The Painted Ladies

The famous “Painted Ladies of San Francisco”, otherwise known as “Postcard Row” or the “Seven Sisters”, are a row of colorful Victorian houses located at 710–720 Steiner Street, across from Alamo Square. (Cover photo by Alex Wolowiecki on Unsplash )

This photo came up in a search for something entirely different I was planning to write about this morning – and I was swept away by memories!

They were the original reason I fell in love with San Francisco in the first place. I saw a 2” x 2” picture of these houses in black and white in an encyclopedia when I was 14, and fell head over heels in love with a city I knew nothing about.

On a trip from Fort Collins, CO to Denver, CO, my dad took me on a classic Tim Arensmeierian “shortcut,” by way of San Francisco! I’ll never forget our ridiculous adventure. He was 41 and I was 14. We read spy novels out loud on the drive, occasionally having to pull over to the side of the road if we were both too choked up to see straight.

Turns out it wasn’t unplanned, just unexpected to me. We stayed with friends in the Berkeley Hills outside of San Francisco. The room where I stayed had a window that opened outward, and there were no screens on the windows. The area didn’t have bugs! I could pick a tangerine from the tree right outside the window. Nothing had ever tasted so good as fresh citrus picked right from the tree in the moonlight.

Everything about that trip was magical. We drove around the city, we rode the cable cars. Forever after, when I eventually moved there, I loved to ride the cable cars and look into the windows of the homes along the route. People left their curtains open to show off their rooms lined with bookshelves, or the gorgeous floral displays in their windows. Bay windows with pillows piled up is a standard view here in this city.

We ate in the Italian section called North Beach, with music being piped out onto the streets and the smells of pasta everywhere. We ate in Chinatown in a restaurant on the outskirts of the area where there were no tourists, so we figured we were getting the most authentic food possible. The only other customers looked like regulars from the neighborhood.

Then we turned a corner on our meandering explorations of the city, and there were The Painted Ladies. I just got tears in my eyes remembering that spectacular vision for the first time. It was like a storybook come to life for me. Somehow this view, with the skyline in the background, encapsulated everything my teenage heart knew of love for a place. It resolved my determination to live in this city someday.

I was lucky to be able to live in North Beach right on Columbus Avenue in my early twenties, the diagonal street that leads straight into the financial district. I also lived on the Top of Nob Hill and out in The Castro. I love how each neighborhood has a cool name, and corner shops with flowers on display in big baskets. There are corner grocery stores everywhere, and each has its own little flavor and personality.

Oh, how I could go on and on about this city. As much as I’ve grown to love country life and our long views and wide skies up here in Oregon, the view from my rooftop out to the Golden Gate Bridge, The Headlands and hills of Marin County beyond that, the staggered rooftops all around me, and the twinkling lights of my dream come true will always, always hold a big place in my heart!

What was a dream of your childhood that has come true for you?

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