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Friday, February 26, 2010

Week 5: Alcatraz, Day 5

Weather forecast was for rain so we were delighted when the sky was cloudy but clearer than it had been the day before! Our plans were to head to Alcatraz and in all of the other times I've been to San Francisco, I had never been and it was likely the one major thing that Doug wanted to experience. I just found out that one of my good friend's who grew up in Oakland has never been! Half of the thrill are the views that you experience from the island so we were so grateful that it was not foggy! We had made the decision to get on the 9.00 cruise to avoid the crowds. As the boat pulled away from the city, it was rather breathtaking seeing the city sprawl out before us. The views of the Golden Gate and Bay bridges were also fantastic and it was so thrilling to be out on the water. As we approached Alcatraz, it was hard to imagine what it must've been like to arrive as a prisoner to this isolated, barren place. After a brief orientation you are free to pick up your headphones and begin your guided tour. Actual guides and prisoners were the narrators and it was really well done. Isolation is the word that rang in my head. Stark, inhospitable, lonely, hopeless. The recreational yard was really small, but even so they had figured out how to play baseball. Only a few games were approved, cribbage being one of them. Cribbage is one of my favorite card games and the game Doug and I always play with my folks. It was strange thinking about trying to pass time in this remote island prison.
The tour is really well done and it was a very good experience. The views from the prison were simply breathtaking. The contrast of the prison fence with the Golden Gate bridge gleaming in the distance was poignant. To be imprisoned in such a remote place while one of the world's greatest cities showed its face around every corner would certainly be a bit demoralizing. I definitely want to see Clint Eastwood in Escape from Alcatraz now that I've seen the real deal.After we returned from the island, we went to Chinatown and had a huge, good lunch from a restaurant that had been recommended to us. We were super tired after that so decided to take an afternoon nap and enjoy the city by night.
We didn't have any other big agenda for what to see so we jumped on the Hyde/Powell streetcar, again, riding standing up on the floor boards and enjoyed this great up and down ride across town. Riding the street car was definitely one of my favorite things in San Francisco. We wandered around Union Square and visited the biggest DSW shoe store I've ever seen in my life! We ended up at Fisherman's Wharf where I indulged in a crab cake and some french fries. Perhaps it was the setting, but it was quite delicious! We stumbled upon an old museum that housed arcade games from a time gone by. For a dime or a quarter you could get these old machines going and play baseball, test your strength or see a funny movie. It was actually a really great sight, free, right on the water and gave us a real glimpse into what the boardwalk of San Francisco was likely like in another era.
The weather held up and we enjoyed beautiful night views of the harbor, Alcatraz, and the city. We had had 2 wonderful days in San Francisco and after visiting the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, we were scheduled to head for the woods...Muir Woods.