Here is my Saturday ritual: teach a morning yoga class, walk the Lyon Street steps, reward myself with pastry. Whether or not you’re into yoga, the latter two actions are a true San Francisco treat. Here are the deets:
Lyon Street steps are heavenly or gruesome, or both – depending on your level of fitness. Let’s say the 288 steps spanning two city blocks can be a gruesome workout with heavenly views. But please don’t shy away, dear tourist! You can find your way here and merely take in the stunning views without having to leave level ground. If that’s your pleasure, head west on Broadway until it dead ends at Lyon (this is the at the top of the steps). There is usually available parking in this neighborhood, home to many mansions known as Billionaire’s Row in Pacific Heights.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, head halfway down the steps to a plateau and garden in front of US Senator Dianne Feinstein’s house. Feinstein, born and raised in SF, once the mayor of our fair city, bought her current home with the stunning views of the bay in 2006. When in town, she also has views of the scores of runners and fitness buffs that stop to catch their breath on her front patio. But hey, it’s still a far cry from those who live with the touristy mob scene on “crookedest” Lombard street!
In fact, the Lyon Street steps are relatively unknown outside the fitness crowd, even among locals. This is why it’s such a gem. On a clear day, you can see the beautiful dome of the Palace of Fine Arts, sparkling blue bay waters and the hills of Marin. Not only that, but you’re literally standing at the edge of the Presidio, where you could waltz right into the forest and hike to your hearts desire. But let’s get back to these steps, shall we?
The good news is, there are many more plateaus along the way. The bad news is, it gets seriously steeper and narrower as you reach the second half of the steps (from Vallejo St down to Green St). Get to the bottom and you’ll be huffing and puffing, but try not to look back up – the steepness of these lower steps can be rather daunting. Distract yourself for a moment with the sprawling pinkish stuccoed house on the right that served as the setting for the high school in the Princess Diaries movie. Yes, that will take your mind off your burning calves and shins.
So I’m painting a picture of my personal preference here: I like to start at the top, go all the way down and come all the way back up. That way, I get the grand view on either end. And of course, my reward of pastry on the other side. I suppose that drives my eagerness to hike back up all those steps. If there really are 288 (accounts vary, and I’m in no mood for keeping track in the throes of stepping), that means 576 round trip. Yes indeed, guilt-free pastry awaits!
You’re back at the top, you’ve sated your appetite for gorgeous views and now it’s time to satisfy another appetite. Walk a few blocks over to “Divis” (that’s Divisadero Street) to find the hopping b. patisserie. Another local gem that you may not hear about – unless you’re one of those “foodie” sorts. I was traveling recently and read in one of those inflight magazines that a top Parisian food critic claimed b. patisserie in San Francisco had the best croissants in America.
That may be true, but I’m partial to their signature pastry: the kouign amann. I’ve never had this anywhere else; it took me a long time to figure out how to pronounce it (coo-ine ah mahn). But man, oh mahn – this is the stuff! Flaky crust with oozy sugar syrup in the middle. I drool just thinking about it….