Alcatraz and Bay Cruise
We bought tickets for these at the same time, one was in the
morning and the other later on in the day. The boat ride to
Alcatraz was short enough and soon we were on the island,
free to roam where the paths lead. A few areas were
off-limits due to unsafe buildings but most of the island
was open, including the far end which is normally closed
during the summer months due to birds nesting there.
We took the audio tour inside the cell block - an mp3 player
with headphones which you could pause at any time, go
forward, back, etc. It was funny to see the other person
hearing what you had just heard as they looked at things and
went inside cell blocks as suggested by the tour; it
talked about the notorious inmates, escape attempts and what
life was like inside the prison.
The history of the place is quite unique: it has
been a military base, a military prison, then a maximum
security prison; it was occupied by some Indians who claimed
it was Indian territory back in the late 60's and
subsequently some buildings were burned down. The lighthouse
was built to guide ships into the bay during the gold rush
years but has been rebuilt since then. The name Alcatraz
comes from the Spanish, Isla de los Alcatraces - Island of
the Pelicans - reputedly for the colony of pelicans found
roosting there by a Spanish explorer in 1775.
After the fun of Alcatraz we returned to the mainland and
had a look around Pier 39, a tourist trap if ever there was
one! I managed to find one Super Pretzel vendor and
persuaded my new friend to try one, she wasn't disappointed.
Time came to get the Bay Cruise boat, but as we crossed the
road I was stopped by a man who charged me with smiling and
girlwatching! He was also collecting for a childrens
charity, I felt obliged to give him something for such
bravery. We headed on to the pier and boarded our boat in
the nick of time.
The air was cool out in the bay but the
sun was still strong in the sky and the pacific breeze never
too cold this close to land, not nearly as brisk as the
whale watching cruise at Monterey. The cruise went around
the Golden Gate bridge and back, but that was long enough to
get some terrific views of the city, the surrounding
countryside, not to mention the bridge itself.
It was such a clear day, we could see right across to Marin
County, all the way to Golden Gate Park, Angel Island, even
land marks in the city like Coit Tower.
I had heard about the typical San Francisco weather, thick
fog which sometimes hangs around for a long time; it seems
that it was my turn for a bit of luck.
That evening in the hostel I had some sweet and sour chicken
Pot Stickers I had bought, microwave specials but good
non-the-less. My friend made pasta. We tried to find
something to do that evening and ended up playing dominos,
or rather making towers with dominos! We were advised not to
be out after dark in the city, no doubt there were mad men
and wierdos abound as there are in all big cities.