Day Forty Five – Alcatraz

Up at 9:30 for a coffee and donut across the road at Starbucks while the girls get ready for our first full day in San Francisco.

Today we are going to Alcatraz. Kate has her map app up and running and told me that it is only a half hour walk to the ferry terminal! Maybe that is true on a flat wicket but this is San Francisco and no way is it a 30 minute walk. Against my better judgement I have been talked into walking. The temperature is somewhat cooler than New Orleans and Memphis. Around the 15 degrees Celsius. Windy, wow, you know what it can be like in Collins Street when you get that cold gale blowing, well San Fran is a lot like that (all over). Believe it or not there are many bike riders around this city. Up- hill you are up on your peddles, puffing like an old steam train, the next minute you are flying downhill like Cadel Evans. I am sure the girls were trying to kill me. Thirty minute walk my arse, even a mountain goat would have protested.

We finally made the wharf. Luckily we had booked our tickets for the tour on-line as a sign reads that all tours for the day had been sold. There is already a long queue waiting to board the ferry for the eleven o’clock tour. One of the tour people saw my cane and insisted that we sit down and that we will be ushered into the front of the line once boarding commences. I feel a little embarrassed with the excellent service but Kate is rather pleased with the special treatment.

We got to sit right up front of the ferry on the top deck, it was cold but sure gave us a great view of ‘the rock’ as we approached. The view of San Francisco is not shabby either.

‘Break the rules and you go to prison, break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz.’

Once we landed we were greeted by a Ranger who gave us a brief history of Alcatraz and then told us that there is no time limit to the tour. Ferries come every half hour and you can take your time. I must say it is one of the best tours I have ever been on. You stroll around the island and slowly make your way to the top of the rock where the main cell house is located. The tour features audio and it is a fascinating insight into this hell on water. I can’t imagine how cold it would have been here in winter. The girls went crazy in the gift shop. The island is alive with nesting birds and at this time of the year. We spent well over two hours looking around before heading back.

Back at the wharf and it is only a five minute walk to the famous Pier 39 where there are many clothing stores and of course the famous restaurants serving the freshest of seafood. We found a cool shop selling terrific tote bags and I just had to have one. Kate then located Club Tattoo where she had some stretching done to her ear lobes and I had a new ear ring put in. Not many fathers would have their daughter pay for a new ear ring.
Alongside the pier there are hundreds of sea lions lazing on man- made wooden structures. A sight (and smell to behold). The sea lions used to live on seal rock but moved after the 1989 earthquake. They are now a huge tourist attraction.
Hunger was calling and we opted for the Pier Market restaurant. Crab cakes and then of course a serve of the world renown clam chowder. Delicious.

Being a glutton for punishment I said I was up for the walk back to our hotel. Even though I again nearly expired we found a great record shop (101 Music) on our way back. A record shop stacked to the rafters with all sorts of goodies. Kate had never seen so many cassette tapes in one place. The guy running the business looked and sounded like an old hippie from the 60’s. I struck gold. I have been trying to get a C.D. copy of Van Morrison’s 1970 release ‘His Band and Street Choir’ for a while now. I have the album on L.P. I believe that Van ‘the man’ was at his productive best in the first few years of the 70’s. Well I found it and it only cost $4.99 U.S.

All in all a great day in San Francisco. By the way I have been told by a local that under no circumstances do you call the bay- city Frisco. It is an automatic $25 fine!

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