A quick trip down Barbary Lane
Somewhat by accident, I ended up visiting several Tales of the City sites today. The recent reboot of the series on Netflix spurred an interest in these fictitious (and real) locations in San Francisco.
It started at the Lyon Street steps, a place I frequent often. It was easy to recognize DeDe Halcyon Day’s front gate; the house is adjacent to the top of the steps at Broadway and Lyon Streets. As a local, it was quite amusing to see Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney) dragging her suitcase laboriously up those steps, as that would never be a route to take with luggage!
Of course, it’s not really DeDe’s house (as DeDe is a fictional character), but I still had the urge to ring her bell. A glass of wine and a dip in the hot tub, perhaps?
I then drove east on Broadway, past the Mrs. Doubtfire house (another story for another time), and ended up near Macondary Lane. I parked on Jones Street and walked through the shaded entry, which looked more like a cul-de-sac in someone’s fancy driveway as first. Soon it meandered into a lovely little lane with rocks, a small water feature and Buddha statue. And then I saw the steps, from the top side, that are so famous in all iterations of Tales of the City – the fictitious address, “28 Barbary Lane.”
I walked down and snapped a photo from below. The wooden steps got an upgrade before the filming of the 2019 series. If you’re seeking a modern view of the “old” steps, I recommend this 2017 documentary of Tales creator, Armistead Maupin. He stands at the base of the steps which at that time still looked very similar to the original 1993 series.
I headed down to North Beach next, a place mainly for tourists (not locals). Still, I like to play the tourist sometimes. And I love City Lights bookstore, which is featured prominently in flashbacks of Anna Madrigal’s early days in San Francisco, when she was a bookstore clerk. I like to weave through the narrow shelves and pretend it’s the 50s-60s heyday of the Beats.
My mini-tour of Tales at an end, I left City Lights with a peek into beer-soaked Vesuvio’s next door, and then a skip down to the Coppola building for lunch.