Today was fantastic and I have officially fallen in love with San Francisco. It is a great city with so much to offer. Now, my opinion may be slightly skewed by the fact that we have just entered a mini heat wave but lets ignore that.
I have had so many recommendations about what to do while hear and today I decided I was going to make a jolly good stab at doing all of it because at this point I was only going to be hear for one day I was particularly excited that food, and sweet food at that, seemed to feature quite highly.
Alcatraz was top of the list of things to do while here. Luckily I had spoken to my brother a few days ago and he had mentioned that it gets very booked up and in some cases you need to book a long time in advance. With that in mind I got straight on to the internet and managed to luckily book one of the last spaces available. When I arrived to collect my ticket there was a sign advising that every possible trip was fully booked for the next week… Thanks for the tip bro!
After getting some boring admin out of the way I made my way to pier 33 to catch my boat to the infamous island. (quick tip – buy food before you get there as the choice is limited and very expensive. Also make sure you have water)
Alcatraz is one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions and as a result there are a lot of people and lines to be waited in but to be fair to the State Parks everything worked like clockwork. After a short boat trip we arrived at the island. We were met by Ranger John and given the rules – all very straight forward. He also explained that Ai Weiwei, a Chinese contemporary artist, had an exhibition on the island that was included in our admission. I will touch on this in a separate blog but you can find out more here- http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/website/ai-weiwei.aspx Unlike many tourist attractions you are pretty much free to explore the island uninhibited apart from areas that are closed off for safety and environmental reasons.
Before I set off exploring I popped into the theatre and watched a couple of introductory films – one on Alcatraz and one on Ai Weiwei. Both were informative and worth watching but I might advise to watch something similar before you arrive to leave more time for exploring – Watching The Rock doesn’t count.
Alcatraz has been through many changes in its history, from bird colony to army fort, for military prison to federal penitentiary and even a stint as a Indian protest. Each one of these stages has left its mark and adds to the unique experience of discovery. Obviously my main objective was to find and identify each and every film location from The Rock!!
Following the film I made my way to the main cellhouse and started my two hour adventure. This segment has been brought to life by an amazing audio tour. When you arrive you are handed a headset and left to learn about the history of the jail from former guards and inmates. The whole thing is done so well and gives you the perfect amount of information to really feel that you have learned about the life and trials of the inmates and their guardians. It touches on everyday life, attempted escapes and the affect the place had on all who lived there.
After the cell house I ventured to the recreation area, parade ground and new industries building. I really can’t raze about this place enough and would advise anyone visiting San Francisco to make sure they have booked their ticket and set a side enough time to really explore the island at a leisurely pace. I spent nearly three hours there and could easily have spent another hour at least.
After I had returned to the main land I decided to try and visit as many of the places recommended to me by Vicky who I stayed with in Sausalito. The first call was at Boudin Café in Fishermans Wharf. Here I had Clam Chowder that was served in a bowl made from Sourdough bread. A bit of a novelty but a delicious treat. I then made my way to The Buena Vista bar for what had to be the most amazing Irish coffee I have ever had. Then came pudding, a hugeand delicous ice cream from Ghiradelli.
The day was also added to by seeing the old cablecars, the hills and the worlds most “crookedest” road.