful, beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your SF with us all.
I think I have seen two of these things on your list here and look at the cooler temps in the sky.
What a beautiful journey…


Thank you for sharing this wonderful post.
I enjoyed the tour.
I love San Francisco. As kids my parents took us to the free Sunday concerts in Stern Grove. We saw opera, symphonies, blues, jazz, and rock shows there. I’ve written several posts on OS about my time in the city by the bay. You’ve touched on some of the great hidden treasures there. Great post.
In the 15 years I lived out there, I never saw the COLUMBARIUM. Where is that located? This a travelogue that makes me homesick again. Great photos.


Great pics there Luminous. I’ve had the good fortune to have visited San Francisco several times so this brought back many happy memories. We’re lucky to have such a place.
I’m a San Francisco native and still live here. I love your post and its poetic scenery and descriptive words. You have truly captured the essence of San Francisco. I’ve lived here all my life and still haven’t discovered all of its uncovered secrets and hidden treasures. Thank you for a beautiful post on my home town!
my wife and i thought the only 0ther city we could live in other than NYC was SF. then our daughter moved there after college without our ever discussing it and just left after ten years. my god, i loved visiting her there. she was part of the artistic culture and it was so comfortable. i thought of doing a book about the trees in the city. the cypress in pacific park (if I got that right) the huge park that stretches from one shore to the next are some of the most magnificant specimens i’ve ever seen, and the redwood grove in the botanic gardens, along with much else there take my breath away. the sadness that it will probably never be what it was to my family is hard to bear. half the population may be unmitigated kooks, but it’s a kind of kookiness that i love.
I love San Francisco too. When I was stationed at Monterrey, we went there all the time.I knew a guy who lived there and he would put us up. Back when the acid was purple and so where the vans, along with a thousand other colors. I think only rich people and the homeless can afford to stay there now. Congrats on a well-deserved EP!
I’ve never been, but this certainly makes me want to. The mosaic steps are beautiful.
Wonderful tour. Thanks. When my boys were young we lived in the bay area and often visited SF. It’s been a long time since I was there last, but I credit the city with my granddaughter’s existence. My daughter and her partner flew to SF for a long romantic weekend about 15 months ago. Nine months later…
Ooooooo! Some more places I need to investigate!
Monsieur Muse: Love the city … nice to see these photos and read your perspective. Upon a time I did a San Fran post too. A few years back we stayed right in the thick of things at the recently renovated Powell Hotel. Shoulda given some thought to the clang-clang-clang of the cable car. It was somewhat sleep-starved but fun.
p.s. I don’t think Janis would scare Tony B. After all, I think he understands singers, him and Amy Winehouse seemed to get along quite well. 🙂
I believe the cross in Section 3 is where Inspector Harry Callahan got beaten to a pulp by the Scorpio killer in Dirty Harry.
I loved this. Thanks.
I saw a few of those places, but not most of them. Now, another list to build for my next visit. I can’t afford to live there either, but now I have two siblings there, and can start saving up for a house in Hawaii instead. 🙂
Over 35 years here and I have never seen Moraga Steps. Not have I done Mt. Davidson.

The steps down Telegraph Hill are one of my favorites. The stairs are hidden all over town. My favorite are the Pemburton Stairs near my house; they rise up from Clayton to Crown. Once there a brief hike to Tank Hill will surely take your breath away. Then down the other side and explore the paths in Sutro Woods. Thirty-five years and counting and still the city is as magical as day one.

You could go on and on I would just love to keep on following you here. thanks so much for the stairs of a different POV that is both charming and surreal.
……..(¯`v´¯) (¯`v´¯)
…………… *•.¸.•* ♥⋆★•❥ Thanx & Smiles (ツ) & ♥ L☼√Ξ ☼ ♥
⋆───★•❥ ☼ .¸¸.•*`*•.♥
SF is so much a part of my early adult life that there are not enough words to describe my love of the place. You have actually shown me places I don’t recall ever being in the many years spent there, and I wish you had included my favorite places The Avenues and Haight/Fillmore districts. Because living in both places were great times. I can’t believe that I once paid 100.00 a month in rent for 2 rooms in a wonderful Victorian shared with 2 friends. The rents today are criminal. rated
Makes me feel proud to be a native SF’can who played very near the Columbarium (at Rossi Park at Arguello & Anza). I still love that town like no other and spend plenty of time there when I get a chance to come down from Oregon to visit.

I started to add to your list, but I thought, No, that’s enough! Those places aren’t so much hidden as they are just overlooked by most visitors.

SF is a town with too many delights to mention.

Thank you for the trip down memory lane. One of my favorite cities, San Francisco. Especially love the hearts scattered around. R.
So beautiful! I have never been there, and would love to visit some day! You have made it come alive! R
I was just hiking in the marin headlands….love them….thanks for the great ideas and photos….I haven’t been to the the Tennessee Valley but it’s on my list…..



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