Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's All Uphill from Here

We walked around six miles today exploring San Francisco. Armed with my trusty tour book and hotel map, I plotted a course that took us through Union Square, down Market Street to the  Ferry Terminal and Market, along the Embarcadero, and through Fisherman's Wharf to Ghiradelli Square. The only thing I wasn't completely sure of were the hills, but I figured if we stayed close to the waterfront we would be fine. My return route involved hopping a cable car to take us up and over Russian Hill with a quick stop at Lombard Street.

Turns out, I wasn't the only one trying to avoid hills and after a quick glance at the long line of people at the bottom of Hyde Street, we agreed to walk up, and possibly hop the cable car en route. Wow! What a climb! We were huffing our way up when behind us a bell rang cheerfully to alert anyone hoping to catch a ride that there were no seats on this car. With a sigh, we continued our ascent, catching up with the stopped cable car a couple of blocks further.

Yellow police tape blocked the street, and the only way to get to Lombard Street was to go down and back up. We paused to catch our breaths, hoping the situation would be resolved shortly. The folks on the cable car waited, too, and any car who tried to enter was waved away by the police. Finally it became evident that we would not be able to pass this way any time soon, and so with a grumble, we turned left and down a street so steep that cars were not allowed to parallel park; rather they pulled straight in to the curb.

Halfway down the block I spied a staircase with a street sign (!) leading in the direction we wanted to go, so we took it, and a at the top there was a short block that led us to the "crookedest street" in the world, and a young man who waved us away. It seems that they were shooting a movie, and they needed Lombard Street clear. From above we heard someone call action and smoke billowed. Below, a single figure crossed the street with his shopping cart. A few minutes later we were allowed to quickly descend, where we were met by a confused cop. "How did you all get through?" he wondered.

Our adventure was not over yet. Down we climbed to pick up another cable car line to take us back to our hotel. After waiting in a long curvy queue, we hopped on board and were snapping some pictures when the friendly conductor informed us that there was a problem with the cable in Chinatown, and we would have to switch to a shuttle bus there. Not us, though. No we hiked another four blocks up hill and waited for yet another cable car. When we climbed off a few minutes later, it was all downhill to our hotel.

Later, relaxing with my feet up, I did a little research about these famous hills. I discovered that an enterprising citizen has actually created an app that will show you how hilly the streets around you are, so you can plan accordingly. "Sometimes I like to take the hilliest route possible," he writes. With somewhat of a different frame of mind, I punched in the address of my hotel, and here's the image I got:

That explains a lot! Clearly MC Escher designed this city!

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