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Welcome to the Rock – Alcatraz

When you grow up in an area sometimes you don’t see a lot of the touristy and interesting places because, well, you live there and have other things to do. So last weekend when Victor was in California we went to the island of Alcatraz.

Alcatraz is a major tourist attraction in San Francisco. So, when you go, make sure you book ferry tickets online a few days or weeks in advance because they sell out and just going down to the pier can end up being disappointing (I know from personal experience). We booked through Alcatraz Cruises which seems to be the official company to go with. One adult round trip with access to the island is $26.00. The ferry leaves from the Embarcadero area at Pier 33.

The views on the ferry ride are incredible. You get amazing views of San Francisco and of the Golden Gate Bridge. I would recommend bringing a raincoat or umbrella because knowing the Bay Area you might get some rain.

Alcatraz has taken on this sort of mythical and legendary role in American history. Hollywood has had a lot to do with that too. Wes alum Michael Bay directed the 90s treasure with trailer below.

After Alcatraz closed as a prison in 1963, in 1969 there was an Indian occupation to try and reclaim the land.

In fact, Wikipedia tells me that the Social Hall building pictured below was destroyed during the Indian occupation.

Many prisoners who were in high security prisons in the US were transferred to Alcatraz because of its location. Many infamous American prisoners passed through Alcatraz including Al Capone and Robert Stroud, known at the Birdman of Alcatraz.

The prison cells are incredibly tiny. The audio guide tour is very good. It directs you throughout the prison and is one of the better guides I have had in a long time. It is narrated in parts by former prisoners as well as the family members of guards and guards themselves.

I have to say that this must be the best prison recreation view in the US:

The oldest lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States is on the island of Alcatraz.

Although only about 1.5 miles from the city, the frigid waters and tides made escaping from Alcatraz a great feat. Three men escaped and no one knows what happened to them. They could have drowned or made it to shore. Others who tried to escape were captured.

One thing that I was really surprised by were all the flowers on the island. The wives and children of the warden and guards gardened and there were up to 50 varieties of roses on the island.

Of course by the time we were getting ready to leave the clouds finally began to clear. But, I guess we got the real weather San Francisco experience.

After our tour we walked along the piers and then went to Scoma’s for dinner. Scoma’s is a good seafood joint that is a bit off of the bustling main pier area and I would definitely go back there again to have the garlic Dungeness crabs – a San Francisco classic. After dinner we sat down at The Buena Vista Cafe, a San Francisco establishment where Irish coffee was first served in the US. Plus you get great views of the Embarcadero era if you’re lucky enough to snag a table by the windows.

The Irish coffee was invented in Ireland (this is not a trick question). When they tried to recreate it in the US they couldn’t quite get it right. So after much experimentation and then consultation with the mayor who was also a dairy farmer, they learned the cream must be aged for 48 hours to float. It’s delicious.

The second drink we ordered was a New Orleans fizz. This was absolutely fantastic. Sort of like a milkshake consistency but it is made with egg white, gin, orange flower water, and probably the other things listed here.

It’s good to be back home in California. I only wish it was for a bit longer.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Wow, that SF sky certainly isn’t the one I’ve seen yet. It’s been clear and sunny since I arrived yesterday!

    June 9, 2011

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