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San Francisco

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.

The Rock

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.

Alcatraz Guard Block Alcatraz Cell Block

Alcatraz Lighthouse 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.

Golden Gate Bridge

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.

San Francisco

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.