A walk through San Francisco usually leads a city visitor to Union Square or the Embarcadero, but little is known by the many tourists and city inhabitants of the ancient alley ways of San Francisco. There are a few well known alleys; for instance Jack Kerouac alley is very well known, but there are many other alleyways that lead the explorer through an interesting and mysterious world rarely seen by most people. The intimacy one can experience walking down Macondray Lane on Russian Hill or an unnamed alley off Clay Street where a plethora of wooden window boxes brightens a basement apartment's kitchen window is an amazing experience. A visitor to these alleyways will notice the beautiful colored doors leading to mysterious buildings and the pre-quake cobblestones left untouched by the city years ago.
A nice introductory walk through the alleyways of San Francisco is to amble through Hayes Valley. Starting at the Zen Center at 300 Page Street which was designed by Julia Morgan one can wander to Lily Street. Home to a group of Victorian cottages this street is just one lane wide and boasts color as well as history. Follow Lily Street downhill across Laguna Street to view flowering vines spilling over a wooden fence and a precious wooden gate adorned with Victorian embellishments and brightly hued paint. Turning north on Gough Street will lead to Ivy Street and a hidden garden complete with rhododendrons, azaleas and moss. This garden is well kept by neighboring businesses and a cherished neighborhood secret. One of the best parts about touring San Francisco off the beaten path is the personal satisfaction one experiences when glimpsing something not many people have a chance to see.