away. Sometimes they are hidden in plain sight, like the public stairwells of Los Angeles. A relic of our mass transit era, these stairs offered direct access to bus and rail lines for the residents of hilly neighborhoods. As you might guess, the auto industry ultimately negated the stairs' relevance; but they have since undergone a popular revival. Partly responsible is Charles Fleming, a staircase aficionado who published a guidebook to LA's historic stairwells in 2010. It has opened doors for exploration.
Scattered throughout the East and Westsides of the city, an impressive network of stairs will lead you up and down hillsides and through eclectic neighborhoods. The stairwells and interspersing walkways are so rich with foliage you may forget you're in the middle of a metropolis. The stunning views are a happy reminder of this, while the burn in your calves will measure how far you've climbed.
Best of all, the routes are teeming with art and history. A recent walk took me past Rudolph Valentino's home in Whitley Heights, a Mediterranean-style neighborhood built in the 1920s. (Bette Davis and Marlene Dietrich used to live here, too.) I ogled over the remnants of old Hollywood, not to mention the visual pleasures. On a walk near the Hollywood sign I passed a towering medieval archer, painted on the facade of a home. It was not out of context, either: the house was modeled after a castle. Some homes later, I discovered a lifesize statue of a Hindu god meditating. The smorgasbord of style and taste was enchanting.
The artistic charm of these tucked-away communities isn't always overt. There are quiet accessories like Victorian-style crown molding, colorful mosaic floor tiles and beautifully-carved support systems. The doorways are magnificent, too. Some look like the threshold to a medieval fortress, while others are daintily decorated with woodcarvings and inlaid materials like glass or tile. Looking every which way I felt like a shifty-eyed sleuth, sniffing out the subtle details that were so plentiful.
To put it simply, staircase walks provide a respite from the daily grind, not to mention the daily grime, of the city. If the scenery starts to bore you, add an element of suspense to your adventure. Try stealing an orange from someone's tree; you just might get accosted by their rabid dog. RUN, but make sure to catch the house with the year-round Christmas tree on your way out.