Day Twenty Four – Alcatraz
23rd September, 2012
We walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf and got on the hop on, hop off red sight seeing bus which does a narrated tour of the city. We took our seats at the very front of the top level of the bus. Prime position. The tour took off at about 10am and drove past Coit Tower, North Beach and Little Italy and continued through the dubious Tenderloin District. There is a lot of crime in this area as well as homelessness and prostitution. We decided not to hop off here. Instead, we got off at Alamo Square which is where the famous ‘Painted Ladies’ Victorian style houses are. This area of San Fran was featured in the opening credits of the tv show ‘Full House’ as well as the wedding scene from the recent Peter Segel / Emily Blunt movie ‘The 5 Year Engagement’. It also offered some nice views of the city as it is quite high on a hill.
We hopped back on the bus which made it’s way to the Golden Gate Bridge. What a contrast to yesterday’s crossing! Today was fog city whereas yesterday’s bike ride took place with clear blue skies. Although the blue skies was obviously better, it was great to get to see both sides of what the San Francisco Bay’s weather gods can offer. The bridge looks kinda cool rising up out of the thick fog. We got off the bus on the Marin Headlands side of the bridge and snapped some quick photos from a different vantage point to what we saw yesterday.
The bus then returned across the bridge and we were not only foolish enough to sit on the top level, but were also the only ones in the city to be wearing t-shirts. The winds across the bridge were quite chilly. I think we were still in Vegas mode. San Fran is freakin’ cold!
It was lunch time by now so we hopped off the bus in the Filmore District which apparently had some nice eateries. We decided upon Blackwood Thai restaurant because it had a nice fireplace cranking out the front, and also because we hadn’t really had any Asian cuisine on our trip and wanted a break from American food. The meal was very nice and we walked along the strip of shops and noticed that every person we passed seemed to have a dog. Apparently because the houses in San Fran are on the smaller side, a lot of people opt to get a dog instead of having kids. Just one of the interesting tidbits we learnt on the bus tour, which was now coming to an end. We caught the bus back to the start point and walked to our hotel to get ready for our ferry trip to Alcatraz. On the way though, we stopped by one of the many street shops selling cheap, shitty clothing and picked up 2 jackets for $30. Bargain. Bron also tried on a high class, designer head warmer but ignored Paul’s begging her to buy it.
We put on our track suit pants and jeans (seriously), jumpers, jackets and gloves, and caught the MUNI bus to Pier 33 where our ferry departed. The wind is like ice but we were toasty warm except for our heads. Bron should have bought the designer head warmer! Luckily we had purchased our tickets to Alcatraz in advance as it is all sold out for the next few days. We departed at 6:45pm which is the night tour, but there was so much fog once the boat left the docks that we couldn’t see more than 50 meters in front. Made for an eerie experience to The Rock though and we feel it kind of enhanced the myth.
After a quick story of an escape attempt by a tour guide, we made our way to the prison building and took the audio tour which was very interesting, entertaining, and informative. The prisoner cells are tiny and it is hard to imagine living in such conditions. The tour included a walk through the cell blocks, the guards quarters, dining hall and prison control room and took about 45 minutes to complete. We saw the dummy heads from the famous escape attempt that was portrayed in the Clint Eastwood film ‘Escape From Alcatraz’ and entered into one of the solitary confinement cells (which were actually about double the size of the regular cells surprisingly). The bathroom line was long and Paul was upset when told he could not use the cell toilet.
After looking around for a bit longer, we boarded the ferry and returned to Pier 33 and walked back past Pier 39 to Boudin Bakery. This is where we ate last night and we noticed the delicious desserts on the menu, though we were too full to try them last night. Tonight though, we did not have any dinner and decided to just have a dessert instead. Mmmm. We returned to our hotel at about 9:30pm and packed our bags ready for our flights home to Sydney tomorrow. Booooo! Our flights are not until 6:45pm tomorrow so we still have most of the daytime. Bron wants to shop. Cool beans.