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Alcatraz!

Day 8!

Photos are at the bottom today! A trip to San Francisco wouldn't be complete without a trip to the infamous Alcatraz. Unfortunately all the tours had been sold out, but after some characteristic googling and detective work from me I found out that if you rocked up at the ticket booth at Fisherman’s Wharf in the wee hours of the morning that you might be able to buy some last minute on the day tickets. Setting an alarm at 5:25am and jumping into a cab with Declan and two other girls from my hostel, we went to the dock to line up just before 6am to (fingers crossed) buy tickets to see Alcatraz. We were quite far back in the line but managed to score tickets for the 10am boat!

Visiting Alcatraz was definitely a highlight of my San Francisco trip! Declan and I did the escapists side tour and learnt all about the real characters from ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ as well as some other escape attempts on the island. The tour was spectacularly run with audio headsets – it was narrated by original prisoners and prison wardens which made the experience very authentic. We started the tour in the communal shower room which would have gotten extremely cold in SF winter. Not to mention there was no privacy at all. The cell rooms were absolutely tiny! Alcatraz gave you all the essentials of life but everything else was a privilege – a lot of prisoners struggled mentally. If you misbehaved you would be locked up in the isolation cells where you were not let out for recreation time at all. If you gave extra grief you would be locked into one of the dark cells where it was based almost off medieval principles and all daylight would be taken away from you and you would be thrown into complete darkness. One prisoner told the story that he would pick a button off his coat, drop it, and in pure darkness feel around the room for it and repeat it for days until he was let out again.

What made Alcatraz so terrible for prisoners is that it’s only about a mile away from San Francisco. There was a chocolate factory right on the banks of Fisherman’s Wharf and with the right type of winds prisoners would be able to smell chocolate. On New Years they could hear celebrations on the countless number of boats in the bay and they could see freedom in the form of the great city just a mile away – a key factor in the number of attempted escapes from the island.

Declan and I spent about 4 hours there on Alcatraz! From there we set off on an urban jungle hike through the – I dare say – Everest-esque hills of San Francisco. These hills are crazy! I would not drive manual in this city at all – hand break starts are pretty much next to impossible, I think I would poop myself. To keep it short and sweet, Declan and I hired those city share bicycles (they were terrible) and rode down Market street in search for food. Ended up in China Town to buy some New York sized pizza twice the size of my head and then headed to a Chinese restaurant to eat some dumplings. As a dumpling lover and fanatic I thought Melbourne’s was much better. After lunch we trekked up another hill towards Russian Hill where we got on one of the infamous San Francisco tram. It wasn’t quite the experience I was expecting – overcrowded! Technically speaking we had to pay $6 for the ride but the tram was bursting at capacity so we just got on and off!

We made a stop at another significant landmark – Lombard Street – which is the world’s most curvy road! As expected, Asian tourists with overly large cameras bombarded it, so we made our way down the street to have another view from the bottom. We then hiked off to Coit Tower to see the San Francisco bay area from a high perspective – we took a short nap here and then continued hiking on to find some grub. Stopped over at a Thai restaurant which had really nice Pad Thai but shocking fried rice! I also hate how you have to tip everyone in this country and that sales tax is added on afterwards – so when you think you’re buying a $1.20 bar of soap it’s actually costing you $1.40 after sales tax is added.

Likes:
- Even though it hurts my butt I like the hills of SF
- The water here tastes a whole lot better
- It’s a much greener city than LA
Dislikes:
- Sales tax
- Tipping everyone
- Sidewalks still smell like pee (especially in the Tenderloin – ghetto area)
Observations:
- Suburb names are weird – Tenderloin, Nob Hill, Lower Nob)

That’s a wrap! Bester out till next time I find the time to write another blog entry!

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Posted by larabester 18:29 Archived in USA

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